Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas...

...from our house, to yours!
 ~Our Boys, Circa 1994~

"The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other."~Burton Hills~

 May the Spirit of joy fill your hearts and homes as you celebrate this most wondrous of seasons. Wishing you peace, prosperity and health in 2012.
Until next year...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

~Happy Thanksgiving~

~Count your blessings~

  ...Let’s be on the lookout
for the bits of pleasure in each hour,
and appreciate the people who
bring love and light to everyone
who is blessed to know them.
You are one of those people.
On Thanksgiving,
I’m thankful for you.

By Joanna Fuchs

Until next time...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

(Faux) Blackened Wax Fruit Tutorial~Thrift Shop Bowl Makeover

 If you read my blog on a regular basis you already know that I'm a thrift shop junkie. I have a favorite local shop run by the sweetest little ladies. They are exceptionally kind to me and always seem to have the "good stuff". Last week I stopped by, and among other things, found this...
...large wooden bowl filled with faux fruit, only $4. This is only a few pieces of the fruit, as I nearly forgot to snap a "before" photo. I had an idea brewing and was impatient excited to get started.

I've always wanted a big ol' bowl of the beautiful blackened wax fruit that I see in shops, but being the cheapskate that I am, have never wanted to spend the money on something "I can make myself". Yes, yes we've all been there, haven't we? We CAN make it...but we almost never do. Well, when I saw this lovely big wooden bowl filled with fruit I got the idea to turn faux fruit into "blacken wax" faux fruit. And if it didn't work...well, the bowl was still a deal at $4, right? And while I was at it, I decided I'd give the bowl a new/old finish.
 I already had everything I needed, so I gathered my materials.
 For the faux wax fruit you only need a few things.

Black Acrylic Paint, Matte Finish (the cheap stuff is fine)
Ground Cinnamon  (the cheap stuff is fine here too. I bought ALDI brand)
Small Artist's Paintbrush
Drop Cloth
Handheld Hairdryer (optional, but sure speeds up drying)

This project is so're gonna love it.

Spread out your drop cloth and give yourself plenty of room to work. If you do a lot of pieces, you'll have fruit drying everywhere. Using full strength paint, begin painting each piece of fruit with a nice even coat. I painted one side of each piece of fruit then sat it aside to dry and did the next piece. Then I went back and painted the other side of each piece. I checked each piece in bright light to be sure I had good coverage. You want the original color of the fruit to be completely covered. 
 Like this.
I didn't paint the stems. Tip: If any of the fruit is missing a stem-or if they look "fake", you can replace them with stems from real fruit. Just poke a small hole in the top using an awl or a large needle and glue in the replacement stem. Do this before adding the cinnamon.  
 Now for the tricky part. OK, not really...there is no tricky part.

After the fruit is completely dry (this is where the hairdryer comes in handy), pour your bottle of cinnamon into a shallow dish. This project only uses up a small amount of cinnamon, but you can keep what's leftover to use on another project. Just don't use it for cooking. Now, roll each piece of fruit in the cinnamon. You can gently pat, rub or sprinkle...whatever works for you. I just rolled mine around, then sat each piece aside while I painted my bowl. 
Now for the bowl...I started by giving my bowl a good washing and allowing it to dry overnight before painting. There was no previous finish on the bowl. For painting the bowl I used Old Century Colors, acrylic paint in the color, Olde Pewter 2023. I used full strength paint to get the look of a heavily painted old bowl...but you can water your paint down (one part paint, two parts water) for a more transparent look. 
 My painted bowl, before the antiquing process.

I painted the bottom of the bowl, going around in a circular motion, with the grain. Pay special attention to the rim and the bottom where you would see natural wear, were it an antique bowl. If you get too much paint on the bowl, just use a wet cloth to scrub some off, again following the bowl's contours. You can also use fine sandpaper to remove a bit of paint. When you're happy with the way it looks, set it aside to dry. Again, I used a hairdryer to speed up the process.

After your bowl is dry you'll want to go over it with an antiquing medium to give it a bit of age. I used Folkart/Plaid Antiquing Medium, in the color Apple Butter Brown, to stain my bowl. Mix one part antiquing medium to two parts water. Remember a little goes a long way. Brush the mixture on over the outside of the bowl and quickly wipe off excess stain with a dry cloth. Then repeat on the inside of the bowl. The antiquing medium drys fast and the longer it sits, the darker the wood will be. If it is too dark for your liking, wipe some stain off with a wet cloth. 
The  bottom of my painted bowl, after a light sanding and applying the antiquing medium.

I antiqued both the inside, and the outside of my bowl. Keep in mind that you won't want to use these products on the inside if you plan to serve food in your bowl, as they are not food-safe. 
 The inside of my finished bowl is a nice warm brown color.


Looks  and smells just like the real deal...and just in time for my Thanksgiving table!

That's it! Told you it was easy!

Until next time...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Winter Offerings on Early Work Mercantile

I had so much fun stitching up these sewing baskets for the Early Work Mercantile update today. I hope you'll stop in and take a look.

~Winterberry Sewing Basket~
The Winterberry Sewing Basket is spoken for. 
~Thank you, Barbara~

~Winter Blues Sewing Basket~

The Winter Blues Sewing Basket is spoken for. 
~Thank you, Christine~

Until next time...

Log Cabin Christmas at Early Work Mercantile

Here's a little sneak peek at what I've been working on for the Early Work Mercantile update on November 15th. My designs were inspired by the classes I took at Country Sampler last month. I'm really pleased with the way these projects turned out. I can hardly wait to show them to you!

 At Early Work Mercantile, you'll find lots of great winter offerings from many talented primitive artists. I do hope you'll stop by for the big reveal.

Until Next time...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Skinny Spinach Gratin Recipe

Is there anyone who doesn't know about Gina's Skinny Recipes? I'm a little late to the party, but I've been trying out recipes from this site for the last few months and I can honestly say everything I've tried has been wonderful.  As extra incentive to try out Gina's fare...I might mention that there's 30 pounds less of me since I started cooking Gina's way.

With Thanksgiving approaching, I thought I'd share a particular favorite of ours. If you need a side dish or yummy hot dip to take to holiday dinners, this one's a winner!

~Makeover Spinach Gratin~
(recipe here

Only 111 calories in a generous, gooey, cheesy 1/2 cup serving. Makes a great hot dip with crackers or toasted bread too. Enjoy!

Until next time...

Boxwood and Berries~Day 2~

Where oh where does the time go? You've all been so patient, waiting to hear about my incredible day two at Boxwood & Berries...this time with the fun and fabulous Stacy Nash instructing our group. Here goes.

~Stacy's Finished Project/Sample~
(Photo courtesy of Patti Gagliardi)

Walking into the school room that morning felt very surreal. I think I must've pinched myself hundreds of times during my time in Spring Green. But sure enough, I was wide awake and day two was ready to begin. Taking our places, each of us found this pretty little package at our place setting, like a gift waiting to be opened.

(Photo courtesy of Patti Gagliardi)

I have long been an admirer of Stacy's work, chatted with her through email, and even sold her patterns way back when...but I had somehow never gotten the chance to meet her in person. My first impression of Stacy...a lovely, tall blonde who reminds me a great deal of my gorgeous friend Jane-both from Indianapolis, their voices eerily similar. I think the very best thing about Stacy (besides her obviously killer talent) has to be her sense of humor. She  can deliver a joke with a totally deadpan expression. You know, the kind of humor that makes you do a double take? She's a funny lady...I really love that.

Stacy is also warm and friendly, and very clever. She eased us into a detailed project that looked hard, but she had somehow found a way to make easy. Remember the sampler I was stitching a few posts back? Under Stacy's guidance, we spent the morning turning our stitched pieces into a beautiful fabric covered sewing box...complete with accessories. We all marveled at how easy everything went together and were thrilled to go home with so many finished projects. Again, I was fortunate enough to share a table with Patti, needlewoman extraordinaire, who was always one step ahead of me and willing to answer my bazillion questions. 

A table at the back of the room was laden with projects from both designers. Stacy's newest projects line up along the back wall. 

Stacy's new Christmas pattern and a fall sampler she created for a class at Not Forgotten Farm.
(Photo courtesy of Patti Gagliardi)

Day two found us incredibly busy as we tried to fit in as many adventures as possible. Once again Patti led the way as we took ride in the beautiful countryside to a little shop called The Woodshed. The gentleman who owns the shop refurbishes wooden crates and boxes (the kind we love) and gives them new life. As much as I enjoyed seeing the shop...I think I enjoyed the ride there and back with Carla & Wendy more. Having met at Boxwood & Berries only last year, the two have become good friends. With their banter and easy laughter they seemed almost like sisters. I really hope to spend more time with this FUN pair!   

Jeanne is a fantastic organizer and packed our time in Spring Green with wonderful activities. Late in the afternoon on day two, we got a chance to stretch our legs by walking several blocks to the home of Ruth Hass, a local antiques dealer. Ruth's home is gorgeous, and is decorated in the simple, primitive colonial style that is my particular favorite. Ruth was gracious enough to not only let us peek inside her home, but to allow us to take photos so YOU could peek too.

Patti has some great shots of Ruth's home on her blog, so I'll try not to duplicate them...but as I scanned my photos,  I noticed that Patti & I seemed to fall for the same vignettes in Ruth's home. :) (Hop on over to Patti's blog for more photos!)

As you walk in the front door, this corner "office" is sure to catch your eye. I think if I had to pick a most favorite spot in the house, this would be it. Maybe.

Ruth's family room features built in shelving, a fireplace and access to the sun porch. You wouldn't know it by looking, but her family uses this room every day. 

On the other side of a central staircase is this rustic, but functional,  dining room. People actually eat meals here. 

At the back of the house, just off the kitchen, is this truly amazing buttery. This room is a work of art. Oh to be a crock on Ruth's buttery shelves and just gaze at this masterpiece all day long! 
The view from my shelf in the buttery.

Even the bathrooms are beautiful here.

Impeccable displays abound. I loved the simplicity of this washstand in the upstairs bath.

After the others had passed through, I lingered. One of the most pleasant things about Ruth's home was the play of light on carefully placed objects.

Primitive doll in upstairs bedroom.

Chest in upstairs hall.

Game board in upstairs hall.

 Main floor, back hallway.

And this, dear readers, was just day two. Can you imagine?

And where did MY completed "Stacy project" end up?

My finished project found a home on a little tavern table in front of the window among other sewing collectables. Isn't it perfection? :)

Until next time...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Boxwood and Berries~Day 1~

 ~This lovely old pincushion was an unexpected treat from Maggie~

You know how sometimes you look forward to something so much that you blow it up in your mind to unrealistic proportions…so that when it finally comes, you are disappointed by the reality? Well, even in my most vivid imaginings, I couldn’t have dreamed up the Boxwood and Berries Gatherings. A gathering this perfect could only be dreamed up by fabric designer, Jeanne Horton, of Country Sampler in Spring Green Wisconsin.

Simply put, Boxwood and Berries was the best of everything. The best people, the best projects, the best shopping…the best trip I’ve ever taken.

I left early on Friday morning, and with music blaring, drove across the farmland of Illinois and then into Wisconsin. The scenery was breathtaking and as I rounded each bend in the road I exclaimed aloud to the creator, “Magnificent!”, “Well done!” and “Thank You!”… “THANK You!”. I always seem to do my best praising in the car…

The area around Spring Green is incredible, with rolling hills and farmsteads dotting the autumn landscape. It’s so beautiful that architect Frank Lloyd Wright built his final home there and is buried in a nearby cemetery. I arrived in town around 6pm and found my way to my modest motel room. It was nothing fancy, but the owner was sweet and my room was clean. The property was beautifully landscaped with flower gardens and gazebos for the use of guests, and there was always hot coffee in the office.

 The wonderful, independently owned, "Arcadia Books" in downtown Spring Green. What more could a girl ask for?

Oh, I dunno, how about alfresco dining in the town square?

In the morning as I drove into downtown Spring Green I was mesmerized by the waves of yellow leaves along the streets and the gorgeous treetops filled with fall color overhead. Pulling up in front of Country Sampler felt like a dream…I was finally there.

Being the new kid in class, I wasn’t sure where the school room was, so I wandered into the shop looking for help. I was overwhelmed by the extensive inventory in this four star needle arts shop. Everything on my wish list was there…and more. But it was almost time for class to begin, so I pulled myself away and walked to the classroom where everyone was just finishing breakfast. 

I could not have received a warmer welcome. Jeanne immediately jumped up to greet me and invited me to sit at her table with my hero  Maggie Bonanomi. Now seriously folks, I had to keep pinching myself, trying not to fawn or drool. Do you have any idea how long I have admired this lady’s work? And here I was, at Boxwood and Berries, casually chatting with Maggie Bonanomi!

So now let me tell you how absolutely silly I am…it turns out that Maggie is just like everyone else. She could by all rights be a Diva, but instead is one of the warmest and most genuine people I’ve ever met. And Jeanne is just as lovely, she was so kind and helpful to me during my stay…she went above and beyond to make me feel sincerely welcome. Both ladies were so generous in sharing their knowledge and friendship that I felt like I’d known them all my life.

(Front Row, L to R) Kim, Liezbeth, Nel, Patti~ (Back Row, L to R) Stacy, Maggie, Carla, Wendy, Linda, Els, Nicki, Me and Jeanne. soon as breakfast was finished I was greeted by the sweet and talented Patti from Winding Vine Wanderings. She brought everyone over to say hello, including Linda whom I had chatted with through email. Oh my goodness what a group! Talented, funny, helpful, kind…I knew it was going to be a fabulous four days. I was fortunate enough to share a table with Patti and Kim, a seriously wonderful duo. Patti is as patient and helpful as can be and Kim kept me laughing.

Now, a little about the school room…Jeanne has created a wonderful work space for her students in a building that adjoins the shop. A row of big windows across the back wall let in lots of natural light and there is plenty of room for displays, workstations and even a buffet table at the front of the room. We were seated 3-4 ladies at each of the big round tables. 

On that first morning we were greeted by a rustic wire basket filled with sumptuous hand dyed wools and the pattern for Maggie’s project. I’ll be honest, it was a little overwhelming to compare that bundle of wool to the magnificent bedcover hanging on the classroom wall…but in true Maggie fashion, she broke the project into easy steps and gave us the confidence to begin. One of the best things about Maggie’s projects is the relaxed way she approaches things. With a true make-do attitude she encouraged us to piece together fabrics as needed and make the project our own. This mind-set is just one reason her finished pieces have such great character. 

(Photo courtesy of Patti Gagliardi)

We worked until lunch and then had a bit of free time to see the sights. Patti, a Boxwood and Berries veteran, graciously led the way to visit "Yore", a wonderful primitive shop in Gotham, Wisconsin. We wandered through lovely vignettes featuring antique furniture and fall decor.

A favorite corner at "Yore".

After our adventure we went back to the school room for dinner and a truly fabulous trunk show. Maggie displayed the pieces she stitched for her new book, "Buttonwood Farm", and shared her inspirations for each one. What an absolute treasure to hear her tips and creative process first hand!   

Maggie sharing inspirations from her latest book, "Buttonwood Farm".
(Photo courtesy of Patti Gagliardi)

Maggie's finished pieces were incredible...what a thrill to be able to  closely examine each piece! They are beautiful in the book, and even more so in person. I admit that I was hanging on Maggie's every word during this session...Patti graciously shared her photos with me.

 Jeanne and Maggie hold up the "Buttonwood Farm" wool bed cover. This was made from several cream wool blankets pieced together. The motifs were stitched from Maggie's collection of antique blue calicos and hand dyed wools.
(Photo courtesy of Patti Gagliardi)

 Jeanne offers kits for Maggie's designs in the shop. Of course I bought this one.

  Maggie's (and Stacy's) finished pieces were on display in a corner of the classroom for the duration of our stay. It was wonderful to be able to admire and study each piece at our leisure. What a treat! 

 The wool hearth rug "might" have been my favorite design from the new book...although it would be hard to pick just one. This is definitely on my to-do list.

Some of Maggie's small projects from the book.

I’m rather a slow stitcher and at the end of the day had only constructed the backing of the bed cover and cut out the endless small pieces of wool for appliquéing. Back in my motel room, I spread my project out on the bed and stitched down some of the larger motifs. It was very satisfying to see some progress on such a large project.

My night ended quietly with a phone call home, to tell Mr. Kattywhompus about my day. Poor man, he listened to every detail and even pretended to be interested. Mostly he was just happy to hear the delight in my voice. I feel blissfully asleep that night dreaming of cross stitch samplers and velvet sewing boxes…

Tune in next time to hear about our fabulous day with the extraordinary Stacy Nash...

Blessings to you,

(Please forgive the crazy spacing on's being temperamental today)