Monthly Archives: August 2012

A little after-race party

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My kids participated in a neighborhood fun run a couple weekends ago. My husband was a competitive runner in high school and college, whereas the only thing that could get me running (maybe) would be someone chasing me. I decided to show my support for my kids following in their father’s (swift) footsteps instead of mine by throwing a little after-race party. I made a paper mobile out of scrapbook paper and fishing wire with the name of the event to hang over our table.

Then I made cupcakes (gluten-free and delicious from this book, since Nana was coming) with little printed flags.

Like the way Dorothy’s cupcake is just a wee bit ahead? She’s so competitive…

I made use of our new chalkboard table by writing a message to my little runners.

Dorothy was pleased with her finish even though did not in fact “pull out ahead and beat them all” as she had intended. Her tank top was a work of her own, made with fabric paint and a freezer paper stencil. She made it especially to wear in the race. Unlike the running, she gets that from me. Compare her to her own self at the same race two years ago–when did she get so big?

Worth might have been the youngest participant in the road race, running a quarter mile in the “under five” category. He bolted in the wrong direction when they started the race with a loud noise, but his father convinced him to follow the herd and he ended up running on his chubby little baby legs the whole distance, never losing his grip on his father’s hand. He was very pleased with his finisher medal.

 

A chalkboard coffee table

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My coffee table was looking really shabby. I bought it used on Craig’s List back before I had kids myself, when a friend’s son drew all over my old one in black Sharpie. It served us well through Dorothy’s toddler-hood, sustaining the abuse of many marker and crayon episodes, though I kept my Sharpies under lock and key. By the time Worth came along I thought it really could use replacing, but I hated the idea of getting a new one and then watching it suffer through another child. I decided to stick it out, and that poor old table got pock-marked when Worth banged on it with wooden food, scuffed when the boy and his puppy made a game of chasing each other up and over it and off the other side, and colored on some more. Then the legs, which always needed a periodic tightening, actually reached a place where they just wobbled hopelessly and no amount of wood glue could keep them from going askew when someone forgot, once again, that the poor old table was not for sitting. I still wasn’t sure I could get another one–after all, dog and boy are no more reliable around furniture than they were, and the Sharpies are bound to come out sometime. But then I saw the one in the picture above at a local thrift store for $15.00. I figured that for $15 I could watch the decline of another table; at least this one seems sturdy.

I sanded it and used chalkboard paint on the top panels. Maybe having a legal place to write on the table will save it from other child artwork mayhem. (A girl can dream.) I painted the rest in a shade of red that goes nicely with the flowers in my curtains, then distressed the edges a bit with sandpaper so when my paint job starts getting chipped it might look a little intentional.

The chalkboard panels look interesting and are functional too, since we often sit on the sofa to do our homeschool work. This is our official “first day of school” photo from this morning. I love not rushing out the door in the morning! We aren’t morning people, my kids and I.

I sewed erasers from scraps and an old towel. It has pockets on the back to stow the chalk.

I had some red paint left a the end of the project so I painted an old end table to match. I love the way paint makes non-matchy things go together.

Since I was already in furniture-painting mode I finally got around to sprucing up a desk chair I’d bought at a thrift store more than a year ago. I was using a very ugly, wobbly chair at my desk and I’d found this sturdy wooden one to replace it. I painted it in black paint left over from my china hutch project and recovered the seat, which had been wearing ripped faux leather. Now it feels good to have this room that we spend so much time in be a little brighter and all around less wobbly as we start the school year.

Grape jam

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Kentucky seems to have received a (temporary?) reprieve from this summer’s blistering heat so everyone here is running around in the warm-but-not-sweltering sunshine trying to check outdoor activities off summer bucket lists before school resumes next week. My family is no exception. We made an outing to our local u-pick farm with my aunt last Friday. The weather was perfect. I’d envisioned picking strawberries, then blueberries, then…well, we finally got the right weather during grape season.

Most of the grapes were up too high for Worth so he was our official taste-tester and loader of the boxes. Dorothy picked until I was stung by a bee, then she mostly chose to point out good clusters and let my aunt risk her fingers for them. We picked a lot of grapes, and I admit that the quantity seemed much greater back in my kitchen than it had in the vineyard. Rob made fun of me and suggested that I’d never use them all…

…but I proved him wrong! After a grape-scented Saturday in the kitchen I ended up with eight quarts of jam (one batch is pictured here, cooling on one of my crochet-edged dishcloths), which we’ll probably have eaten by next Tuesday at the rate we go through jam, one grape pie, one gluten-free grape crisp to share with Nana, three big bags of washed and cookie-sheet frozen grapes for fall smoothies, and one rather modest container of leftover grapes just for snacking. I have no idea what type of grapes they are; they are delicious like concord grapes but are thin-skinned and seedless like their more bland and tart supermarket cousins. I used the old-fashioned recipe for jam, which basically just involves combining 2 parts grapes with 3 parts sugar and cooking the crap out of it (that’s a technical term) until it reaches the slightly mysterious gelling stage, at which point you pour it into clean jars. I usually make jam this way, without pectin, although it takes longer and uses more sugar. It just tastes jammier to me and feels more like channeling my foremothers, which seems like a legitimate goal of making jam in the age of Costco. Dorothy and Worth set up a lemonade stand out in front of our house under the guidance of their father while I made jam and raked in more than $20.00 in profits over the course of the gorgeous late-morning, which they spent on plush foxes at the zoo next day. So glad we’ve finally been able to crawl out from under the air conditioning for a few days!

 

Painted canisters and a dog collar

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I feel like this is one of those instances where the final product looks much cuter in my kitchen than it does in this crummy picture. I should outsource my photography to someone with better skills! Disclaimers aside, I gave my kitchen canisters a little update. The sturdy glass jars where still in perfectly good condition after ten or so years of wear, but the metal lids were starting to rust. I used craft paint on the lids, then coated them with a polyacrylic sealer. The top of the lids don’t come into contact with food, nor do they need to be dishwasher safe, so I’m hoping this solution stops the rust and improves the look of them.I tried to get a picture of one of the lids in front of the curtains that inspired the design. In retrospect I could probably have stamped on polka dots in the same paint colors and it would have looked nice with less work, but I didn’t think of that in time.

Belle the dog was the victim recipient of another of my recent projects. I’m quite pleased with this one and foresee homemade collars to match every season and holiday in lucky Belle’s future. I purchased inexpensive parachute clips, nylon webbing and D rings at my local crafts shop. I sewed decorative fabric over the webbing and then assembled the collar. This would have been a more complicated project if I’d had to make the collar adjustable, but since I was only sewing it for one full-grown dog I just based it on the measurement of one of her other collars already adjusted to fit her. The whole project only took a few minutes and a couple dollars–now I have to figure out which of my camper fabrics to use on the next one!

Belle models her new collar.

Rainbow shades on a chandelier

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My husband (a good guy, let me state for the record) finally got to the point on his honey-do list that he put up our new dining room light fixture and I got to see my new painted shades in action.

I couldn’t get just the right representative photo of them so I snapped them from all angles.

The matte black of the fixture matches my painted hutch.

When I read in magazines about the “soothing” effect of neutral colors I always get confused. Neutral colors make me itch! I love color, and I love my new rainbow shades too.

Here is the view from the kitchen, a big change from where we started. It is fun to watch our house become more and more ours as we continue to live in it and make little tweaks to make us happy.