In Defense of Crocs

So, Crocs (the lightweight plastic clog-type shoe, not the animal) had their hey-day (quite?) a few years ago, and I’ve always been someone who thought they were ugly and couldn’t imagine wearing them no matter how comfortable they were.

Yea. So this past summer I was huge and pregnant and hot with swollen feet (and an aching back) that desired a little more support than what my beloved flip-flops could provide. And then I saw a pair of light pink Crocs in my size at a favorite thrift store for $1.50 and thought well – maybe I should give them a try…..just while I’m pregnant, of course, because it’s not like I was putting a ton of effort into anything else I wore at that point (or, who am I kidding? ever) and when I slipped them on in the store they were oh so comfy….

And I basically lived in them for….months. Let me tell you, there’s a reason these shoes were/are popular, and I think we can all agree it’s not because they’re stunningly stylish. My feet have never felt so supported yet free!

Fast forward to a month ago. Baby is born (um, she’s 4 months old) and I’m still spending a good portion of time in my light pink Crocs (I’d started wearing socks underneath them. Because it’s winter. Wow, I just realized how ugly/ridiculous this sounds/is).

Then one goes missing. (Only in this house can a shoe just up and go missing).

So when I just HAPPENED to come across a bright pink, Mary-Jane style pair, in my size, at that same thrift shop, well…..

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Let’s just pretend I’m wearing them ironically, mmkay?

D√©coupage Vases (teacher gifts)

Happy New Year! I hope the first 20 days of 2014 have gone well for everyoneūüôā Like most people, we had a crazy-busy holiday season, and blogging was last on my priority list. ¬†But I hope to post more frequently this year, because I have lots of projects to share and other topics I’d like to write about!

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I’m co-room-mom in both girls’ classes this year, and teacher gifts are one of my responsibilities. The norm at their school is to collect money from whoever would like to donate, and then get the teacher a gift card along with some kind of “handmade” project from the kids. Last year, the room mom in my (then) kindergartener’s class had each kid fill out a page titled “my favorite thing about Mrs. H.” and then compiled them into a book for the teacher. It turned out really cute, but I didn’t want to do the same thing again this year. You wouldn’t think it would be so hard to come up with an idea, especially for someone like me who likes that crafty kind of stuff, but I literally spent hours searching Pinterest (and the Internet in general) for ideas. I was under certain limitations, mainly that I had to come up with something that the kids could do (for the most part) at home – it’s not like I could go in and command control of the class for an hour to do a project.

I came across a vase that was d√©coupaged¬†with magazine pictures, one chosen by each kid in the class. I liked that idea, but instead of using magazine pictures, I decided to have each kid decorate a small square of paper. I sent home a letter explaining this to parents, along with a pre-cut square of white paper, and an envelope to send it back in (along with any money they’d like to donate). I wanted to make it as easy as possible for them to return their square, in hopes that I would get the majority of the completed squares back by my deadline. (Believe me, I know how much of a pain it is to manage the mountain of paperwork, etc., that comes home from school!)

Most of the kids did return their squares within the next few days, and they were all so unique and cute. There were 5 or 6 kids in each class that didn’t return their square though, so I stopped into class one afternoon (with teacher permission) and pulled aside these kids for 5 minutes to have them decorate one.

Of course, procrastinator me waited until the night before the class parties to start¬†d√©coupaging. My original idea was to use a planter (and put a houseplant in it), but when I went out shopping, I couldn’t find a square or rectangle planter that was the right size (It’s much easier to¬†d√©coupage on flat sides, and I knew it would turn out better this way.) ¬†I ended up buying tall ceramic vases instead.

The découpaging itself was a bit puzzle-like. I knew how many square-inches of artwork I had, and had measured the vases in the store before buying them, so I knew that they were roughly the correct size. But it took some trimming white space to get them all to fit, and that resulted in some small gaps at certain spots around the vase. I ended up using small pieces of colored paper to fill in these gaps Рgoing for a random, kids-artwork kind of look. I also découpaged colored tissue paper around the top edge of the vase, and wrote the class year (in paint marker) on the bottom of the vase. I used several coats of Mod Podge applied with a sponge brush, and sanded lightly in between coats. I finished it off with a layer of waterproof glossy polyurethane sealant. The vases were left to dry overnight, and the next morning I picked up some brightly-colored flowers to put in them.

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One thing I wish I had done differently is asked the kids to use colored pencils or crayons, because the squares done in marker smeared slightly when I applied the¬†d√©coupage . (It may have also worked to use a layer of hairspray over these prior to applying the Mod Podge, but I didn’t have any on hand.) Other than that, I was pretty happy with how the d√©coupage vases¬†turned out, and got lots of compliments from the parents who attended the parties where we gave the vases to the teachers (along with a generous Target gift card). Although I came up with the idea, I really can’t take credit though- the kids’ awesome artwork is what really made them great! ¬†The teachers seemed to really like them too – one asked me “how did you do this?” and the other one sent home a note saying how much she would always treasure this as a reminder of her 2013-2014 class.

Now I have a few months to come up with something for their end-of-year giftsūüôā

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For this project, I used:

Mod Podge CS11202 Original 16-Ounce Glue, Gloss Finish

(similar) 9in Matte Black Square Ceramic Vase

Storage Footstool Makeover

footstool collage

Finally getting around to sharing this little furniture makeover!

I got this small storage footstool sometime last year at a secondhand shop. It was only $6 and in great condition! The only problem was it’s completely dated look, with faded floral upholstery and scratched-up wood finish. I knew it would be an easy fix though!

I ended up picking a vintage pillowcase to reupholster it with. I wanted something totally different that you’d probably never see on a footstool in the store, and this was such a pretty print. The paint colors were an easy choice because they accented the fabric perfectly.

So I forgot to take a picture of the inside, but I actually lined it with pages from an old McCall’s magazine. (I just mod podged them to the inside, then coated them in more mod podge and then a poly glaze.)

This ended up being one of my favorite projects – I love how it turned out! But since we have no place in our house for it (we have a tiny living room in which we already have a large storage ottoman) I ended up selling it at my booth at the Florence Antique Mall. It sold within a few days. I hope the new owner loves it!

Saddle Stool

For a little over a year, the girls have taken (somewhat sporadic) riding lessons¬†at the wonderful, family-owned¬†JS Stables. A few months ago, after seeing my blog, one of the owners asked¬†me¬†about converting¬†her daughter’s first saddle into a stool, as it was no longer fit for riding and she thought it would be a nice keepsake. I hadn’t done anything like this before but was up for the challenge!

The hardest part was finding something to use as the base. It had to be very sturdy, and I wanted it to be low enough that the pre-teen recipient could sit on it and have her feet touch the ground. (I don’t know how much time she’ll actually spend sitting on it, but I was pretty sure it would be none if she had to perch atop the saddle.). Last, I wanted the base to have (or be able to get) the appropriate “rustic” look. These requirements ruled out lots of my initial ideas, like attaching the saddle to a traditional metal barstool base.

I ended up using, of all things, an old wooden high chair that I found at a thrift shop. I removed the seat back and arm and foot rests, and trimmed the seat base down a little so the saddle fit nice and snug on it. I attached the saddle using some big wood screws and one of the saddle’s straps. There were a few spots on the legs that needed wood glue and/or wood filler, and I also Restore-a-Finished (that’s a verb, right?) them. The seat base got painted and scuffed up a bit to match the rest of the saddle chair. And last, I painted a personal message to the stool’s recipient (from her¬†mom) on the bottom of the seat.

I wish I could have trimmed away more¬†of the seat base¬†so you didn’t see it sticking out quite so much. But because of the placement of the legs, it would have required some precise cutting, and my secondhand jigsaw bit the dust a while ago. Ah, well. I was pretty happy with how it turned out, and I hope the recipient was too!

Here’s how it turned out.

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The City Flea

A few months ago I was accepted as a vendor for this summer’s The City Flea¬† – a “curated urban flea market” held at newly-renovated Washington Park. Due to date conflicts in June & September, I was only able to do the July & August events – the former of which was last Saturday.

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The back of one row of booths

The City Flea isn’t your typical flea market – it’s all handmade, vintage & upcycled goods. I heard someone say it’s like “Etsy in real life” and that’s actually a pretty accurate description (but add some food vendors, and beer).

It was packed! We had a ton of traffic in the booth pretty much all day, and sales were also very good. In fact, I was wishing I had brought more merchandise! Last time I did an event like this I was cursing myself for taking along so much stuff (only to pack it up later to bring home), so it was surprising to feel like my tables were kind of bare during the latter part of the day.¬† I’ll definitely¬†pack more next month.

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3 or 4 different people told me that their Grandma still keeps Ritz crackers in a tin just like this (circa 1986) one.

It was HOT, and of course, it’s a ton of work setting up and tearing down an entire 10×10 booth in one day.¬† But overall it went smoothly – my husband actually took the day off work (a rare occurrence) to help, and the girls were about as good as a 4 and 6-year-old can be at something like this. Luckily, Washington Park has a playground and spray fountains where Steve and I could take the kids for breaks.¬† They also spent some time chilling under our tablesūüôā

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For those of you in the Cincinnati area, the next City Flea is on August 17th from 10-4. I’ll be there! If you let me know you’ve read my blog or are a Facebook fan, I’ll give you my special family & friends discountūüôā

Piper turns 6, thoughts on Kindergarten, and a purse.

Last weekend we celebrated Piper’s 6th birthday – let me just go ahead and say the usual…I can’t believe I have a 6-year-old, blah blah blah (but it’s very true). 6 seems pretty big as it is, but then I realized that next year she’ll turn 7 – WTF?! SEVEN?! That seems way older than 6 for some reason. I remember being 7!

Anyway, this year her birthday was on a Saturday, and our parents (and my brother) joined us for dinner at Piper’s restaurant of choice. Aside from slipping off her high-top chair and slamming her chin into the table, I think she had a good time. She insisted that we not let the servers sing to her, but happily accepted the free ice cream sundaeūüôā ¬†¬†¬†¬† sundaeAfter dinner we all came back here for cake & presents. Except for the present from her sister, which they mutually agreed she could open before dinner (it was a Pinypon, and somehow Kady reasoned me into letting her get one too).

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The next day, Piper had a “friend party” at Michael’s (the craft store), where 9 little girls painted suncatchers and decorated (and ate) cupcakes. And acted totally crazy with a bunch of balloons.

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On another note, I can’t believe there’s only a month left of school! Piper’s kindergarten year has absolutely flown by, more than any other year since I’ve been a parent. Overall, it’s been an excellent experience for all of us. Her teacher is wonderful, and we’ve been really happy with both her school, and the school district as a whole.

Somewhat aside: Her principal is particularly awesome. On different occasions, I’ve seen him: moving carts of large musical instruments, taking pictures at the kindergarten holiday parties, refilling the hand sanitizer they keep in the hallway, facilitating the kindergarten bus lines on a 2-hour-delay day (no small feat), and, at an outside-of-school event, wearing his own infant in a baby carrier on his chest while socializing with students. While I’m sure they did important work, my main memory of my elementary school principal(s) are listening to them speak at assemblies.) I think it’s great that even the littlest students know him by name and face, and he’s out and among them often and not just some authority figure sitting in an office. The Assistant Principal seems nice too – after one PTA meeting, he came up and told Kady he liked her dress. And told me a bit about how his own young daughter also wears only skirts/dresses tooūüôā

I definitely noticed too (although it wasn’t a total surprise) that kindergarten isn’t what it used to be. I don’t remember my kindergarten experience, but according to my mom, it was a lot of playing and just getting used to being away from our parents. My Dad says that he took naps and colored in kindergarten. All of this (except the naps) sounds more like what happens in the 2-year-old class at the girls’ preschool.

In Piper’s kindergarten class, at this point, every kid can read (albeit at different levels.) Most of them can sound out and write words and sentences without assistance, at least to enough that¬† you can decipher them despite any mis-spellings. They’re finishing up working on single-digit addition & subtraction. They do read stories as a class – but then they talk about things like fiction vs. non-fiction, themes, plot, characters, etc.

I give kindergarten teachers so much credit (for many reasons), but I think their jobs are particularly hard because the kids start off at such vastly different levels. I volunteered in Piper’s class a few weeks after the school year started, and noticed there were a couple kids who were just learning to identify their letters, and others who could practically read chapter books. Yea – those were the extremes of each side – most kids, Piper included, fell somewhere in the middle. But I’m sure it’s a challenge to help the kids on the lower-end catch up while still challenging the higher-achieving kids – and not “neglecting” all those kids in the middle who still need to strive and improve. Especially when you’re one teacher in a room of 20 kids. But¬† I have to say that Piper’s teacher definitely knew what she was doing, and while there will always be kids of varying abilities, there is a vastly smaller range between what the more-and-less advanced kids in the class can do these days.

I’m so ready for summer. It never seemed like that big of a deal when the girls were in preschool, but now I’m so looking forward to not to deal with the dual AM kindergarten/PM preschool rush. The IL’s generously got us a pass to Coney Island for Christmas, and I anticipate spending tons of time at the pool this summer, making several trips to the zoo, and just hanging out with nowhere to go/be.

Since this whole post was entirely outside of the apparent-theme of this blog, here’s a picture of a purse I made last week (the print is tiny butterflies, and the lining is a floral vintage sheet.) It was the first thing I ever sewed from a pattern (this one), and I found the whole process way more time-consuming than I expected. I’m pretty happy with the results, although in the end, I don’t love my fabric choices (I think it needs more of a color “pop” somewhere.)

purse

Felting Fun

I realize the timing of this post is a little off, since most of us (myself included!) are thinking Spring (and not wool sweaters) but I’ve had it half-written for a while, so here goes.

This past winter I decided to try out felting (after seeing an awesome patchwork throw blanket in a magazine) and found it to be a really fun, easy, and versatile craft. For anyone who’s unfamiliar with this form of felting, you basically machine wash and dry wool sweaters, which (as you’d expect) shrinks them up, creating a thick, dense wool material that’s easily cut and doesn’t unravel, making it ideal for all kinds of projects. Both of my daughters’ teachers got felted wool projects as (part of) their Christmas gifts this year –

Felted wool wreath –

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Felted wool business card/gift card holder –

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(I also made myself one)

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Although I’m far from an expert on felting wool, I’ve been having fun with it for a few months now. Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the wayūüôā

Be picky when choosing sweaters. Stick to those that are at least 80% wool. Still, I’ve had, by far, the best luck using 100% wool sweaters. While I’ve heard that other animal fibers will also felt well, that wasn’t true in my experience (I also had minimal luck getting merino wool to shrink up to the consistency I prefer). Keep an eye out for bright fun prints & patterns, but be aware that knits with “things” (animals, letters, etc.) may be rendered undecipherable by the felting process. I got my sweaters at thrift stores, almost all of them on “half-off” day (for $3.50 or so).

Don’t over-shrink. It’s fine to run a sweater through another cycle if it didn’t shrink as much as you’d like the first-time around. But do this with a bit of caution – I had a couple sweaters shrink too much, making the material too rough and almost wavy in texture.

Use very sharp scissors (or rotary cutter blade) These are kind of obvious, but since you don’t hem felted wool, it’s important to cut with a nice sharp blade for a clean edge.

Take advantagcupe of sweater parts. For example, in probably the quickest project I’ve ever done, I made this pencil cup by cutting off part of a¬† sleeve and sliding it over a tin can.

 

 

 

Hand vs. Machine Sewing felted wool. You can sew felted wood either by hand or using your sewing machine. I tried it both ways and strongly preferred to do it by hand. It’s very easy to work with, and I liked the flexibility of using colorful crewel wool or embroidery floss and various stitches to create different looks. If you do choose to machine sew your felted wool, in most cases you can just “smush” the edges of the pieces you’re sewing together, and use a zig-zag stitch to sew across the both pieces (use a ball-point needle for knits).

I got great info about working with felted wool, as well as neat project ideas, from the book The Sweater Chop Shop by Crispina Ffrench (totally genuine, non-affiliate, non-sponsored recommendation).

The most random treasure hunt ever

The very best thing about junk hunting (aka curbside shopping, etc.) is that you just never know what you’ll find. Even more-so than secondhand shopping, when searching the side of the road for discarded goods, you could literally come across anything.

Although I mostly pick up furniture & bigger things (because I don’t usually dig through bins & boxes, and just take what I can see,) sometimes I find other stuff that I just can’t pass up.

I’ve cut down on hunting for roadside finds lately, mostly due to a lack of space and a huge backlog of furniture that’s waiting for me to work on it.¬† But when coming home from my parent’s house last week, I couldn’t help but notice the piles and piles of stuff all around their neighborhood. Much of it was empty boxes, but I decided to go down a few extra side streets in case anyone tossed out something good, maybe in their NY resolution to de-clutterūüôā

But beteatowelfore doing that, I grabbed this cute tea towel from the top of a box put out by my parent’s next-door neighbor (the rest of the box contained old – but clean – men’s t-shirts, which I took straight to St. Vincent de Paul to donate.)

 

A few houses down from my parents, someone had set this dry-erase board & unopened wedding guest book on top of their closed trash can, essentially willing it to be picked up. (I donated the dry erase board and already sold the guest book on Etsy).

weddingbook

Around the corner I grabbed this neat old dart-board cabinet, complete with chalkboard interior for keeping score.

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And then this spice rack – I won’t use the spices, and don’t need a spice rack, but I can definitely find another use for it (probably storing sewing or craft supplies). And this under-bed storage bin.

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Then I turned a corner and saw this scarecrow sticking out of a box, along with a couple of big fake bonsai trees (which I didn’t take, they were huge). I hopped out of the car to grab it and the wreath sitting next to it, and then I noticed there were a few additional boxes filled with stuff that obviously wasn’t trash. Since it was freezing and close to the girls’ bedtime, I threw the boxes in my car to look at at home.

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One box was full of (unused) colored copy paper, card stock, scrapbooking supplies, and those borders that teachers use around their bulletin boards. Another was packed full of CDs. There were also some Christmas decorations, a nice pair of Clauss scissors, and a big carton of foam stickers. (I donated most of this stuff – minus the CDs, which I still need to go through – to the girls’ schools).

paper stuffAnd a giant ziploc bag full of old pictures. They cover this one man’s whole life – baby pictures, him as a child, his High School graduation photo, him in the Air Force and working at a factory, he and his wife as a twenty-something couple, and then with a baby – the most recent (presumably) are him at his daughter’s wedding, and sitting around a campfire as an old man. I can’t believe someone threw these away. I don’t even remember which house I got this stuff from, or I would go back and see if it was done by mistake. None of it is marked, so I have no idea of his name. But I find the pictures fascinating. I don’t know what to do with them, but I definitely won’t be throwing them away.

picturesIf you would have given me 10 guesses of what I might find junk hunting that night, I don’t think I would have said guest book, spice rack, copy paper, or a lifetime of pictures. I love the unpredictableness of it. Of course, there are many times I go out specifically to junk hunt and find nothing. But those instances are worth all of the cool stuff that I have found.

Speaking of, I added a bunch of new things from this summer/fall to my Roadside Finds gallery if you want to check it out.

If you’ve found anything cool on the side of the road, please share!

My Newest Favorite Thing…

I got this Dormeyer electric percolator at an estate sale many months ago, and it’s been sitting there waiting to be listed in my Etsy shop ever since. I ended up bringing it to the antique show I took part in August, where a shopper told me that I would regret it if I didn’t keep it to use because it makes the best pot of coffee.

I’m a total coffee addict, and maybe the reason it never made it onto Etsy is because I subconsciously wanted to keep it all along. I recently decided to try it out (not sure what took so long) and she was right – it does make an amazing pot of coffee. Not only that but it doesn’t require filters, there’s a sliding lever to easily adjust the coffee strength, and it looks nicer than a hunk of plastic sitting in the kitchen. I mean, it fits right in with my 70’s-era gold-flecked laminate countertops :p

Etsy Sale!

I’ve been doing a little too much shopping lately and need to make room (literally!) for my new finds. For a limited time, you can use the coupon code 25OFF to get 25% off your entire order (minus s/h) in my Etsy Shop!

As always, if you’re local to Cincinnati I’m happy to meet up so you can avoid shipping costsūüôā

                                           ON ETSY