The Hardest People to Shop For – aka, my family

My immediate family is very small, so leaving home yesterday with the intention of doing all my Christmas shopping in one day was not outside the realm of possibility. I got my Starbucks on and good music in my car and shuttled myself up to one of San Diego’s major malls. (For all you people who like to guilt people for shopping in malls: I already did my small business and Etsy shopping last week and have made 50% of my gifts, so back off)

I’ll let you know ahead of time that I did achieve my goal, but about two thirds of the way through my day I started to get the panic that only comes from shopping for my family. I’ve put off telling you my family’s ugly little secret, but I think I need a little support from all the normal people out there so here goes…….

Two out of the three people in my family suffer from Urticaria….there, I said it. Wikipedia defines it this way:

Urticaria (from the Latin urtica, nettle,[1]) commonly referred to as hives, is a kind of skin rash notable for pale red, raised, itchy bumps. Hives might also cause a burning or stinging sensation. Chronic urticaria (hives lasting longer than six weeks) is rarely due to an allergy. Less common causes of hives include friction, pressure, temperature extremes, exercise, and sunlight.

Okay, so now you’re sitting there saying, “What do you mean they get hives from pressure and friction?” To state it simply, they break out from seams in clothing, uneven fabric, carved details, ridges, bumps, dirt, sand, dust, basically from being alive. My husband has had it all his life and I had high hopes that my daughter wouldn’t develop it, but this year she went from sensitive skin to insane requirements for anything that may touch her. Awesome.

Now back to shopping…..remember, the panic was setting in. I had ideas for what I was shopping for (which I won’t tell you because that would ruin the surprise), but having not been out in public lately, I was unaware that this year’s styles are an urticaria sufferers worst night mare.

I’m not even going to get into the zippers and the studs, which are ridiculous, what mostly caused the panic was the texture of the sweater itself. My daughter would get a rash from just looking at these…….and that’s all they’re selling this year.

About halfway through my trip I started laughing because if any security person was watching the manner in which I shopped, they would think I was blind. I manhandle every single item I consider, for way too long. Even in Sur la Table I was fondling the handles of utensils for over 20 minutes. You have no idea how many items were not purchased because they had ridges, or fibers, or were designed in such a way that it would rub a neck, a finger or wrist which could possibly result in hives.

And here’s the kicker, as much time as I spent trying to find these perfectly smooth items, they will probably end up returning half of what I bought because of a seam or ridge that I missed. Let’s just say that I put a definite dent in the box of wine when I got home, which I drank it out of my special bumpy, carved glass as a sort of F U to the Urticaria Gods. Take that!

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Christmas Decorating without a Tree

Christmas focus wallI will admit that Christmas is not my favorite holiday. I don’t like spending endless amounts of money, or overeating and it seems senseless to buy decorations that sit in a box 11 months out of every year. I know you could say the same thing about Halloween, but Halloween is fun. There’s just so much guilt wrapped around Christmas. Did you spend too much? Not enough? Did you cook it right? Cook enough? Are you making it memorable? Are your kids disappointed? Spoiled? Ungrateful? The list goes on and on, mostly in my head, but it weighs so heavily on my heart as well.

I combat these feelings with making a lot of the gifts I give and the decorations we put up. For the past few years I’ve had an argument inside about the Christmas tree. I really don’t like putting them up. We had an ugly, fake one for a long time. We bought it because it was ugly. It made me feel like I was thrusting my middle finger at The Christmas Police. “You want me to have a tree? Here! Here’s your freaking tree!” A couple years ago it became too ugly, even for me. Ever since, I’ve had to figure out some way of putting up my ornaments, without buying a tree. This year’s solution is my absolute favorite because it was free and it used up four spray paint cans out of my stash.

branches painted blackI brought home five branches that I found on the ground at the park next to my house. I painted them first with black floral spray paint to make them stand out a little more since my wall is a little busy. To make it look like they had snow on them I sprayed them a few inches at a time with clear topcoat spray and while they were wet I sprinkled them with small mica flakes and then I coated them really well with more topcoat to get the flakes to stick. I had the flakes on hand from when I used to make countertops. (I didn’t want to use glitter because I was afraid my dog might eat it and get sick)

mica snowmy kind of ChristmasTo hang them I put four small eye hooks in the ceiling about 3 inches from the wall and about two feet apart.  I tied thread in two places on each branch and suspended them at different heights.

Christmas branchesOrnaments on highI love the way it really shows off our ornaments. Plus, unlike a tree, there’s no bad side, no broken lights and no need to water it. Way better than a tree, at least for me. Please don’t get me wrong, I think Christmas trees are beautiful and I love all the lights, I just hate doing it. My hats are off to all you Christmas tree decorators out there. I admire your tenacity. You’re a better man than me.

The Evolution of a Girl and her Room

My daughter and I just finished making over her room for the fourth and final time (whew!). Her room has had more ideas splashed on its walls than any other room in the house. I swear her room has decreased in square footage from all the plaster and paint we’ve added over the last 12 years. Each makeover reflected her growth and her latest and greatest dreams. I’ve loved trying to bring her ideas to life and it’s been worth every bruise and back spasm to give her a space that’s all hers.

first day homeOur house was a model home, so when we moved in, her room had already been given a theme – butterflies (the caterpillar came with the room as well). I can’t even believe how little she was when we first got there.

butterfly roomThe paint job had been poorly done so we repainted it with a slightly different palette and expanded on the butterfly theme to include all sorts of insects (those butterflies came with the room as well). Dianna was a tomboy and wanted more bugs than beauty so we added ants and spiders to keep it from being too precious. The fun part was having my paint friends come help. We figured out how to do raised stenciling and then we added little jewels to the wings for a little sparkle. So totally fun!

I searched forever for pictures of the raised stenciling and all I’ve figured out is that they’re gone and this computer is refusing to do anything with the pile of negatives I have in a shoe box. I’ve tried cramming them in the disc drive, but my husband says that’s not good for the computer. Negatives! Can you even remember those?

Gryffindor room In 2003 I was fully entrenched in my faux finishing business and had been introduced to a product that created a stone-like finish in two easy steps. That sparked the idea for a Harry Potter themed room. We’re both huge fans (friends will tell you that huge does not describe our obsession accurately) of the books and the movies, and had traveled to Oxford, England just to visit some of the spots where the movies were filmed. I incorporated some of the architectural elements into the room including a carved window looking out toward the Whomping Willow (she has kept this mural through all the other makeovers).

Hogwarts muralThe room reflected Dianna’s love of dragons and magic without going to that girly side where glitter and unicorns usually spring up. Most of her friends were boys at this age so a feminine room would have been less than inviting. Thankfully all the work we put in to this room was rewarded by her loving it for six years……an eternity in kid-time.

graffiti on2009 was the year she decided to move on. She was loving rockers like Hayley Williams, Avril Lavigne and Green Day and the Potter room just wasn’t working any more. She really didn’t know what she was looking for, but she knew she wanted it to be dark. We dove in to that makeover with a gallon of nearly black paint. It was awesome.

metallic foil guitarWe experimented with spray painting through stencils and a lot of metallic foil. The foil guitar image was one of Dianna’s own designs and gave the room a focus wall.

the writing on the wallAfter wallpapering photos, maps and posters everywhere, we decided to let her and her friends fill in the blank spaces. So one afternoon I taught 5 junior high boys how to stencil, gave them paint and brushes and then let them all go. They created a graffiti masterpiece. I think the boys’ mothers thought I was crazy, but that really was one of the funnest things we’ve ever done and I know Dianna will never forget it.

All through high school Dianna’s friends added to the walls whenever they were inspired. It was like living inside a yearbook with all your friends’ comments and inside jokes. I kept the base colors in little cans so she could subtract things like old boyfriends or bad memories….you can paint over almost anything.

This summer Dianna decided she needed a change. Heading in to her senior year was moving a little too quickly. With friends leaving and her trying to figure out what to do after graduation, she was feeling the need for a small refuge from all the changes going on outside. The graffiti and the darkness of her room seemed to be dragging her down and she was searching for calm and light.

The graffiti room had a lot of stuff that had to be removed, patch and plastered. It was definitely a suck job and I’ll tell you all about it some other day, but for now, just know that Dianna finally has some peace, and a quiet place  to slow down in.

peaceful room

Haunted Halloween Porch 2013

2013 Halloween PorchSeeing as we will be moving next summer, this will be our last Halloween in this house. We don’t know where we’ll end up just yet, so I don’t even know if I’ll have a place to decorate, like if we move to a condo. My daughter and I put everything up yesterday and we’re pretty pleased with the results.

creepy abandoned porchWe have two new pieces of furniture to work with on the porch; the repurposed sewing table and the garden bench. We draped the bench in white sheets and topped the sewing table with a variety of creepy decorations.

love my creepy dollI got my creepy doll last year at Matilda’s Mouse Antique Show and I still love her. Earlier this year my friend found these glass display globes and she knew they needed to be on my porch on Halloween. They came complete with years and years worth of dust accumulation from her grandparents garage. Thanks, Kate! The creepy clown bottle in the back is for my friend Jeremiah because I know he loves clowns. He’s coming for you, Jerry!

Halloween crows and pumpkinsWe love crows so they are placed throughout the porch, in bushes, on planters, etc. I go to Trader Joe’s for my pumpkins because they sell both the fantasy pumpkins and what I call, ugly pumpkins. I like the black ones and the ones unfortunately stricken with small pox.Halloween signs zombie-Halloween-decorThe signs hanging from my wine barrel rings are new and came from Target’s $1 bins. I love the zombie reference, “Eat Locals.” The back of the Stop sign says, “STOP Scaring Me.” Cracks me up.they're watching youMy daughter had a great idea for the white sheets covering the bench. We poked holes in the sheets, pushed red twinkle lights through and then drew eyes around the holes. Way cool, totally love it, she’s brilliant.

So that’s our porch for Halloween. Come by if you need candy on October 31st. We’ll be open for business.

Destashing in every sense of the word

This being my daughter’s senior year, and she being the only child we have, I knew there would be a lot of changes coming our way this year. Our original plan for our lives after her graduation was that my daughter would stay in our house with a couple roomates and go to the local college. My husband and I (and Percy) would move out of the suburbs and closer to downtown San Diego. However, the longer we thought on this, the more we thought that leaving the care of this house to a couple college girls probably wasn’t the best idea. My daughter is really responsible, but it’s a big house (to me) with a huge yard and it takes a lot of time to maintain it.

The plan has now changed. All three of us are plannng on moving out next summer; her to an apartment and us closer to downtown. We’re not sure if we’ll end up renting or selling the house and that will depend on the California real estate market. Regardless of which way we go, we will be moving out completely, not halfway, like in the original plan. Ever since that decision was made we are looking at everything, both in and out of the house, through the lens of someone who has to pack up and move it.

Destashing and finishing projects is becoming my whole focus. When it comes to unfinished projects I am realizing that you can’t sell or rent homes with half the wallpaper hanging off, like in the Master Bath. I’ve also realized that it might be easier to reupholster the outdoor patio cushions rather than moving the foam and the huge bolt of fabric to the next place, hoping there will be room to store it.

In the next few posts I’ll be giving you a tour of my home and the unfinished projects that lay ahead of me. A lot of these projects are not going to be paint related, but I hope you’ll still follow along. I’ll still be destashing, but I’ll be getting rid of materials related to DIY projects as well. It’s going to be a great adventure and I’m definitely all in!

Vintage Patchwork Curtain

Mollie Makes Magazine

Mollie Makes is my favorite magazine right now. It’s a British publication, but you can either subscribe (it’s my annual birthday present from my husband) or pick it up at Barnes & Noble. It’s not shown above, but it always comes with a little gift like a crafting kit or a spool of ribbon, it’s adorable. It has lots of crafting how-to articles, and highlights artists and stores both in Europe and America. I love it.

Anyway, in one of the issues this summer they showed an idea for making a patchwork curtain out of vintage handkerchiefs and napkins. I tried to find that image (I gave the magazine away) but I can’t find it, so sorry for that. The image energized me to make one for my studio.

Inspired by my husband’s aunt Crystal and her craftiness, I’ve collected quite a few vintage hankies, tea towels and napkins with the intention of turning them into pillows. Crystal makes these beautiful patchwork pillows out of vintage pieces and they’re so pretty. However, since my husband and daughter can’t deal with texture (don’t ask) I never attempted to make any. (I also noticed that some of my pieces were a little stained, which when you consider they’re hankies, is kind of gross and who wants to rest their head on that?) So I had a collection, but nothing to do with them. Then Mollie Makes gave me a new idea.

vintage patchwork curtain

First of all, forgive me for the quality of the photos. I have photoshopped the crap out of these images. Taking photos of windows still has me baffled.

Anyway, this is the curtain I made from my collection. Making this up are tea towels, napkins, handkerchiefs and pillow case edging, all vintage. It’s nice because even though I mounted it all on a lining of sheet fabric, it’s still transparent enough to let the light in, but protects me from the searing afternoon sun that hits my window every day. I am not complaining about the sun in San Diego……it’s perfect compared to everywhere else in the world………I’m just trying to minimize the skin damage.

patchwork hanky curtainsThis is what they look like when they’re tied back. Again…adorable. I don’t know why, but they remind me of curtains in old Airstream campers. So cute.

hanky tie backI made tie backs out of embroidered napkins……..also……..adorable. I love them. I used up my entire collection, which fits the Destashio mission statement, so I feel pretty good about it. It didn’t cost anything, except time and backache from hunching over it while I pieced it together on my floor (no table big enough). So that’s another plus.

Well, that’s what I made last week. It was a bit of a brain teaser, but I love the results. Thanks, Mollie Makes!

Stuff that kept me busy last week

After my daughter’s bathroom renovation was finished, I had a lot of work to catch up on, namely, I closed the Destashio Etsy shop.  I moved any items related to storage and organization into the Salvaged Sanity shop. It’s been too hard to run two shops and I want to focus where my passion is……..organization and storage.

I made two new items for the shop last week:

DIY mail organizerThis is a Message Center Board as it comes…..no accessories. This board has two 3-ring binder spines, so it can hold two mail holders, frames, or notepads in a number of combinations. There are two magnet boards at the bottom covered in a beige/blue/green floral patterned fabric. The board comes with four magnets made out of decorative bottle caps. Flanked on either side is a set of clothespins stamped with the words, “save” “date” and “remember”, to help hold on to important notes.

DIY board with accessoriesThis is what it can look like with a few additions. This is just one example but there are other options available in the shop.

I also made this little beauty:

mail-organizerbee pendantAdorable, Ay?! It’s a mail holder for the DIY Message Center Boards. I had a ball making this one. Totally cool!

flea market findsWe made it to an estate sale on Friday. Really interesting sale. Let’s just say there were raw animal pelts hanging in the closets, slowly disintegrating, completely nasty. They also had a whole room of dolls, the creepy kind. I almost brought home one of those stuffed monkeys that freak me out in horror movies, but I couldn’t bring myself to touch it. I brought home the few treasures above. A couple cool frames and some neat illustrations that I can include in a new art wall I’m putting together. The little pieces of brass and the drawer pulls will end up on a board some day I’m sure.

But the best thing I found was this…..

Priscilla and FionaThis was a painting done by the former homeowner, Betty Sagan. She may have had a doll fetish and a few too many animal remains to host a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but she was also an artist.

This beauty was hanging over her fireplace and I just fell in love with her. I know there is a bit of a creepy factor in her, but that’s why I grabbed her. Her daughter was so glad to see her mom’s work go to a home that appreciated her. I have her hanging right in front of me when I watch tv. Her eyes definitely follow me when I leave the room, but I appreciate the company. I have named her Priscilla and I call her cat, Fiona, and I love them completely. Don’t come over if you can’t take it. They’re precious.

So that’s what I’ve been doing………what’s been keeping you busy?