starry night

I remember it vividly.  There was a competition in art class in third grade.  We were to replicate van Gogh’s famous painting, The Starry Night.  I was mesmerized with the painting.  The colors, the swirls, the sharp roof lines.  All of it.  I loved van Gogh’s post-impressionist style.  He quickly became my favorite artist because of that painting and competition although I did not win.

Van_Gogh_-_Starry_Night_

The following year, in fourth grade, we had to do a presentation on our favorite artist.  Maybe it was our favorite historical figure but the category was broad and I remember choosing van Gogh.  We were instructed to not only present the person but portray him or her during the presentation.  At this point I had done a bit of research and learned that Vincent van Gogh cut off his left ear.  That fact stuck out in my young mind so I incorporated it into my presentation by wearing a large, sticky gauze bandage over my own left ear.  Tearing that bandage off was painful, let me tell you.  It had to score me some major points, right?

Vincent_Willem_van_Gogh_mirror_self_portrait

About 10 years later while in college I had the opportunity to visit the van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.  It was such a fun experience to see so many of his original pieces in person.  With every corner I turned I hoped to see The Starry Night, the painting that initially piqued my interest in van Gogh and his work.  After touring the museum I found out The Starry Night was at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  Go figure!  I will never look at a still life of sunflowers again without remembering that trip.

Vincent_van_Gogh_sunflowers

At any rate, I was working on these two cute little side tables last week when van Gogh and The Starry Night jogged my memory.  I hadn’t thought about that painting in a very long time until I was applying white wax over Artissimo.  The contrast between the dark and light.

artissimo + white wax

Certainly this isn’t post-impressionism work but a little bit of white wax over such an intense color softens the look, doesn’t it?

artissimo + white wax

Do you have a favorite artist?

artissimo + white wax

(All van Gogh images are from Wikipedia)

comparing topcoats: then & now

The most pinned and visited post here is one I wrote a couple of years ago about my preference in furniture topcoats.  There has been consistent conversation on that post.  I’d like to continue that conversation over here with a 2014 update.

While the products I was using then are certainly fine products, tastes & trends change and new choices become available.  Let’s check in and compare what I was using in 2012 vs. what I’m using in 2014 and why…

2012 #1 Minwax Paste Finishing Wax – I was using paste wax primarily over stripped and stained surfaces.

hemp oil

Current #1 Hemp Oil – This is my current go-to topcoat for stained surfaces and raw wood.  Basically it can be applied to revive and treat any porous surface including flat paint leaving a rich finish.  Hemp oil is 100% natural, no VOCs and food safe.  I even use hemp oil on my cutting boards and cast iron pots.  It has no harsh odor so I use it indoors.  Hemp oil has a multitude of other DIY uses but we’re just talking about topcoats today so I will limit it to that.  Hemp oil can be applied with a cloth or brush.  I typically use a brush.  I love the addition of oil to my repertoire.

drop leaf table with hemp oil finish on raw wood and paint

2012 #2 Johnson Paste Wax – I always liked the finish this wax provided over painted surfaces but the chemical odor is just so strong that I never use it anymore.

furniture wax

Current #2 Miss Mustard Seed’s Furniture Wax – When I want a wax finish over painted furniture, I always go for this one regardless of the brand of paint.  It is made of beeswax and therefore has no odor.  It is incredibly easy to apply and leaves a nice even finish.  I apply with a wax brush.  MMS furniture wax dries very quickly, in about 5 minutes, and lightly buffs out with a lint free cotton rag.

mustard seed yellow milk paint nightstand with furniture wax

2012 #3 & #4 Annie Sloan Clear & Dark Wax – These waxes are nice and thick which is why I liked them back then.  At the time I was using a lot of chalk paint so it complemented well.  A thick wax over a full body paint made sense to me then.  However, there has been a lot of conversation around the clear wax leaving a haze and fingerprints while the dark wax was mostly just too dark and hard to work with on its own.  The dark wax is very pigmented because it is meant to be more of a stain from what I understand.  I have experienced both of those issues and pushed through until…

antiquing wax

2014 #3 & #4 Miss Mustard Seed’s Antiquing & White Wax – No surprise here but I’ve fully converted to all MMS waxes.  The antiquing wax creates such a subtle warm patina with no fear of being too dark as referenced before. The pigment is easy to spread.

lucketts green over trophy milk paint with antiquing wax #mmsmp

On the other hand, white wax creates a washed out look to the painted finish that I’ve been raving about this summer.  The white wax also has a very light scent that is pleasant and not chemically at all.

Mustard Seed Yellow + White Wax #mmsmp

I use brushes to apply these waxes as it helps gets the pigmentation to settle into the paint creating an aged look.  I reserve one wax brush exclusively for each color wax for easier clean up.  It is fun to use both antiquing and white wax on one piece to create depth and the illusion of years of wear.  I like to think of it as highlighting and low-lighting.

white wax

In 2012, I also indicated that I was using a buffer and still receive many questions about my buffer today.  Well, I can’t remember the last time I used it!  I power buffed because all of the waxes I was using were thick and it was the best way to get an even, shiny finish.  My current choice in waxes are much lighter.  When needed, a cotton rag and elbow grease buffs them out in minutes.  Although the beeswax is thinner, it gives a very solid, durable finish when cured.

Of course, this is just my opinion and perhaps, no surprise.  I wouldn’t sell a line of products that I don’t truly love.  There are many, many new topcoat choices on the market including a range of tinted waxes and ones with low or no VOCs.  It is important to find what suits your style best.  Please share in the comments what your go-to products for topcoats are.  I’d love to hear what you’ve discovered!

DIY laundry detergent

We’ve taken DIY to a new level over here. It was only a matter of time really. DIY rooms, paint jobs and furniture were our gateway. Then there was lighting. And we dabbled in sewing – not necessarily a strong suit, for those keeping track.

Then it happened in the kitchen. I began making things from scratch such as soups, juice and bread. Which got us thinking about all of the processed food and drinks we used to eat and how that directly correlates to our health and just generally feeling good. We’ve cut out as much processed food as possible.

That mindset begged us to ask what was in our detergents and certain cleaning supplies that we come in close contact with.  As a result, our DIY laundry detergent was born…

DIY Laundry Detergent Recipe

After much research we settled on 3 simple ingredients…

  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 bar fels naptha soap

DIY Laundry Detergent-3992

The fels naptha must be grated.  Don’t let that deter you if you are interested in making your own laundry detergent.  It really only takes about 3 minutes to grate a bar of soap.  If you’ve grated cheese before, you can do this!

DIY Laundry Detergent-3986

After that, all that is left is measuring 1 cup of the other 2 ingredients.

DIY Laundry Detergent-3988

Combine it all in a jar or canister.  You’ll just need a tablespoon of the detergent for each load of laundry; 2 tablespoons for extra dirty loads.    This detergent smells so truly fresh and clean too – not a manufactured scent.  It also doesn’t suds up making it a good candidate for high-efficiency washers that call for low suds detergents.

DIY Laundry Detergent Recipe

Did I mention that this detergent is dirt cheap to make?  Get it?  Dirt cheap!  I couldn’t resist.  But it really is inexpensive.  Do you make any of your own cleaning supplies?

 

another day, another drop leaf

I can’t stop with the drop leaf tables. There’s more where this one came from too! This is another one that we picked up in Brimfield. It is the perfect size in my opinion. I like drop leafs for their versatility. This one is petite when closed. Just right for a cottage beach house kitchen that can open up to accommodate additional diners around the table. However it could also make a really functional sofa table that can open up as a game table or home office if need be. Anyway, enough imagining its future life. Let’s discuss its former.

french enamel & tricycle MMS milk paint drop leaf table

When I acquired the table, it felt really primitive to me.  Too primitive for my taste.  It needed color. A little pizazz.

dropleaf before

I started with a coat of tricycle MMS milk paint which is such a good, vibrant red.  Why I haven’t I used it in so long?  However, red on this piece still felt primitive.  I punched it up with french enamel MMS milk paint, a gorgeous light blue that I also don’t seem to use enough.

bentwood chair & drop leaf table

The twist, though, is that I created a resist once again using hemp oil.  Just like the last drop leaf I painted.  The red peaks through in just a few chipping spots on the legs and apron of the table.

french enamel & tricycle MMS milk paint drop leaf table

I considered staining the top with curio, the dark brown MMS milk paint.  It is getting increasingly popular as a stain for table tops and dresser tops.  But it turns out that just a coat of hemp oil did the trick to revive the dehydrated wood top.  I love the nicks in the top too.  It gives so much authenticity.

MMSMP hemp oil table top

Ahh, the magic of hemp oil!

MMSMP hemp oil

This table is for sale at West End Garage in Cape May.  The chairs are not.  They’re mine!  The entire Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint product line is also available so you can achieve this look on your own piece of furniture.

Have you made over any furniture lately?

french enamel & tricycle MMS milk paint drop leaf table

blast from the past

Macrame and String Art are two trends from the 60′s, 70′s & 80′s that are having quite the moment again.  In fact, they have been for a while now.  We’re seeing vintage versions crop up as well as handmade and manufactured reproductions.

I personally have fully embraced both in our home.  The vintage versions, of course, which have been sparking conversations amongst visitors.

Macrame is the art of making textiles through tying knots.  Plant hangers have been the most abundant version out there.  Over the winter I scored two macrame plant hangers each with coordinating glazed planters at an estate sale.  I just love the combo.

macrame and glazed planter

Don’t remind Ryan of this but a few years ago while having a deep conversation about decorating he made a suggestion that involved macrame planters and beaded curtains.  Naturally I rolled my eyes and wouldn’t even entertain the thought of either.  I can assure you that I stand firm on the beaded curtains though.

macrame and glazed planter

String art is usually constructed on a one-dimensional surface.  It is characterized by geometric and usually abstract shapes made by stringing thread from point to point, usually nails or pins.  It is a very calculated design.

We have this gigantic string art displayed on our screened in porch.  My father-in-law made it over 30 years ago!  Such precision and patience he has.  There are more where that came from too.  Isn’t it cool?  Or should I say groovy…

String Art

So tell me, where do you stand on the return of both macrame and string art?  The previous generation’s Do It Yourself projects.  Love or loathe?

all of that kale

The garden is off to a great start this spring. We’ve had warm, sunny days and cool, misty nights. As a result, we’re harvesting bunches and bunches of lettuce plus a bunch of leafy kale every other day.

leafy kale

The more frequently it is harvested, the higher the yield.  I hate to let any of it go to waste because I know once the temperatures soar these greens will bolt leaving me wishing for just one more kale infused smoothie.  And I’ve tried but I’m just not into kale chips.

maximizing the harvest- kale-3701
In order to maximize the kale harvest and make it last well into summer I’ve come up with a plan.  After washing the bunch of kale and trimming the stems, I toss it into a pan and blanch it.  This only takes a few minutes.  I usually do it while making dinner.

maximizing the harvest- kale-3694

Then, with tongs, I place the wilted greens into an ice-cube tray and cover with water.

making kale cubes

Pop the tray in the freezer and we’ve got kale cubes.  The cubes are ready to chill any smoothie or to toss into any soup, stir fry or side dish.  I put the excess cubes in a freezer bag to make room for more.  There’s another harvest right behind this one!

Maximizing the Harvest - kale cubes

I recently read an interesting article about the benefits of using cooked kale vs. raw kale in smoothies.  What do you think?  What is your preference?