the best-laid plans

We had such glorious schemes for October.  OH, we had such plans.

 

While we do our level best not to go falling off the Cliff of Seasonal Crazy into the Bottomless Pit of Holiday Madness, we do write ourselves one giant free pass with respect to fall.  Fall, generally, and October, specifically.   I don’t know what Jenn’s excuse for it is, honestly, but I maintain my right to revel is grounded in the fact that I spent the first decade-plus of my life in a Land Without Seasons, and the next decade or so in a place where autumn was that one week where everything got yellow and then boom, naked trees.  The novelty of deciduous trees suddenly putting on a show of slow emergence of a riotous rainbow of colors while the air gradually tempers your transition from warm-weather tank tops to warm and wooly toques – well, let’s just say it’s still a good long ways from wearing off.

 

So the game plan was this:  instead of toning down our enthusiasm for the season, we were going to embrace it with wild abandon.  A veritable orgy of all things Autumn, wallowing in the novelty of trading garden clogs for fall boots (all the better for crunching leaves underfoot in!) and abandoning sun-soaked tomatoes and outdoor living for all things cinnamon-pumpkin-apple-cider-cake-and-carbs and indoor comforts.

 

Wanna see how far I got?

cakeyah

One. Naked. Cake.

 

In my defense, it’s at least a pumpkin spice cake. And it had potential.  Needed a few more repetitions to perfect before posting, but you could see the promise.  (Side note:  yes, you do indeed want to know me in the real world.  I will feed you cake prototypes until you resent my very existence, and you will love every minute of it.)

 

And then.  THE OVEN.

 

Two weeks ago, my oven went rogue.  I don’t mean it just stopped heating evenly, or the timer went weird, or a stove element burned out.  I mean that my stove and oven, that faithful center of my hearth and home, WENT ON THE ATTACK.  In a nutshell, one quiet Monday night mid-casserole, my oven decided to super-heat itself, cranking out all the power it possibly could, frying its own circuits and overriding its own ability to be turned on or off.  After some truly high-quality slapstick action, including standing on my own kitchen counter trying to decide if I should call 911 before or after I use a broomstick to unplug the burning beast, I developed enough sense to investigate my fuse box.

 

Eureka!  911 call averted.

 

The stove and oven, however, remain dead.  And, things being what they are, it’s gonna be a little while before they get replaced.

 

On the bright side, I’m off the hook for hosting Thanksgiving.  And hey, bonus, now I have a place to store all those doornails.

 

For right now, instead of cooking and crafting, I’m cobbling together a pretty effective model for survival, including borrowing indulgent family members’ kitchens, extensive use of slow cookers, and suddenly being super glad I opted to buy the waffle iron with the reversible griddle plates.  I don’t mind admitting that while I’m pretty good in a kitchen, I am a total incompetent with things like effective batch cooking and appropriate use of convenience foods.  Once I figure out how this all works, I hope to come out of it with a lot more spare time and maybe even a few new recipes in hand.

 

But for the moment, a whole lot of things are on hold.  Including leaf-crunching, apple-picking, cider-swilling, and finessing that stupid pumpkin cake up there.

 

Oh, and as for my partner in crime  blog?  Well.  She still has a working kitchen, and keeps taunting me with pins and pictures of things she’s working on or that we should totally consider making.  Don’t think I didn’t consider throwing myself and this blog at her mercy and begging her to just take it all over for a few weeks while I get my feet back under me.  But, at the risk of being vague and secretive-yet-smugly-in-the-loop, I happen to know that she’s currently working on one HELL of a DIY project, and it’s even more time consuming and profoundly-preoccupying than my own kitchen sitch.

 

So, best-laid plans have done what best-laid plans usually do, and  we’re both taking a minute to recalibrate, catch our respective breaths, and get those pesky ducks back in a row.  It won’t be long –  real-world considerations be damned, we won’t be able to resist fall for long.

ROSEBUD

I’m pretty sure that the number one sign of being a fully-fledged and committed grown-up is not, in fact, paying bills, or having a dentist, or knowing the name of your drycleaner.

It’s wreaths on the door.

Hear me out: when I was a kid, my mom’s need to have a seasonally-appropriate wreath just seemed weird. Christmas, I could accept, but who cares what a door wears the rest of the year?

Now, though…maybe it’s a pride of ownership thing; maybe it’s because my quirky house has two front doors, so it looks doubly-naked when the holidays are over and my super-glittery front door festivities get boxed up for the year. All I know is that my doors just look forlorn and unfinished all spring and summer long.

The thing is, there’s a huge gulf between conceding that what I really want is a non-Christmas wreath or two to tide me over til December comes back again and actually liking wreaths in general. Silk flowers? Fake birds? Sculpted confections of wired ribbon?

Have we met?

When we started talking about making plaster flowers, I thought I had the ideal solution – yarn-wrap a foam wreath form, and festoon it with tiny little plastered pieces of perfection. Simple color scheme and contrasting textures, all brought together in one playful nod to nature. Boom!

Foam wreaths were easy to find, and about $3 each. Yarn, I had in spades, and this was a great way to use up lumpy left-over grass-green acrylic yarn I would never find another a purpose for. I dressed those puppies up weeks ago, and left them to age while they awaited their finishing floral touches.

nekkid

Eh. We all saw how that plaster thing turned out, right? Not so much boom, whole lotta bust. Wreaths? Consigned to the Island of Mis-fired Projects, for good as far as I was concerned.

Tonight, I was working on another project entirely, involving felt flowers. I bought the materials for this other project rather haphazardly, and, since I had never actually made felt flowers before, had conscientiously bought a few extra sheets of craft felt to experiment with.

supply

Turns out, I can TOTALLY knock felt flowers out of the park, which explains why “make a few test ones first,” in the course of some absent-minded crafting to the dulcet tones of season finales on TV, turned into “holy crap, where did all these ridiculous little fabric plants come from?”

Extra flowers…sad abandoned wreath forms. Surplus test flowers…sad, neglected, abandoned rings of yarny goodness, desperate to bedeck bland, spiritless, front doors. Felt flowers just lyin’ around, doin’ nothin’, and…

OH HEY THERE, BRIGHT IDEA. WELCOME TO THE PARTY.

test

profile

Any time anyone wants to congratulate me on unintentionally buying scrap felt pieces in the same colors as my house, by all means, feel free.

insitu

Total wreath cost: basically $3. Everything else – yarn, felt, random old lace scrap, the quilting pins that are holding the flowers on because Hot Glue And I Do Not Get Along – came from shopping my own supplies.

Since I have two front doors and a roommate who frequently gets left out of some of my wackier projects and plans, I handed wreath #2 and a stack of felt to her and told her to go wild. Last I checked, she eyeball deep in little finished flowers, and still making more. I’m a little frightened of what she might produce, but don’t blame her for over-producing the flowers; they’re easy and error-proof enough to be wildly addictive. That, however, is a post for another day.

In which I got totally plastered

In between our own personal projects, and the projects we decide to turn into random competitions, there’s the occasional project that Jenn and I both love enough just-as-is to commit to collaboration on. If I think really hard about it, plaster-coated silk flowers were the first project that we both saw en mass on Pinterest and thought “hey, we should save that for if we ever start the blog we keep joking about.”

Honestly, this had all the makings of a perfect project.

Supplies readily available and imminently affordable?

plastered

Check.

Internet rife with clear, consistent, and blessedly simple instructions, with universally successful outcomes?

Check, super check, checkity check check.

I feel like I should make some up-front disclosures:

One, I am not a big fan of fake flowers. Because…they’re fake. They’re fake and weird and fake and make me feel like I’m about to be thrown a retirement party and honestly I think I’ve satisfied my crazy-old-lady quotient just by having a cat, you know?

Two: I also don’t do candles, and actually, it’s because of the cat. Who habitually jumps onto counters. Where candles might be lit.

Trust me, the smell that happens when you shove a smoldering cat under a faucet because he crash-landed on your latest scented acquisition is enough to put you off for life, and if you’re lucky enough to have a cat stupid enough to do it twice? In the same week?

Well, let’s just say that there’s a reason no one makes a Scorched Feline scent. Yankee Catastrophe, for real.

Despite these fundamental facts, I had high hopes for this project. Had. HAD. Long story short: plastered flower tea light holders? I should have known better.

It seemed so simple:

Find some structurally-spectacular fake flowers.

fleur

Take 2 parts plaster of paris to 1 part cold water, add extra water to thin as needed. Dip flowers, shake excess, and repeat the ol’ dip-and-shake until PRESTO, MAGIC, A PERFECTLY COATED AND PRESERVED FLORAL FORM EMERGES.

Real-world instructions based on the actual events as they occurred in my kitchen:

Take 2 parts plaster of paris to 1 part cold water, add extra to thin to dipping consistency. Dip flowers, end up with near-immediate clotty seizure of white goo that looks like someone replaced my plaster with mashed potatoes. Panic, flail, shake, dip again, PANIC AND FLAIL MORE.

finished

Attempt to reshape the rapidly-hardening yet still weirdly-floppy plaster splodge back into a flower shape. End up with slightly floral pancake. Be amazed at how you can still see the flower’s original barely-there peach shade now blazing fluorescently orange through the inch-thick potato-chalk.

Realize you can’t take pictures because you’ve accidentally casted your own hands up to the elbow. Panic-wash hands, sparing a moment’s regret for the dishes you now wish you’d cleared out of the sink before starting this. Thin plaster more. Attempt dipping again with much smaller, less complicated flowers.

tinies

Fail only slightly less. Wash hands again. Discover that this second hand-wash took just long enough for the plaster to go from dippably-liquid to moldably solid. Give up and use this as an excuse to express your feelings on the project in freeform plaster format.

sadface

Go ahead and grade yourself on a generous curve for overall project excecution.

graded

Clearly, this plaster flower project was NOT the kind of “plastered” this girl was meant to achieve.

Lazy wins out

Sometimes, you get inspired, you make a mood board, you paint test and buy all the supplies ever. You prime, you paint and you step back and go… yup, good enough.

Sometimes, Lazy wins out.

Your inner decorator bitches at you “but you were INSPIRED” and the tired decorator says “shove it” and drinks a beer. That’s basically how it went with the master bathroom painting.

First things, a reminder:
I WAS inspired

I researched all the right and wrong ways to paint stripes, read which sheens were the best to ensure the effect I was going for and then, after test-painting what seemed like all the greens EVER, found the right hue and dove in. I went with Eddie Bauer’s ‘Stem Green’ (EB22-4) for my final color and, like the instructions say, started with my semi-gloss sheen, to ensure good protection in a humid room.

So many options

So many options

The Painted Surface had a great step by step tutorial, and just googling “tonal stripes” found me all kinds of images and links to choose from. By the time I was done reading, I was ready to hire a professional and just have it done for me. But that would defeat the point, right? So, I cleaned out the room, wiped the walls down, and taped it out.

The first coat went on nice and easy and in the time it takes to a drink a few beers, it was dry enough for a second coat. [Confession: I have little patience for things like drying paint and sprouting plants. For some reason, I think the minute I stick a seed in the ground or throw some paint on the wall, angels should sing and flowers will bloom. Unfortunately, reality dashes a lot of dreams.]

By the time I finished with the second coat, the writing was on the wall. I was not feeling inspired to wait, tape, paint and then paint again.

Horse Photography

Horse Photography

 

As I had already completed two other projects for my mini-makeover, I thought, I’ll just set up the room and see how it looks.  I don’t even know why I was pretending. I knew I wasn’t going to come back to the stripes. I wanted to, I still want to. And maybe I will in the coming months, but, at the time, ugh – I was just done. I had new towels, new mats, great photography to put up and a cute little cabinet found and re-done from craigslist.

 

A little paint and a little love

A little paint and a little love

 

As my therapist tells me, ‘sometimes, good enough, is just good enough’. I still feel accomplished and enjoy the project for what it is. Sometimes, things just aren’t going to get those angels to hallelujah and it’s not going to get re-pinned on that ever-loving website. But, it is good enough to poop in, and I guess that’s really the point. Right?

For now...

For now…

-jenn

 

 

 

 

All that glitters

So a while back, Jenn sent me a link to a tray she found instant, swoony love with on etsy. I took a peek, and had two nearly-simultaneous thoughts:

screenshot

1.) Instant, swoony love is an unfaithful beast, and we are just going to have to make this work somehow.

2.) $98? $98?? NINETY EIGHT DOLLARS? That better be real gold. It also better smell like cookies and hand-wash my laundry for me. For $98, the snozzberries sure as hell better taste like snozzberries.

Don’t get me wrong, I am usually a huge proponent of the idea that there really isn’t too high a price to pay for The Perfect Thing, but this seriously challenged that belief system.

Out with the instant, swoony love and in with the throwing of gauntlets: surely, SURELY we could make something passably similar? You know, like, for any dollar amount UNDER $98??

After our last foray into a challenge like this, Jenn insisted on ground rules, because apparently admittedly, I cheat. So, the non-negotiables:

– start with this big, basic, under-$8 tray from ikea

– make it white and gold

– make it as cheaply as possible.

We weren’t even out of Ikea before Jenn was talking technical concerns like primer. Honestly I kind of zoned out, because I knew I had more than enough leftover chalk paint from prior projects. Primer? That’s just precious. Excuse me while I just slap down some no-fail covers-anything Old White magic.

onecoat

No need for primer here!

I was blissfully unconcerned with sparse and wibbly first coat coverage because, well, first coat. This wasn’t my first chalk paint rodeo. I’ve thrown this stuff down on some of the grossest things a thrift store run has ever produced, and it never fails me. My faith in Annie Sloan was absolute.

Until.

crackalack

UNTIL!

Here’s the thing: I am not super great at reading directions. So I didn’t really stop and read the “if you have left this can of paint sitting idle in a drawer for more than a year, do the following” that was super-clearly printed on the label. Actual instructions: flip over, shake like crazy. What I did: half-assedly stirred with a chopstick, then started painting.

So, basically, my faith in chalk paint and my faith in my ability to make new and awesomely stupid mistakes pretty much daily both escaped unscathed.

In the meantime, I had a project to salvage. So…yeah. Primer to the rescue.

primed

Sigh.

I went heavy handed, mostly due to blind panic, and partly due to beer. Also, it’s very possible that I was using spray primer and in my kitchen and with no thought what so ever to ventilation. Because I am super smart.

When it came time to gild this fume-heavy melamine lily, I ditched the straight lines entirely. My reasoning was simple: this rectangular tray was going to go onto my rectangular dining table in my rectangular dining room. Any opportunity to add a soft edge and a little swirl of curve and curl was just not to be missed.

swirl

$2 paint pen at the craft store + 30 minutes of harnessing my adolescent self, who majored in swirly doodles in high school = oh. hell. yes.

golden

Total cost: new materials, tray included, $10. Primer, paint, and brushes were already on hand. So was the beer I pounded in a panic when the paint started chipping away on me, for that matter.

Net result: instant, swoony love? Not really. But I like what I’ve got. And clearly, it likes living in my dining room, where it’s already played host to condiments and salt and pepper shakers for a family dinner and served as a catch-all for my garden planning notes.

inplace

I’m a little worried about its long-term durability, thanks to the early panic, but I’m pretty sure there was some polyurethane in the same drawer as the chalk paint. Don’t worry, I’ll remember to shake it really well before I use it.