Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Crafting | Painting a Christmas sign

To celebrate the holidays -- and the end of my first semester in my second go-round with college -- I made myself a little Christmas present.
making a wooden Christmas sign
Isn't it purdy? I've been crushing on the Pottery Barn JOY sign the whole Christmas season, but as a poor college student, I didn't have 59 discretionary dollars to spend on a holiday decoration and I had consigned myself to the fact that I would have to go without it.
Noel sign
Then one day last week I noticed a crusty piece of plywood -- full of paint smears and stains and holes that had been drilled around the edges -- leaning up against the side of our garage. I assume my husband must have put it there, but I decided it was a sign. Or at least it could be. A rustic, reclaimed, one-of-a-kind Pottery-Barn-inspired Christmas sign, that is.
Noel sign
With the plywood in hand, I searched my paint stash for a beautiful Christmas red. All I could find was 1 ounce (half a bottle) of tomatoey red acrylic craft paint. Not exactly what I was looking for, but I made it work by adding a couple of dribbles of black to darken it up and then mixing it with a bit of water and plaster of paris to stretch the paint and make sure it had a nice, flat, chalky finish.
stenciling a sign
Once I had the paint conundrum solved and the board bedecked in red, I sat down at my computer and played around with a few different words and fonts. Eventually, I settled on my sign saying "noel" in Rockingham medium, and I printed out the letters.
Noel sign
Then I cut away the black ink to create stencils.
Noel sign
I scooched the letters around on the board until I had them where I wanted them and stuck them down with masking tape.
Noel Christmas sign
I filled in the stencils with some leftover white chalk paint.
Noel sign
When I had the stencils all filled in ...
Noel sign
... I peeled away the paper to reveal the white letters.
building a frame
Then I rounded up a few pieces of grungy lath. The lath pieces are not even a year old, but my husband had used them to stake out a path he built in our backyard last summer, and they turned that lovely weathered gray color pretty quickly after they were exposed to the elements.
Making a Noel sign
I trimmed two long pieces of the lath to fit horizontally along the top and bottom of the sign first, then drilled pilot holes and nailed the pieces into the plywood.
DIY Christmas sign
For the shorter ends of the sign, I butted the lath pieces up along the sides, marked their length with a pencil and trimmed them to fit, then drilled pilot holes and nailed them into place just like I did with the longer pieces.
Noel sign
Here's a closeup of one of the butted corners.
wooden noel sign
After I had the frame built, I gave the sign a second coat of paint and then brushed on a couple of coats of Rust-Oleum Chalked protective topcoat.
Noel sign
I have the sign standing sideways on my back porch for now, but I can always hang it horizontally, if the mood strikes.
red Noel sign

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Collecting | A vintage Christmas book

vintage Christmas book
 As I was leafing through my stash of Christmas books this morning, I came upon this gem, published in 1968, that I thought I'd write a quick post about. I picked the book up at an antique store about 15 years ago. 
A Holiday Book illustration
 I love the cover of the book, and the inside illustrations are divine. But the real reason I bought it ...
vintage Christmas book
 ... is because it was retired from the Lincoln School Library in Waupun. For those of you who don't know, Waupun is my hometown.
vintage kids Christmas book
I didn't attend Lincoln School and those due dates are all a little before my time so I don't recognize  any of the borrowers' names, but I love that sweet reminder of how the world used to be, before books were checked out with bar codes and scanners.
Lincoln School Library Waupun
The cards from the card catalog had also been saved and stored in the back pocket.
illustration of wreath hanging
This might be my favorite illustration from the book: a very Ward-and-June-Cleaverish couple and their 2.0 kiddos hanging a wreath on their front door.
vintage Christmas book
 I also like this one, mostly because it has a "LINCOLN SCHOOL LIBRARY" stamp directly above it.
Santa Claus illustration
 And then there's this quaint two-page spread of Santa Claus delivering presents. I'd say this is one svelte Santa, but the book refers to him as "roly-poly." Apparently our standards have changed a bit in that regard since 1968.
vintage children's book
Anyhoo, thanks for checking out my little Christmas story. 
vintage library book
The end.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Collecting | Saving the snowpeople

Despite my best efforts, my little collection of snowpeople keeps growing. 
snowman collectibles
 I never go out looking for them, but (like a lot of other things) they just keep finding me. 
snowman collection
This is the guy who started it all. He was a Christmas gift when I was kid. (You might recognize him as an Avon decanter; he's still half full of Sweet Honesty, my signature scent in the eighth grade. )
snowmen and Gurley candle Christmas tree
Most of the rest of my little snow family have been picked up for a song at garage sales and thrift stores over the years.
vintage snowman collection
I really like the vintage ones, like this couple of cuties, who are actually salt and pepper shakers.
snowman collection
But I have a soft spot for simple wooden snowmen, too.
snowman collection
This guy even came with a name tag. (Poor Bob. What kind of a heartless monster would dump him at a thrift store???)
The big guy in the center of this video clip is solar-powered. When I first saw him at the St. Vincent de Paul, I thought he was a broken clock or kitchen timer. I bought him anyway. After I got him home and held him up to the light to inspect him, he started to shimmy, and it dawned on me that the panel on his base was actually a solar cell, not a broken LCD screen.
snowmen on a shelf
Most years, I set my snowpeople out on this three-tiered shelf before Christmas. This year -- as part of my ongoing quest to put off studying for finals and writing the three papers that I have due next week -- I decided to document the process.
red metal plate
On the bottom shelf, I started with this chippy red metal plate.
making a Christmas display
I propped an evergreen branch (trimmed off the bottom of our Christmas tree) up against the plate.
ceramic tree
Then I put a ceramic tree in the center of the shelf ...
vintage snowmen and tree
... and added a couple of larger snowpeople to the right. (I used a few checkers and poker chips as risers in order to vary the height a bit.)
snowmen on a shelf
I filled in around the big pieces with smaller snowmen and added a few more random pieces of greenery to hide the risers and fill in the gaps.
creating a Christmas vignette
For the middle shelf, I started with this green metal plate. 
green tray and evergreen branch
An evergreen branch went in front of the plate again.
Creating a Christmas vignette
Then I added a couple of cocoa tins and a vintage battery-powered light-up Christmas tree in the center of the shelf.
snowmen and tree
I added Bob and another wooden snowman on the edges ...
snowman collectibles
... and then I finished up with some other random smalls.
evergreen branch on shelf
The process was pretty much the same for the top shelf, except I skipped the plate in the back and just started with some Christmas tree trimmings.
Gurley Christmas tree candles
A couple of vintage Gurley candles went next, with one of them on a riser.
snowmen and candle Christmas trees
Then I placed a couple of bigger guys ...
snowman collection
... and filled in with some smaller pieces.
vintage snowmen on a shelf