Online Buyer Beware

Back in the fall, I found some amazing buffalo plaid curtain panels for a steal at the Christmas Tree Shops.

Christmas Tree Shops Plaid Curtain Panel

The ones I purchased are cream and teal, and I originally paid $16.99 for per pair, which I thought was a steal! When I decided I needed one more pair for our large window, I found the last pair in a markdown bin for $4.99- now that’s a real steal! They are hanging in our master bedroom, and every time I walk in the room, I love them again! But, you know how, when you change one thing, then the old stuff looks really old and needs to be updated? So, that happened. Time to for a spring-time spruce up! I needed to find some new bedding that would complement the curtains and the existing palette in the room. I did a lot of online searching until I finally stumbled upon this perfect set

7-piece-queen-luxury-aqua-blue-navy-and-white-comforter-set-8

on this website: www.extrablanket.com. They had lots of comforters and curtains at great prices! This particular set was marked down from $249.95 to $67.68! I know, right?! Since I had never heard of the company before, I did my due diligence (or so I thought) and checked into the website. They have a PayPal account and loads of listings on EBay and Amazon (although under different names in each case…which I thought was rather strange but I really wanted that comforter set…so I ignored the red flags). So, I ordered the set, paying for it with my credit card…and waited. I did receive a confirmation from extrablanket.com with tracking information. Then the second payment confirmation email came from PayPal, but from a company called Domestic Décors, but the email listed was from GrandLinen@yahoo.com…hmm. Another red flag. So now there are three different names being used. The PayPal payment page stated that the shipment would be within 5-7 days, and there was an order and tracking # so I figured it was all good. Then after the 5-7 days, I checked the tracking # page and it was blank. BLANK. Crap. So, giving them the benefit of the doubt, I waited some more (did I say how much that I REALLY wanted that comforter set?!) At the end of February I sent my first “Hey, I haven’t heard from you” email and waited for a response. Nothing. On March 2, I sent a “Hey, where’s my stuff, I am going to report you, blah, blah, blah” email. Again, NO RESPONSE. There is no phone number on the website, but there was one on my PayPal statement, so I called it. NOTHING. Just a ring and then a non-descript voice-mail message. Finally, reluctantly (because I REALLY wanted that comforter set) I called my credit card fraud division and reported them. The CC rep said it happens all the time-these companies open up websites and “sell” non-existent stuff, and no sooner does someone report them and shut them down, then they re-open under another name and keep on scamming consumers. The CC company refunded my money (initially I told her I didn’t want the money back because I REALLY wanted that comforter set- she laughed and said “well, that’s not gonna happen) and sent me an email stating that they had contacted the company and were waiting for a response. In the meantime, the website is still up and running and their postings on Amazon and EBay remain in place, which baffles me. How does this company remain open under all these different names on reputable websites if they are really not selling anything??? So, I am back on the hunt for another comforter set. If you happen to see anything king-sized that is teal and navy blue with some embroidered flowers, give me a shout out. (unless, of course, you spot it on extrablanket.com). Here’s hoping you’re keeping warm…under your nice, stylish comforter set…because it’s still so chilly here in Boston!! So beware! xoxo Susan

Beginning Anew & A Giveaway!

This past year has been one of great joys and great sorrows for me personally. The birth of our very first grandchild (he’s a wee bit camera shy, but suffice to say-and this is my totally unbiased opinion- that he is the cutest baby in the whole world…) followed by the incredible wedding celebration of our son to his lovely bride, were both the happiest of  occasions.

Let's Dance 2016

But, those extraordinary events were overshadowed by the diagnosis, illness and subsequent death of my mother,

Mom Green Sweater

(their beloved grandmother and great-grandmother) who passed away recently at 89 years young from cancer. To say that the events of the past year were overwhelming is an understatement. Each presented its own set of unique demands and daily challenges, and each was equally important in its own right. So, during that time, blogging was most definitely not in the forefront of my mind. Getting through each day, surviving until the next dawn broke was about all I had the time and energy for…and so it had been some time, until quite recently, since I had put “pen to paper” to write my stories. But time marches on, as they say, and life settles down, and we move forward…or in this case, backwards…to a time when I was happily painting and sawing and sanding and DIY’ing and sharing it all with you on social media.

Vintage Americana Heart Logo

In the past few weeks, I have started (and finished!) some new projects, remembered to take photos

Hail to the Whale Finished Logo

and share them on social media-which, in itself, was pretty amazing! So, I am finally beginning to re-furbish and re-love the pieces that have been lying dormant in the basement…and the barn…and the shed during this long and lonely winter. Loving this sweet little side table I recently re-did but completely forgot to write about.

IMG_0037

But I do have one problem. I recently moved my blog server back to WordPress.com (a long and frustrating story for another day). But with that move, I was not able to bring all of you, my lovely readers along with me! Those of you who had joined the ranks of my blog followers over the past few years will no longer receive my blog posts…unless we take action…so I need your help! If you wish to continue receiving email notices of my blog posts and DIY escapades (and, remember, we never, ever, EVER use your email for any other purpose : ), and I hope that you do, you need to click on this link to the home page of my blog https://countrydesignhome.com/

Blog Home Page

scroll down to the right side of the screen until you get to the line that reads “follow my blog”. Fill in the little window your email address, click send, and you will receive a confirmation email from me via Word Press. Just hit confirm, and you are done! Now, I know this is a pain in the neck and you are thinking, “well, this is a pain in the neck”, so I am going to sweeten the pot a wee bit. All of the email confirmations I receive by April 15th will be placed in a random drawing and one lucky person will win a $50 Amazon.com gift card…as a personal thanks from me to you…

Amazon Gift Card

…because we can all use a little fun news on Tax Day, right? So, thanks for understanding, and thanks for being part of my life and allowing me to share my stories with you…and I am hoping that we can now we can finally begin anew. Susan xoxo

 

Hail to the Whale!

Coach and I, well, we just love whales. I am not certain how it all began, but I can say that one of our very first “all day” dates took place in lovely Mystic Connecticut. In Mystic Seaport, it is all things nautical, and I suspect perhaps that day spent touring the Charles W. Morgan (the last wooden whale ship in the world!)

Charles W. Morgan

the Seaport Museum and the Mystic Aquarium, all the while basking in the glow of young love, might have sparked the beginning of a life-long passion for those majestic denizens of the deep. So, I paint a lot of whales…on trunks and planks and tables, pretty much any flat surface.

Whale Porch Table

After all, who can resist a gentle, giant creature with a hint of a smile-especially when decorated with the American flag? Recently, Coach came upon a stack of old cabinet doors (well, it might not have been recently, it’s just what has surfaced in the barn most recently.)

Hail to the Whale Before Cupboard Door

They were simply painted creamy white, or so we thought. Until he started to sand the edges and behold! This amazing teal blue emerged.

Hail to the Whale Black Background

Sometimes you have in your mind what color scheme to use on a piece, sometimes the piece dictates the palette. In this case, there was cream and teal and a country red color…perfect for an American Flag Whale! I went with a black background for greater impact and contrast to the flag whale itself. For the flag colors, I mixed paints until I came up with the exact shades of teals and reds that matched the existing colors on the frame. I have, in my workshop, perhaps 50 or so of those little Behr sample paint pots

Behr Sample Pots

that you get at Home Depot for a couple of bucks…in a multitude of colors. These are my go-to samples when I am mixing paints-economical and plentiful…and if I mix a color I really love, I just use the color match app to have them mix whatever amount I need! Once I painted the background, it was a pretty simple process-I used a whale stencil

 

Whale Stencil

for the overall pattern in cream, then taped off the stripes, and added the red.

Hail to the Whale Taped Stripes

Now, I know there aren’t 13 stripes- he was just too narrow and it looked too tight, so I went with a more interpretive look.

Hail to the Whale Star Field

After that, I added the star field using a stencil I cut out with my Cricut Air machine.

Cricut Gold

Do you have one of these?? If not, you need to hustle over to your favorite craft store and buy one, like now! If you do crafts, or scrapbooking, or make signs or stencils or just about anything where you need to apply graphics, this is your go-to machine. See this little square of stars?

Star Stencil

By hand, that would have taken me hours to cut…and then a few more in the ER getting stitched up from the X-acto knife thumb slice… With the Cricut, it took maybe ten minutes to design and cut the stencil. Simply incredible!

Once the whale had dried, I added the matching stars in the four corners. Upon close inspection, you can see where I allowed the faint outline of the original hardware to remain.

Hail to the Whale Hinge Detail

I think it gives the piece character to leave the blemishes there for everyone to see. After that, it was simply a matter of a topcoat…and I went with my go-to favorite: Flat Out Flat by General Finishes. **As a side-note, when you paint on this topcoat, it initially appears milky white,

Hail to the Whale FOF Wet Finish

which kind of freaked me out the first time I tried it. But, once it dried to a clear, softly glowing finish, I was sold. So, the whale is now finished and ready for his new home.

Hail to the Whale Finished Logo

This is the wall grouping that greets visitors at my back door, but alas, he’s not staying put.

Hail to the Whale Wall Grouping Logo 1

He’s migrating north to the Barn at Todd Farm where he’ll have a whale of a time with some other pieces I have recently completed. Have a “whale-y”great Wednesday, everyone! Susan xoxo

 

Sprayin’ It Pretty with HomeRight

I have had this little end table beside my bed for quite some time now. HR Sprayer Tented Table BeforeSince the day I purchased it, I have loved the style, but not the color or the rough-textured finish. I always had the notion that some day I would change it, but never had the time or energy to paint all those little divots in the finish! So when I was offered the opportunity through the Fab Furniture Flipping Contest to Spray It Pretty

Fab Furniture Flippin Contest Poster

to try the HomeRight Finish Max Fine Finish Sprayer, this was the project that immediately popped into my head!

So it went from this:HR Sprayer Tented Table Before

to this: HR Sprayer AfterIn about an hour. ONE HOUR. Amazing. Here’s the how-to:

  1. Received the sprayer,Home Right Paint Sprayer
  2. opened the manual and read it in its entirety. YOU NEED TO FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS.
  3. HR Paint Sprayer ManualThey may seem wordy and somewhat complicated, but once you follow the steps, you will be happy that you did.
  4. Set up a mock spray tent in the basement with a large plastic tarp and some duct tape. I had no idea how far the spray would splatter, so I encircled the table and left an opening in the front.
  5.  Grabbed a mask (these are from the dollar store. Best $$ you’ll ever spend!) and donned my safety glasses. HR Sprayer Dollar Store Mask
  6. Chose this pretty Rustoleum Chalked Paint in Serenity Blue. HR Sprayer Rustoleum Chalk PaintI figured if it was going to be next to my pillow, it should be serene.
  7.  Filled the sprayer according to the instructions. I did not need to check the thickness of this particular paint, because it was pretty thin by chalk paint standards. But they show you how to do that in the instruction manual-if its too thick, it won’t spray.
  8. Tested the sprayer on a piece of cardboard (per the instructions). Note the cloudy, soft edge. This prevents that striped look you often get with spray paint cans. HR Sprayer Test Card sheet
  9. Tested one drawer- it took- I don’t know- 30 seconds!? HR Sprayer Drawers Before and AfterWoo Hoo! Off and painting. So easy, just pull the trigger and move back and forth over the piece until it is completely covered. All those crevices filled with paint in an instant. If I saw a spot that wasn’t quite dark enough, I went back over it until the entire table was finished with an even coat of paint. HR Sprayer at WorkAnd, unlike an aerosol spray paint, there was no “paint cloud” and no odor! The paint didn’t go on any surface that I wasn’t spraying directly. And NO DRIPS!! This thing is magical!
  10. I could not remove the knobs, they were somehow attached with whatever that texture paint was. But I wanted some sort of contrast, so I added some Martha Stewart Metallic Pearl paint to the knobs. HR Sprayer Table Metallic Knob
  11. Cleaning time! This is super important! If you don’t pull it apart per the manual and clean out all of the pieces, the paint will dry inside and render the sprayer useless. So, I used warm soapy water and cleaned each piece. HR Sprayer WashingBy the time I was done, the table was dry!
  12. Once the piece was dry, I decided to add a stencil to the top with the same metallic paint I used for the knobs. HR Sprayer Project Martha Stewart Metallic Paint
  13. The piece is done and back in its spot. HR Sprayer AfterTook an hour, tops to do the entire thing. I can’t wait til the weather warms up so I can start using it outside- so many pieces to paint- this is going to be fun! Many thanks to the HomeRight Company, who make all sorts of great products for the DIY enthusiast, and to the Fab Furniture Flipping Contest for providing the tools I needed to make this project a reality! Hope you are having a great day everyone. xoxo Susan

Saltwash Blues

Have you heard of Saltwash paint additive?

Saltwash BannerNo? Well, I hadn’t either until I was introduced to this product for this month’s Fab Furniture Flippin’ Contest. Amazing stuff made with real sea salt that creates a worn, rustic look on any piece! You mix it with any paint type and color, smoosh it on literally anything that accepts paint (wood, metal, plastic, you name it, it sticks). Then you paint an overcoat, allow to dry, sand it and stand back and admire your truly transformed piece! In this case, an old wooden trunk that had seen (much) better days,

Old Trunk Paintedtransformed into this gorgeous sea worthy trunk in various shades of blues.

Finished Trunk Staged LOGOHere is the how-to:

Find an old piece of furniture that needs a bit of TLC to bring it back to life. In this case, an old trunk that had cracks and dents. I had already started a transformation by painting it silver, but I wasn’t in love with it. Once I received the Saltwash, it was an easy decision to use it for this project. I Coach (yes, Coach got into the act with the project : ) painted the trunk with several shades of blue, covering all of the metal and wood and canvas surfaces.

Painted Trunk TopMix the paint with the Saltwash until is is the consistency of cake frosting.

Saltwash Mixture FrostingTaped off the wood slats because I wanted them to appear dry brushed but not textured.

Painted TrunkDabbed on the Saltwash Blue Mixture any where I wanted to have the textured surface, then allowed to dry. The trick is to dab it on thickly and heavily. The beauty of it is that is does hide any cracks or imperfections!

Dabbing Thick Paint on TrunkPainted on a lighter coat of blue over the textured finish and allowed to dry. Already looks pretty awesome right?!

Overpainting Trunk TopcoatSanded down everything, including the wood and metal trim (which allowed the original silver finish to show through)

Saltwash Trunk Sanding off Top LayerFinished with a spray coat of matte acrylic. Here is the finished trunk in beautiful shades of Saltwash Blues. (but you can use any color you wish- the Saltwash has no color in it!)

Finished Trunk Staged LOGOFor more outstanding transformations by this month’s sponsors, click the links below:

http://www.thirtyeighthstreet.com/2016/06/saltwash-coastal-inspirations-fab.html

http://www.58waterstreet.com/2016/06/fab-furniture-flippin-contest-saltwash.html

And if you might be interested in joining the Fab Furniture Flippin’ Contest, click this:

Fab Furniture Flippin Contest Poster

Have a great week leading up to the 4th! I will be out of blogging range, but will be back with more flipping fun projects when I return.

xoxoSusan
Compensation Banner 500

 

Flippin’ Fab Pure & Original Paint USA

Fab Furniture Flippin ContestThis month, I am participating in the #Fab Furniture Flippin’ Contest, an event featuring some of the best furniture flippers in blog-land. This contest is the brainchild of the bloggers from Evey’s Creations and Anastasia Vintage, both of whom love design, DIY and bringing new life to old pieces. Evey was even on one of my favorite DIY shows- Flea Market Flip! I had read about the contest a few months back, and since I am a devoted furniture flipper, I was eager to get started, so I submitted my application.  Of course, that was before the broken foot incident, which temporarily put me on the sidelines, but I am finally primed and ready to participate in this month’s contest. Which is this: each month, a theme is chosen, and different companies sponsor the contest, providing either supplies or prizes to the flippers (that’s me!). We are allowed to choose any item to work on using the products supplied, and we have approximately 3 weeks from start to finish to paint, stain, decoupage, sand, wax and finish our chosen pieces before photographing them for submissions for judging. Once the judging is completed, a winner is announced, and its on to next month’s flippin’ contest! It was my good fortune to be selected as a contestant this month, because I have now had the opportunity to sample an extraordinary paint from Pure & Original Paint USA,

Pure & Original Paint Boxeswhich was created in the Netherlands and is now distributed in the US through Luxury Dutch Importers, LLC. This paint...well, the only word to describe it is luscious…the colors are simply soft and natural.

Pure & Original Paint Spring PaletteIt has a creamy and smooth texture, brushes on like a dream (even with a not-very-new-brush)

Pure & Original Paint USAand get this, does not need any finish. Even though it has a matte appearance, there is no waxing or varnishing or polyurethaning needed, because, unlike other chalk paints, it does not leave a chalky residue mark when you touch or scratch it. It actually dries to a rock hard finish that can be used both indoors and out…amazing. And the brush cleaned up easily with just water. So, before I started working on my contest piece, I decided to give the paint a test run on a simple brown console table. I cleaned it, did not sand or prime it, just painted with two coats of Nautique Pure & Original Paint

Pure & Original Paint Nautiquethis beautiful green/blue color that caught my eye when I was choosing my 2 cans of free paint provided by Pure & Original for the contest- there are 140 to choose from!  The finish is a lovely smooth matte, but I decided to sand it just to see what would happen. Instead of just sanding off entirely, the paint had already cured and adhered to the wood finish, so the sanding exposed the now “stained” wood grain for a stunning effect.

Pure & Original Wood Grain Closeup BlueThe more I sanded, the prettier it looked and the smoother it was to the touch. And still no final coat needed. Wow. So now I am off to prepare my actual contest piece, with the addition of a few more colors. I will keep you posted as the work progresses. In the meantime, if you are interested in reading more about Pure & Natural Paint USA, click the pic below:

Inspired By ColorAnd, if you are interested in sampling this fabulous paint, you can do so by using this link- : https://www.pureoriginalpaint.com/usa/?ref=118  (I love this paint so much, I’m now an affiliate for Pure and Original Paint USA) A special thanks to the FFFC Team at the Fab Furniture Flippin’ Contest for allowing me to participate- this is going to be so much fun! Have a great weekend everyone! If you’re looking for me, I’ll be in the painting workshop : ) Susan 

Vintage American Heart Sign

Awhile back, I received this large wooden wall-hanging of an elephant painted on some slats.

Vintage Americana Heart BeforeIt was free, and free is good, but the graphic was just a bit too brown and black for me. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE elephants, but it just seemed a little colorless and blah to me. I have had it hanging around in the workshop for quite some time, literally painting over it a dozen times with all sorts of blues and grays, awaiting some inspiration to hit me.

Vintage Americana Heart Dry Brushed BackgroundGenerally, I find that when all else fails, go with the American Flag with its bold colors and simple but striking graphics. So, stars and stripes it is! But, it was essentially a square, and of course, our flag is a rectangle, so I had to come up with a shape…a star? the map of the US? a rectangle? a heart : ) So I left the background as it was…dry-brushed with multiple shades of grays and blues and added the heart shaped design.

Vintage Americana Heart Red White and BlueThe easiest way to create a symmetrical heart of any size? Take a piece of paper (in this case, a newspaper because of the size I needed), fold it in 1/2, then draw out your shape on one side. Cut along the edge of the folded paper, and then when you open it up, voila!  A perfectly proportioned heart!

Vintage Americana Heart Newspaper PatternOnce I traced the heart shape onto the wood with some chalk, it was simply a matter of taping off the 13 red and white stripes…

Vintage Americana Heart Patternwhich was not as easy as you would have imagined…while leaving one block for the dark blue star field.

Vintage Americana Heart TemplateOnce the stars and stripes were completed, I stenciled in the stars…quite badly as it turns out.

Vintage Americana Heart Stripes and Star FieldBecause of the curves of the heart shape and the spaces between the slats, it was impossible to fit all 50 stars into the field in rows, as they are on the real flag. So I painted over the first go and tried it again.  I taped off the edges and winged it…just stamping them wherever there was an open space…not symmetrical, not perfect by any means.

Vintage Americana Heart StarsThere are a few states hanging off the edge…hello, Alaska and Hawaii! And there are a few states missing representation…then again, aren’t there a few states that are threatening to secede from the union if a certain candidate wins this year’s presidential election? But you get the general idea, right? Then I added the graphics above and below via my reverse chalking method.

Vintage Americana Heart Chalking PatternThat was the easiest part of the entire piece! Once I was reasonably happy with that, I sanded the whole thing down to give it a distressed look,

Vintage Americana Heart Sanding Stars Distressingthen finished with a coating of Krylon spray matte varnish

Krylon Matte Finish

(of course, that was a few days ago, when it was 60 outside, so I could spray it, as opposed to this morning’s temps, which are hovering in the 20’s). This graphic could easily be applied to a wood palette- another great project idea! Vintage Americana Heart LogoHave a totally terrific Tuesday, everyone (even if you’re buried in snow…) Susan

Things I Learned From Hosting Easter Dinner

With another Easter now done and gone, I am reflecting back on a few things that I could have done a little differently so that everyone would have had a safe and happy holiday! Such as:

1.  Use cheese in the garlic smashed potatoes-lots of cheese. This year I attempted to make things that were a little healthier and not so creamy and cheesy, so I omitted the cream and cheddar cheeses in the smashed red potatoes recipe…MY BAD. So instead of being yummy and gooey, they were kind of dry and chunky…even with the added melted butter. Use cheese, people!

Easter Dinner Roasted Potatoes2. On that same note, DO NOT USE FAT FREE CREAM CHEESE WHEN YOU ARE MAKING CREAM CHEESE FROSTING for the carrot cake. Did you read that? Well, remember it. Because otherwise, your carrot cake will have a oozy, bulgy middle and weird consistency and everyone will be saying “yeah, what happened to that cake- you usually make such good cakes!”

Easter Dinner Cream Cheese Disaster3. Secure the paintings to the wall with heavy duty screws, or else it may fall off and hit your mother and brother in the back of the head on its way to the floor. Heavy, framed pictures and little nail hangers from the dollar store do not go well together.

Easter Dinner Brackets PictureMake sure you use bolts to secure it to the wall or your dog will take a fall…fortunately it hit the chair rail before it hit them…

Easter Dinner Disasters Dog Pictre4. When you are done dusting the wine bottles on the cupboard shelves in the dining room while making the room pretty, make sure you push them all the way back into the rack so they don’t fall out during dinner and nearly take out your niece and your future daughter-in-law!

Easter Dinner Wine Bottles5. Make the damn green bean casserole. It has been a family tradition over the years to have green bean casserole on Easter, but I had been noticing that I was throwing more away than people were consuming. So I sent out a group text asking for a show of hands on who actually LIKED green bean casserole. The only yays were from my two kids. The remaining conversation looked like this:

Easter Dinner TextsClearly my family has a sense of humor…so I made lemon- roasted green beans with garlic, mushrooms and onions. I am throwing away most of that dish too.

Easter Dinner Roasted Green BeansI am thinking we need a new vegetable.

6. Ham has always been the go-to meat for this particular holiday, and as usual, I had Coach purchase one that was the “size of a basketball”.  This year, I also made some roasted turkey tenderloins for the guests who do not particularly care for ham. What I have noted is that, while the turkey is long gone, we still have a large platter of ham left over that Coach and I now have to eat.

Easter Dinner Leftover hamSo, for future Easters, we will be serving turkey or some other meat that is not pink and basketball-shaped.

Other than that, it was a wonderful holiday filled with fun and laughter…and thankfully, no fatalities. I hope yours was as well! Now, I need to find some recipes to use up the rest of that ham…any suggestions?? (Please do not say pea soup. I do not make, or eat, pea soup…) Susan

 

Friends of the Heart

This is a repost from 2014, but just a meaningful today as it was then, so I thought I would share it one more time. Many years ago, in a college psychology class, I participated in a group discussion regarding friendships: how we enter into a friendship, how we maintain it and how friendship fades away, despite the best of intentions. Although much time has passed, an observation that one of my classmates made has remained with me to this day. That there are essentially two types of friends: Friends of the Road and Friends of the Heart. What does that mean, exactly? Friends of the Road are those that we encounter along the way while being busy with life. A childhood neighbor, a classmate, a co-worker, a teammate or dorm-mate, these friendships are formed due to time, place and circumstance. At that moment, the friendship appears to be unstoppable, an unbreakable link formed from a common bond that you promise will last forever. But once you change jobs, move away or graduate from school, the friendship, despite your most ardent efforts to keep in touch, fades into fond memories and Facebook reminders.

Friends of the Heart PM

Ah, but Friends of the Heart. Those people you meet along the way whose paths are forever intertwined with your own. They are not your family, but these are the friends you can turn to in a moment’s notice, in joy and in sorrow, in illness or trouble. They are your people. Your back door friends. The “I-don’t-have-to-clean-up-the-house-because-I-am-having-company” kind of friends. Because they see you, know you and love you just the way you are. I have been so very blessed, in my life, to have found a group of friends of the heart. We started out as neighbors, bonded by our children who shared classrooms and ball fields. The dads coached, the moms cheered on, brought the water and snacks and patched up skinned knees. As we proudly watched our children grow and thrive, we stood side by side on the sidelines, in the bleachers and auditoriums and cheered them on, comforted their sorrows, rejoiced in their victories, agonized over their defeats. And while that business of life was happening, our friendships became those of the heart: strong, unstoppable, unbreakable bonds. And then, once our children were grown and happily on their own, our friendships did not waver, but instead, grew stronger. We traveled around the world together, planned birthday parties and weddings and showers together and spent many an evening over dinner and drinks just enjoying each other’s company.  Two years ago (but it seems like yesterday…), I lost one of my dearest friends of the heart after a much-too-short battle with pancreatic cancer. She was the youngest of our group, so much fun, full of life and eager to see whatever the world had to offer. Now, each passing day brings a fresh reminder of how very fragile and sometimes too short life can be on this earth.  If I could tell her one more time, if I could show her one more way, if I could only have a few more precious moments with her, I would let her know again just how special and truly blessed I was to have her in my life. Now, if you are fortunate enough, like me, to have a friend of the heart, choose today, this Valentine’s Day, to tell them you love them. But, it really doesn’t need to be a holiday or special occasion. You don’t need chocolate or fancy flowers, greeting cards or expensive gifts. Just text them or tweet them or Facebook message them or call them or even send them a copy of this and tell them how much they mean to you. It may be weirdly out-of-character, feel funny or awkward, but do it anyway. Because you never know when it may be your final chance to let them know how you feel.  And so, I would like to say to all of my dearest friends of the heart, I love you. You have enriched my life in immeasurable ways, and life will never be the same without all of you in it.

XOXOXO Susan 

DIY Country Door Chalkboard

Country Door Chalkboard Country Design HomeOver the holidays, I was working on quite a few projects simultaneously, neglecting to take either before or after pics or even no pics-my bad. Which makes for not very good DIY instruction-giving. But, I have managed to piece together enough photos of a couple of chalkboards I created so I could share them with you. Both of these chalkboards were originally vintage doors-the cupboards long gone, but the doors rescued for another purpose. One was very old pine

Country Door Chalkboard Before reversethat I painted and one was a beautiful cherry that I revived with stain and poly. The centers of both doors were painted with Benjamin Moore Chalkboard Paint (my personal favorite),

Ben Moore Chalkboard paintthen the hardware was added. In both cases, I used cup pulls, attached upside down, to create chalk holders (because what’s a chalkboard without some handy chalk?!). After much trial and error and incorrect measuring, I discovered that the simplest way to mark the drill holes for the handles is…paint. Place a tiny dab of paint on the edges of the posts…

Country Door Chalkboard Marked Holes…flip it over and press down on the surface of the wood. Lift up and voila, two holes spaced perfectly apart and ready for drilling.

Country Door Painted HolesFor the wood door, I used a copper cup pull, then added a matching copper knob for an interesting, more elegant detail.

Country Door Chalkboard Mahogany and CopperAwhile ago, Coach and I had been fortunate enough to find a bunch of old metal “stuff” at a yard sale- clamps and bolts and covers and registers and what not- which I have been using as needed for building and creating. When I first spotted this metal Country emblem,

Ford Country Squire Emblemit immediately brought back memories of all of us kids in the back of our Ford Country Squire station wagon (no seat belts or car seats back then, folks, just pile in and off you went!)

Ford Country Squire via Fordaddict.comSo I saved it until I could find just the right piece to use it on…and this is it! An old country pine door that was painted with a few coats of greens and blues and then waxed. (Sorry, I have no clue what colors these are- I just kept adding colors and sanding and then adding more colors til I got the desired effect.)

Country Door Chalkboard Detail CloseupI have about 100 of those little Behr paint pots in all different colors.

Behar Lavender Paint SamplesA little goes a longgggg way, so they just keep accumulating as I need another color for a project.

Once dried, I drilled a couple of holes at the top of my old door and tapped the “country” emblem into place.

Country Door Chalkboard Emblem in PlaceOf course, both of these pieces were intended for our shop in the Barn at Todd Farm, but I just couldn’t part with my Country Door Chalkboard. It now hangs proudly in our family room…for the holidays I used some children’s coloring page graphics for my message. This is so simple…reverse chalking for perfect chalkboard graphics! Print out your graphic on any paper,

Country Door Chalkboard Merry Christmas Graphicthen flip it over and rub chalk all over it.

Country Door Panel Reverse Chalking GraphicTape it into place on the chalkboard, then use a pencil and lightly trace the lettering (try not to press down with your whole hand, as any pressure on the chalk outside the lines will result in lots of smudginess.

Country Door ChalkboardWhich you will then clean off with a damp Q-tip.)

Country Door Chalkboard Q-Tip eraserOnce its time for a new graphic, simply wipe off with a damp cloth and say what you want to say! Which is:

Country Door Chalkboard Country Design HomeA gentle reminder to keep working towards my goals, not just keep thinking about them. So my goal for 2016 is to remember to take photos of my work to share, and my wish if for all of you to have a great weekend! Susan

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