Friday, December 21, 2012

Where have all the posts been??

I cannot believe how long it has been since I've posted! The spool seems like it was only a month ago (obviously, that isn't so). I'm currently in the process of surviving the holidays at work/home and also packing up my life to move to Houston, Texas with my wonderful guy. You can imagine how difficult that is when most of your belongings are large pieces of furniture. I think the bf is about to lose his mind trying to find space in our little apt for all these "treasures" lol but don't worry, I will pay for it thoroughly because it'll just be us 2 loading/unloading the Uhaul :) I actually do have a new piece I've been working on, a large piece, but it isn't finished yet and may not even be finished until after we move (don't tell the bf, shh). Hopefully my next update will be a look at our new apartment!

Happy Holidays!! And remember, it's the most wonderful time of the year :P

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Super Secret Project!

In posts from a long while ago I alluded to a secret project I was working on, or rather I was more direct and stated unequivocally that I had a secret project, which was a birthday present for my bf. As you can see from my pictures I'm all about a shabby chic/distressed/worn-in and pre-loved aesthetic, which really isn't for everyone. The bf is on board because it is something I love and he is exceptionally accommodating of my brightly colored and high-personality pieces, but I know it isn't really his thing. While enduring couple-pinterest-time once (am I unbearable or what?) he mentioned that he really liked a spool table, which was just down his alley as it was dark, masculine, and wooden (which he loves) and most importantly, not chalk painted.
     I mentally took note of that comment and a couple weeks later ran across a horribly splintery and truthfully rather shitty spool at a garage sale. I didn't have much hope for it since it had some damage to the layer of wood on the top/bottom and was truly unbelievably splintery. It was only a buck tho so I took a chance (hah) and hauled it home. 

Original state--splinters splinters splinters

Original state---edges in terrible condition  
Routered edges, partially sanded

The first thing I did was router the edges to address the splintering and damaged areas. I routered every edge, top and bottom, and then got to work sanding the bejeesus out of the entire piece.
Routered edges
During the sanding process, I also used a wood filler to fill in the extra-damaged and splintery parts that would never smooth out, despite hours of power-sanding. The next step was to just go crazy with the power-sander and work my way from a 100 grit to a 220 until it was soft as butter. Unfortunately, I spent hours upon hours sanding it in the badly ventilated garage and got a sinus infection :/

Is this a classy work outfit or what?

Filled edges

One of the things I liked about this spool was the print on it, the same on both sides. It was worn beautifully, but to make this spool not only livable but safe I needed to do some drastic sanding. I was concerned that the print would be lost in the stain, so I experimented on the side I chose to be the bottom and filled in the top print with sharpie before staining. If you look at the photo below, you can see that the part I left unsharpied got totally lost in the stain, while the top logo showed through but didn't quite look natural as it had a bit of a sheen to it.

Bottom side, stained and with sharpie experiment on top logo

Darkened with sharpie, a bit too shiny to look natural

The wood was super dry and actually had some lovely grain, so the stain took wonderfully!

I wasn't super pleased with how the sharpie came out, so I decided to hand paint the side that was to be the top of the spool table. I mixed up a brownish black acrylic paint and got to work, and boy did it take a while! After painting it, I sanded the letters to make them appear aged and worn. I also added a little type to personalize my gift a bit, which you will see in a later photo.

Sanded to softness, but losing the signature printing!

Hand painted logo and type
The painted letters turned out better than the sharpied ones, although the original state was much more beautiful in that regard. My mom had a lot of cute ideas about personalizing my spool table, but I really had to reign myself in when it came to sassing it up. I wanted this to be a table the bf could be proud of in front of other men, perhaps even be something you could find in a (well-decorated) bachelor pad. That meant not writing cutsie things on it and not even thinking about touching chalk paint to the center between the table-tops....   labor of love, right?

I chose to simply put our initials on the top of the bottom, a little out of the way but still visible
Then the fun part started---polyurethane time. This is always my least favorite part of any wood project, and between the staining of the table and the top-coating I probably put this stage off for at least a month. I started this project months and months before his birthday, but by this time I had to rush to finish it! I had to polyurethane every surface of this dang spool, which took a good deal of patience to do all the multiple layers, but it turned out great and will no longer give anyone splinters! Just as importantly, the bf genuinely loved it and was very surprised. And he didn't say "oh this will look great on my porch!" which is how polite people say "I hate it this is not going in my house." Success.

Finished hand-painted type on the top surface

With good lighting, you can see much more depth and warmth in the wood. Unfortunately I don't have anywhere good to stage the spool table inside, so my photos are awkwardly outside and in natural light, which shows the wood to be rather darker than it really is. Nonetheless, enjoy!

Also, in some photos you might notice the places where I used wood filler. It hardened really nicely and sanded down perfectly, it even took the stain like a champ. The only reason it stands out is the lack of grain, which is a very predominant feature of the table. I'm okay with it though, it isn't really something you notice and the spool has a lot of "damage," like scratches and dents, which I think gives it character.


Hope you enjoyed my formerly super-secret project! If you're interested in checking out my pinterest, my user name is hannahleighes.

Have a fantastic week!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Pumpkin Pregnancy Photos and an Ambitious Carving Attempt

I have neglected this blog so much the past few months! I would regale you with all my really good reasons (read: excuses), but instead I'll just show you way too many pictures of this awesome pumpkin the bf and I carved last weekend!
Yes, I'm aware this looks like a creepy pregnancy picture. They all looked like this no matter how we held it lol

We've had a growing obsession with French Bulldogs for the past few months and are dying to get one (but we have to wait!) so when it came time to pick a design to carve, naturally the only thing we could think of was a frenchie.

As you can imagine, there aren't many french bulldog pumpkin carving stencils out there, so we printed off a picture from the internet and traced it, having to decide what would be positive and what would be negative space (aka pumpkin and not pumpkin). We were going to be all fancy and carve into some spots, but not through, to create another layer of detail and preserve the stability of the design, but there's only so much you can do with a grapefruit spoon and a carrot peeler.

Nonetheless, here's how it turned out! (after a few temper tantrums, grouching, and 2 days)(none by me)

Note to other prospective pumpkin artists: even if a so-called pumpkin art carving book tells you to do so, do not rub your new baby down in canola oil. Or any kind of oil really. You're going to spend hours carving, cursing and flinging pieces of weird smelling pumpkin guts all over your kitchen/back porch only to come home the first night it is lit and find it CRAWLING WITH ANTS! Then you'll cry and try to burn them with a lighter and bug spray. But this can be avoided! Don't. Oil. Your Punkin.

Monday, September 17, 2012

It's Aliiiiiiiiiive!

You may recall a post where I declared my little desk plant dead. It looked awful, and was as far as I could tell dead dead dead. Being the tidy and efficient person I am, I set it on my windowsill and forgot about it (except for the occasional instances when I noticed it and knew I should take it outside to compost, buuuut didn't want to)(because I'm that lazy). I finally mustered the energy yesterday and lo and behold, I was about to fling it from the pot when I noticed THIS!

It's aliiiiiiiive!!! Not only alive, but the formerly "cutest and tiniest desk" plant got even cuter and even tinier!! I'm so excited. And my new plan of action is to continue pretending it is dead, since that's obviously working wonders. So no watering, no poking. Let the experiment continue!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Iron Headboard in the Garden: update

Here are some more pictures of the vintage iron headboard I picked up at a garage sale a while back and planted in the garden. I would like to see it covered in the moonflower plant that has taken over the back patio, or perhaps entwined with the clematis that is gently choking out the little fountain nearby. There really isn't a good spot for the headboard in either of those locations though, so it will remain by the rosebushes!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Facelift for the Bentwood Rocker Hiding in My Attic

Somehow through all my painting craze, the one in which I tried to get my blue and green paint-caked hands on anything and everything paintable, I managed to miss a large and hideous old bentwood rocker up in my attic. It has the classic swirly shape of this well-known rocker and that delectably ugly dark wood that just screams "paint me, paint me!!" So I called up my friend Claire, who has a great little place in East Nashville, and asked if she would have room for a rocker if I made it awesome. You see, I'm all about making sure my pieces have homes before I paint them, as a responsible painter and also because I'm apparently becoming the "crazy cat lady of tables" (psh I only have like 3). I'm also tiring of the jokes about how I should live in the basement studio because it is already fully furnished, minus a bed. Har har. Anyway, here's how the rocker turned out!

Here is the rocker in its original state (minus the caning on the seat which got a layer before I remembered to snap a shot)

I painted the caning a nice sage green wash and the body my favorite Duck Egg blue (both Annie Sloan). I also drank some wine throughout the project and wore my favorite shorts that my friends won't allow in public

After painting, which took a deceivingly loooong time, I decided that I really liked the colors together in theory but the effect in person was just so flat and frankly boring. It looked like it belonged in a nursery.

I clear/dark waxed the entire piece (which ohmygod took forever) and distressed it, but then the caning and body were too closely colored to contrast the way I needed them to

I went back over the caning lightly with a dark wood stain (idk if that is advisable or not, but it worked nicely for me!) and then wiped it off, bringing a lot of texture and visual interest to the piece. I also strategically wiped off dark wax. Feeling rather pleased with the current state!

I now declare it Finished (for now)!!


It took exponentially longer than I had anticipated to refashion this classic bentwood rocking chair, but it has turned out to be a neat piece and I think Claire really likes it. Job well done in my eyes!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cocoon Love

I find that some days, instead of driving through a haze of wayward thoughts and ambient music, I really relish my drive home from work. It's on those days when the sun has already set, and the busy cars that clog the road during the day have already trickled home and out of my way. The web of thin, 2-way streets that I follow home is something else entirely at night with the windows down and the warm breeze disappating all errant thoughts. I am a ball of headlight as I blow down the dark streets, the trees arching up and over me, a lush cocoon of dark arms enfolding my car and me. Occasionally I catch glimpses of the sky, a few intrepid stars peeking through light-polluted skies, peering at me through gaps in my leaf-cocoon. If only my trip was longer, and I less hungry, I would spend more time absorbing the tranquility that all but emanates from this warm darkness. It permeates me as I drive home, fleeting but welcome, ameliorating all worries but those of lead-footed deer in proximity enjoying the same night as I.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Burger Night

I made some yummy home-made black bean burgers the other night, and they were a raging success. Especially when I compare them to the ones the bf and I made together last spring--we had to mash 2 cans of beans with a plate and the bottom of a glass drinking cup for lack of a food processor. It was labor intensive and they were totally bland, so I looked through a handful of recipes online and compiled my own! Unfortunately, we were so involved in eating them that I forgot to take a picture :( next time!

*Keep in mind that the black bean burger is very basic and is a great template to experiment with. If you don't like the seasonings I used, feel confident that you can scratch them and just wing it. My only advice is to add much more seasoning than you think is necessary, it takes a looooot of seasoning to not turn out bland.

Bangin' Black Bean Burgers

Yield: 5-8 patties (depending on how big you make them, duh)

1 1/2 C crushed crackers, bread crumbs, or torn up hamburger bun
2 T olive oil, and some on hand for pan frying
1 generous T of minced garlic
2 (15 oz) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 t grated lime rind
1/2 t salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1/2 T smoked paprika
red pepper flakes to taste (lots)
1/2 C shredded parmesan (not the unrefrigerated, powdered kind. it won't melt properly)
1 t or 1/2 T chia seeds (optional)

1. Combine the oil, garlic and beans in a food processor until they make a thick paste. Scrape the mixture into a large bowl with the breadcrumbs, and then throw everything else in there too. Mix it all up!

2. Heat a T of olive oil or so in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Now you can either make a patty with moistened hands and plop it down gently in the skillet, or you can use a pancake spatula and a rubber spatula (or w/e) to place a dollop on the skillet and shape in a generally round fashion, which I found to be easier. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the bottom edges are browned and have formed a crust. Flip and repeat!

         Keep in mind that homemade veggie burgers are much more delicate than store bought, and you have to be super gentle to keep them from falling apart (which is why a grill is not recommended). I found that making the patties thicker made them easier to flip (I also added chia seeds on a whim, they thicken things up with their gel)(not gross I promise). You'll just have to experiment and if you find them breaking apart, mix in more breadcrumbs or egg.

I served mine with dijon mustard, slices of pepperjack cheese and fresh spinach on bakery hamburger buns. Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

On Goodbyes

I lost a friend this week. Today was her funeral, or rather, celebration of life.

         Donned in the only black clothing in my suitcase, I reflect on how I will miss her presence. I was not there, though. At the funeral. Instead, I am writing from a plane headed back to Tennessee after saying goodbye (for now) to my love in Texas. As usual, I was dreading saying goodbye to him, even for such a short time (our last goodbye from the Houston airport was for 6 months) and I was complaining that as many times as I've had to bid farewell to people I love, it never, ever gets easier. Not in the slightest. I was also frustrated (and complaining) about not being able to get an earlier flight to make it home in time for the celebration of life. 

          It wasn't until I was sitting and waiting for my flight, mentally complaining to myself, that I realized that saying goodbye is a privilege. I've been fortunate enough in my life that in time, almost all of my goodbyes have been followed by hellos. Yet I still dread them. Every time I have moved abroad, I told people I wouldn't leave without saying goodbye, but I'm a huge liar in this department. So I snuck away like the evasive goodbye-hater I am. When I say goodbye to someone, I think about all the things I will miss about them while we're apart. It makes my heart hurt, so I selfishly avoid it. It sounds trivial perhaps, but this has been a big shift in perspective for me, to look at this parting ritual as a privilege and not an unpleasant but required social custom. I wanted to be there today, at her funeral, to pay my respects. I wanted to be there, to mourn with others who are grieving the same loss. I wanted to be there to show support to her family and her loved ones, my presence a meager attempt to show them how many people loved this wonderful girl. Most importantly though, or perhaps tied with the last desire, I wanted a chance to say goodbye. I haven't been home or to work since it happened, and it almost doesn't feel real. I wanted to be by her, though her body may be only a vacant vessel now, to mourn the hole she will leave in innumerable hearts and the empty space that we will all feel at work. I'm looking out the window of the plane right now, gazing across the dark profile of clouds, admiring the most striking and boldly-pigmented sunset I have ever laid eyes on. It's so fitting it almost seems corny. I wanted to be there today to say goodbye to the smiling girl in the funky necklaces. However, goodbyes never seem to cooperate with me, so this seems as good a place as any to say goodbye, miles closer to where heaven is said to be, surrounded by a radiant sky and beautiful, dark silhouettes.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

2 More Early Projects

While I am a creature of habit, I am also susceptible to phases, and I have been out of the furniture phase for a few weeks now. I've recently starting to venture back down to the studio, but it just isn't as tempting as it used to be since it has been hotter than hell here the past few weeks (the best joke I've heard so far is "satan called, he wants his weather back"). I don't have anything new ready to write about yet, although I'm still working on the super secret project and am also in the midst of reworking an old rocking chair for my oldest friend Claire, who recently moved into a cute house in East Nashville (I am so jealous and I haven't even seen the place yet!).

I thought that while I'm airing my clumsy first attempts at making stuff funky that I might share another few early projects. The dropleaf table in the post below was my very first, and while I was huffing around and being generally frustrated by my failed attempts, I painted this giraffe thing that I used to love so much when my childhood room was Indian/African/travel themed. I wish I had known to take "before" pictures, but alas all I have now are "after" photos. It was originally a very typical yellow, black, and red palette and had great texture and shape (which was a huuuuuge pain when it came to painting and waxing, let me tell you). I painted it the only colors I had at the time, Duck Egg followed by a coat of Old White, clear wax, and finally dark wax. I think it's definitely a strange piece, but I really like it and can't wait to have an awesome place to put it!

     One thing I always make sure to bring back from somewhere I've traveled and loved, beyond photos and memories and presents of course, is a little something to hang on my wall. I like to have something visual and unique to serve as a reminder of all the things traveling to that place taught me, as well as to provoke that surge of memories that so often start to fade. Something I splurged on a bit for myself in Chile (well, splurge in the typical, broke-backpacker sort of way) was a small tapestry from San Pedro de Atacama (see a few posts down). I bargained for it with a kind man at the far end of the dusty main street, Caracoles, on my last day in town. It shows 6 bright, stylized flamingos, very representative of San Pedro and Bolivia because the vividly cyan and red lagoons throughout are teeming with the delicate pink bodies of 3 species of flamingo. I envisioned displaying it in a floating frame in which the tapestry would be pressed between to panes of glass surrounded by a simple wooden frame, the wall showing around the sides through the glass. But, being broke and cheap, I instead chose to hunt through the house for materials to fanagle into something like my vision. I found an ugly brass frame to work with, and in the end I went totally the opposite direction with it and ended up loving it even more. Like seriously, I am in love with this frame. It completely embodies my personal taste. It looks much better in person though, and I would have preferred a thicker, more visible wire. Also, it was a pain in the butt to wrap with all that wire and beading, especially because the wrapping interferes with how tidily the glass sits in the frame, but it looks nice and let's be honest, I can't afford better :P
Here's how it turned out:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Retrospective look at my first Chalk Painted piece

       I've been painting with Annie Sloan chalk paint for perhaps 5 months now, and I'm still learning how to work with the paint and wax and such. My first project was a huge drop-leaf table that I took from a dumpster in college. I have no idea who would get rid of it, because it's solid and well built! Well, it was pretty filthy and needed to be either painted or refinished but it's a great piece. It happily sat on our balcony for a year and a half, where we played beer pong eeeh I mean studied studiously and took notes! Ahem. For its next round of uses, I chose Duck Egg and had something rather advanced in mind (a version of this) and it did not go as planned. At all. I haphazardly slapped on some Old White first in random spots, not anticipating how fast it would dry and thus not blend as I had planned. After the initial layer of Duck Egg, I distressed it and then ended up completely repainting it because I hated it so much. I got so frustrated it took me a whole month to buck up and finish, and looking at it now I still feel like I need to repaint the big distressed spots and calm it all down a bit. The color is absolutely lovely, but the photos are not quite faithful to this so you'll have to trust me. I used some old dark minwax that we found in the garage (prob another mistake of mine) that was pretty dried up and frankly chunky compared to fresh dark wax. Of course we made poo jokes the entire time. Anyway, I will probably lavish some more loving on this table before I consider it properly finished, but here it is in the current state!

A work in progress
The big, bald patches are too pronounced for my taste, but I really like the effect of the white underneath with the dark wax

As a whole, I am very pleased with the color and the general appearance, I just want the patches to be painted in and then I think I'll be satisfied! It's just a matter of getting this baby hauled back downstairs. It truly does weigh a ton! Last time I moved we had to take it apart first because it weighs so much. Quality dumpster diving right there! :D

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Notebook

Today I was rooting around in my desk and found the notebook that was my constant companion during my stint living in Santiago, Chile. It is torn to pieces, the binding broken and exposed, but it contains everything. Hundreds of new (Chilean) Spanish words that I was absorbing as fast as I could, bus schedules, the class schedule at the school where I taught, lesson plans, names of bands the students wanted me to check out, almost a hundred to-do lists, notes on differentiating appropriate uses of my new vocabulary words, the business card of the street comedian who embarrassed the living day-lights out of my friends and I and sold our kisses for tips. Everything. Or almost.
       I had intended to write while I was there. I am known to send some epically long but entertaining emails while abroad, and I love studying people and their culture and trying to explain how I see the world. This notebook contains almost no writings though. Truthfully, I was rather unhappy in Santiago. I felt stifled and that it wasn't where I was supposed to be. This isn't to say that there weren't moments of joy and small successes, great friendships and lots of laughs during my time living there, but I regard it as a whole as sort of a personal failure. It is something I have trouble reflecting on or talking about. This is why I did not write during my time there. The only two writings I have are from my backpacking trip north, once I had left the city behind, living out of a backpack for a month. The following entry was scrawled at the end of my notebook from one of my favorite South American cities, San Pedro de Atacama (Chile).

Dec. 15, 2011
I'm really liking San Pedro. My first impression was terror---flat expanses of dull gravel with crumbly hills and mountains in the distance. It got dustier as we approached the outskirts of town until we were dropped off at a tiny bus station/office made of what looked like remnants of wooden pallets. The town looked small, empty and dusty, and the lack of green had me on edge. When we arrived to our hostel, we were relieved to see that it wasn't as poor and basic as our first impression had led us to believe. In fact, it might be the cleanest hostel I've been in and has a wonderful authentic South American feel to it. It is on the outskirts of town tho, and although the inside is very nice, the neighboring structures are poor and dusty. The people seem to be doing just fine. The center of town was such a delight. I know most travelers aim to avoid other travelers, and shun all that is "touristy," but San Pedro is such an important jumping off point for many travelers and I was delighted to venture into town the first night to discover all the other foreigners (mostly non-North Americans actually) strolling the main street, Caracoles. The street is entirely travel agencies, artesianal and souvenir shops, over-priced restaurants and money exchanges, but it has such a nice vibe. The days here are hot and the sun is strong, but the mornings and evenings are so fresh and crisp. The stars at night are bright like back home and I never tire of looking at mountains in the near distance. 
     Although the town is hot and dusty, there are so many stunning things within easy reach. Multi-colored mountains of solid rock and gravel and hardy yet colorful shrubs and grasses surround lagoons of the most unnaturally bright blue-green water, with flamingos and vicuña no less. Not too far from there you stumble upon a valley of volcanic rock and dry adobe in the most fantastic shapes, so dry and barren as to resemble the surface of the moon. Upon following this valley further and up, you can reach a lookout that provides a stunning view of yet more fantastically shaped rock and gravel mountains sprouting from a surprisingly fertile and green strip of life spreading across the view.
     Whether out and about, gasping from the altitude and unearthly and contradictory landscapes within reach, or hanging out with the brilliant and interesting mochileros [backpackers] also staying in the hostel, listening to the strong wind tear at the corners and uneven surfaces of the buildings, it is a good place to be. 


San Pedro--Walking from the center of town towards the hostal

The roof of our hostel. Even in Santiago many roofs look like this

The hostel

The hostel again

The beginning of Caracoles, with the volcano Licancabur in the distance

La niña del hostal

One of the lagunas altiplánicas

The view after trekking through the dry adobe canyon, the fertile strip fell into shadow

The ever-present pastel hues

Right on the border of Chile and Bolivia

This is technically Bolivia, but it is merely a hop skip and a jump from San Pedro