From White to Gold


I’ve been looking for a tray like this for some time now, but I had begun to despair that I’d have to plan a quick shopping trip to Miami just to find one. Hubby wasn’t thrilled with that idea, naturally. I was beyond surprised to walk into one of my favorite second hand stores right here not long ago and spot this mirrored tray in sort of a whitish beige color. They had it labeled as a wall mirror and while it wasn’t cheap (because anything imported is expensive here even if it’s used) it was certainly cheaper than having to book a flight to Miami. I figured hubs should be grateful. So I bought it.
The painted metal loops had plenty of nicks and scrapes and the natural gunmetal tone underneath had begun to show through so it definitely needed a quick coat of spray paint. It still had the Home Goods label with the original price on the back. That’s what it had cost new.  And unfortunately that’s what it cost old too.  I paid 40 dollars for it in spite of the nicks and scrapes and peeling paint. But I felt fortunate to have even found it at all.
I had originally planned to remove the mirror and spray paint the loops but it had these metal tabs soldered in place in the back and there was a very strong glue holding the backing to the tabs. The mirror wasn’t budging. So I covered it as best I could with newspaper and after sanding the loops a bit, I spray painted them in gold. And now it’s sitting my coffee table up at the mountain house.
I sent the owner of the store a photo of the tray after I painted it gold and she expressed surprise upon realizing it was not a wall mirror and mentioned something about wishing she had kept it. Oh well.



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Ready for Easter

Easter is just a few days away and here in Costa Rica the whole week preceding Resurrection Sunday is marked by days of prayer, fasting and penitence as well as beautiful church displays depicting the Garden of Gethsemane complete with a life sized praying Christ figure.  People leave offerings of foodstuffs at these “gardens”,  which are later sold and the proceeds distributed among the needy.  There are also colorful processions in just about every town with local folk recreating Christ’s walk down the Via Dolorosa and parishioners dressed as Mary Magdalene, Joseph of Arimathea or the Centurion among other well known biblical figures. Passion plays are also a beloved Costa Rican tradition and several towns draw crowds of people from all over the country due to their elaborate and well done open air productions. The whole week from Palm Sunday onward is a national holiday and many businesses close their doors the entire week as do schools. Government offices and banks close on Holy Thursday and don’t re-open until the following Monday.

What you won’t find much of in Costa Rica however, are bunnies, eggs or easter baskets.   These things have never really taken root in Latin America and the only store here where I’ve seen a few Easter decor items is Walmart and even they don’t have too much. So over the years I’ve purchased items on Ebay or my kids have brought goodies down to me when they’ve come here from the U.S. for vacation. This year I was surprised to see how much stuff I have actually managed to accumulate. Probably more than I really need.

I’m not really a big Easter “decorator” (like I am when it comes to Christmas or Halloween) but I do like to put together a centerpiece and a couple of other table decorations.

These faux chocolate bunnies are actually made of resin but they are so realistic that more than one unsuspecting chocoholic around here has been fooled. What I like best is that they won’t melt in the tropical heat.

This sparrows nest was left in a tree in my backyard by it’s former owners. There were no eggs when I found it though. These little blue ones are ceramic.

A couple of Easters ago I spent several days carefully blowing out and emptying egg shells until my cheeks were sore and puffy. I then decorated them with decals, varnished them and placed them in a decorative bowl. Unfortunately my cats discovered them. They are absolutely convinced that anything round and shiny is a toy meant just for them to play with. No matter how much I scolded them, the minute my back was turned they’d grab the eggs out of the bowl and send them crashing to the floor. This year I put the few remaining ones in a glass jar with a lid. I hope they won’t notice them. I  try to stay a step ahead of the kitties, but at times they outsmart me anyway.

A couple of years ago, inspired by Hakan over at the Rose Garden in Malevik    I made several different sized  lace eggs using a styrofoam base and scraps of lace, ribbon and rhinestones.

This year I painted wooden eggs rather than real ones. If the kitties decide to play with them, they won’t break.

These bunny rabbits aren’t really Easter decorations. I have them out year round. Some years ago there was a ceramic supply store in my area that was going out of business and they were getting rid of all their greenware and bisque items. I bought a bunch of animal figures that I later painted or decorated with ceramic decals or just glazed and sent off to the kiln. These bunnies were among them. 

It’s always a good time for chocolate cake and tea!

Joining Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage

Roses and fruit

Time sure flies. I can’t believe that my last entry was in December when I was setting up my Christmas decor and unwrapping the holiday dishware.  The yuletide decorations have long since been packed away and stored carefully until next year.  And now, it seems that suddenly spring has arrived! The rain has finally stopped, the ground is no longer wet and soggy and my roses have burst into bloom with a display of dazzling colors that feast my eyes every morning as I sip my coffee on the balcony overlooking the garden.

The roses in the first pic came from this bush.

I think I like seeing the many colored petals strewn on the ground almost as much as I like seeing the blooms on the rosebushes.

The white spots you see on the leaves are from a fungal spray that is an absolute must in my humid climate. It washes off when the roses are watered or when it rains. There is no other way to grow roses around here without spraying, otherwise the many aggressive funguses can destroy an entire garden in just a few weeks. That’s one of the drawbacks of living in a rainforest.

I put in a little stone pathway in the very center of the rose garden which is quite helpful, because the garden is on a steep slope that can become quite slippery when it rains. They’re actually faux stones. I made them out of concrete using a large mold that I bought at the home improvement store. I’m hoping that eventually the grass will grow in between each stone and give the pathway a more natural look.

It extends all the way down the slope and leads to the other part of the garden where the fruit trees are.

Most of the fruit trees already have ripening fruit on them. Others are full of blossoms.

I’m crossing my fingers that the birds and squirrels will stay away. In the background you can see my failed attempt at growing grapes. Those vines have been there for at least five years but they never grow more than a few scraggly leaves, let alone grapes. I have not quite yet accepted the fact that grapes don’t do well in a humid rainy cloudforest. But I haven’t yanked them out because I keep hoping a miracle will occur.

The figs are doing quite well. They are starting to ripen, plump and juicy. I see fig compote in the near future.

Hibiscus bushes are reliable bloomers in the garden. These flower continually year round and provide a cheery pop of color even when the other plants aren’t blooming.

My favorite part of the garden however, is the rose garden. I’ve started another little rose garden down below on the left side of the slope with just cuttings from the larger plants. They’ve already rooted and they’re doing nicely. Hopefully next year they’ll bloom as much as their parents do in the garden directly above them.

 

Joining Feathered Nest Friday @ French Country Cottage

Christmas Tables

This year I added several new members to my nutcracker family and rather than placing them around the house in different locations, I decided to group them all together as a centerpiece for my dining room table. They’ve all come from different places and I’ve even painted a few of them myself, but the oldest one of them all is a German nutcracker that my mother sent me back in the 80s when she lived in Germany. He’s missing an arm because when my kids were little he was a favorite toy, thus I have to angle him cleverly to hide the missing limb.

I couldn’t decide whether to use a plaid or a Christmas print tablecloth but I ultimately decided on this plain damask gold one that didn’t have too bright of a print on it. There’s too much going on with the center decoration and the placemats to use anything too busy.

I have another smaller dining room that we often use for breakfast. This one’s round and we only use four of the six chairs that it has. I went with the plaid tablecloth here because, well…..nothing says Christmas like plaid. It’s so festive. I wanted a sort of woodland scene with deer and snow and some pine trees. So I cut a few cypress branches from some little trees that I have in my yard up at our mountain house and used them as a base to set the deer on. They smell so good and it’s the closest thing we have here to real pines. Pine trees don’t grow in my area, but I can at least pretend that they do in my centerpiece. 

I came across the cutest napkin holders online made out of tiny jingle bells, complete with instructions on how to make them.  They looked easy-peasy (and they were) so I made six of them.

I didn’t have too many Christmas decor items left after I finished putting up garlands, baubles and stockings, so the centerpiece on the table up at our mountain house is a mish mash of left-overs and odd Christmas tree ornaments that had at some point lost their hanging hooks and were otherwise useless. I found another nutcracker on a shelf in my daughter’s room. It used to be a musical nutcracker at one time, before the pull string got stuck and it stopped working.  

A couple of snow globes that I had long forgotten about came down out of a cupboard and completed the look on a mirrored tray.  There isn’t really a “theme” to this one, but I guess it works well enough.

And of course the best part of decorating for any holiday is enjoying a cup of coffee when you’re all done. I did manage to get a mug shot.

This Year’s Christmas Trees

This year I didn’t set up the 9 ft. Monster tree.  I’ve decided to simplify my Christmas decorating and not have to spend several days climbing up and down a ladder stringing lights and hanging ornaments. Now that my kids are grown I no longer have eager little helpers handing me baubles and tinsel so I’m pretty much on my own. I miss those days when they’d excitedly help me carry boxes of ornaments in from the garage and when the opening of each box produced shrieks of delight and surprise.  These days they have other things to do and they aren’t as enthusiastic about helping out.  I suspect they believe tree trimming is seriously over-rated.  So in light of the fact that I was working alone and the very thought of that ladder made me dizzy, I decided leave the 9ft. tree in it’s box and just set up the 7ft. flocked tree that I bought last year as well as the little 4ft. vintage aluminum trees that I’ve had for several years.  I briefly entertained the idea of using a different color scheme than I did last year on the flocked tree but to be honest,  I love how soft tones and pastels look on white trees so I repeated the look this year. Perhaps next year I’ll decorate it differently. 

The 7 ft tree is in the living room of our city house

I like that it sort of matches the furniture, although I didn’t plan it that way.  

The little aluminum trees are a snap to set up. They’re vintage trees from the 1960’s.  I love them because they bring back memories of my childhood Christmases when the whole family got together at my grandmother’s house. My grandma had a 6 ft. aluminum tree for as long as I can remember  and she was so proud of it. 

This tree is in the upstairs window at our mountain house.

This next vintage aluminum tree has pom pom branch tips. I have color wheels that go with these trees which makes the aluminum change color. You’re not supposed to put lights on these because they’re metal so rotating color wheels are used instead. 

This next little silver tree is more modern. Its a snap to se up because it’s pre-lit and it doesn’t need too much stuff on it.

9 ft

This is our 9ft tree in a photo from several years ago. I miss seeing it, but I sure don’t miss having to decorate it and then taking it down again after Christmas.

I was done in no time and was soon able to relax with a cup of coffee and enjoy the light show.

Mirror Cubes

I’ve been going through a shiny sparkly DIY craze lately.  I’ve always been an unashamed magpie who is attracted to anything that glitters or shines but I think this most recent phase was the result of  having binge watched far too many Youtube tutorials last month.  I am always amazed at how creative people are and at the beautiful things that they come up with.  One of the  DIY  projects that I came across online were these different sized mirror cubes. They looked fairly quick and simple to make (they really sparkled too!) and I thought they’d be particularly pretty as coffee table decorations, plus I already had most of the necessary materials on hand so I decided to give them a try.  The only thing I had to purchase were the mirror squares themselves. Each cube requires six equal sized squares. I bought them at a local mirror shop where they cut them for me in 5 inch, 4 inch and 3 inch sizes because I wanted three different sized cubes. In my area it’s alot less expensive to have them cut to size rather than buying them already pre-cut. I think I paid about ten dollars for all three sizes, which was 18 squares in total.I laid five of the six squares out on the counter top face down, in the position that they’d be hot glued together. To keep them from moving around I held them together with tape before glueing them. I happened to have aluminum tape on hand so I used that. 

Then I flipped the squares upright and hot glued them together on the inside from top to bottom at each corner where they joined. Once the four sides and the bottom of the cube were glued together and the glue had cooled and dried, I glued the  top square on.

Then it was just a matter of blinging it up. I had a roll of diamond ribbon among my craft stuff so I glued strips of it to all the edges. That really upped the sparkle factor. A left over crystal knob from my kitchen cabinets served nicely as a finial for the top.And that was it!

These were so inexpensive and easy to make that I made three more for the coffee table up at our mountain house. I haven’t put finials on these three yet. 

 

I will be joining the following fun link parties this week!

Inspire Me Monday @ Create With Joy

Busy Monday @ A Pinch of Joy

Metamorphosis Monday @ Between Naps on the Porch

Inspire Me Mondays @ My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia

Tuesdays At Our Home @ Our Home Far Away From Home

LouLou Girls Linky Party @ Lou Lou Girls

Creative Muster Party @ Fluster Buster

Wow Us Wednesdays @ Savvy Southern Style

Tuesdays With A Twist @ God’s Growing Garden

Party in Your PJs @ Grandma Ideas

Share Your Style Link Party  @ 21 Rosemary Lane

Home and Garden Thursday @ A Delightsome Life

 

DIY FANCY MIRROR TRAYS

Mirrored trays add such an elegant touch to any coffee table or vanity. I think just about anything looks better if it’s placed on a tray.  They seem to be back in style nowadays and I’ve noticed them popping up in magazines and decorating blogs quite a bit lately.  I’ve seen so many beautiful trays in stores and on Ebay but unfortunately they tend to be really pricey.  I knew there had to be a way to make my own tray for alot less so I began to search online to see if anyone had ever tried making trays at home. I was surprised to find all sorts of  creative ideas and instructions for DIY trays, especially on Youtube.  But the one I liked best was the one that used inexpensive metal ribbon from Hobby Lobby.  (You can also find metal ribbon on Amazon but it costs more there) It’s a flexible tin strip that comes in 3 yard lengths.  That’s enough for a very large tray plus a smaller one. Or two medium and a small. 

Metal ribbon comes in different widths and designs so it’s just a matter of choosing the one you like best. I purchased three different kinds because I couldn’t make up my mind.

For the base of the trays I used different sized pieces of plywood. I found them easy to work with and there’s a plywood store right next door to me where they sell scrap sized pieces for just pennies.  Some people prefer to use inexpensive wood frame mirrors that you can get at any dollar store, that way the mirror is already cut to size and the ribbon can be attached to the wooden frame.  First the the bottom and sides of the base gets a coat of spray. I sprayed some of the pieces silver and others gold because those were the colors that I wanted the trays to be.I wanted to put little feet on the bottom of the tray so that it wouldn’t sit flat on the table. Feet also make it easier to lift up the tray when it needs to be moved. I happened to have a couple of packages of left over plastic mirror holders, the kind that are used to hold unframed mirrors against the wall. These turned out to be perfect to use as feet. They can be attached to the plywood with one small screw and spray painted the same color as the bottom of the tray. I also added tiny cork circles to avoid scratching surfaces. 

A box of thumbtacks was basically the only thing I needed to attach the ribbon to the plywood.  I pulled it taut as I tacked it in place so that it would go on completely straight and wouldn’t have a wavy look to it.  It’s important to tack it on in a perfectly straight even line, otherwise it will start to get wavy.  Some metal ribbon designs have little holes spaced evenly apart so that it’s easy to just insert the thumbtack straight into the wood through the little holes. 

When the two edges meet, they can be slightly overlapped and held together with a little stip of aluminum tape. 

After the metal ribbon is secured in place, the trays can be spray painted in any color. 

I used Krylon Silver Foil Spray paint because it gives the dull tinny metal a shinier look.

After the paint is dry, the next step is to attach the mirror. I had mirrors cut to size and then I just glued them onto the plywood with hot glue. 

This was the first one I made

And it was such fun that I couldn’t stop. So I made another. This one in gold.  

And another

I ended up with about 8 mirrored trays of varying sizes.    

This is a round one

An oval gold tray holds the perfumes on my dresser

I have the feeling that I’ll be giving people trays this year for Christmas.

Colorful Catrinas

My youngest daughter just returned from Mexico where she has been doing her culinary practice at a wonderful colonial restaurant for the past four months.  Among the things she brought me upon her return were these cute little skeleton dolls fashionably dressed in fancy attire and plumed hats. They are known as Catrinas and are an important part of Mexican culture.

I had seen these dolls before at souvenir shops and in magazines and had always thought that Catrinas (or Kalakas as they are sometimes called) were associated with ancient Mexican Day of the Dead traditions but I was wrong.    

I was surprised to learn that they have a very interesting and more modern history which is linked surprisingly to Frida Khalo and her husband, artist Diego Rivera.   

Catrina started out as a political cartoon created by Mexican cartoonist Jose Guadalupe Posada during the early 1900’s for one of his political pamphlets.  Originally dubbed Calavera Garbancera (roughly translated: the chick-pea selling skeleton or the chick-pea vendor) Posada’s cartoon was meant to satirize the poor peasant class of Mexicans who put on airs of rich European dandies and adopted the dress and mannerisms of the European upper class, thus rejecting their own native origins and heritage.

Posada died quietly without the fame or recognition that he deserved and it wasn’t until many years later that his fancy skeleton lady became a beloved symbol of Mexican culture when famed artist Diego Rivera painted his iconic mural entitled Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park.   Catrina is the central character in his mural and she is surrounded by influential figures of Mexican history. She is shown wearing a quetzal feather boa around her neck and a fancy plumed hat on her head. Rivera painted himself as a small child standing next to her and holding her hand. Behind him is his wife Frida Khalo who has one hand resting on his shoulder and in the other she is holding a ying/yang symbol. It was Diego Rivera himself who coined the term Calavera Catrina which means the the dapper skeleton or the dandy skeleton. In Mexico and in some Central American countries the word catrin means a dandy or someone who is dressed to the teeth in the height of fashion. Catrina is the feminine form of the word.  

I must add that Catrina is meant to be a colorful, happy and fun folkloric figure and is not in any way related to the darker and more sinister cult figure of Santa Muerte.  In Mexico they make Catrinas out of many different materials, the favorite being paper mache which is then painted brightly. Here’s a paper mache Catrina riding a bike.  

This one seems to be yelling, or perhaps singing   

Sometimes their clothes are made out of fabric and lace and bits of feathers.

Other Catrinas are made of clay. There are even some Talavera ones like this catrin and catrina sitting on a park bench, but Talavera catrinas are very expensive.  Maybe on her next trip to Mexico she can get me this adorable couple that was displayed in a store window.  

There was a huge array of them at the store where my daughter purchased a few and it was difficult to choose. 

This one looks like a turn of the century school teacher to me These are my two favorite of all the ones she bought me. They’re very elegant ladies made of clay.  The black birds are just decorative but I thought they were cool because they look kind of gothic. They had other catrinas where the birds were brightly painted like Amazon parrots.

I sense the start of a new collection.

 

Joining Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage

 

 

White Crackly Candle Holders

A couple of years ago I went to a garage sale and ended up buying several things. These two formerly black and blue candle holders were not among them because I didn’t actually buy them. They were pretty much shoved at me by the seller who insisted that I just take them. She seemed anxious to be rid of them…not that I blamed her.  I didn’t want to hurt her feelings by refusing so I put them in the car and brought them home. I’ve never really been fond of them.  In fact, I didn’t know whether they were actually candle holders or pedestals or plant stands or something else entirely. I would have used them out in the garden as plant stands but they’re made of a weird material that I suspected wouldn’t hold up to water.  I was just about to throw them in the garbage recently when I thought, well…perhaps I can paint them a lighter shade and put them somewhere in the house.

They were hideous black, blue and green things with what seemed to be an attempt at a fleur de lis design on the front. They also had cracks in several places so I filled those in with wall putty.

There were big visible cracks near the top and at the base.

Then I dug into my bag of resin appliques which is full of odds and ends and left over broken pieces. I managed to find a couple of cherubs and some roses.

And lucky me, I also found a nearly full tube of Instant Nails to adhere the appliques with.

So, on they went. After they dried overnight, the candle holders got a coat of Americana Chalk Paint in white. It didn’t cover very well unfortunately and I needed four coats in all to get full coverage.

But the white looked so boring to me. I’m not really fond of white. So I painted over the middle portion in aqua. That didn’t work as well as I’d hoped because now the contrast was too distinct.  I was about to paint it white again when I spied an almost empty bottle of Jo-Sonja Decor Crackle among the paint jars. There was just enough for the middle section and a narrow strip at the bottom of both candle holders.  It had a nice effect because it toned down the color contrast quite a bit.

This type of crackle is sandwiched in between two colors. It goes on top of the base color and then you have to apply a contrasting color on top of that.

The top color (in this case I applied another coat of white) cracks and subtly reveals the darker color beneath it.

I set the candle holders on top of the piano temporarily, but then I decided that they filled in that empty spot nicely, so there they will stay. 


 

 

Dinette Makover

Does anyone even use the word dinette anymore? I haven’t heard it used in ages. Heck, I can’t even find it on google. But back in the day, dinette sets were really popular for small apartments as well as for eat-in kitchens. That’s what I had in mind when I put together a little table and four non matching chairs for my oldest daughter’s tiny dining room this past December. She rents a small house a few blocks away from us which is just the perfect size for her and a roommate.  However, her roommate of many years moved out at the end of last year and because the dining set was hers, she took it with her.  At around the same time, my daughter in law was getting rid of a little rustic sewing table that her mother no longer needed and I figured it would make a perfect temporary dining table for my daughter. At least until she got around to buying something nicer.

Even though it was a small table, it was unusually tall so I had to cut three inches off the legs to make it the right height.
Next I had to find some inexpensive chairs that were not too large or too beat up. That was going to be challenging here in Costa Rica where used items in good condition are often just as expensive as new ones and old beat up items are just a tad less costly. The stars and planets must have been aligned in my favor because after just a quick check online I found someone (down the street from me!) who had about 200 school chairs for sale in nearly new condition at $10 dollars each.  I purchased four of them and was delighted to see that they were strong and sturdy with metal frames and nice wooden seats and back rests.


Now that I had the chairs, I turned my attention back to the table. Some of the dark brown paint had started to chip and peel off in certain areas so I took it out to the backyard and sanded it to smooth down and even out the nicks.
I was feeling quite pleased with myself and everything was going according to plan, until it rained. Athough I had carefully covered the table with plastic after I was done sanding, it rained so hard that afternoon that the wind lifted up the plastic and pushed rainwater beneath it, soaking the entire table. The next day I woke up to a seriously warped and blistered tabletop that I knew I wouldn’t be able to fix. Thankfully my next door neighbor Elmer is a carpenter so I asked him for help. He was kind enough to nail/glue on a thin sheet of new plywood over the old tabletop and round off the edges for me.
As I debated what color to paint it, my daughter in law again came to the rescue and offered me several unopened jars of Americana Chalk Paint that she no longer needed as she and my son were getting ready to move back to Colorado and were getting rid of all their stuff. I was doubtful about the color at first. It looked sort of grayish in the jar. But hey, never look a gift horse in the mouth, right? I ended up loving the color once it was on the table. It’s actually a soft bluish green.
The table had an apron on all four sides that I decided to paint white, for contrast. I also had a bag full of left over resin appliques that I had made last year which I thought might look nice on the apron. They were mostly odds and ends and I was unable to find four matching pieces so I used two smaller pieces for the two ends of the table and two larger pieces for the sides.

I was tempted to leave the chairs as they were because they really were in nice shape and didn’t need anything done to them, but unfortunately they clashed with the color of the table so I ended up just painting the backrest in the same bluegreen chalk paint and leaving the seat unpainted.  As a final touch I decoupaged a floral motif on the backrests and on opposite corners of the table with a bit of modpodge. Everything then got a protective topcoat of matte varnish. I also bought a piece of thick glass for the tabletop to protect it in case of spills.

I loaded it up in the car and took it over to her house a couple of days before Christmas while she was at work to surprise her.  I was so excited about setting it up at her place that I completely forgot to take pictures of it in situ. So the only photos I have were snapped at my house.  Thankfully she liked it…you never know with kids. Yay.