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.

 

Pink and Pearls Christmas Tree

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This year  I bought a flocked Christmas tree. I hadn’t planned on a flocked tree and I always assumed that I didn’t like them because I had seen some pretty fake looking ones over the years. I mean, artificial Christmas trees are artificial enough without the fake snow, right? But back in October I happened to stop at the local Walmart in search of some Halloween items and surprisingly they were already setting up their Christmas displays.

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Among the several trees that they had unboxed and set up, there was a lovely 7 ft, perfectly cone shaped flocked Blue Spruce at a perfect price. To my surprise it didn’t look as fake as most. If I didn’t live in a tropical country where pine trees are non-existent and it has never snowed in recorded history, this little tree could very well have fooled folks.  Well, maybe not. But I was smitten nonetheless.

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After about a week or so of thinking about it, I went back to Walmart only to discover that they had sold out of flocked trees almost immediately. Not that there were too many to begin with, I had only seen about 10 or 12 boxes of them on the shelf. It turns out that that was their entire inventory.  I should have known. The problem with Walmart in Costa Rica (and other stores here as well) is that they only import a limited amount of any particular item so when it’s gone, it’s gone and there are no rainchecks.  After calling their central offices, they were kind enough to locate a tree for me (the last one in the entire  country!) at a Walmart in a different province and they were kind enough to have it shipped to the store nearest to me at no extra cost. Hurray for their customer service!

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I wanted to give pastel tones a try this year. I rather like the soft toned down look of the tree. I used pearl garland rather than the ubiquitous tinsel one because I didn’t want the garland to overshadow the ornaments. Pale pink sparkly poinsettias filled up large spaces so that the branches wouldn’t look sparse.

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One definite advantage of a pastel Christmas tree is that the kitties seem to leave it pretty much alone. They aren’t attracted to soft toned ornaments as much as they are to the shiny glittery mirror type ones. Other years I would wake up to find at least half a dozen balls strewn all across the floor and the kitties playing soccer with them. Not this time.tree-9-765x1024

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Who knows, maybe next Christmas I’ll long for green, red and gold and I’ll return to more traditional holiday colors but for now this will do.
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This week I will be joining:

Inspire Me Monday @ Create With Joy

Inspire Me Mondays @ My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia

Make it Pretty Monday @ The Dedicated House

Busy Monday @ A Pinch of Joy

Metamorphosis Monday @ Between Naps On The Porch

Tuesdays at our Home  @  Our Home 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 PJ’s @ The Cookie Puzzle

The Homemaking Party @ Classical Homemaking

Share Your Style Thursday Link-Up Party 

Home and Garden Thursday  @ A Delightsome Life

Sweet and Simple Fridays @ Rooted in Thyme

Feathered Nest Friday @ French Country Cottage

Friday Feature’s Link Party @ Oh My Heartsie Girl

Anything Goes Pink Saturday @ How Sweet The Sound

Best Of The Weekend Party 

Saturday Sparks Link Party @ Pieced Passtimes

Baubles á la Découpage

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A few months ago I was watching some Youtube video tutorials that explained how to decoupage your own Christmas ornaments. I came across several that were actually quite stunning and very unusual because you don’t ordinarily see baubles like that in stores. Naturally I had to try my hand at making my own. It turned out to be so easy and fun that I made close to 70 or 75 of them.  I started early in about September or so and it’s a good thing I did because that allowed me to convert all of last year’s red and gold balls into soft pastel toned ornaments topped by pink satin ribbons for hanging.

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Last year’s shiny red and striped balls

My first idea was to go out and buy new boxes of pink and white balls. So I hit the stores (which fortunately in my area begin to display and sell their Christmas stuff at the end of September) but I was dissapointed to discover that nobody even had any white or pink Christmas ball ornaments for sale. Those don’t seem to be popular Christmas colors at all. Even on Ebay the selection is limited. While trying to figure out what to do it ocurred to me that I could probably spray paint the balls with pink and white spray paint. And then I thought, well heck, why even buy new ones when I have boxes full of last year’s ornaments that I can recycle? So that’s exactly what I did. Here’s what I started out with.

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I  had a few cans of half empty spray paint in the tool locker so each red and gold ball got a base coat of random shades of white, cream, ivory or pink.  After temporarily removing the gold or silver hanging part off each ball, I put them on a wooden skewer and sprayed them. Some of them required a couple of coats to completely cover up the original color. Then I put them out in the sun to dry.

This particular ball has a glitter design on it which you can see a bit of in this photo. It doesn't matter because after all the coats of mod podge and varnish it will be completely hidden.

This particular ball has a glitter design on it which you can see a bit of in this photo. It doesn’t matter because after all the coats of mod podge and varnish it will be completely hidden.

The next step after the spray paint has dried is to give them a coat of regular acrylic craft paint in whatever color you want the bauble to be. I used mostly white, pink and aqua. The craft paint gives the balls a smooth matte finish to work on and it is especially necessary if you plan on using a crackle medium to give them an antique crackle finish. I used three different types of crackle finish with different results. By far, my favorite was Jo Sonja’s Decor Crackle because it provided the most dramatic crackle. I also used Jo Sonja’s Crackle Medium which is a bit different than their Decor Crackle but I didn’t like that one at all because it made them look leathery. Mod Podge’s Crackle Finish was pretty good too, it results in a very fine eggshell type crackle. All of these are all applied in different manners, some go on before the basecoat and some go on top of the basecoat, so if you’re going to use crackle, you have to read the instructions carefully before applying it. Next you have to choose what kind of appliqué you want. I used napkins.

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I found that Mod Podge was the easiest way of sticking the napkins on to the spheres, but you could probably just use Elmer’s glue or any white glue with pretty much the same result. After the applique dried completely I went over it with another coat of Mod Podge just to smooth everything down and make sure that nothing was unglued.  At this point you can sprinkle on a little bit of ultra-fine glitter while they are still tacky, to give them a bit of shimmer. Or you can let them dry and then apply a coat of a product called Sparkle (also from Mod Podge) which gives a really beautiful subtle shimmer once it’s dry which is spread evenly over the entire surface.

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After that is dry, you can add accents with glitter glue or fabric paint. I added white pearly dots here and there and also thin streaks of gold and silver glitter randomly.

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The final step is to apply two coats of regular transparent varnish. This gives them alot of shine and also protects the appliqué. I tried using water based varnish on the first couple of them but I didn’t like how that turned out because it gave them a sort of dull finish and I wanted them to be really shiny. So in the end I just used regular oil based varnish.

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When they are completely dry you just re-attach the little metal or plastic hanging part and they are set to go. I  wanted mine to look a bit more romantic so I removed the little gold hanger thread that they come with and replaced it with a thin pink ribbon. On the front of the baubles I hot glued on a pink satin bow.

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I also bought a package of 3 inch styrofoam hearts to decoupage in the same way.

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Here they are drying on sticks during various stages of the process.

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This is the crackle finish from Mod Podge’s Crackle product. It’s a very fine eggshell look.

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This week I will be Joining.

Tuesdays at our Home  @  Our Home 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 PJ’s @ The Cookie Puzzle

The Homemaking Party @ Classical Homemaking

Share Your Style Thursday Link-Up Party 

Home and Garden Thursday  @ A Delightsome Life

Sweet and Simple Fridays @ Rooted in Thyme

Feathered Nest Friday @ French Country Cottage

Friday Feature’s Link Party @ Oh My Heartsie Girl

Anything Goes Pink Saturday @ How Sweet The Sound

Best Of The Weekend Party 

Saturday Sparks Link Party @ Pieced Pastimes

Lace Hearts

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I’ve been working on Christmas ornaments for the past couple of months. This year I decided I’d make my own ornaments and decorations because the colors and styles that are available in my area aren’t too varied or interesting. I think that one of the main drawbacks here is that everything has to be shatterproof due to the tile or terrazo floors that most folks have in their homes (including me).  That really limits the selection because plastic just isn’t as pretty. Everyone knows that the most beautiful ornaments are made of glass.  Also, all the stores here seem to import the same items and carry the exact same stuff in the same colors: gold, red, green, silver. I have plenty of those colors from years past but this year I’ve been on the lookout for pastel colored ornaments. I searched high and low for anything in soft pink, aqua or white but I was unable to find much in those shades. So I had no choice but to make them myself. In addition to recycling last year’s ornaments and painting over them (that’ll be the subject of a future post) I also dug deep into my bag of fabric remnants and came up with these puffy little lace hearts to hang on the tree. I used plain fabric in white and pink as the base and then sewed lace scraps over that. The hearts are lightly stuffed with quilt batting and then embellished a bit with pearls and rhinestones or whatever else I could find in my sewing box. A thin satin ribbon on top makes them “hangable” so they can be used on the tree.

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I don’t know how many I made, I sort of lost track because I would sit and sew in the evenings while I relaxed and watched tv or Netflix. I ended up with so many that I gave a few of them away to friends.

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I made two different sized heart templates out of newspaper. One was wide and short and the other was narrow and longer. All the hearts were made with those two templates.lace-hearts

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This ivory mesh fabric that I used for these hearts is woven with real silver wire thread. It’s hand made by artisans in Egypt.

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img_1874I already have more than enough to hang on the Christmas tree but I think I might just keep on making them because they’re so easy and fun to make. I can fill little baskets with them or just give them away as gifts.

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Joining: Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage

Egg Sighting

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I think I may have gone a little overboard with the Easter Eggs this year. I’ve had far too much time on my hands since my laptop charger decided to suddenly stop working a few weeks ago. That meant that I had very little computer access and lots more free time to work on other things. Long story short, I made easter eggs (alot of them!) so I would’t die of boredom in the meantime. I’m glad I did because it brought back warm memories of making Easter crafts with my mom when I was in elementary school. I still haven’t been able to find a new charger. I went to Radio Shack as well as to several computer places and nobody seems to have that model in stock. Drat. I guess I’ll just have to order it on Ebay or Amazon but that can take a couple of weeks or more to get here from the U.S. so I decided it was time to dig out the old MacMini desktop and set it up temporarily. I was tired of using the ipad and having to type entire paragraphs with my index finger.

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These lace eggs were actually inspired by Hakan over at The Rose Garden in Malevik who had some lovely ones on his blog several weeks ago. I used foam egg shapes in different sizes for these and I added bits of rhinestone chain and beads over the lace.

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I also made sugar eggs, sometimes called Panoramic eggs. I hadn’t made those in years. When I was in about 5th grade or so, my mom took cake decorating classes with Wilton. Among all the wonderful things she learned to make in that class were sugar Easter eggs. It wasn’t long before I knew how to make them as well, my mom loved to teach me what she had learned and she was very patient. We would always make a few extra ones to sell. I remember carefully packing them in a cardboard box and taking them to school much to the delight of my classmates. When I recall the ridiculous prices we charged back in the day, I have to laugh. We sold the small ones for 50 cents, the medium sized ones for 75 cents and the very large ones cost $1.25 because they were a bit trickier to make and they used up alot of sugar.  I couldn’t believe my eyes the other day when I saw a small sized one for sale on Etsy for 35 dollars. How times change!

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These are just made out of damp sugar which is packed into a plastic egg shaped mold, turned out onto a countertop and then left to dry overnight.

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My rose making technique was a bit rusty, it took me a while to get the hang of it again.

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They have a little opening or peek hole on one end and an Easter scene inside. This one has rabbits playing in the grass.

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And lastly, I made blue and white decoupaged eggs just because it’s one of my favorite color combos. These are made with real eggs which I blew out and emptied. I used small blue and white floral decals on these eggs and then gave the eggs a few coats of spray varnish. So, it’s not a true decoupage in the strictest sense, but close enough. Once they are varnished, they’re so shiny that they almost look like porcelain even up close.

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Wishing everyone a blessed Easter!

Joining the blog parties at:

French Country Cottage-Feathered Nest Friday

The Rose Garden in Malevik-Saturday Show Off

Mirror makeover

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When I stopped teaching dance a couple of years ago, I converted the little dance studio behind our house into a guest bedroom. It came in pretty handy because we often have visitors who stay with us when they come down to Costa Rica on vacation. However, I didn’t really know what to do with all the mirrors that still hung on the studio walls. Although they had been a necessity in the dance studio, they now looked odd and out of place in a bedroom. They weren’t even pretty. They were just plain ordinary aluminum framed mirrors quite large in size, the kind you might find in a gym. Last year, after we renovated our kitchen and dining room I ended up with a large empty wall that I couldn’t think of anything to put on. Then I remembered the aluminum mirrors that were still hanging in the guest bedroom and decided to bring one of them into the house and hang it on that bare wall. It was a good fit and it filled most of the space, but it looked just as unattractive there as it had looked in the guest room.

Close up of the frame

Close up of the frame

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The frame was very narrow so there weren’t alot of options as far as updating it. I wondered if perhaps it would be possible to glue some appliques on it and then paint the whole thing a different color to hide the aluminum. I had a few left over appliques from a previous furniture project as well as an assortment of silicone molds and a huge bottle of resin in the tool shed. So after a couple of months of thinking about it I figured it was worth a try and surely it wouldn’t look any worse.

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These scroll like curliecues were just the right width

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It took me several days to make enough appliques to cover the entire mirror. I made roses and curlicues and cherubs until I was bleary-eyed. Then I began to glue them on with No more Nails, crossing my fingers that they wouldn’t fall off the slippery narrow frame. I think I used about four tubes of No more nails and thankfully they held fast. That stuff is good! I had given the frame a couple of coats of white paint before putting on the appliques because I knew that it would be very difficult, if not impossible to get into all the nooks and crannies with the paintbrush after the appliques were glued on.

I gave the mirror a couple of coats of white paint first because I knew it would be nearly impossible to get into all the nooks and crannies with a paintbrush after the appliques were glued on.

 

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I added a small rose to the center of this curlicue applique

I added a small rose to the center of these scroll appliques

Two sweet little cherubs quietly watch over the dining room from the top of the mirror.

Two sweet little cherubs quietly watch over the dining room from the top of the mirror. I placed one on either end.

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After the appliques were set in place I allowed them to dry completely for a couple of days before applying a final coat of white paint.  In the empty space between the top of the mirror and the molding  I hung a few blue and white plates that I had stored away which matched the blue and white plate collection on the other wall.

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It’s a very tiny dining room, it actually used to be my daughter’s bedroom right off the kitchen. That was a sort of weird Costa Rican floorplan. Or lack of floorplan, I should say. The previous owners of the house had added on rooms wherever they had fancied a new room without giving any thought to the logic of the layout. So there was this fourth bedroom that could only be accessed through the kitchen. How weird is that. When my oldest daughter moved out last year, my youngest daughter moved into her bedroom and I turned her “kitchen bedroom” into a little secondary dining room, which made so much more sense.

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I think the mirror helps make the dining room look a little larger than it really is.

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Joining

Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage

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Fan Tale

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In the 1980’s when we lived in Ecuador I bought two ceiling fans for a house that we were building at the time. They were considered fashionable in those days and I was happy to have fixtures that were not only stylish but also functional. The temperature often got quite high in the tropical port city of Guayaquil and they provided much needed relief from the stifling heat . Fast forward 28 years. I’m sad to admit that now my little fans are considered tacky, dated and downright ugly. One of them stopped working long ago and only the lights portion was still functioning, but the other fan still works perfectly. That’s pretty amazing after 28 years. I actually like ceiling fans and I was reluctant to throw away the one that still worked. We don’t live in such a hot country anymore but it can sometimes get into the 80 to 85 degree range so I still use the fan quite often.  I have it installed in the kitchen. The only problem is that it just looked outdated and boring.

Here is a before shot

Here is a before shot. The woven center part of the blades was particularly passé

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I decided to at least try and give it a facelift. What I had initially planned on doing was to simply paint the blades a bright color. I unscrewed  the 8 little screws that held them in place and took them down. After cleaning them up (isn’t it amazing how grimy kitchen fixtures can get?)  I remembered the bottle of Mod Podge that was lurking in my crafts box and I figured I could decoupage something on the blades rather than just painting them. I ended up using some left over fabric from the dining room chairs.

After spraying on a primer, I spray painted the edges yellow because they would be visible

After spraying on a primer, I spray painted the edges yellow because I didn’t want to extend the decoupage fabric up over the edges of the blades.

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I cut the pieces of fabric in the shape of the blades, using one of the blade as a template.

I cut the pieces of fabric in the shape of the blades, using one of the blades as a template

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In order to get a smooth finish I turned the blades over and glued the fabric to the  non-wicker side. Now the woven wicker part faces the ceiling and is not visible. I used Mod Podge as glue to decoupage the fabric onto the blades, adding a couple of generous coats of it on top of the fabric too. After the blades were dry, I sprayed on two coats of clear varnish.

The blades ended up looking like they were actually hand painted and they even fooled hubby who complimented me on my artistic skills. If he only knew that I can’t paint anything more advanced than a stick figure, hehe.  After checking out a couple of blogs and a few websites I realized that it was also possible to spray paint the metal face plates on ceiling fans. Alot of people had done it and it looked really cool. I wanted to camouflage the outdated brass tone on the body of the fan and paint was the perfect solution. There were only four screws holding it in place and it was  simple enough to remove them and slide the face plate off. Easy peasy…right? Wrong. I didn’t realize at the time that all those online instructions for removing the face plate were meant for fans without lights. It wasn’t until I excitedly began taking out the screws that I realized that the middle hole of the plate would never slide down past the four tulip lights. I hate it when I do dumb things like that. I ended up having to convince hubby to help me take the whole fan down off the ceiling and temporarily unwiring and separating the center portion in order to get the plate off.  What a hassle. Thankfully he is very handy with these things.

See that center opening? How in the world did I ever think that it was going to slide down past the four tulip lights that jut out to the sides?

See that center opening? How in the world did I ever think that it was going to slide down past the four tulip lights that jut out to the sides?

I had to separate the lights portion from the rest of the fan in orde to get the face plate to come off. That meant separating two of the wires.

I had to separate the lights portion from the rest of the fan in order to get the face plate to come off. That meant separating two of the wires.

Here's the faceplate and the hardware from the blades after their first coat of yellow paint.

Here’s the faceplate and the hardware from the blades after their first coat of yellow paint.

These are the blades drying in the sun after the final coat of glossy spray varnish

These are the blades drying in the sun after the final coat of glossy spray varnish

The glass parts got a much needed scrubbing

The glass parts got a much needed scrubbing

Here it is all finished and hung back in it's place above the kitchen island

Here it is all finished and hung back in it’s place above the kitchen island

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I also harvested some of the parts from the non working fan including the four blades and their hardware which I spray painted pink. I decoupaged these in a different style and I can just change the blades whenever I want a whole different look. It’s just a matter of removing the screws and it doesn’t take more than 5 or 10 minutes. Admittedly  pink doesn’t really go with anything in my kitchen but who cares? Who says fans have to match!

Four extra fan blades for a different look

Four extra fan blades for a different look. These got a top coat of clear matte varnish. I didn’t want them as shiny as the other ones.

I couldn't resist sprinkling on a little bit of glitter for some fun sparkle

I couldn’t resist sprinkling on a little bit of glitter for some fun sparkle

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Joining these link parties:

Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage 

Show and Tell Friday at My Romantic Home

Wall of Crosses

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Religious art has always interested me. Not that we had much of it at home growing up. My mom thought it was tacky.  Aside from the mandatory crucifix above each bed and a large gilded Last Supper portrait that was a permanent fixture in my grandmother’s dining room, I can’t say that we really had much in the way of religious art. But I always loved the look of old Spanish and Mexican Colonial religious articles, particularly the large and ornate silver ex-votos and the beautifully carved wooden santos.  With this in mind and also because I couldn’t think of anything else to hang, I decided to fill my ridiculously large bedroom wall up at the mountain house with crosses and ex votos of different sizes and styles. I still have a long way to go before the wall is complete as the ceilings are about 20 ft. high in that room, but I think I’ve got a decent start.

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Now that my family knows that I’ve started collecting crosses from different countries, they’ve begun to contribute to the collection and have brought back some lovely ones whenever they’ve travelled…which fortunately for me is pretty often. I have to admit that my kids think the wall of crosses idea is kind of weird and my daughter wondered if I was perhaps expecting a visit from vampires and wanted to know why I would collect such a thing as crosses?

Daughter: WHY did you hang all those crosses on that wall???

Me: Because I like them. I particularly really like antique crosses.

Daughter: Yeah but don’t you think it’s kind of weird?

Me: Not really. I think it looks cool.

Daughter: It’s creepy. My friend took a picture of it.

Me: Hmmm. That weird huh?

I think it’s actually grown on her at this point and I’m hoping she will bring me back a nice one from the vatican when she goes to Italy next week.

The largest cross in the center of the wall is a Mexican plaster cross. It needed restoring when I bought it because it had several nicks and the paint was chipped. You can read about that  here.

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This little white cross is from Egypt and it’s all inlaid with mother of pearl. This type of inlaid work is typical of the Middle East and the technique reportedly dates back to Phoenician times.

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Here’s a jeweled cross. You can never have too much bling. I’m a sucker for rhinestones and sparkly things.

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I made this one myself out of matchsticks on a plywood cross shaped base.

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Here’s one I made with different colors and sizes of glass beads.

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My daughter in law brought me this cute little hand painted ceramic cross that she purchased during a trip to Mexico City.

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This one is made with different colored pearls.

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I did hang a few other things on the wall besides crosses and ex-votos including a hand made wrought iron door knocker that my other daughter in law gave me (made by her uncle) in an attempt to avoid a monotonous look. The orthodox icons in square gold frames are from Russia.

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There’s still quite a bit of wall to cover upwards and I’m always on the look out for antique or foreign religious art, even at the risk of looking like Carrie’s mother.

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Joining Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage

Three Mini Chairs And A Patio

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I’ve had these little mini chairs in my garden since forever and over the years they’ve seen sun and rain as well as several different colors of paint. My neighbor Elmer, who is a carpenter made them for me to hang on the wall as plant holders but they’ve been used for many things, mostly as junk holders where I would place garden stuff that had to be kept out of the reach of children and of pets. When my youngest daughter was little, she used to make me take them down off the wall so she could play house with them.  A few weeks ago I decided that it was time to repaint them once again because they were looking very faded and weather worn and I also wanted to refresh my patio garden with new plants and a new coat of paint on the walls.

I can't remember the last time I painted them but obviously it had been years.

Before: I can’t remember the last time I painted them but obviously it had been years.

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I have to admit that I’ve neglected the little courtyard garden at our city house.  It’s such a small space after all and there isn’t really alot of room for plants unless they’re potted.  I usually spend more time in the much larger garden up at our mountain house but this rainy season I’ve decided to  pay a bit more attention to my little patio and thus spent a good part of the week weeding, fertilizing and planting new seeds. I mostly went with climbing plants because the space is small and the walls were bare. I planted Morning Glory seeds, Sweet Peas and Moon Flower seeds as well as three Clematis vines and even a few pumpkin seeds which will hopefully yield pumpkins by Halloween, unlike last year when I planted “fungus resistant” pumpkin seeds up at the mountain house only to have them ALL succumb to a woolly white fungus just as they were beginning to set fruit! Maybe they’ll do better in the city, it’s not as humid. Keeping my fingers crossed this time.

Suha and Giza think the pumpkin seedlings smell lovely.

Suha and Giza think the pumpkin seedlings smell lovely.

The three little chairs got a complete makeover which meant new paint and a bit of decoupage. I sealed them with a thick coat of polyurethane varnish so that they’d be sun and rain resistant….at least for a couple of years.

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Much better!

Much better!

I’ve had to put a wire mesh around and above my seedlings as well as more stones in some of the larger flower pots because my naughty kitty girls love to scratch the bare soil and use it as a litter box. I’ve seen them completely bypass their fresh clean litter boxes and head straight for the planters.  The mesh will keep them out until the plants grow in and there won’t be so much visible soil, then I can remove it.

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These solid violet colored morning glories grew from seeds dropped by striped morning glories.

These solid violet colored morning glories grew from seeds dropped by striped morning glories. These keep reseeding themselves and I find myself having to yank out new seedlings every so often, otherwise they’ll just take over the garden.

Some of the seeds did produce striped flowers that looked like the parents.

Some of the seeds did produce striped flowers that looked like the parents.

These are Grandpa Ott morning glories. I've never tried this variety before.  The color is so intense.

These are Grandpa Ott morning glories. I’ve never tried this variety before. The color is quite intense.

This is a lavender flowered Clematis that I got on Ebay. It's an unamed variety that the seller grew from seed.

This is a lavender flowered Clematis that I got on Ebay. It’s an unamed variety that produces huge blooms. Apparently the seller grew these from seed.

My orchids are beggining to bloom. I have several varieties. Most of them are heavily scented and they make the entire courtyard smell like vanilla.

My orchids are beginning to bloom. I have several varieties and they’re actually really easy to grow. Most of them are heavily scented and they make the entire courtyard smell like vanilla.

This is another heavily scented flower. The perfume is absolutely intoxicating.  It's Frangipani also known as Plumeria.  I always thought Plumeria was Hawaiian, but it's actually native to Central America.

This is another intensely fragrant flower. The perfume is absolutely intoxicating. It’s Frangipani also known as Plumeria. I always thought Plumeria was Hawaiian, but it’s actually native to Central America. It’s a tall tree like shrub and it’s one of the few larger plants that I have in my little garden.

Bougainvillea. I have this one growing in a large pot.

Bougainvillea. I have this one growing in a  pot right outside the patio door.

Here's a red Bromelia.  This one's native to Costa Rica. I've got several of these as they reproduce quite easily.

A red Bromelia. This one’s native to Costa Rica. I have several of these growing in pots. They reproduce quite easily.

Here's a potted Hydrangea. They grow everywhere here in Costa Rica, even on roadsides.  I've never seen them in any other color around here though. They're always varying shades of blue and even the ones that open white, eventually turn blue. I've never seen a pink hydrangea in Costa Rica. I wonder if it's the soil.

Here’s a potted Hydrangea. They grow abundantly in my area, even on roadsides.  They always seem to bloom in varying shades of  blue however, and even the ones that open white will eventually turn blue. I’ve never seen a pink hydrangea in Costa Rica. I wonder if it’s the soil.

Leyla is looking longingly at the flower bed. There's mesh all around it but it's mostly hidden between the greenery.

Leyla is looking longingly at the flower bed. There’s mesh all around it but it’s mostly hidden among the greenery.

Semsema likes to lay in the flower pots. I guess the damp soil and cool rocks are refreshing on a hot tropical afternoon.

Semsema loves to lay in the flower pots. I guess the damp soil and cool rocks are refreshing on a hot tropical afternoon.

This is a little shady spot where I keep the staghorn ferns and some of the orchids. Notice the mesh over the planter. That's so the kitties won't scratch the soil around until the seeds germinate.

This is a little shady spot where I keep the staghorn ferns and some of the orchids. Notice the mesh over the planter. That’s so the kitties won’t scratch the soil around until the seeds germinate.

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Most of the seeds that I planted a couple of weeks ago have sprouted and are growing nicely thanks to the abundant rain but there is still so much to do in the garden.  I’m thinking of buying some miniature roses ….or maybe even some hanging roses, more water lilies for the pond and perhaps some quick growing ivy to trail up the stark walls.

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Las Meninas Figurines

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Not long ago I discovered some really interesting figurines called Meninas and as soon as I saw them I knew I couldn’t go on living another minute without one. The name itself intrigued me because the only meninas I was familiar with was the famous painting by XVII century painter Diego Velazquez called Las Meninas. Diego Velazquez has always been one of my favorite artists because his paintings almost look like photographs not to mention the fact that Velazquez himself was quite a handsome and dashing guy, in a D’Artagnan-esque sort of way. I quickly realized that these cute little dolls and figurines are actually based on that 1656 masterpiece in which he depicts the Spanish infanta, Princess Margarita Teresa at about age 5 or so surrounded by her ladies in waiting.

Las Meninas by Diego Velasquez

Las Meninas by Diego Velazquez

Infanta is the term used in Spain to refer to the daughter of the king and menina was the term used for lady in waiting or maids of honor in the Spanish Court. Princess Margarita Teresa was the daughter of Philip IV of Spain and his second wife Mariana of Austria. She was married off to her uncle Leopold I when she was 15 years old and he was 26. In spite of the age difference their marriage was a happy one particularly because they both shared many interests including music and the theater and the couple loved each other dearly. Sadly though, Margarita Teresa died at the young age of 22 when she gave birth to her fourth child.  Diego Velazquez painted several portraits of the infanta at different ages as well as of the royal family, capturing every luxurious detail of their clothing and of the elaborate fashions of the day as well as their intricate hair styles and colorful accessories. It is on these portraits that the menina figurines are based.  Meninas are often made of plaster or ceramic and most of them are faceless, but they are easily recognizable because of their wide skirt and round puffy hairdo. Many people collect them as home decor items and they are particularly cute used in vignettes. Meninas are also sold plain white and ready to paint and decorate as a DIY project. I fell in love with these little figurines and the first menina I purchased was a plain plaster one who’s skirt I decoupaged.

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A typical plaster menina

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I also purchased a ceramic menina that came in a boring mustard color from head to foot. I decoupaged her skirt as well.

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This menina was originallhy a boring mustard color so I decoupaged her skirt as well.

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Then I saw some home made papier maché meninas online and I decided to try and make a couple of my own using a whiskey bottle as a mold for the wide skirt.

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I covered the bottle completely in plastic wrap so that the papier maché wouldn’t stick to it and could later be easily removed.

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When the skirt shape was dry I removed it from the bottle.

When the skirt shape was dry I removed it from the bottle. Then I added the torso, arms and head also out of papier maché.

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Next I added the puffy hair and then gave the whole thing a coating of wall filler putty to smooth it out.

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After letting it dry for a couple of days, I painted and decoupaged it and lastly added a coat of transparent polyurethane varnish on top.

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Here is another smaller papier maché menina that I made.

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The menina in the white dress is one of two with a face on them.

The menina in the white dress is one of two that I have with a face on them.

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The menina in the black dress is modeled after another of Diego Velazquez’s paintings, this time of  Margarita Teresa’s mother, Queen Mariana of Austria.

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Here are some beautiful plaster meninas made by another blogger. I love the colors she has used. Unfortunately larger meninas of this size are difficult to come by on this side of the pond. They’re quite heavy.

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 Pinceladas de Rosas Meninas

These are huge meninas used as sidewalk decorations in Asturias, Spain

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 Source

Even Picasso painted his own version of Las Meninas inspired by Velazquez’s painting.

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And this is the handsome and debonair Velazquez himself. If you look closely at his painting of Las Meninas you can see that he has painted himself on the left hand side, standing in front of an easel with a paintbrush in his hand.

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