January Art Journal Recap

In The Studio

With the stormy weather that one weekend setting me back, I managed to fit two pages into the following week and kept to my goal of 1 art journal page a week for the month of January. It’s a start, and I’m really enjoying the self-imposed deadline each week that helps me get my butt in gear (and in the seat) and do something in that journal I made!

So far I’ve been painting more than anything and, while there’s nothing wrong with that, I think I’ll challenge myself to collage more in February. Amusingly enough, collage used to be my go-to start to any project, so having to tell myself to collage more strikes me as quite the turnaround.

For the sake of completeness, I’m going to include the first page/video here, even though I posted it before.


Just Floating Along (youtube link)


The Time of Our Lives (youtube link)’


Swirl of Confusion (youtube link)


What Do I Stand For (youtube link)

So far I have to say I like the graphic look of the last one best of all, but I think the way the second came together is a close second. It’s one thing to have a particular idea in mind and get pretty close (like pages 3 and 4), but to have only the vaguest notion and then end up with a pretty stellar image, that’s a cool thing. Sure, had I been planning and plotting I might have arranged some of the elements in Time a bit differently, but you surrender editing control and the like when you work in an art journal.

I’m still working out the kinks in the filming department, but i’m sure I’ll have it mastered by the end of February (so she says…)

One other thing I’ve been remiss in mentioning over here is the other project that was keeping me more than a bit busy at the end of the year and beginning of the new one. That would be the first issue of my Activity Book for Grown-Ups!


Click the image above or this handy link right here <Click Me for Fun!> to read through or download your own copy so you can print out the coloring pages, the other printables, and the puzzles for your own amusement. The next issue is set to come out towards the end of March and I’d love any feedback you have on the magazine itself (what you liked, what you didn’t, what you want more or less of, that sort of thing).

Extreme Halloween Makeover: Hallway Edition

Everyday Adventures

This post is part of any ongoing promotion with Oriental Trading Company. All photos, projects, and opinions are my own.

There are folks out there who turn their home, garages, or yards into haunted houses. Or who sync up running lights to music and put on a real show for the neighborhood (something Todd totally wants to do for Christmas, one day, by the way). This year, I think we’ve stumbled into that territory.

Aside from the outside decor, which anyone passing by can see, the entry way of the home is probably the place you get the most bang for your decorating buck. Trick-or-treaters see it, anyone else who comes to your door sees it, and it’s the first thing guests see when they enter your home for a visit or party. If you have a foyer, vestibule, or entry hall, it’s probably not a massive space, so it’s easier to do some high-impact decorating in this space.

Greetings of the season for sure!

Greetings of the season for sure!

That’s not a scene-setter, folks, that’s a mural I painted onto our entryway wall over the last few weeks.

A few weeks ago I was somewhat bored and restless, and sometimes that translates to a cleaning spree. There was a piece of torn wallpaper in our entryway so I decided I was just going to removed the lifted, damaged bit, just so it wasn’t hanging around being obvious, and we could go back to ignoring the 20+ year old wallpaper that we will eventually be replacing. To my surprise, though, the entire sheet came up with just a little tug.

And a little later I ended up with an expanse of white wall up the first half of our staircase.


The white wall irritated me–it was so plain! It highlighted that we haven’t hung things on the wall. It mocked me.

So I gave it a temporary makeover for the holidays!


A better view of our mural

While there are some more details I want to add (blades of grass, more detailing on the tree), I’m happy with where it is for now and can move onto decorating the rest of our entryway in our customary fashion.

The first focus is the staircase–I cannot tell you how much I love having a banister to decorate for the holidays! I have fond memories of my grandmother’s house at Christmas with stockings for the extended family lining the banister and it’s always been the epitome of holidays to me. Porch railings just aren’t the same, I’ve learned over the years!

A festooned banister makes my heart happy!

A festooned banister makes my heart happy!

Long-time readers might recognize the candy corn garland from several years (and 2 houses) ago as well as last year’s hand-stamped skull ribbon tucked in along with the tatty creepy cloth and black drapey fabric. The paper mache pumpkin is from Marshalls (several years back) and sits in the hollow created by a missing spindle.

Chandeliers need spooking too!

Chandeliers need spooking too!

More of the creepy cloth drapes the arms of our entryway light fixture. The flame-shaped bulbs and drippy-looking candle cover sleeves (the official name, apparently, for the plastic tubes that slip over the lamp bits) work especially well for Halloween, I think!

Of course, also on our stairs are two of our Oriental Trading Company scores.


You can also see some of the rough nature of the mural painting–I tried not to get too precious with it, knowing that it’s temporary.


The little rat silhouettes with their red crystal eyes work just perfectly on the stair treads and along the mural. I used about half the package here, so I have the other half to sprinkle elsewhere in the house, and the double-sided foam adhesive that came with them is super sticky (unlike a major lifestyle brand’s raven silhouettes I purchased several years ago that would never stick with the provided foam dots) and I have every confidence that they won’t scurry off elsewhere before the party in a few weeks.


The glow-in-the-dark footstep clings were a little more of a challenge, but I figured it out. It could be (most likely is) the worn finish of our stair treads (all the wood flooring in the house needs to be refinished some day), but they weren’t automatically receptive to the clings. BUT! Knowing the trick about wetting suction cups to get them to adhere, I decided to swipe the step with a damp paper towel and that totally did the trick. We’ll see if I have to redo any of the spots, but so far, so good. And I kept them to the railing-side of the steps just in case any came loose–I didn’t want to create a hazard on our already treacherous staircase (it has a history… but that’s a story for another post!).

Of course, you want to know if they really glow, right?

Something phosphorescent this way creeps!

Something phosphorescent this way creeps!

They do! Granted, because we’d just set them out they hadn’t gathered enough light to glow very brightly, so to one you see here that’s really standing out is because Todd shined his flashlight on it for a few moments to “charge” the footprint. Pretty cool, right?

Across from the staircase (and between the doorways to the living and my office) we have our console table with our little Halloween village set-up and the motion-activated ghoul mirror.


We’ve amassed quite a bit of the creepy cloth of various hues and use it liberally! It’s so inexpensive and can be used for a lot of things, but I will warn you–the darker versions tend not to be color-fast. My fingertips are usually grey by the time I finish messing with it, so be careful what it’s brushing up against.

jvanderbeek_halloween_2015_decorations-0287Our village is made up of a couple of tin houses (candles will flicker inside them for the party) and an animated Lemax pieces that features a costume contest in progress. Then smaller figures–a mix of craft store and dollar store finds–fill up the rest of the space.


We still need to set up the photo-booth backdrop in the back corner of the entry (a post for next week), but these two areas in our entry hall pretty much set the stage for when guests come by.

Gingerbread Diaries 1.7 | Monogrammed Mailbox Makeover {video}

The Gingerbread Diaries

Blowing the sawdust off a video from before we actually moved in last year (at which point we were way too busy to actually edit and post house videos) and it’s actually a video I did more in than just act as camera woman and peanut gallery!

(Direct link for the feed readers: Gingerbread Diaries 1.7: Monogrammed Mailbox Makeover)

The plan had been that I’d be able to give the rooms a good cleaning and maybe even paint or some small touch-ups inside between when we closed in April and when we were slated to move in June. Said plan was derailed when we realized just how futile any of that would be with the contractor & crew traipsing through and leaving mess in their wake every week. Not to mention the delay in getting hot water and all that good stuff.

So, finally, I found something that I could do, on my own, that the contractor couldn’t mess with, while Todd did things like hang smoke detectors and replace the doorbell buzzer thing. We knew full well going into this house that Todd was Mr. Fix-It and I was Mrs. Decorate It. Each to their own strengths. And I was feeling pretty damned useless those first several weekends up there since we were firmly in triage mode for so very long.

But I love our mailbox and it’s held up very well over the last year. The paint looks brand new and, really, the only wear that shows is on the very top where the spray varnish (Rustoleum, I think) is worn from the sun and weather combo and you can see a bit of ghosting on the edges of the wear area. But you pretty much have to be Todd’s height and standing right there to see it. So totally not a big deal at all.

As I said in the video, I used the testers of house paint so the colors are the same ones we painted the house (instant match). While I had a flat (1/4″ ish) brush and a round brush, I found the round brush the most useful, even though the style of the letters totally looks like it would be a snap with the flat brush. Go figure. The monogram on the front was hell to figure out–the V and J were easy, but the T just fought me so hard. Were I to do it again, I would probably make both the J and T a more serifed typestyle and less of a cursive/scripty sort. But it works, so I’m not going to be stripping it anytime soon.

I finished the first coat of the first side at the Thomasville house, then brought it back to Tallahassee to work on it when I had the chance between bouts of packing . The decorations added to the letters are based on some I found in an illuminated capitals book from Dover Publishing. They’re a little deco, which is a little newer than the house is, but they were also fairly simple, which is more what I was concerned with.

So that’s our mailbox project, the last official video update from our first year in the house, now it’s time to work on Year 2 videos, right?!


Porch Wish List: Come and Sit a Spell

The Gingerbread Diaries

I’ve lived in plenty of houses with porches–they’re sort of de rigeur down here, after all–but very few have been “functional” porches. What do I mean by functional? A porch that could barely hold a single chair, much less two. A glorified concrete slab under an extended roofline without even a railing to speak of. Uninviting. Austere. No fun.

A porch can serve as either a deck with a roof over it or an awning with a floor under it. The former is a place to hang out and have fun with the aid of some shade, the latter being only concerned with sheltering windows from the full-on sun. The best porches, though, are easily both and so much more.

I love coming home to this every day.

I love coming home to this every day.

Driving up to the Dollhouse each day makes me smile. Part of it is just knowing that it’s ours, all ours, and part of it is the pretty pink exterior set off by the white porch. Our porch is made for sitting and watching the world go by. But it needs a little work.

First task: Privacy

It might sound strange, wanting privacy on a porch that faces the street and all, but it’s not like I want to enclose the entire thing. It’s more than I want a little more definition on the sides of the porch. Our lot is ~70×209, so the neighboring lots are fairly close. Not so close you could reach out and borrow a cup of sugar through facing windows, but a driveway apart. The east side of the house (that would be the left when facing the house) has a line of trees that creates some natural fencing, but the west is not so lucky. And while I like our neighbors well enough, I don’t want to feel self-conscious about not talking to the residents that routinely take the afternoon sun next door every time I venture out.

Funny how the break in the trees is right at the end of the porch...

Funny how the break in the trees is right at the end of the porch…

I think some previous tenants tried to accomplish the same thing with the sad little trellis on the right, but nothing is growing on it, currently, and my chances of training up a vine are slim to none. I could probably kill kudzu. (Though it would be divine to have wisteria and/or morning glory draped over it. A girl can dream…)

So, instead, adding some lattice panels, painted white, to each end of the porch will provide a tiny bit of privacy, some additional shade if we’re out there in the late afternoon, and still look pretty. I was inspired by the spandrels on some very fancy Victorian homes like this one.


Isn’t that awesome?!

Second task: Color

And while I’m on the subject of “walls,” another update I’d like to make is to the railing and corner pieces. Not change them for something else (are you kidding, that’s what gives the Dollhouse its Gingerbread designation!), but add a little more color. The Victorians didn’t shy away from bright and bold, so I thought it would be nice to paint the cut sides of the white balusters and brackets with our accent colors (the dark green and red) and maybe some additional decorative painting on the faces of the brackets. I’m also waffling between adding some additional molding along the top of the porch, but that might be a later update.

Finally, on the color front, our porch ceiling needs repainting already. (grumble grumble shoddy prep by “professionals” grumble grumble) It’s been peeling and chippy for months, so we knew we’d be tackling it eventually.

So much frustration...

So much frustration…

Now, apparently it’s a very Deep South thing to paint porch ceilings blue. Funny, I’ve never actually seen one or heard of this until very recently. I asked Mom and she confirms that this is not a thing in Louisiana, at least not that she observed in all her years there, only reading about it in magazines over the last little bit. I know geography isn’t my strong suit, but it still amuses me that you can call something a “Deep South” thing when you’re talking about eastern seaboard states that are a lot closer to the Mason-Dixon line than my home state or even my current one.

But I digress…

Will we paint our porch ceiling blue? Not sure. I don’t mind the idea, especially if there’s a chance it could discourage the wasps from building their nests in the eaves–we have gone through so many cans of wasp spray this first year it’s not even funny.

Third Task: Seating

Currently our porch sports a wire patio table and 2 chairs. They’re nice enough, though the chairs could use cushions, but they need a refresher. We also ended up with some spare dining chairs (I laugh at our surplus of seating these days, after so many holidays of dragging in said patio chairs and office chairs to the table) that I’ve set out on the porch for now. Things are looking a little rag-tag at the moment.

This would be the main sitting side of the porch.

This would be the main sitting side of the porch.

First I think I’ll give the patio set a good wire brushing and then a couple coats of outdoor spray paint in bright white. I don’t usually go for the when in doubt, paint it white school of decor, but the railing has such great contrast with the pink house paint and green floor that I think it’s the way to go in this case.

OH! I just had a fabulous idea! I think that the patio table needs a mosaic! *pondering design options*

Okay, while that possibility spins in the back of my mind, the three refugee chairs also could benefit from a coat of paint along with other repairs. And after seeing them sitting so close together like this, I began wondering if I could (and by that you know I mean Todd) join them together and make a chaise lounge out of them, capitalizing on the single armed-ness of the one chair. I’ve wanted a chaise lounge for so long–probably the one piece of furniture I’ve wanted, unabated, since childhood–and this looks like a good way to DIY it. I can pad the single arm and made cushions out of outdoor-friendly fabric and foam (and make matching ones for the patio chairs) and it’ll be the prefect place to lounge on the few days of the year it’s bearable to be outside.

Maybe we need a fan on the porch…

Fourth Task: Fixtures

There's a difference between antique and decaying!

There’s a difference between antique and decaying!

Fan or no, we definitely need a new porch light. We’ve spotted some contenders during our many trips to Lowe’s for one thing or another.

This being our favorite so far,

This being our favorite so far

Also in the plans are some shutters for the windows in the same green as the porch floor and, finally, a new front door. Screen optional.


Our front door is in really sad shape: there’s a pronounced gap at the top, it only stays closed when the deadbolt is flipped, and (as I believe I’ve mentioned before) it swings the wrong way. Todd brought home door brochures from Lowe’s and absolutely nothing looked right to me. I want glass, but not frosted or textured. The ones with leading are nice, but too modern.  Basically, I want something that looks a lot like our back door, but with a single pane of glass, either 1/3 or 2/3 the height, not half or full glass.

Okay, what I really want are a pair of narrow double doors with side lights, but that would require changing the entire front of the entryway and, well, I don’t want it that badly.

And there’s a better chance of us finding a salvaged door that Todd would have to man-handle into what I want than finding it in the store, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

We’ve also talked about maybe having a porch swing installed (but I’m not sure the porch roof would hold it), and a second seating area over on the opposite side of the porch by the living room bay. It’s not quite as spacious over there, but there’s room for a small chair and table, I think.


Our porch is pretty spiffy as is, but I look forward to spending more time out here once we’ve squared away a few details.

Guest Appreciation: A Seat for Every Seat

64 Arts, Projects

With one foot still in carpentry we’re going to take a half-step towards the next art for this next project before fully immersing ourselves in

37 House Furnishings and Decorations

When we entertain it’s important that all of our guests have a spot—be it to stand or sit really depends on what type of gathering you’re having. As most of our get-togethers involve a meal or playing games (not of the sporty type), having seats for everyone becomes kind of important to the size of our gathering.

I’ve rented chairs for big parties, and happily do so since the cost is low and it saves us having to store them. We have a couple of folding chairs in the garage that we can bring out for the occasional extra keister or two, but they don’t sit as high as the rest of the dining room chairs, so it’s not the best solution for large family dinners.

Ergo, it’s time to make over my $3 chair.

My $3 side-of-the-road antique store chair.

My $3 side-of-the-road antique store chair.

I bought this chair from a little antique shop that’s no longer in business and, yes, paid a whopping $3 for it. The original plan was to clean it up (it still had a seat then) and use it as a spare chair in my sparsely furnished apartment. That didn’t happen, so it’s spent it’s life in multiple garages and storage rooms until the seat’s rotted out and it’s collected more cobwebs than I really want to think about.

So when I started stripping the antique school desk to refinish it, I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone, and save myself some grief.

Well, that’s not exactly how things worked.

After the first round of stripping and scouring, the chair didn't look that much different!

After the first round of stripping and scouring, the chair didn’t look that much different!

The first round of stripping and sanding barely made a dent in the paint and varnish combo on the chair, so then next weekend I tried again with a heavier stripping pad and even a scraper. I still only got partway through the finish and, by that point, I was so very over this process.

And I reminded myself it was only a $3 chair.

New plan! Screw the refinishing, let’s just paint the sucker. I started out with 2 coats of matte-finish spray paint in a dark brown as an undercoat.

After 2 rounds of stripping and scraping and sanding and 2 coats of paint, it sorta looks like where we started. Not for long!

After 2 rounds of stripping and scraping and sanding and 2 coats of paint, it sorta looks like where we started. Not for long!

That’s where things are right now, since the weather isn’t exactly cooperating—it’s been either too cold or too wet to get any more painting done, plus I need Todd to cut a new seat for the chair and fashion new braces for the legs.

(The brace being the cross-piece between the front and back legs. One was missing when I bought the chair, and we were unable to find any turned braced the right size or length to match, so we’re going to sub in a round dowel rod with the ends cut to fit the existing holes, and go from there.)

The pieces for the rest of the makeover: 3/4" plywood and 2 " foam for the seat, and a 1-inch dowel for the braces.

The pieces for the rest of the makeover: 3/4″ plywood and 2 ” foam for the seat, and a 1-inch dowel for the braces.

Once the new seat and braces are cut, the entire chair will get a coat of a light blue paint and then I’ll distress the edges so that the brown underlayer shows through a bit (like this project from Crane Farms, but not quite as distressed). I thought about using a crackle medium, but didn’t want something quite so shabby chique as all that. Instead I’ll go for simple distressing for a nice aged look.

Then I’ll seal it to prevent more paint than I want from coming loose.

I’ve also picked up some thick foam to cushion the seat with. I’ll cut it to the needed size and shape, bevel the top edges so it’ll look prettier, and then cover the seat with some plush, dark-brown microsuede (I’ve got an entire bolt of the stuff from another project that went nowhere).

Theoretically this chair will match the triptych I painted for the living room (of our last house) that now hangs above our television. The chair probably won’t live in our current living room, but at least it’ll look nice when we bring it out for guests (though I keep starting at a particular corner wondering if I could make it fit with the desk.

This is a rough mock-up of how I see the chair ending up. We'll see how close reality is to idea.

This is a rough mock-up of how I see the chair ending up. We’ll see how close reality is to idea.

Obviously I’m not done with this project, but I want to stay on track with the blog schedule I laid down for myself, so next week we’ll be talking about another facet of home decorating. Once the chair project is done I’ll post that update on the nearest Thursday.

Cool? Cool.