Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How To: Easy and cost effective way to make a bird bath

I have quite a few furry and feathered friends that live in my backyard, specifically a family of rabbits, squirrels, and a pair of cardinals. Our backyard is their home, a place for them to seek shelter, bathe, play, and eat, until their little hearts content. I love having them around and I am happy to share my yard with them.

One day, I noticed one of my squirrel friends drinking nasty, dirty water from my sons kiddie pool. I felt terrible for the little guy and decided to make him his own drinking bowl. I needed something that would be low enough for the squirrels to reach, but sturdy enough that they wouldn't knock it over, and with that thought in mind I headed off to the thrift store.

This is what I bought:

The plan was to put the solar light in the base (the light globe) of the squirrel bath/water bowl so that it would glow in the evenings and attach the glass mixing bowl to the light globe.

Tada! The fully assembled $2.00 squirrel bath/water bowl!

This would be a fun project for making a bird bath too! All you would need is a taller base. In fact, there were quite a few ornate vases at the thrift store that could have made an elegant bird bath. It was hard resisting the urge to buy one to make another bird bath for the yard. 

Here it is in the backyard, alongside the bird bath and amidst the flowers. So peaceful.

I tried to get a photograph of the squirrels using it but by the time I get my camera, they are long gone. You will just have to believe me when I tell you that it is adorable watching them get a drink of water from their little squirrel bowl. ;-P

Monday, July 18, 2011

Quick Tip: Removing acrylic/latex paint from clothing

Working in restoration and being an illustrator, I come into contact with paint on a daily basis. In fact, I most likely have more clothes that are spattered with paint than I do "good" clothes. For the most part, I have come to accept this as the sacrifice I'm willing to make to do something I love! But sometimes...that paint seeps its way onto clothing that I want to keep pristine! You know, for those occasions that I want to look nice, dare I say...pretty. While this is frustrating, I have learned how to deal with those few unruly paint drops, smears, and smudges.

Please note: the steps below have been used on cotton clothing, I have not tried this on synthetics.

First, and the MOST important step to removing latex or acrylic paint from clothing is to immediately put the item in cold water, ice cubes work too. The sooner you can get the item into cold water the better. However, I have done this procedure with clothing that has sat for a day or two and while the results aren't as good, it does still work. Do not use hot or warm water, or put the item in the dryer or use an iron on it until the stain is removed. Using any sort of heat on the paint stain will cause it to set and once that happens, the paint will not budge! 

You can also add some dish soap to the stain and work it in a bit before putting the clothing into the water. Let the item sit in the cold water for a while. I usually let it sit for a few hours. Depending on the size of the stain and how soon you get into the cold water, will determine how quickly the paint will start to dissipate without having to do much else.

Next, grab the dish soap, any old dish soap will do, and apply the dish soap to the paint stain. Rub the stained fabric together. Rinse (with cold water), and repeat until the stain is gone. Once the stain has been removed, you can launder and dry the item as usual.

See...pesky paint stain is all gone! :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Mysterious Black Cat

Once a week Doris has evening hours for volunteers to come in and work at Shea’s. Usually a work night at Shea’s is pretty typical…we set up for a job, do the job, clean up, and go home. One night, however, something strange happened….

A few weeks ago I was diligently painting the frame and pediment above one of the fire exit doors in the balcony. It was a really warm night so I propped open the doors in order to get some fresh air. The exit doors are very tall so I needed a 10 foot ladder to reach the pediment. As I was painting I kept noticing a crinkling sound. I just assumed that it was the plastic tarp beneath me, rustling from the breeze that was coming into the building through the opened doors. So, without looking down, I kept painting…..

After a few minutes something told me to look down. So I did. And then I almost fell off the ladder in shock….Standing directly under me was a completely black cat, with green eyes, staring up at me. Now how would you shoo away a cat from a 10 foot ladder holding a can of paint in one hand and a paint brush in the other? Hopefully very carefully…which is what I did. The problem with that was the cat was not very scared and did not really seem too interested in leaving. So I carefully made my way down the ladder, making sure not to take my eyes off him (the last thing I wanted to have to do was tell Doris that I let a cat into the building and now had no idea where he was). Thankfully by the time I made it halfway down the ladder he decided that I was close enough and scooted out the door. Relieved that I had just avoided a disaster, I climbed back up the ladder and continued painting. Only to hear that noise again. This time I didn’t hesitate to look down. Sure enough, there was the cat . So, very carefully, back down the ladder I went. And again, when I got about halfway down, the cat ran back outside. This went on about 2 or 3 more times. After a while the cat stopped coming in. I glanced out into the alley, so sure that I would see him sitting on the fire escape stairs or milling around on the ground. But there was no sign of the black cat. Then I started to panic. Did he sneak in without me seeing him? Or am I just going crazy? Without any real way to answer that question…I went back to work.

After a few more minutes of painting…that noise. The cat! Knowing the routine, I made my way down the ladder. Only this time instead of stopping halfway I went all the way down. I needed to see where the cat was going. I needed to confirm that I wasn’t going crazy. And I needed to be sure that he wasn’t anywhere inside the building.

Lucky for me I made it to the doorway just in time to see my new friend scurry down the stairs and out of the alley. I will never know where he came from. Who he belongs to. Or what made him decide to pay me a visit. But I am sure that he isn’t roaming around inside of Shea’s…and I am NOT crazy!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Before & After: Refinished window bench and cabinet

As I mentioned earlier, I finally made some progress with my refinishing adventure. As much as I love the results, I did not enjoy the hot, sticky summer days of scraping layers of paint. All the paint had to be removed from the wood whether the wood was going to be painted or stained because it was chipping off in large, hard pieces. If I had tried to paint over the old, chipped paint, it would eventually pull away from the wood and I would have the same problem all over again.

I am terrible about remembering to take photographs of my projects before I start them so the photos below are of the hallway at the very start of the stripping process.


Top half of the built-in cabinet. These are the colors it was painted when we moved in.

Bottom half of the built-in cabinet.

Built-in window seat.

Starting to remove the old paint and stain from the cabinet drawers.

The woodwork on our second floor, where this area is located, is pine. The woodwork on our first floor and our staircase is oak. This was typical construction for older homes as most people did not see the upstairs rooms, so to save on cost, the more expensive wood was used in the rooms that would receive guests. I chose to use the same stain on all the wood to keep the look throughout the house consistent. Pine is a soft wood and so the stain doesn't absorb evenly. Needless to say, it took some finesse to stain these pieces, but it was so worth it!


I am very pleased with the results. The clean look of the white paint against the rich, deep stain color gives the space a classy but comfy feel. I will be adding some more details to this space in the months to come so stay tuned!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Classic Baroque Composite Ornamentation

Original ornamentation with missing pieces

Replicated ornamentation using WoodEpox and test mold

Using the first mold, which has several flaws, I cast a test piece and am not displeased. My good friend Andrea, an outstanding Historic Sites consultant, gave me information about WoodEpox that is a marvelous product and as you can see, looks very much like the original Composite Ornamentation from 1926. I mounted the replicated piece on a thin piece of wood and painted it gold to see if I have to make any adjustments.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Quick Tip: Light a candle with spaghetti


Jar candles are a great way to create a comfortable and inviting atmosphere in your home. The warm glow and soft scents of a burning candle sets a romantic ambiance and relaxing mood for your environment, but what do you do when the candle burns down to a point that you can't reach the wick to light it?
Use an uncooked spaghetti noodle! The noodle will burn like a match does and it is long enough to reach the bottom of the jar. You won't have to invest and store fireplace matches and (usually) spaghetti is always available!   

Friday, June 17, 2011

Composit castings

I have tried several methods of recreating delicate bas relief castings done in the 1920's using more modern materials but with unsatisfactory results until a friend of mine looked at the original pieces and remembered that hide glue and sawdust were used. I have found liquid hide glue and will comb lumber yards for fine sawdust. So you know what I will be doing this weekend! Pictures will be posted soon, even if the projuect does not turn out right away. We often learn more from our failures than our successes.

-doris C.