Wicker Bull's Head

I have been searching for a vintage wicker bull's head for a while now. I was smitten by this image of Lorenzo Castillo's kitchen, which I believe I first saw posted by Heather Clawson. I missed my opportunity to buy one from Jayson Home. They carried two sizes and were pretty nice but I hesitated because they were pretty expensive, and now they no longer offer it. 

When I saw that Target was selling one (via Emily Henderson's blog), for like 29 Dollars, I bit. I ordered it online and kept my fingers crossed. 

I'm giving this a try but I think I might hate this guy. He lacks the coolness of a vintage piece -it's too new looking and the face sort of looks like a pig rather than a bull (the eyes are sort of piggy looking). And, the snout is too long. I wonder if this would look better sprayed with linseed oil to darken it. 

Maybe a wreath of greens would improve his looks and who knows I may still grow to like him. Meanwhile I continue to search for the real deal- a vintage one from Spain or France. I'd love to have a little collection of smaller ones up there. If anyone has a source, please do tell.


A New Piano

We have a new piano.

I got it from a salvage yard in San Francisco. It is a former player piano that no longer has the player mechanism in it. It dates from 1917 and has a beautiful sound. It's loud and rich AND I knew that Kit would just love the way the little doors open allowing him to see the hammers hitting the strings.

This was the notice taped to it. This piano has been sitting somewhere since 1999.

When I saw this piano, I was immediately drawn to it but I was just breezing through the yard in search of salvaged lumber, besides that they were asking $300 and it's not easy/cheap to transport a piano. 

And, if you are a regular reader, you might recall that I already have a piano, a cute little Bradbury spinet. This little guy is only a loaner though, it belongs to my brother-in-law. I moved the map and put up the suzani earlier this year. You can see some other iterations of this nook here. (Clearly I like to move my stuff around).

Anyhoo, I left the yard without buying this thing, but I couldn't get it off my mind. It was ugly painted white but it sounded so good and I knew it would look awesome painted black. I went back twice before pulling the trigger and paying $250 for it. I'm so happy with it and so is Kit. He likes to play out patterns and chords and it sounds so lovely in the house. As for me, learning the piano is on my bucket list, but realistically not until I'm too decrepit to pursue my other more physical and creative interests (like running and DIY mania -because let's be real, there are only so many hours in the day).

It took three guys -two who were as large as pianos themselves, to haul it up one flight of stairs and to bring the other one down. 

Almost the entire piano's original varnish has alligatoring, I am completely ignoring that. I dry-scraped the top with a razor and knocked off other areas where the adhesion of the other two layers of paint weren't good. I wiped everything but the keys with de-glosser and then primed it with tinted Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3. Any paint store can add a little dark base to bring the tre-white primer to a mid-range grey for darker topcoats. 

I used a dry toothbrush to clean the red felt that runs along the top to the keys. It pops so nicely against the black and white, hard to believe that's almost 100 years old. I cleaned the keyboard with a damp cloth.

I also very delicately vacuumed the interior with a dusting brush attachment and my vacuum set on the very lowest setting.

The paint is Benjamin Moore's Black Beauty in eggshell. It has just the slightest bit of white in it, which I think suites the era of the piano. It took about 3 or 4 coats to get good coverage.

Right now I'm using this drummers stool for a seat but I'd like to find a glass ball claw foot stool of the same era for it.




I'm thinking of going back to cloth napkins. 
I dyed this linen some time ago (for a pillow) but the color didn't come out as I'd planned so it was sitting in my fabric pile. I had enough for four 24" squares. 

I didn't go with seams and instead used a fairly tight zigzag stitch at the raw edge. On the prefinished edge (one per napkin the way I cut them), I zigzagged slightly off the edge because I liked the way it looked.

I edged in different colors so that we can use the napkins more than once and not get them confused, kind of like what we do with our tooth brushes.

This was a very fast project, btw. An hour or two of stollen time in the morning.


Found Storage Cubby

I've had really good karma lately for street finds. 
I recently found this little storage box out in Noe Valley.

It was looking a little ratty, especially with the tape remnants on the top.

It was in perfect shape structurally though, it just needed some light sanding to minimize the water marks and to get rid of the gummy tape residue.

I bought this random orbit sander recently when I was redoing the window sills in Ethan's room. I justified this splurge because I am also planning on repainting the trim on the rear deck which is peeling and will need some sanding prep. I like Makita as a brand and usually stick with that if I can. This sander is a charm to use; it is way superior to one of those palm sanders (faster and quieter) and has the added bonus of velcro backed sand paper disks which are worth every penny in my opinion.

It cleaned up not perfectly but pretty nicely. I only gave it the lightest of sanding with 250 grit because I didn't want to eat through the top layer of veneer. I finished it with one application of Butchers Bowling Alley Wax. The paper I had leftover from when I lined this dresser's drawers.

This thing is perfect for housing my thread. I'm using the bottom drawer to hold all the tools and presser feet to my new (old) sewing machine. For now I'm storing this little box within the larger cabinet in my living room that houses a bunch of fabric. That cabinet is here, in case you're curious.

Nice, right? Much more pleasing to look at than the plastic boxes I had been using.


Dry Garden

My garden had been toughing out the California drought pretty well until this summer. The grass was perpetually brown and all but the plants and trees seemed pretty unscathed. Trying to be a good conservationist, I rarely watered.

And I recycled bathwater whenever I could because I have a mega bathtub upstairs.

When I got back from my vacation at the end of June, my garden looked terrible. Many of the trees were losing their leaves, which sort of alarmed me. This poor lemon tree is looking really pathetic right now.

These guys (laurus nobilis) were turning brown and dropping their leaves as if it were autumn (in June!), besides that these guys keep most of their leaves year round.

The creeping fig was also drying up.

I bit the bullet and bought some soaker hoses. That way I can keep my garden alive while using as little water as is possible. I already have some soaker hoses on the east and west walls (which I had been using about once a month), but had none at the rear, north wall, where all this leaf dropping is happening.

I'm hoping that a few slow deep soaks can remedy things until the winter rain (hopefully) arrives. The hoses say they give about 1/2 to 1 gallon of water per foot per hour. I ran the long one for an hour and the short one for about a half hour. This is only about the equivalent of one or two big tubs, so everybody keep their pants on!  Oh please please please let a mother of all el ninos come our way this winter.

If you live in California, are you watering your garden or yard? 


Happy New Sewing Machine To Me

This year for my birthday, which was back in April, I decided I was going to buy myself a new sewing machine. I have a basic Singer (which I got new 14 years ago), that could tackle most of my sewing projects but was slow and loud. I was also having trouble getting the Singer to sew thicker materials, like the coil vessels I've been making lately. A reader pointed me to a Forum (patternreview.com) which started my research for a replacement machine. 

Once I started reading about machines, it was clear that a vintage mechanical machine was the way to go for me -I needed a work horse. With sewing machines, the adage "they don't make them like they used to", certainly rings true unless you are dumping thousands (like upwards of 8K) for a new machine. This is because affordable new machines largely use plastic parts, whereas all those old machines use metal ones. 

Anyway, I'm not going to pretend I'm any expert, because I'm a total newb in this whole vintage sewing machine world. I did learn enough about vintage machines on this incredible site (Ashleyandthenoisemakers) to set my sites on a Bernina 830 Record. 

I got my machine on Ebay. It is from 1975. It cost me $320 (including shipping) and then I spent $125 to have it serviced by a technician here in SF. $445 for a forty year old machine, crazy right?! Let me tell you though, this machine is a Ferrari to my Volkswagen. It's fast, precise and quiet. Some of the features I've noticed right away on this Bernina that I love are: A bobbin that goes on forever, reverse stitching that lines up with the forward stitches and speed, speed, speed. 

This machine has a bunch of fancy embroidery stitches that I haven't experimented with yet and also has an array of beautifully made presser feet for different hemming applications that I've just started fooling around with. 

I'm still learning how to use this machine so I started with a few simple bedding projects. This metalasse fabric was from a comforter cover whose cotton backside disintegrated with wear. I cut that off and made it into a blanket with a zigzag edge. 

I also made these squares for my bed from some pale pink linen. I had just enough fabric for two of them. 

Usually I prefer a flange for bed pillows because without one a square pillow can look like it belongs on a couch, but in this case I thought the linen was dainty enough not to read that way. Also a bed pillow should not be too full -to also prevent that couch look, IMO. Just as an aside, I am also preferring under-inflated decorative pillows everywhere these days.

This project only took a couple hours to knock out. I've learned to keep zipper tape on hand so that I don't find myself unable to do a quick project for lack of zippers. I am partial to a invisible zipper application, I find them easier to sew.

So, so far it's happy sewing times around here. I am in love with my new Bernina!


Street Find Planter

Today's post is a one-two dose of some of my favorite things -street finds and avocado plants.
I found this sweet planter on a street corner in my neighborhood a little while back.

What the what? I don't know why anyone would get rid of this thing. It's in mint condition. I thought it'd be perfect for the avocado tree in my bedroom that has outgrown its pot several times over by now, plus an avocado seems the perfect plant for the so-cal, mid-century vibe this pot has going.

These are my babies I've been growing for years. You can see their origins here and here.

Because this pot is so big (about 14" in diameter), I wanted to be able to place it on a table without a saucer under it. For this reason I used a liner to block moisture at the base. I know this is risky business with rotting roots, but I will be very careful with my watering. This particular avocado has had some hard times lately -perpetually dry (I've been out of town a bit this summer) and in a pot too small, so I'm curious to see how it does with abundant root space and water.

Growing avocado trees is so much fun. Everyone should do it! I find that they are best looking at their early stages and can become uglier over time when their leaves become larger, tougher and droopy. The beauty is you can just keep a continuous crop of these young thing going year round, just like a nasty serial bachelor!


The Super Treacherous Paint Job from Hell

So last week when I started prepping Ethan's room for painting, I made the super bummer discovery that the paint had really failed in there.
It just peeled off the wall -epecially in the areas that were mudded at the drywall joints.

Because I was going from dark blue to white, I knew this paint job was going to be tedious but this peeling paint issue was taking it to a different level altogether. 

After I scraped the paint that easily came off, I used spackle to smooth the transition from the remaining paint to the bare walls so that they weren't completely ridgy. I like the spackle that transitions from pink to white as it dries because it is helps to be able to see the patches while working. After it dried, I used a large plasterers sponge to sand.

This was beyond tedious. I did two walls and then made the executive decision to leave the other two alone and just paint over them. It's a bummer to be painting over paint that could/will fail but my only consolation is that if/when the paint dings, it will ding down to the mud and because the walls will be white now, the dings won't be nearly as visible as they were with the dark paint. The perfectionist in me cringes at how lame this is, but I was really losing it over this paint job and that's not good. I figure that some day when I sell my house I'll have to get it all professionally painted anyway so whoever can deal with this problem then.

The second part of this paint job that couldn't be ignored was repairing the window sills. This is a long and complicated saga, which is too boring to go into in great detail. Suffice to say that when we built the house, the edges of these sills where mudded incorrectly which caused them to chip at the corners almost immediately. When I asked to have them repaired, it was done in a super lame-ass way -they just added a corner bead on top of everything and added an additional layer of mud (over the unprimed paint), which of course also peeled off like an onion.

So these I scraped down entirely and redid correctly with the filler built up flush to (but not over) the substrate sill, which is made of melamine.

This was a perfect job for Bondo because it is far more durable than spackle or joint compound. Usually I use the stuff designated for auto body repair, but decided to try out this new product which is for home use. Honestly, it worked just like the auto body stuff -I couldn't tell the difference (smelled just as toxic but dried really quickly and was sandable in minutes). This product absolutely requires a ventilator when using.

I decided to go with this shellac based primer for the entire room. My greatest worry was getting proper adhesion on all of the different surfaces I now had -paint, spackle and raw mud. The best thing about this stuff is it dries very quickly and truly sticks to everything. The worst is that it is very liquidy so that even edge-lock painters tape failed with this shit.


In the end the room came out pretty great. It's pure white -Benjamin Moore's OC-117 (just like the rest of my house). It took 2 coats of primer and 3 coats of Aura to get it covered. Ethan's room is now very sparse and lovely. It's a huge change from the old days (2011) and (2012).

He's still deciding on what to do with his windows. He absolutely must have curtains because he is a teenage vampire and needs to be able to sleep in on weekends.