Sunday, November 12, 2017

Cottage Life - My Hutch Makeover, Fall Decor and More

Hello Cottage Friends,

I have some things to share with you today, but first I want to thank all of you who commented on my last post. You are kind, thoughtful souls and I appreciate all of you very much. 

This past week I received an email from a new reader named Ruth. She told me she had discovered my blog via a Pinterest pin, and that this spring her husband and she will be moving into a smaller home. She writes:

     My husband and I raised eight children in two different  four-bedroom homes. Now that my husband has retired, living in our current home is not financially feasible. This spring we will be moving into the house where I grew up. There are sad memories connected with this house, so I first had to work through those. Having done that, I have been thinking of the house as a cottage. I do love cottages. Before finding your blog I searched websites and Pinterest boards for inspiration. Now that I have found your blog, I am re-inspired! 

Ruth attached a photo of their new home, which they painted blue "as a first step toward re-imagining it as a cottage." 

Isn't her cottage adorable? It just thrills me to think that my little blog could bring encouragement to another person such as Ruth (a total stranger), and that she would take the time to write me and share her life. Wow! Thank you so much Ruth for the email, and for letting me share a bit of your story here, along with the photo. You are an inspiration.

Okay, so in my last post I mentioned that I would be making over this hutch.

I found this on Craigslist a while ago, and it's been sitting in our kitchen waiting for a redo ever since. When we designed our cottage I wanted room for a free-standing piece of furniture in the kitchen, rather than another new built-in cabinet. I felt it would add charm to the cottage. I had in mind to use a hutch, but it took some searching to find one that would fit the space, give adequate storage, and still allow for some shelves to display some of my pretty dishes.This piece is solid wood, probably from the 60's, with a maple veneer and has all the elements I was looking for. But, I'm not a fan of 60's Early American maple furniture, and since the hutch had been abused over the years, I felt no guilt in painting it.

Here you can see the damage that had been done by the previous owners; however, since both Dennis and I see open areas at the bottom of furniture as places to collect dust and spiders, we planned to enclose it anyway, and that helped solve the problem of what to do about the missing veneer.

Here's the after photo.

Isn't it cute? Dennis created and installed a simple molding for the bottom, which eliminated a home for dust bunnies under the hutch, covered the damaged area, and I think makes the piece look like it came from an old cottage.

I painted the hutch with three coats of Rustoleum Chalked Paint in Serenity Blue. Usually I make my own chalk paint to save money, but while shopping at Ace Hardware I saw this product and decided at $19.88 I'd give it a try. I'm very happy with the results, though it did take three coats to cover the wood. Still, I used less than one 30 oz. can so I feel it was money well spent. I've found that homemade chalk paint consistency can vary depending on the brand of latex paint used, and I didn't feel like messing around with a piece this large. Plus, I love this color. It's exactly the shade of blue I wanted.

It just so happened that I had some unused hardware in my stash that I thought would work well with this piece.

Now I have a place to display my mother's harp cake plate and pink depression glass, along with some pretty things I've collected along the way. 

This proves I'm not a total minimalist. However, I only keep things that I really love.

You'll notice I left the buffet's wood top natural. All I did was treat it with Howard's Restor-A-Finish and Wood Polish and Conditioner. I think the little pits and mars in the wood give it character and the feeling that it really is an old piece. The orange pumpkin is a print from an original watercolor Dennis painted 5 years ago and sold to the owner of a pumpkin farm. I bring the print out every autumn. 

I also changed out a few of the wall paintings to fall scenes. I've mentioned in past posts that I change the artwork with the seasons. (Having a an artist husband  has its advantages.)

The only other fall decor in the cottage is a handmade pumpkin I recently found at a St. Vincent de Paul thrift store and a wooden bowl with rag balls in fall colors. The pumpkin cost me a whopping $1.69 and the rag balls were made from my fabric stash. I think I paid $1 for the bowl last year at a yard sale. The pansies were brought in from the porch this week. I'm amazed they've survived this long, as there have been some nights that dipped down to the teens, but they have made it and I'm now enjoying their cheerful faces indoors.

This simple, understated approach to seasonal decorating works for me. Besides, the real beauty of fall can be seen right outside the window in the garden. One can't improve on God's creation.

"This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes."
Psalm 118:23

There's more I could share, but this post is really too long as it is. I'll be back.

Make it a great week everyone!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Cottage Life - The Things You Discover When You Don't Blog

I know fall has arrived when I see the golden hue of the large crab apple tree in our neighbor's yard. Saturday morning the sky was dark with rain clouds to the west, and as the sun broke through on the east the light was so spectacular that I grabbed my phone and scooted outdoors to photograph the tree and the red barn at the end of our alley. 

Every time I see that old barn with its fabulous patina I smile, but especially in the fall. Just imagine the barn with a plethora of pumpkins and a scarecrow nestled against it and, in my opinion, you have the ideal autumn scene.

If you're a regular reader of A Joyful Cottage you know this is my first post after a month-long blogging break. While I enjoy the interaction with A Joyful Cottage readers, I must confess that I loved every minute away from my computer. Suddenly I had hours to pursue the things I love, such as regular country walks with a friend, and lunch with another.

I had time to complete a custom rug order.

And begin a new rug.

Time to make a shabby chic gift for a dear friend in the hospital using a new technique for making fabric collages.

Time to attend an art show in Joseph, Oregon with my husband. His "Red Barn" won second place in the En Plein Air Competition.

Time to travel with Dennis to Palouse Falls in Washington state where he painted while I explored the area.

Time for reflection.

Time to breathe and listen.

My blogging break gave me more time to restore my soul with scripture. More time to soak up God's word daily.

I even had time to attack a long neglected project: the makeover of this old hutch into one more fitting for our cottage style. I'm working on it, and will reveal it when it's finished.

Blogging takes up so much of my time. Way too much. It's not just the taking of photos, writing text and posting. It's the visits to other blogs -- the blogs of people who take the time to visit and comment here. I know there are bloggers who don't reply to every comment or make return visits, but I've never been able to do that. It just seems dismissive to me. Sorry if you feel differently, and it's okay if you do. I'm not judging you. But that's just not my style. Another part of this is that blogging has changed so much in the 7 years I've been at it. Blogs I used to enjoy and read regularly have gone to monetization with ads that take for-EV-er to load and pop-ups that ruin the moment for me, and I've simply run out of patience. The other day I found a post through Pinterest that I really wanted to read, but after the endless Google Adwords searching, loading and reloading ads on the page which delayed the content, I just clicked off. I understand that people want to earn money with their blogs. Shoot, it takes a lot of time to post good content -- it's a full-time job for many -- and those hours sitting behind a computer deserve monetary reward. I very briefly tried ads on my blog and considered going the commercial route, but I'd much rather find another way to make a few dollars. 

The Living Large In Small Spaces series is a black hole for time. It takes hours and hours to hunt down cottages and small homes to feature every week, days to contact people who own them and make sure I have their permission to share them (and sometimes I never get a reply).  Again, I realize there are bloggers who don't go this extra step, but I feel it's necessary that I respect the intellectual property of others and give credit where credit is due. It's how I want to be treated.

I'm closer to 70 now and I feel like life just has to become simpler. It's why we moved here, why we built a small cottage. But somehow living has become more complicated and I feel time slipping away. So I've come to a couple of decisions. First, I won't be blogging much. I'm not saying I'll give it up completely, just that I refuse to be tied down to the computer any longer. I'll blog occasionally, when I have something I want to share. As for the series "Living Large In Small Spaces", I've written 116 posts over three years and I feel it's time to let it go, at least as a weekly contribution. If I find a cottage that really speaks to me, I'll most likely share it, but I don't want to feel the pressure of coming up with a regular feature.

There are other decisions I've reached to further simplify my life: I've closed the online shop. After four months I came to realize that online sales are not for me. I don't like the photographing, shipping calculations, marketing, and being bombarded with emails from the shop host, Ebay, Amazon and other places that want me to expand my business. I'm so busy trying to manage all of it that I have no time to create product. And without product there's no reason to have a store. Last year at the Christmas bazaar I earned in two days what I cleared in four months in my online shop after expenses. Clearly, there's a message here: 

Keep. It. Simple.

Dennis and I are also talking about how to simplify the garden. Yes, it's beautiful. But it demands a lot of work and we're not sure that that's how we want to spend our summers. We're still pondering this, considering how we can keep it pretty but more manageable.

For the past eighteen months I've struggled with what to do with my blog. It's just not the fun it once was, and I always said when the fun ends I'll quit. I'm not ready to throw in the towel, but I am ready to narrow my focus. I've really come to appreciate creative bloggers that are kindred spirits, whose blogs reflect real life with all its struggles, victories, and who write with joy. We're living in troubled times, but I have faith in God and hope for the future. I want my life and my blog to reflect that. It's what's in my heart. 

Thanks for wading through this long post. I promise not be this wordy in the future; there's just a lot to say after a 31 day absence.

God bless you.