Category Archives: Bargain Life

My makeshift 4th of July decor

Personally, I am too vindictively American, too full of hate for the hateful aspects of this country, and too possessed by the things I love here to be too long away. –Ralph Ellison

No, flamboyant artificiality is one of the things I love most about this country. –Jim Knipfel

What could possibly go wrong on a holiday that’s celebrated with beer and explosives? –Homer Simpson

Is there a more American holiday than the Fourth of July? Sure, we’ve got Thanksgiving but the Fourth screams USA loudest I’d wager. I don’t consider myself wildly patriotic; I feel connected to humans and don’t automatically align myself with Americans. (For instance, if the news reports 200 people were killed in a plane crash and 13 of them were US citizens, I don’t immediately think the loss of Americans is inherently worse; the other people mattered too.)

Also, Americans give patriotism a bad name, something I thought long before the current Administration. There often seems to be an ugly tinge to American patriotism that doesn’t sit right with me. However as I’ve grown older I’ve started to reconsider this patriotism business. As in why can’t I be patriotic on my own terms? Why can’t I have my own genteel brand of patriotism that doesn’t involve bashing other countries, or redneck bravado, or bullying immigrants with “You’re not REAL Americans” propoganda? I think I can! Why, I’ve even toyed with purchasing some kind of patriotic apparel like a flag-themed bandanna or a red, white & blue tank top! It hasn’t happened yet but I’m thinking feisty thoughts.😁

These are some of the ideas that led me to want a little bit of 4th of July decor this year. A year, clearly, that has been tough here. Americans are struggling & hurting. This IS my country flaws and all. I agree with the writers of the quotes I included at the top of this post. I ain’t going anywhere. So it’s time to wave that dang flag!

Not too far back I made a 16″ square out of scrap wood that I put on top of a smaller table to use as an end table in the living room. It looked okay but when I recently found this excellent table I dismantled the makeshift one and put aside the “top” thinking I could take it apart for pieces or maybe find another use for it. When I began thinking about patriotic decor I looked at the wood square & got an idea. I had red spray paint and the wood square was already painted white but I didn’t have blue paint. However I had blue painter’s tape! Sure it’s not quite the right shade but so what?
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I made a “star” stencil out of heavy paper to use with spray paint.
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I put a small hook on the back of the wood
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First I applied strips of blue painter’s tape, then I spray painted stars. The star stencil didn’t make precise stars – the edges “bled” some – so the most time-consuming job was using a tiny brush to touch up white all around each star. I think the finished project is on par with decorations you’d find at a Ross or other mid-range store.
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Fixing up a roadside metal table

The last few weeks have been overwhelming, painful, and psychically grueling. My thoughts and heart are heavy. I have yet to form a cohesive way to approach all of it – the murders and protests and upheaval coming on the heels of a brutal pandemic which isn’t over – on the blog. I’m not sure that I will or that I need to (yet/now). But I can’t post about other things, simple, everyday things, without saying something more definitive to expose where I’m at amidst so much turmoil. I want to be hopeful about this country, its ability to adapt and evolve and right wrongs of the past, but I’m afraid. There’s so much beauty and so much ugliness. I want us to be better and I’m fearful that we won’t be.

I grab onto small pleasures and diversions. It helps me cope and it’s what brings me satisfaction. Creating is where I live. I was walking along the street, dodging other people, when I saw a rust-tinged metal table tossed out with a pile of yard debris. I examined it. My hands came away rust-shaded.😐 The metal top was wicked hot from being out in the sun. The top was too heavy for its 3 skinny legs and it wobbled or rather vibrated. I almost walked away from the castoff when I remembered how I pushed similar metal legs into the soil to steady them. That sold me; the wobbly quality wouldn’t matter if I used the table outside.
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I had cans of black and red spray paint. I figured black would get pretty hot in the sun and red would be more interesting.
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I added a coat of gloss to protect the top. I added a friend too. I love it! A simple feature with a vaguely art deco vibe that raises the spirits a bit. I can’t make life beautiful but I can make little things beautiful. From trash no less.

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Fixing up a roadside table

About 2 weeks ago I found this table tossed out curbside. I thought the color was awful but saw potential. The top is a little warped but not bad and at 30″ tall (the top is 15″ x 15.5″) it’s a substantial table without being heavy. Normally when I find a treasure like this I’m anxious to fix it up but things being what they are and have been, it took a awhile to feel inspired to work on it.

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I wasn’t sure what color I wanted in part because I hadn’t decided where the table would be used but a coat of white primer was the first step. I figured that would help me since I was sure it should be a lighter color.

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I let it sit a few days while thinking about color. I had this red orange someone gave me that I’ve used on several things but I didn’t think there was enough left to paint the whole table. I decided to use it on the top and the shelf and after I’d done that, I got inspired to paint the remainder a lighter salmon color I had (which I think I found roadside several years ago but hadn’t used much yet). It’s great! This is one coat; it may need more or touch ups but I was excited to show it on the blog now.

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The fun part is seeing where new-to-me finds might work. I tried out three ideas to show you. The best finds look good & could go in lots of places.

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I like this because that’s the same red orange on the drawers

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It’s starting to get warm & a fan table works too

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Ooh it looks really good as an end table

 

 

My (“new”) Semi-Italian Kitchen!

I’ve had a productive winter, starting in December. I was feeling vaguely dissatisfied with my kitchen, which I last showed here a  year ago. I thought I could do better.  After all, I am in the kitchen a lot and I want it to be cute, usable, and inspiring. I was looking at stuff on Amazon when I saw these Tuscan stick-on tiles. I was immediately smitten (at the time I was able to get two packs of four for $20; they are higher at the moment).  The tiles gave me an idea. Why not an Italian kitchen? Or a semi-Italian kitchen? After all, that’s what I am! Semi-Italian.

My kitchen was busy, there was no getting around it so I decided best to just give in to the busy look. (I see those sleek, modern empty kitchens in magazines and on TV and while they can look great, that’s just isn’t happening here.) I was thinking also of something somewhat retro in theme. I’m a renter so a major overall is out of the question but I still have a lot of leeway.

I took down and dismantled the mug rack I built over the stove and extended the utensil rack I made in its place. I took down the spice rack I built and made a new, more compact one. I painstakingly removed the (free) blue glass tiles I’d put up as a back splash over the sink. That was a bitch. Apparently I put ’em on real good!  For the cabinets I found  wonderful ivy stickers on Amazon as well as the yellow glass knobs. I toyed with getting bright colored ceramic ones, like a bright yellow but decided to go with something a little more subtle.

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The vinyl tiles have a clear plastic cover that adds dimension and makes it look more like real tiles. I didn’t extend it over the oven because the manufacturer said not to on the product page and besides, that would have cost more. I ditched the silly two-outlet tap and replaced it with this  six-outlet tap. (By the by, whoever installed the outlets did so upside down which I finally realized but after taking a look inside I decided that level of electrical work was beyond my pay grade.) I used double-sided tape squares to put the tiles up (instead of permanently installing them by removing the backing).

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Because I eliminated the mug rack I needed to make more room in the cabinets. I previously made shallow shelves for the back of the lower cabinets so I opted to make more so that there are narrow shelves all along the backs. Very convenient!

I found great little Moondance (by Circleware) salt & pepper shakers at Ross for the back of the stove. I found the sugar dispenser at Dollar Tree years ago. That’s a “vintage” tea kettle I’ve had a long time now (it came from a house that was being cleaned out). I previously put decorative stick-on paper on the back of the stove (where the word “Sunray” is) and took many days peeling it off in tiny, tiny, tiny, bits. The color part came up but left the sticky back in place which I proceeded to remove by fingernail (I didn’t want to scratch the stove surface with a tool and nothing I tried would dissolve the sticky stuff). It was the worst part of the project.

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The shelf unit to the left of the stove is one I made from scrap wood a few years ago. I fixed it up a bit now by adding colorful place mats I found at Dollar Tree to the bottom door and the top. It was only after I bought them that I saw “Moroccan” on the receipt. Oh well, I’m not splitting (Italian/Moroccan) hairs here! That small $2 fix really spruced up the shelves. I found the retro kitchen timer at a rummage sale last year. It works great.

 
The cabinets extend on the left side of stove so you can see below where the ivy starts.  I took the blue-checked fabric off the window where it’d served as a curtain and instead hung it in front of an ugly water heater and various cleaning tools (vacuum, brooms, etc). It might be fun to have a red-checked one eventually… but I already had this blue one from a thrift store.

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My canned tomato stash is on shelves below the far left cabinet. I also moved my glass jar collection there (from above the kitchen cabinets). I am proud to say I have wittled it down to what you see here in the bag, so far as jars I’m not currently using. (I tend to hang onto glass jars for fear they will one day be unavailable.)

Initially I tried fire-retardant decorative foil-look film over the stove, thinking it would be reflective and add light to the space. It didn’t. I didn’t like it. It absorbed too much light and looked cheap. Instead I put a small piece on the bottom of this 1800’s (or thereabouts 😁)
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Recessed lighting of some sort would be nice but plug-in under the cabinet lights suffice. I had one light and added another; they link together. The photo on the left is how it looks straight on and the one on the right lets you see the actual light fixtures.

I found cute retro-style coffee curtains on Amazon. Looking at Amazon gave me general ideas because I wasn’t too sure initially what inexpensive things I could fairly easily do for an Italian theme. Much of what I saw was to cutesy (fat chefs were featured on a lot of decor) but I wanted more authentic, subtle touches.

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I eliminated most of the fire-engine red color I’d previously added to the kitchen- I decided it was too much – but have left this lone cabinet over the washing machine that I painted long ago. I toyed with painting it white but as it’s different from the other cabinets, I think it kind of works as red and adds character. I also wanted to show you my “plastic bag hanger” for freshly washed bags that I hung over the washing machine; it’s actually a small laundry hanger in design. And those are just-fit shelves I made a few years back for laundry detergents. It may not look it but you can still open the  right cabinet door.

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I took off a dark wood handle I’d put on the kitchen’s token drawer and put this simple white one on instead. Some time back, in search of more space, I’d opened up the area under the sink and made a slipshod “drawer.” It never worked very well so I ditched it and put in this wire basket instead. See where I added more of the ivy stickers just under the sink too. (To the right of the stickers, with the small white-handled door, I made a simple shelf for microwave pans, in what was previously unused space.)

Turning our attention to the other side of the galley kitchen, I painted this previously bright red, tall cabinet door white and added a few ivy stickers. The inside of the door looked awful where I’d tried to peel off stick-on paper rather unsuccessfully, so I added new wood-look paper and a place to hang bag clips.

In my quest to eliminate the fire-engine red (a change I started before I came up with before the Italian theme) I painted the posts and the defunct pipe this red-orange. I eliminated an ugly shelf I’d put over the doorway – the board was warped & the stuff on it wasn’t attractive – and re-housed the stuff I had up there in other places. I got an inexpensive olive-themed clock from Amazon to hang over the doorway but sent it back because it was mediocre quality. I am still looking for the right thing to put there like maybe a tin sign featuring food.

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I put fresh paper from Dollar Tree on these open shelves. I didn’t do anything new to these jar shelves by the window that I made (I don’t think) but just wanted to show them to you again.

Here’s a view from outside the kitchen.You can see the new color on the posts, which closely matches the chair. I got a new chair pad for the chair too. The “stone wall” stick-on paper was an earlier project but it complements the Italian theme so that worked out well.

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In keeping with my semi-Italian theme, I added these placemats I found on Amazon to the small table.

I don’t think I’m quite done with my kitchen project but I’m really happy with what I’ve done so far. It’s a cheery place to go into now!

Found wood drawers get fixed up

I have professed my fondness for actual wood furniture so it’s a happy day for me when I – literally – find some, roadside that is. I have been wanting narrow wood drawers and saw these. They were “structurally sound” and I saw potential so I brought them home. They stand 30″ tall and are not quite 16″ wide and not quite 10″ deep.
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I took off and threw out the back cover which was not real wood and in bad shape, stained and warped. I can put another cover on if I want to but I’m not too worried since the back will be against the wall, limiting how much dust will potentially get inside. I also removed the small “front” at the very bottom.

I decided to effectively raise the height of the drawers by making a simple little stand out of scrap wood, which adds an open shelf at the bottom.

I removed the small wood knobs and replaced them with a quartet of fabulous metal drawer pulls (a sun, moon, leaf, and flower) that I’d put on kitchen cabinets a year ago (after having found them roadside on a ratty little set of fake wood drawers that weren’t any match for their beauty). Here they were on the cabinets.

I painted the outside of the unit light green including the little stand I made, and although the pictures aren’t showing it, the drawers themselves are painted one coat of a darker green – I let just the drawer fronts go after only a single coat because I realized the “distressed” look it created was kind of working. I liked it! Again, sorry, the picture doesn’t really show it.
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The drawers, likely being old, were somewhat “sticky” and I found the advice online to rub a bar of soap on the bottoms and also inside where the drawers touch. Very effective! Although I’d washed the whole thing before beginning the fix-up, I also put a coat of white paint on the insides of the drawers since I planned to put nice things (clothing things) inside and from the looks of it at least one drawer had held tools or something similar in its previous life. I lined the drawers with pretty wrapping paper.
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And then the fun part: putting stuff in them. I decided they’d be best for things I don’t use too often but still want to have at hand easily. (Shown here are my stash of “fuzzy socks” some oversized scarves, and a few tights.)

The drawers are very sweet, hold a decent amount of stuff and aren’t taking up much space in my small room. I’m really pleased with how they turned out for not much trouble at all.