Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Summer Time Off

When you look up and see this, you've got to take time off. So I did. No plan. No pressure. Just be.

I love staying at home. Some people love to go out, but not me... though I love traveling. I love my house. It's filled with what I like... most part. It's where I can relax. No booking. No packing. I think staycation is great!

Once I step out to the yard, gentle sweet aroma is in the air. It's from the lilies in Olga's garden. Something is always blooming in her garden. I can smell them even I'm in the upstair bathroom. There is 30 yards between her garden and my house. I cannot help sniffing the air whenever I come out to the yard.

Beautiful things are all around. I just need to look around. Some visit you. Some are just there waiting for you to find them.

Wild birds come and go all day long. Cardinals and gold finches are vibrant in the garden. Cardinals often visit my yard as couples. Male cardinals seem to be gentlemen. I've seen a male was feeding his mate.

My most exciting news in this summer is that humming birds come to my honeysuckle regularly. There is a feeder next to the honeysuckle, but they don't come to the feeder at all. They know what is good for them.

The flowers are ready for salad. I didn't know you can make pesto with the leaves. Woodchucks are also enjoying the leaves.

I definitely see more bees this year, which is great news. They are always very busy. They don't like me to touch any flowers. When I tried to cut some fox glove's stems since its flowers were almost gone, they came after me. I guess I cannot touch any flower stems until they die. I've seen some honey bees, too. Maybe, can I start bee-keeping someday?

Summer blooms... It's been experimental. I pick some sample plants I like, then see how they adjust, how I like them, and how they look good in the yard. I try to pick flowers you can find in a field like wild flowers. How to put them together is another story. I don't like artificially designed garden. It's not easy to make it natural since it's already artificial by putting my hands on. My experiment continues...

One of my favorite, Nigella. It is very delicate in both its colors and shapes. This is the first time blooming in this garden. Hopefully, they come back every year and spread more. They look happy in the sun.

The right one has cute puffs. It's love in a puff. There is a seed in a puff. The seed has a heart shaped mark on it.

These miniature hibiscus like flowers are also my favorite. The flowers look tropical, but its leaves are a shape of maple. How strange is that?

Hungry bugs...

My lemons are growing. These two are from the winter blooms. It bloomed again in spring. The fruits from the spring blooms are still thumb size. They look cute. So far, over 10 fruits are on. Hopefully, they'll all get harvested.

More hydrangea bloomed this year. It gets bigger and better every year. Once they started blooming in early summer, I cut some for dry flowers, and I failed. It seemed I cut them too soon after blooming. After water was gone in the vase, the flowers were wilted instead of being dried. It was a very sad scene.

Learning from that, I waited the flowers turned green. Then, voila! Bunch of dried flowers are ready. I'm not a big fan of dried flowers in general, but I have a sweet spot for hydrangea. They kept the refreshing light green color nicely.

I finished some sawing projects. One for summer, one for the rest of the seasons. I think I don't need to make any more chair pad covers in next five years.

I tried out a new cookie recipe for the upcoming holiday season. Choosing recipes is a fun process.

This recipe is using butter and olive oil. So, maybe it's less guilty than full butter, or give you a little more room for more cookies? I have made cake with olive oil, which didn't smell or taste like olive oil at all. So, I figured neither the cookies.

The dough is very soft. I might use a cookie press instead of shaping them by hand.

They are light cookies. I love their orange flavor. They love to absorb moisture in the air. They need to be stored in a air tight container.

I substituted orange extract with orange oil. They are still nice and fragrant. Naomi at Bakers Royal made some twists to the original recipe with almond flour. I think almond flour is a great idea. I would try that out next. For now, I just enjoy these cookies with tea in the evening, yum yum.

After spending some time indoor, it's time for a little trip. Marilyn and I hit the road.

Summer is perfect to drive back roads. Going a winding road slowly passing by farms, woods and rivers is so nice. And, things get even better with... ice cream!

We came to one of our favorite ice cream shops. Marilyn just cannot wait to get hers. Wait for me, Marilyn!

There are so many flavors. It's hard to pick just one. Today's winner is strawberry.

Behind the ice cream shop, there is a nice grass area. We found a big shade under a tree. Once we sat on the grass, we felt nice breeze coming through back and force. There was a little garden in the area and the sunflowers looked so happy under the sun.

They have geese and a goat in the fenced in area. We saw the geese were marching to the stream. Hector the goat was napping in his house. So, no picture of him this time.

These old farming tools are nicely setting the mood.

This is how my staycation went. We've been having a very mild summer in New England. Mornings and evenings are cool already. It almost feels like September. No wonder I see dragonflies everywhere.

The time off in such weather is just right for recharging and refreshing. I guess I'm ready to tackle more projects now.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Bring It Back to Life

I've seen them on HGTV, read them on blogs, and never gotten a chance to try it by myself... That looks pretty exciting to do.

One man's trash is another man's treasure.

I was running errands and driving through a residential area the other day. A sad kind-of windsor looking bench on the side of the road caught my eyes. I passed the bench. I had been looking for a love sofa for the living room. My search had not been successful with either styles or prices. "Maybe, I could paint that poor bench, toss some pillows and live with it until I find something I really like..."

A couple hours later, I was standing in front of the bench. It was a worse condition than I thought. The webbings on the seat were stretched out. Its height was much lower than our couch. I didn't like its 70's look at all. "What do you think?" I asked Chad in the car. "Whatever you want. I've never thought you want somebody's trash." Hum, very helpful. No, I'm not interested in trash. I am interested in possibilities. If the tired bench would just sit in our living room as it is, why bother? I was assessing what I could do with it and if I could handle it. While I was staring at the bench, Chad said "It's free. The worst case, we can sell it at a yard sale." That's one way to look at though I don't agree to what he said. Thus, the bench came to our house.

I removed the webbings, then hosed down the bench. Here was my plan:

  1. Replace the legs with tall ones
  2. Paint it
  3. Put new webbings
  4. Put new pillows
A key thing of this project is not to put too much money into it. If it costs $500.00 to restore, it's better to buy a new one.


It was a Dachshund/Corgi bench. To match the height to our couch, it needs 12" feet. After shopping around, I found one at Home Depot. I don't like the metal at the bottom, but it can be painted. Its texture is rough, but good enough for my project.

The original legs were cut off. The legs need to be installed with angles to be visually balanced. I used angled plates to attach the legs. They look straight from the front, but you see the legs from the side spreading toward front and back.


Checking out blogs by people restore furniture, I learned Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Ultra Cover Multi-Purpose Brush-On Paint is suitable for wooden furniture because it's thinner than a regular interior paint for walls. Actually, stain could add the bench rich texture, but it was already stained, and the legs doesn't have the same color as the bench to begin with, they wouldn't match the color. So, I decided to go with a paint.

Two coats of the paint made a difference. It doesn't look so 70's anymore.


First, I was looking for upholstery jute webbing, but happened to find stretch webbing. Since I don't have any special tools for upholstery, stretch one seemed to be easier to handle. I was also surprised the variety of material on eBay.

Using stretch webbing was a good call. I think it depends on what you work on, but it worked great on this bench without a stretcher.

Just putting it through each hole, stapled down one side, pull as hard as you can, check the sound of the webbing by tapping with a finger, then staple the other side. Repeat...

My stapler is for craft. It's for a light duty. I used extra staples to ensure holding the webbings. It looks ugly, but it wouldn't show once a cushion is on it.

Side Bar Situation

Um, there is a slight issue... The original legs were placed with much more angles than the new ones. The side bar was attached to the original ones don't even touch the new ones. There is 1/4" gap. It's impossible to push it to the legs.

The front gap was about 1/4". The back gap was about 1/8". Since the arm's supporter is also attached to the side bar, it doesn't seem to be a good idea to cut off the side bar. So, I cut the front part near by the arm's supporter. Now, my problem is to make it look ok. Well, it's not going to be visually pretty anyway.

I found some precut wooden disks and balls for doll head at a craft store. I put them together and glued them on at the cut surface. At the back side, I sliced the bar in angle, screwed it down on the back leg, put some filler to cover the screw head, sand it and pain it. The problem is solved.


Because of the time of the season, bench cushions for outdoor furniture were on sale. I was hoping to get one of those and put a cover on. Well, nothing is easy. The bench was deeper than regular outdoor furniture and those pre made ones don't fit.

Upholstery form is not cheap. It's not a kind of money you want to spend for your temporally furniture. I went to Big Lots and found a cheap bed pad. I cut it down to fit the bench, made three layers out of it and made a cushion.

I had a fabric purchased for the chair pad covers in the dining room. Unfortunately, its pattern was too big for the covers. Now, the fabric turned to be the cushion and pillow covers for the bench.

I got two 20" down pillow inserts. They were too short to cover the ugly back decoration. Also, the bench was still too deep with the pillows on the back. I got two 24" down pillows. I usually get down pillow inserts since they last longer than polyester fiberfill. Down fill is more expensive, but it's well worth it. They are always full and fluffy.

Since the fabric ran out, the big pillows got different covers.

Thus, the trashed bench got the second life. It might just wish to retire, but not yet. This type of projects always have some surprises along the way. They make the projects much more fun. I'm not thrilled to look into trash on the street, but I might try this type of project if I find a right candidate at a thrift shop or a yard sale.

FYI, here is the cost of the project.

Elastic Webbing33.49
4 12" Table Feet15.96
4 Angled Plates13.47
Bed Pad28.98
Precut Wooden Parts3.50
2 20" Pillow Inserts29.96
2 24" Pillow Inserts37.98
Zipper for the Cushion Cover1.98