DIY: Mock Anthropologie Tree Painting


This is Anthropologie’s $2,000 dollar painting “Tree of Life.”  Ahem.

Since I like to craft and paint my own stuff, and help others do the same, I got inspired by a post at Lorilyn’s blog called “There’s spit in my hair”~ and did it myself.

Here’s mine and the step-by-step tutorial. Make one!photo 3

First, go search the garage for used lumber. 1×4 or 1×6 or 1x 8. Or you can re-use the surface of an end table. You can piece any widths together and secure them like this:


Next, I divided the board into several colors, based on the left over green & blue paints I had in the garage. I watered them down a little, and sanded with medium grit paper when they were all dry:

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I used pencil and drew the base, looking at the model. Then I used Gesso (white paint is fine) for the leaves. Try a super stiff, small brush so you can shape out the edges. I am not a fine arts painter! I just fiddled with the basic oval shape and the brush made it easier.

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Now you have to be brave. In order to get these leaves faded and sitting “behind” the primary tree, I mixed white Gesso and water. I used about one teaspoon of paint with a cup of water. Take a larger brush and lightly load with water+paint mixture and try it on a corner, to test. It dries lighter than it goes on, so you’ll have to experiment.
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This looks pretty chalky white! But, after letting mine fully dry, it was much more subdued.  From here, I gave mine a good sanding, blending the leaves into the background.

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I really wish I had gotten a picture of just the trunk when I was done. I drew the trunk and basic limbs with a pencil. With several erasings and changes, I finally got a shape I liked. I painted the trunk and limbs next, saving the leaf-drawings for last.

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Looking at it all painted, it felt too bold and explicit, and what I wanted was softer and more muted. I was going to put on another layer of the paint+water, but changed my mind and tried lots of light sanding instead. That produced the effect I wanted and pulled the elements together.

photo 3One little point of serendipity~see the middle board where the trunk is? There was a knot in the plank of wood! The knot sits happily adapted to its new environment. LOL.


Positive Psychology: do you have to practice Happiness?


Yes. Like any state of being, the more you do it, the more your mind is wired for it.

Do any of these describe you?  Flourishing, struggling, floundering, languishing. I think I’ve been all of them, depending on life circumstances. Those words are taken from a cool article by Positive Psychology guru, Martin Seligman. In it, his research points to THE BIG FIVE FACTORS that are strong determinants of Happiness. Take stock, do these 5 make it into your daily vitamin of life?

Here’s the acronym: PERMA

1. Positive Emotion (P)~For us to experience well-being, we need positive emotion in our lives. Any positive emotion like peace, gratitude, satisfaction, pleasure, inspiration, hope, curiosity, or love falls into this category – and the message is that it’s really important to enjoy yourself in the here and now (just as long as the other elements of PERMA are in place).

2. Engagement (E)~When we’re truly engaged in a situation, task, or project, we experience a state of flow: time seems to stop, we lose our sense of self, and we concentrate intensely on the present.

This feels really good! According to FLOW master Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, there is a perfect match to be captured between your abilities + your task = awesome flow state where you lose sense of time, are completely engaged, and feel at peace afterwards. Crafts and building stuff takes me there (and my dog, lol)!


3. POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS (R)~As humans, we are “social beings,” and good relationships are core to our well-being. Time-and-again, we see that people who have meaningful, positive relationships with others are happier than those who do not. Relationships really do matter!


4. MEANING (M)~Meaning comes from serving a cause bigger than ourselves. Whether this is a specific deity or spirituality, or a cause that helps humanity in some way, we all need meaning in our lives to have a sense of well-being.


5. ACCOMPLISHMENT/ACHIEVEMENT (A)~Many of us strive to better ourselves in some way, whether we’re seeking to master a skill, achieve a valuable goal, or win in some competitive event. As such, accomplishment is another important thing that contributes to our ability to flourish.

Okay to sum up, remember the more you practice certain states of being, the more your brain will be wired for them. Anxiety begets anxiety, creativity begets creativity. And remember to increase your daily doses of PERMA (positive emotion, engagement, close relationships, Meaning, & Accomplishment (like creating things, building things, a bike jump, a fort, a vegetable garden, designing stuff, helping others).

And finally: from Martin Seligman’s book on Positive Psychology: Happiness is a scientifically unwieldy notion, but there are three different forms of it if you can pursue:

“‘Pleasant Life’ =you aim to have as much positive emotion as possible and learn the skills to amplify positive emotion.

‘Engaged Life’= you identify your highest strengths and talents and recraft your life to use them as much as you can in work, love, friendship, parenting, and leisure.

‘Meaningful Life’= you use your highest strengths and talents to belong to and serve something you believe is larger than the self.”


I’m always working on the Engaged Life set of skills these days….but Meaningful Life is a close second. I’ll be 50 in October and know this is spurring me to take stock. More on that later.

What area of Happiness do you struggle with, or which area comes easy?

(That’s my son and me during a very happy day 2009).

DIY: the blue fresh flowers box


Working with wood and painting are blessedly fun for me. I am so grateful for my dad’s inspiration while growing up. In college, he and I built a set of shelves for my room that still have a place in my home.

Lately, these darn little antique-looking boxes are preoccupying me. For a fuller tutorial, check out my “honey bee box.”

After the box it built, paint a green undercoat. After it dries, try this blue paint for a genuine pale antique blue effect:


Begin sanding back around the edges and corners to reveal the green paint and also the wood for an aged look.



Be sure to finish your boxes on the inside, in case you decide to set them on the ground or center of a table.


I found my stencils at JoAnn’s. Draw a very thin pencil line on a ruler, to make sure each letter, as you stencil it, is landing even to the others. Then, sand them back a little, so they fit in to the overall aged scheme.



I added new chrome handles to spruce it up.



I bought red winter berry flowers to accent the blue.


I am thinking of modge podging some graphics from the Graphics Fairy website on the inside of them. Building these little boxes is so satisfying! I like things that are functional, and not just decorative.  What do you think?


Keeping Your Chin Up

A healthy attitude is contagious but don’t wait to catch it from others. Be a carrier.

–Tom Stoppard

What are the things you do to keep your attitude healthy?

I read inspiring non fiction, dance Zumba, connect to my clients, get into the woods, talk things thru with close friends, and go seek out some fun with my son. He’s a gem and can be caught laughing with animals in a bizarre amount of photos:


How do you find some joy and keep a healthy attitude?

DIY: Modern Clip Photo Frame

I am crazy about photos and am often stumped about how to get more of my favorites out around the house.  I was in a waiting room office recently and saw articles hanging on clipboards on the wall~ and a little lightbulb went on. So I went home to my garage and wood pile and came up with this:

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Of course I dig these because they are 1 part rustic (burlap) and 1 part modern (clip) and 1 part thrifty to make. These are easy to put together and allow you to print any photo and display instantly.

Here’s how:  head to your wood pile and recycle some scraps if you can. I used 1/2 inch thick wood and cut it into 8 1/2 inch wide by 11 inch tall pieces  (the size of a piece of printer paper). Then I sanded the edges with medium grit sand paper, making sure corners are “softened.”


Don’t worry about the quality of the wood, it all gets covered up. Now pull out your paints, and put a fat band of black acrylic paint around the edges.


When its dry,  spray a shiny varnish sealer on the edges. For the interior, I cut my burlap into 7 1/2 by 9 1/2 inch pieces. Tip: pull a burlap string -and it creates a perfect channel to cut a straight line in. I hammered brass furniture tacks on the corners to hold the burlap onto the wood.



At JoAnn’s Crafts, I found these cool “thread holders,” and used a hot glue gun to firmly apply them to the frames. But any clip would work, I even thought of using clothing pins.

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The mix of wood, burlap, and plastic made these sort of POP with that rustic chic thang. I think sepia and black & white photos look pretty nifty.

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If you like this modern clip photo frame, please pin to Pinterest for me, yes? Thank you!

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DIY: Turn any vase into stylish “Milk Glass”

IMG_2510I love DIY projects, and I love Pinterest. One of the cool and also important trends of modern tech, is that it often cuts through class and economic barriers. If you have access to a computer with wifi (library), or a smart phone with data, your input can be heard. That’s not a small thing in a country that places so much emphasis on status, class background, visuals and unconscious ranking of each other. So Pinterest includes many, many voices and ideas, and I dig the DIY category as much as chocolate.

Here is a fun idea: ask your mom or dad if they remember “milk glass.” Its an opaque or translucent colored glass from 16th century France, made into vases and bowls. It was once super popular and is considered a collectible. Here’s a fun idea on how to make your own mock “milk glass” for practically free!IMG_2511

First, rummage through your glass vases, or head to Goodwill and pick up some for 99 cents. Choose a range of sizes~they can be any color, but make sure they’re glass.

Next, head to the hardware store and pick up a spray can of Rustoleum: Pure Gloss White. This is the only brand that does this. The effect is stunning. This paint on glass replicates “milk glass” like no other. One good spraying is all I put on this assortment of vases you see above. Super easy make over!

I gave away a few, but here are a couple of the “milk glass vases” in my house with early spring sprigs in them:

photo For this price, you can make a bunch and give them away at Mother’s Day to all the special mom’s you know in your world. Happy Pinning!

DIY: Bring a tree stump into your home

IMG_9415Switching gears from parenting to DIY Crafts, take a look at how cool this stump turned out.

Our neighbors were having a tree removed, and the guys chain-sawed it into stumps and made a big pile to haul away.

First, I had a good cry about that big, beautiful tree leaving the landscape forever. Then, I put on my big girl boots and went over to haul a few stumps home. I stored them on top of 2×4’s so the air could circulate. I let them dry out for 3 months. This is recycling at a premium. Later, my husband took a chisel and peeled and worked the bark off. He said it was easy.


Then began the sanding. You definitely want to go with an electric palm sander and start with coarse grit. Then medium. Then a fine grit to get the wood super smooth and soft to the touch. From there, use a rag to thoroughly wipe all the dust off. Then, begin adding coats of varnish. We used a hardy polyurethane, because we wanted to use it like a side table and not have to use coasters.


After the first coat of varnish dries, sand with a light grit sandpaper to get the varnish “bubbles” out. Then wipe it all down again with a rag, and add another coat of varnish. Three coats is great. We added wheels to the bottom of our stump. It was terrible watching that tree go down. But we love our stumpy stump.

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Parenting tool #2: Clarifying consequences leads to good behavior

In Parenting tool #1, we covered how kids should be doing a chore a day, and how this leads to being a good household citizen. Now lets explore consequences– when kids are not meeting mom and dad’s expectations.


Expectations are the behaviors we consciously and unconsciously have of our kids. You will be polite, you will push your dishes in the sink, you will pick up after yourself, you will put in 100% effort, you will get good grades, you will be a good sport, you will balance screen time with hobbies, you will do your chores without being nagged, you will not swear, you will eat all of your dinner, you will stay in your bed and go to sleep, you will cooperate, you will play fair, etc. etc.

Tip: Try to make your expectations explicit with your kids. I personally used to let a lot of stuff hang in the ether, like my own dad did, assuming my kid just understood my expectations. And when he went off track I was upset,  emotional, and barely constructive. As a result, my kid was usually recovering from his own reaction, and rarely learning my expectations.


Example: my son invites a couple young friends over for a playdate, eats in the kitchen with them, goes from room to room playing with everything everyhwere, and then the other kids go home. My son heads upstairs for some screen time….leaving behind a trail of mess. I go up and yell and lecture about all the mess, toys, food, etc. and he cries and feels bad. What should I have done instead? Sat with him at about age 6, and said something like this:

“When your friends come over, you are all responsible for picking up after yourselves: in the kitchen, in the living room, in your own room. Before they leave, ask for everyone’s help to pitch in and clean up. If you do not ask for their help, then you will have to do it on your own. If you fail to clean up, then you will go to bed an hour early for a week.” He would have asked questions and I would have helped problem solve them.  After that, if he failed to clean up,  I would merely be a consultant on the matter, sending him to bed early–and not a lecturing, angry, over-bearing mom.



Remember, we are not trying to be our children’s friend, we are the authority figures. Of course we love them deeply, but there are several key ingredients to remaining a strong authority for your kids, and one of them is enforcing consequences– consistently. Its hard! Have a talk with your kid about what you expect, and the consequences for not meeting that behavior. And then consistently enforce the consequence if they drop the ball.

Example: Ending the morning chaos routine

Make up a short list of tasks, age appropriate, for children to do. Get dressed, eat breakfast, put dishes in sink, brush teeth, get own coat, supplies for the day, and back pack, and be ready to leave the house at 7:45 am (have a digital clock handy for them to read). Sit down with them and go over the list. Answer any questions and problem solve with them. Let them know, “Every minute past 7:45 that you are still getting ready, you will go to bed 10 minutes earlier that night.” Six minutes = an hour earlier. They’ll complain and moan, but as Rosemond stresses: “give a latitude of attitude.” This means kids can even huff off and slam a door. Let it go, you’re clearly winning this one, and this is them firing up their engines!

Every morning the privilege of going to bed at the regular hour is returned to them. Unless they are 1 minute past 7:45 am the next morning.


Example: Getting kids to bed at a regular time

“I expect you guys to have your pajamas on, teeth brushed, use the bathroom, wash hands, and be in bed ready for books by 8:30, or you’ll go to bed an hour earlier tomorrow night.”  If at 8:30 they are in pajamas but got sidetracked chasing each other around, then the next night they go to bed an hour early. Each night, the privilege of going to bed at the regular hour is returned~but only for those who can be ready by 8:30 the next night.

Expectation: Walk dog after school each day 10 mins
Consequence: stay inside after school the next day

Expectation: forgetting to do 5 min daily chore
Consequence: going to bed an hour early

Expectation: playing cooperatively with siblings
Consequence: BOTH children to bed an hour early (which will enrage the innocent one, but avoid the tattle-tale and triangle that forms with a parent)

Are you starting to see a theme? LOL. Yes, many behaviors can be modified quickly by suggesting that more sleep may help with the behavior you’re expecting. Children HATE going to bed early, and it becomes a fabulous currency with them. Of course there are other consequences such as losing play dates, staying in after school, loss of screen time, extra chores, losing a sleepover, etc.


Be consistent. Be consistent. Be consistent. You will be so sorry, and lose so much authority if you aren’t consistent with consequences.

A few last nuggets:

The expectation is only as good as the consequence. Think ahead, or you’ll have off-track behavior, and no consequence planned. Suddenly the verbal struggle begins. Maybe even yelling. Which ultimately reduces your authority. Name your expectations, the consequences for the not meeting those, and be clear.

Make sure the consequence fits the crime. Making a child go to bed an hour early for a month, because they forgot to feed the cat, will wreck your child’s trust in you.

Make sure the consequence places the burden on the child’s shoulders and not your own. Example: mom and dad were looking forward to a quiet evening together, but Michael’s consequence is not going to that sleep over, and they feel obligated to give up their evening. No. Get a sitter, set him up in his own room, or delay the consequence until the timing is right for YOU.

As always, I’m eager to hear your feedback, input, and ideas on this hot topic!


DIY: Rustic Kitchen Billboard

photo 1-11“Hungry for a nosh?” my Eastcoast in-laws might ask. Nosh is Yiddish for “snack,” and this is Reality Sandwiches, with a friendly photo tutorial on creating the kitchen billboard of your dreams!

First, I always re-use old wood when I can. But I didn’t have the size I needed in my own pile. So it was off to the Bellingham ReStore for recycled lumber. I also like to peruse neighborhood free piles for wood scraps.

I wanted my billboard to be 5 feet long, by 20 inches high to sit above my kitchen cupboards. At the Restore, I found exactly what I needed: several old fence boards, some 3 inch wide and some 5 inch wide.

I cut several boards about 5 feet in length. In order to secure them altogether, I used lots of Gorilla Glue, and screwed 3 pieces of 1 x 5 inch wood to the back like this:


Then I used Minwax Jacobean dark stain to begin creating the aged look I want this sign to have:



After the stain dried quickly in the sun, I put a thin coat of white paint I found in the garage. After it dried, I began sanding back the white, to reveal the darker stain, creating that rustic effect.


Now for the letter-painting. I am not a fine painter. I love stencils and copying as much as anyone. But alas, I could not find any stencils that were 16 inches tall! I had to bite the bullet and decide to draw them with pencil. First, I found a font online called Bodini and printed the word NOSH to fit an 8 1/2x 11 page. I used it as a model for each letter. Then I started faking it. What do you think?


Here I am tickled-pink that I was actually able to achieve that lettering!


I saved space on the left end, for an old-fashioned advertising touch:

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You can see by the ends of the board were cut slightly uneven, giving it that rustic look. The yellow circle is the size of one of my dinner plates, traced with pencil. The “have a” in cursive, comes from a 1950’s ad, easy to google.

Here are a few more pics of my “have a Nosh” billboard, after sanding the black lettering, the yellow accent, and all the edges a bit more:

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Thanks for reading! Be sure to ask me any questions you have on this sort of project, as I love to help out or help fake it when I can’t~