Saturday, April 30, 2011

Extreme Makeover: Plant Stand Edition

When I got my 1st apartment in 1997 my grandmother was downsizing and moving to a retirement community in Florida.  As a result I got a bunch of furniture that used to be hers.  Many of these pieces are projects waiting to happen (and have been waiting for almost 15 years now!). 

Possibly my favorite piece from everything I got from my grandma is a funky little 3 level plant stand.  It’s wooden and was painted a basic white.  I think you could also use it as a bookcase or an end table but I put it in the bathroom at my 1st apartment and put a plant on it and it’s been a plant stand ever since.  I’ve carried it around with me from PA to OK to Alexandria and now here – always wanting to do something with it.  Finally inspiration hit! I’d cover it with pictures of flowers!  It was after all a plant stand!

Here’s a picture of it before I started:



The first step was to paint the whole thing green, gloaming green to be exact…yes gloaming green is the official name from Valspar!


Next I had to gather the pictures! I knew I had tons of pictures of flowers, and plants, from all my travels! I gathered them all in an album in Picasa and uploaded them to Snapfish and then had them printed to pick up at my local Walgreens!  In the process of finding the pictures I did discover that I was missing pictures from my Alaska trip and that I don’t really have any of my pictures from Maine.  I’m not sure what happened to most of my Alaska pictures.  I have about 300 but there are whole days missing.  My only guess is that they were on my school laptop and that I didn’t back them up all up correctly before the computer was reimaged.  I know that using my school computer is what happened to my Maine pictures.  I didn’t have time to back everything up before turning the computer over for reimaging and I knew my Maine pictures were on Picasa Web Albums.  When I downloaded the pics from the web I must have only downloaded the thumbnail.  I have them, but they are tiny and you can’t make them bigger or the resolution falls apart.  :-(  Luckily I did upload a bunch of Shutterfly when I had them blown up for the walls! Those pictures are fine, and I have 2 walls in the dining room with framed prints from Maine.  I guess I’ll just have to go back to Maine and Alaska! Bummer!  In the meantime, I’m super glad I have my own laptop now and hopefully won’t lose any more pics to reimaging!

Anyway, back to the plant stand….

Arranging the pictures was harder than I expected because most of them were zoomed in so much!  It was hard to overlap! It was also hard because there wasn’t a lot of surface space on the plant stand! I tried to fold the pictures around the edges, but I couldn’t make them stick so ended up just cutting the overhang off.   On the “front” of the stand I put pictures on the supports, in the end I didn’t like that, I think it looks too busy.  Unfortunately Modge Podge is permanent and I can’t pull them off! 

Here’s the finished product:


This is the “front” with the pictures on the supports…see what I mean…too busy!




This is the “back” – I decided to put flowers on it just in case I ever decided to use the piece in the middle of a room or as and end table!





Here’s the plant stand back in action in the plant corner:


The Calla Lily in the front is new. I got it at Wegmans last week – it’s purple! It had one flower when I got it, now it has 5 with another on the way!



While I’m showing off the plants, here’s a current picture of the split leaf:


It’s obviously doing very well.  I repotted it a few months ago – I think it was during my January snow days because I remember having to wait till the dirt thawed! The shiny leaf is brand new! It’s had a monopoly on the window for the last few months but I need it to start growing up rather than out so I’m hoping moving it back will help a bit.  It’s almost time to stake it!

And here’s the Norfolk Pine that will celebrate it’s 36th birthday this week.  Guess I need a plan for what to do when it hits the ceiling. 


In the lower right corner of the picture is a chair.  I’m pretty sure this chair was left behind by the previous owner of our house in Cincinnati.  I’m unsure of how it ended up at my house unless it got thrown in the truck with the other stuff my parents shipped to me. I’ve debated throwing it out several times, it really serves no useful purpose, except for back at Christmas when one of my students parents gave me a poinsettia!  Just today it occurred to me that this could be my next project…I think it could use a little decoupage! Then I could put more plants on it, or use it for seating (gasp!)

Just so they don’t feel left out, the plants that live on the pie safe:



I’ve been doing a lot of crocheting lately.  A lot.   I’m getting pretty good at reading instructions and fixing mistakes and stuff!

The first project I finished is a baby afghan I made to donate to a worthy cause.  A few months ago I discovered a local yarn store called The Yarn Cloud.  It’s a great store! Almost all of their yarn is unique to them, made just for their store in the Cezch Republic! The owner of the store had a box set up by the door that was piled up with knitted and crocheted  donations that she was giving to the pregnancy crisis center in Manassas. She said this was a year round collection and I knew it was just the place to donate the afghan I was planning with some leftover yarn! 

I had 2 skeins of white Bernat Baby Coordinates Yarn left over from making a baby afghan for what we thought was Baby Jack, who later turned out to be Leah! It was too much to just toss, but there weren’t any babies on the horizon so I’d decided to crochet it up and donate the afghan. 

My first idea for the afghan was to make granny squares and then connect them – I started it that way to use up some of the blue I also had left over, however when I joined them I didn’t like it very much so I pulled it all out.  When I did Baby Jack’s afghan I used my big afghan hook, it worked ok, but since then I’d seen a swatch with the same yarn only it was done really tight and it looked nice so I’d decided I’d use a smaller hook this time.   I didn’t want it to be huge, but after I started it I realized that it was too narrow so after I stitched up the 1st skein I decided to stitch along the long side on both sides to made it wider.   One day over spring break I spent all day stitching along the side of the afghan – I was going to make 20 rows on each side and I was about 8 rows in when I realized the rows were curving! It was bugging me. A lot. I realized why…I’d made a stitch in each space along the side and therefore there were more stitches than rows, which I knew would make it curve.  So I ripped out about 6 hours worth of work and started over.  It was frustrating, but worth it.  After I finished adding 20 vertical rows to each side I crocheted all around the whole thing until the yarn ran out.  By this time I was ready to be done with the whole thing, yet the yarn simply wouldn’t end.  Every time I looked at what I had left it appeared that I’d hadn’t made a dent in it! Friday night I thought I’d stay up till it was done, about 11:30 my hands couldn’t crochet anymore and I gave up.  I started up again Saturday morning and crocheted for 4 more hours before it was done! Glad I didn’t stay up Friday night! 

Here’s the finished afghan:


When I was at The Yarn Cloud in December I picked up a skein of thick purple variegated bamboo yarn.  It had the feel of shoelace, but it was very soft and pliable.  I thought it would be perfect for a placemat.  My plan was that when I finished the afghan I’d start on that since I was pretty sure I’d need more yarn and when I went to get more yarn I could drop the afghan off at the store.  Within hours of finishing the afghan I started on the placemat.  Before I could get started I needed to know what size hook to use, I knew the info was on the Yarn Cloud’s website so I went to take a look, and when I did I learned that the store had been closed all week and the 1st chance I’d get to go would be Wed afterschool! Hmmmm…glad I didn’t finish the afghan sooner! Luckily I have a hook that is close to the correct size – I used a size smaller to make it tighter – so was off and running quickly.  I used a placemat I already have as a model for the size.  Unlike the baby yarn I crocheted my way through this skein in about an hour.   I did fall in love with the yarn though! It’s both stiff and soft.  It’s perfect for placemats and rugs! The only problem is that a skein is only 90 yards and costs $10.  The owner of the store told me that she made a bathmat with yarn and it took 14 skeins. Yikes!

All week I was looking forward to my trip to the yarn store on Wed afternoon.  I ended up leaving work later than I’d planned and then there were some huge storms coming through!  A tornado warning was issued for Prince William County when I was about 1/2 way there, but things didn’t look bad where I was, despite the huge, bright red storm heading my way that I could see on the radar! I forged ahead with the plan.  I was in and out of the yarn store in 10 minutes and even saw a rainbow on my way out! Later I found out there were tornados with the storm that was practically on top of me when I was at the yarn store!

My plan for this piece also involved doing a double crochet body and then going around it for a border.  With this piece I was going to make a row of double crochets followed by a chain stitch to make it open.  After I finished the body I went around the whole thing with single crochets and then started the round with the double crochet/chain pattern.  I discovered that the corners didn’t come out right if there were an odd number of rows.  I forged ahead though and it wasn’t until I started the next round that I realized how I’d done the corners was going to make huge holes so I figured I needed to add another row to the body so that both sides had an odd number of stitched.  So I ripped out the whole border (about an evenings worth's of work) and started over.  I added a row to the body and started the border again.  Only to discover that adding the row didn’t fully solve the problem, so I ended up doubling up the stitches on the corners and it seemed to work.  Also I decided that I needed to use treble stitches for the row with spaces instead of doubles, glad I did, it looks much better now! 

Here’s the finished placemat:


I also have 2 projects in progress:

A few weeks ago I went to Williamsburg for the day to help my grandma with her computer and as a treat when I was done I paid a visit to Knitting Sisters, what a lovely shop! While there I found a number of delightful yarns, one of which was made from sugar cane! It was soft and shiny and pink! They had a number of other colors but the pink struck me so that was the one I got.  I decided I’d crochet a purse for Leah with it.  When I started crocheting with it though I decided that it just wasn’t the right type of yarn for a purse, it was too delicate.  I shifted gears and decided to make a scarf out of for a friend who recently survived breast cancer.  (I hope she’s not reading this…hmmmm….oh well…I’m sure she knows who she is…act surprised! ;-)  I also decided that this was the perfect opportunity to try out one of the stitches in my new book of crochet stitches!

I got started the other night, but when I got to the end of the 3rd row I discovered that I hadn’t chained the correct number of stitches.  So I ripped it out and started again, carefully counting the chains this time.  Once again I got to the end of the 3rd row and realized I didn’t have enough stitches.  So I decided to try it with some different yarn and a bigger hook.  This time I got it and worked through one repeat of the pattern before going back to the cool sugar cane yarn and the tiny hook.  Third time must be a charm because this time I got it!

Here’s what I’ve got so far – just a few hours worth of work on it so far:


I recently bought some glow in the dark yarn on Ebay.  I’d read about the yarn in a Crochet Mystery I was reading and googled it only to discover that it was discontinued! Ebay to the rescue! I’d been debating what to do with it, when I decided that a rug would be cool.  I found a pattern in my crochet shapes book that had a 3-D flower in the middle of a square! I did a practice square a few weeks ago and was ready to get started.  I decided to use some cotton yarn I’d gotten on sale for the background.  I have a limited amount of the glow in the dark stuff so I want to make it go as far as I can.  The nice thing with these squares is that I can do each one in about an hour or so and it’s perfect to work on in the evenings!  After doing 2 squares I like how it’s coming out, however I’m seeing it more as a bed spread/blanket than a rug, we’ll see if I have enough glow in the dark yarn!

So far there hasn’t been any crochet drama with this project, but I did have to spend about an hour untangling the glow in the dark yarn because I couldn’t figure out where to start it!  The glow in the dark yarn is also not the best texture – it’s an acrylic/polyester blend so it’s just kinda weird – seems to be prefect for the accent flower though. 

Here’s a picture of the 2 squares I’ve done so far (I couldn’t capture the glow in the dark factor on film, maybe when I have more squares it will glow brighter):


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Quest for Trillium

Ahhhh….Spring Break!  Easter is super late this year, which make Spring Break super late!  It’s nice because it’s the tree pollen peak and I’m welcoming not having to fight through feeling miserable to teach.  It’s not so nice because it’s the tree pollen peak and it’s hard to get out and do stuff!  Between the pollen and the sky high gas prices I’m tempted to just hole up in my house with projects and not leave until Monday morning!

Two years ago I made the trek out to Linden, VA and the GR Thompson Wildlife Management Area to see the largest concentration of trillium in the US. You can read about that day, and what exactly trillium are here. The trillium at GR Thompson Wildlife Management area are usually at their peak around my birthday, and with spring break being so late, my birthday is only 2 weeks away so I figured that there’s be some trillium action. 

The pollen was holding me back. Sometimes I just have to say “screw the pollen, I’m doing what I want.”   That’s what I decided I was going to do today.  I decided I’d drive out there, hike for just one hour – 30 minutes out and then turn around.  I’d simply accept whatever “consequence” the tree pollen threw at me and hope I could get some good pictures of trillium and maybe, if I was lucky, a showy lady’s slipper.  

I headed out about 10:30 this morning – wearing shorts since it was supposed to be in the high 70s, and cotton shorts at that, I was only planning to hike/walk an hour and I had other errands to run.  I’d also simply grabbed a bottle of water, a few granola bars, my trusty PATC map, and my camera.  Bare minimum in terms of gear – I was simply looking for flowers so didn’t feel I needed much.  As I was walking out the door I did grab my fleece jacket in case it was chilly. 

I wasn’t even out of Lake Ridge yet when it started to rain.  That’s right – rain!  The weather forecast had been calling for a 30% chance of rain – and that was isolated thunderstorms in the evening!  I pulled up the radar on my weather channel app and sure enough the whole area was green with rain!!!!  I did I quick u-turn and went home for rain jacket!

As I drove west the rain continued to fall steadily!  In places it was pouring!  The temp was also dropping – when I left home it was in the 70s, by the time I reached the trailhead parking it was 51!  brrrrr!

I parked in the same place as I did the last time I came out there and headed toward the AT.  The first thing I noticed was that the trillium that had been everywhere 2 years ago were no where to be seen.  :-(  There were some other white flowers in abundance, but no trillium. 

I headed down the old road checking out all the little wildflowers and snapping pictures!  And then I heard it….a low, distant rumble….thunder.  Yes, this trip to hunt trillium is sounding a lot like the last time I came out here!   The thunder didn’t sound too aggressive and I’d checked the radar before I got out of the car and there was no red – only yellow.  I figured that it was garden variety storm and nothing to worry too much about. 

A light rain was falling, distant thunder was rumbling and while it was chilly, it was very pleasant.  I headed down the trail, happy that I’d made the trip out and that the weather had “cooperated”! :-)

I saw a few trillium about to burst and a few that had buds that were starting to open.  As soon as I turned onto the AT I saw hundreds of trillium leaves, but no flowers.  I was too early.  ugh.  Too late one year and too early the next.   I walked a little farther and then the thunder started rumbling directly overhead, it was cold, and I wasn’t seeing what I came for, so I turned around and headed back to the car.

The air was so crisp and pollen free I had to keep the windows open!  I zipped up my raincoat so I wouldn’t get wet and cranked the heat and drove most of the way back to Manassas with the window open!

I went back to Manassas to run my errands and checked in on twitter which is where I learned that the oak pollen had popped and today’s pollen counts were over 2000, despite’s assurances that it was a lower pollen day! 

Here are the few pictures I got:

P1100080 P1100081 P1100082 P1100083 P1100084 P1100085


P1100088 P1100089 P1100090 P1100091 P1100092 P1100093 P1100094 P1100096 P1100097