A note from a long-lost friend.

(I’m the long-lost friend, in case that’s not obvious.)

So it’s been a while! I am so lucky that you guys continue to check this blog, given the distance between posts. I don’t understand why it has become so difficult to update — in Chicago, I had a full-time job, twins, a social circle, and STILL managed to keep my two blogs updated. Staying home with the kids has given me more time than I have ever had before but their presence makes it so difficult to use that time efficiently. It’s difficult to explain and very frustrating.

How is your New Year progressing so far? I ask you this as I eat a spoonful of icing that was leftover from the French Toast Cupcakes the kids and I made two nights ago. (Delicious recipe, by the way — I highly recommend.) Clearly, my New Year’s Resolutions have yet to kick in. But they are there, lurking in the shadows, waiting to descend upon me on Monday. Justin and I both are turning over the proverbial new leaf then. You guys. I have been eating like a child. Like, if you have a four-year-old carte blanche to eat whatever they wanted, they would choose the diet I have been frequenting lately. I had a pimiento cheese sandwich, BBQ chips, and two Little Debbie Jelly Rolls for breakfast this morning. IT’S GROSS. I haven’t weighed myself in two months but things are tight on me that should never, never be tight: underwear, sweat pants, pajamas. I am at the age where I have to start thinking about diet in terms of health rather than in terms of appearance. It suddenly occurred to me the other day that I could have a heart attack and no one would say, “At her age? But she’s so young!” That was a terrifying realization. So I am going to try to start eating decently and — GULP — exercising next week. Justin even offered to do some of my fitness DVDs with me, an offer which I am mulling over, because despite the fact that we have known each other for over 20 years, do I really want him to see me sweating and bouncing and gasping around the living room? (Insert your off-color joke here, because I can’t, as my Mom reads this blog.)  I live in a great neighborhood for walking, with lots of hills to challenge me, so if it’s not too terribly cold, I hope to try and get out for a walk on a daily basis.

Is there anything more boring than fitness/health/diet talk? Here, have a picture.

This is, officially, my only Christmas decoration other than the tree. I am not like you Christmas warriors, with your amazing Christmas displays and your house-wide decorating. You all make me feel inferior and lackluster. I never got in the habit of decorating for Christmas because, for most of my adult life, I traveled on Christmas, going home to Arkansas from Chicago for about a week. It was beyond depressing to come back home to an apartment with Christmas decorations in it, so I never put up a tree or anything. For some reason, now that I have a house and don’t travel for Christmas, I’m still not that motivated to decorate. Maybe because you guys do enough decorating for me? All I have to do is look at your blogs and/or Instagram feeds and I get my fix. I bought this truck at the Daisies and Olives Open House from a fellow vendor whose husband owned it originally when he was a child. I could not resist the color, or the trailer in the back. I love it. Hope you guys all had a wonderful holiday season.

I went to both booths yesterday and spend around 5 hours all together trying to get things in order. I cleared out all of the Christmas merchandise — I had marked what was left a little lower, but not quite 50%, because I can stash that away for the Junk Ranch in September — Christmas stuff sold pretty well for me at the last September sale. (It is so hard to even comprehend selling things for the next Christmas season — time does, indeed, fly.) I instagrammed this project but hadn’t written about it for the blog:

I used some pottery pieces to make the vintage book page trees that I found on Pinterest. All but one sold, and I have some great ideas for some little petite trees in delicate tea cups for next year. I’m always finding random sugar pots/tea cups/ vases that I love but have no idea what to do with, so this could be a fun way to re-purpose those.

I made a series of signs using the most cheerful color I could find in my paint cabinet.

They’re happy sentiments: This is My Happy Place, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Good Times. Trying to liven up the place with some bright colors and optimistic phrases! I did some nerdy, geeky Valentine’s Day prints for the Fayetteville booth — also going to take Ms. Chanelle’s suggestion and go a little more frat-boy, snarky with some prints I’m cooking up for that booth. Shara and I continue to brainstorm on how we can make that booth more visible in its tiny, little, narrow passageway. Sales continue to be slow for us there, but we are not admitting defeat! We will continue to fight until we find the right combination of factors to make us successful! WE ARE JUNK WARRIORS. We’re not losing money, and it’s kind of a fun challenge to try and break the code.

Since taking over the huge booth at Daisies and Olives, I’ve been doing quite a bit of painting furniture lately. That was one of the reasons I wanted a bigger booth — to be able to fit furniture in it. Of course, as soon as I took on the bigger space, furniture became harder and harder to find — but I’ve managed to find two or three pieces a month to make the larger space worthwhile. I’ve been experimenting with different paints and methods of painting for a couple of months now. For starters, I bought a paint sprayer.

I bought a Critter, probably the lowest-tech sprayer you could possibly find. It has its pros and cons: pros include its price,  the fact that you can mix up your paint in a jar and attach it to the sprayer (more on why that’s a pro below), it’s easy to attach and clean up, and easy to use. Cons are that it stopped working after the first use (something that’s not uncommon, according to some reviews on Amazon) and I had to mess around with it for a while to get it to start working. Basically, every time I use it, I have to take the back of the trigger off, take out the spring, and then put it all back together — this took a while for me to figure out and I have no idea why it needs to be done, but it gets it working again, so I’ll do it. My air compressor also isn’t quite powerful enough to make it as efficient as it could be, but that’s more my fault than the sprayer’s. I’m looking out for a used air compressor now. The sprayer has been invaluable for any project with caning, like these chairs, here shown before painting…

and after:

The sprayer was invaluable not only for the caning, but for that detail on the arms and legs that would have been annoying to paint with a brush. Here’s the final product.

And the sprayer is also incredibly useful for those items that have a ton of detail on them.

Both of these items took no time at all to paint, and the finish is so smooth and professional looking. So I’m going to say thumb’s up on the paint sprayer. I’ve heard a lot of people say that the clean up seems to much of a pain to mess with, but with the Critter, all you do is fill up a jar with mineral spirits, spray it for about three or four minutes, then do the same with water. Not too bad at all.

I’ve also been experimenting  with different kinds of paint. Everyone wants the chalk paint look to their furniture. If you paint something with a regular satin or eggshell finish, it’s not going to sell as fast as something with the matte, distressed look of chalk paint. I truly am a fan of the Annie Sloan line, but I have a few issues with it, chiefly its steep price. It’s just not practical to use when you’re re-selling, because it cuts into your profits significantly. I also don’t agree with reviewers who tout its coverage — even though I’ve read many times that it only requires one coat, I’ve never found that to be true, and always have to do at least two coats and frequently three. I also think their colors are really limited. So as much as I would love to use AS Chalk Paint — because it’s so easy to pop open a quart and start painting — I’ve been experimenting with mixing up my own chalk paint. I’ve tried mixing the paint with plaster of Paris and non-sanded Grout — you can find recipes for those here –– and I liked both of them. I probably prefer the Plaster of Paris, because I think if you’re mixing that into your paint, it HAS to be the best coverage as far as avoiding chips and nicks, but I read in more than one place that sanding paint with those things added to it can be highly toxic, and I started getting a little freaked out about it. After reading this incredibly comprehensive post on the various DIY chalk paints (make sure you read the comments, as well, lots of great advice), I ordered some Calcium Carbonate from Amazon (around $10 for a giant bag that has lasted me a really long time) and tried her recipe. It works just fine. It is not as good as Annie Sloan, none of the DIY versions were, but they all give that kind of chalky, matte feel to the furniture and are easy to distress. Taking the recommendation from the gal at that last blog I linked, I’ve been using Johnson’s Paste Wax to finish — it keeps the matte look while offering some protection. There are so many great posts on DIY chalk paints out there — lots of  research has already been done for us, which is handy.

While I was experimenting, I tried a few projects with Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint. I LOVE the idea of milk paint — that you can’t predict how it’s going to adhere to the furniture, giving it a realistic, vintage, peely look. And, indeed, it did crackle winningly on the first thing I used it on.

But that was the last time I was pleased with anything having to do with this milk paint. My issues are many: first of all, the cost. Just as expensive as AS Chalk paint, maybe even more so. You have to mix your own with the powdered milk paint additive, and I couldn’t manage to get the mixture right using the instructions on the bag. If I mixed according to the instructions, the paint came out way too thin and watery. These bedside tables looked gray using the white milk paint with the given instructions — I had to put about four coats on them.

The instructions also say — and Miss Mustard Seed’s videos show — that you can mix this stuff up in a cup, using a simple stirrer. I did not find this to be the case — I couldn’t get the powder to dissolve all the way. When you hit a clump of undissolved powder while you’re painting, you get disastrous results — that green I was using would go on the WORST shade of mustard if the paint wasn’t mixed properly, resulting in having to do yet another coat to hide the color. I had to buy a mixer to try and get the powder dissolved properly. I resent paying that much money and having to mix my own paint! Especially when I am apparently so bad at it. I have seen projects on blogs using this paint that look beautiful. I don’t know if it was user error or not, but I did not like this paint at all, and I wanted to like it so badly.

Whew. Okay, if you’ve read this far, it’s because you’re interested in painting furniture, so here are just a few more things I’ve learned over the past four months: if you’re painting to sell, use neutral colors. I am even more boring than that — I use cream for all of my pieces. Otherwise, the piece sits in my booth for a really long time, waiting for the person who is looking for that exact shade of paint. I use Behr’s Innocence, which I’ve found to be not too white and not too cream — a perfect, in-between shade. I buy it by the gallon, which I used to not do, because before I could use it all, it would get dried up because the lid gets so messy after you pour the paint once or twice — so I started buying these tops:

I think it was around $4, and I re-use it every time I buy a new can. Makes pouring a cinch and keeps the paint air-tight. I started using Floetrol when I got the paint sprayer, but I use it for everything now — it just helps the finish look more smooth and eliminates brush marks. My current recipe is to take a quart jar, mix four tablespoons of Calcium Carbonate with two tablespoons of warm water, mix well, add the paint almost to the top, leaving about an inch of space, add the Floetrol, put the jar top on, and shake shake shake shake shake. I can use the jar for painting with a brush or screw it on to the Critter if I’m spraying. Simple with minimal clean-up!

And that, my friends, is what I’ve learned about painting furniture. Nothing would make me happier than if you leave your tips in the comments!



January 3, 2015 - 7:13 pm

carol Hi, friend of Shara’s here. I too tried some of the famous chalk paints and make your own, but I still prefer my spray paint cans. I read somewhere if you use flat finish paint it has the look of chalk paint but I have not tried it on furniture. I work outside the home and feel much more organized when I have a structured routine to adhere too. I have been on Christmas break from my job in education. I haven’t accomplished diddly squat, even though I had grand plans to get things done. If I feel like slacking and being on the computer all day, so be it. I will get back to my structure on Monday. I am not a huge Instagrammer, but I check in now and then. Happy to see you blogging though.

January 3, 2015 - 11:38 pm

Shara Well, as you know – I buy and sell a ton of furniture and I love to paint it all. NOT. God Bless you for doing all that work! I will slap on a coat of white paint and distress it with sandpaper – but that’s about as good as I get. I do love the look of all the things you paint. Speaking of looks – you look great and don’t think you don’t. OKAY?????? Now, I have to go to bed – I have an auction to hit! (Since the diet starts Monday, can we have junk tomorrow?) I like Doritoes. 🙂

January 4, 2015 - 9:45 am

Lynn Thanks for posting all this. Your redone furniture looks amazing and if I lived close to you, I’d be seriously shopping your space. I don’t have a booth or any other reason to paint furniture but I’m still going to bookmark this, because you just never KNOW when it will come in handy! And if Shara says you look good, that’s reason enough for me to say, ease up on yourself!! Really girl, do what you can and enjoy life!

January 4, 2015 - 10:27 am

Laurie Diet, schmiet – it’s insulation!! 😉

Love your painting tips! I want to get a sprayer and I may just get a critter now. Also, I know of a local company with a new chalk paint line – wanna have a play date to test their wares?

January 4, 2015 - 12:19 pm

nancy Love the chair…so charming…nice work.

January 4, 2015 - 6:02 pm

Ellen Bordman Love your blog! I read with fascination about painting furniture. That wicker chair came out beautifully! I am so impressed with your stuff, Lara. Best wishes for a fruitful 2015 for your business!

January 5, 2015 - 6:18 am

Erica These paint tips are awesome, Lara! There are so many options out there now and it’s so hard to pick just which one is best for whatever particular project I just so happen to be working on. Thanks for doing the research for us!

Good luck with your eating/workout regime. Mine starts back up this morning too. Evidently while my kids were on Winter break, so was I.


January 8, 2015 - 2:59 pm

Heidi@TheMerryMagpieVintage I just decided before Christmas that I am going to chalk paint a table my kids have beat up and was planning to make my own paint, so I really appreciate reading your experiences with the different recipes! To make sure I’m understanding right, you put the chalk paint through your sprayer? I have a sprayer (though it is not connected to a compressor, it’s self-powered) and I’ve only used it once but I LOVED the results. Now, it will be too cold to paint anything outside here for at least 4 more months so I will have to hand-paint the table, but it would be good knowledge for later!

January 25, 2015 - 2:21 pm

Lara Jo Heidi, I do use the sprayer for the homemade chalk paint (I’ve never tried the brand name stuff with it). I’m with you– yearning for painting outside weather!!

January 25, 2015 - 2:24 pm

Lara Jo Hope the tips help, Erica! I hope your eating/workout regime is going well. I’m doing okay — have lost 5 pounds so far — but it is dreary outside, I’m in a bad mood, and I really want to eat everything in our refrigerator right now. Here’s hoping I can restrain myself. Hope your January is going well!

January 25, 2015 - 2:24 pm

Lara Jo Thank you, sweet Ellen. Hope all is well with you and your family. Saw on the news today that you guys might be getting some bad weather in the next day or two…stay safe and warm!

January 25, 2015 - 2:25 pm

Lara Jo Thanks so much, Nancy, for reading and taking the time to comment! I really appreciate it!

January 25, 2015 - 2:25 pm

Lara Jo Laurie, I have TOO MUCH INSULATION right now. A chalk paint play date sounds like fun! Let’s do it!

January 25, 2015 - 2:26 pm

Lara Jo Well, you’re just too sweet, Ms. Lynn. Thanks so much for the words of encouragement. Hope all is well in your neck of the woods!

January 25, 2015 - 2:31 pm

Lara Jo Hey, Carol! I’m a big spray paint can fan as well. I’m eyeing a cart out in my garage, thinking I may be able to get away with using spray paint. So easy and fast. I think you hit the nail on the head with the structured routine — I do not do well without a structured routine. Also, I think it’s just human nature that the less time we have, the more efficient we are with our time. I know that if I wrote chores down in my planner and then crossed them off I would do a lot better — just the psychology of that would help a lot. Anyway, hope your Christmas break went well! You’re on the downward slide to summer now!

June 28, 2015 - 3:44 am

Athena Thanks for posting all this. Your redone furniture looks amazing and if I lived close to you, I’d be seriously shopping your space. I don’t have a booth or any other reason to paint furniture but I’m still going to bookmark this, because you just never KNOW when it will come in handy! And if Shara says you look good, that’s reason enough for me to say, ease up on yourself!! Really girl, do what you can and enjoy life!

July 11, 2015 - 10:37 pm

Lara Jo Athena, bless your heart, your comments have made my evening. Thanks so much for spreading a little sunshine my way — I really appreciate it! XXOO!