Sunday, January 29, 2017

Vintage Coach Leather Bag Restoration

*DISCLAIMER* This is simply a documentation of how I cleaned this bag. Please understand that all leather and stains are different and not every technique will work, and could even ruin your leather. Proceed at your own risk, and be sure to test everything in a inconspicuous place first!*                                      

I've written BEFORE about buying bags second hand, and how I prefer to own just a few bags instead of several. I tend to need a rather large bag for work, and the one I had PURCHASED from Goodwill years ago just isn't cutting it any longer.
Scouring eBay for several months led to the purchase of this (now) beautiful Coach leather backpack. Made in the 80's, this baby has been running around for about 30 years! However, when my bag arrived from the seller, it was definitely a case of "expectation vs. reality". There were pen marks in several places, random black marks and worst of all- black nail polish down the side of the bag.

To be fair, the seller had shown a picture of the black nail polish- but not one which showed the damage to its full extent. And somehow, perhaps because of lighting, the rest of the deep scratches, puncture marks and stains didn't come through. I had a hard time getting pictures that showed the black markings as well, and they were easier to see on my phone than they are the computer display.
I contacted the seller and told her I was disappointed, and she did credit me back some money immediately. So then I got to work on trying to restore this bag to the incredible condition it seemed to be in based off of the photos.
 Starting with he nail polish, I used some standard nail polish remover and a q-tip, which worked really well to remove it. However- it also removed the color of the the bag, which you can see in the last photo.

After removing the nail polish with the remover, I used a wet white washcloth to make sure all of the nail polish remover was out of the bag. It was important to use a white washcloth so that there wasn't any ink transfer. Afterward, I covered the water stain in my trusty cornstarch and left it overnight.
Here it is the next morning. There's a bit of nail polish left, but considering how much color was also taken from the bag, I was afraid to go after it again. 
After that, I also used a white washcloth and water to mop out the other pictured black stains as well, covering them with cornstarch afterward. I had many random pen marks, but none of the remedies I normally use worked on those with this bag, and instead just left more discoloring from lifting off the leather dye.

I decided at that point to cut my losses and coat the bag in Frye Weatherproof Spray. I rely on that, as well as the cream, to keep my Frye (and other) leather boots in great condition. After spraying it on (as seen above), I buffed it in with a white washcloth and allowed it to soak in. As you can see- I started with the back of the bag to make sure it wouldn't stain or change the color of my leather.
That stuff worked wonders! It helped to redistribute the dye in areas that lost color during stain removal and left the bag looking so much better!
This is the area that was covered in black nail polish. It looks so much better! I can still see a bit of lightening at the very top, but I think a few more buffs with the Frye Cream will wipe those out.
eBay is always a gamble. It's obviously not uncommon for an item to arrive in an unexpected condition, but thankfully this time I could remedy it. Hopefully, with proper care, this bag will have another 30 years left in her!
All the best, and as always, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

This or That: Warby Parker / Eye Buy Direct

I'm starting a new review process called "This or That" where two similar companies or products will be pitted against each other to decipher their pros and cons! Doesn't that sound fun? I spend the money so that you don't have to!
First up is eye wear.  I've been wearing glasses for 20 years. Gah. They've always come from box stores and they've always been expensive- even with "BOGO" deals that always seem to have a catch.
Recently, the online trend has been catching on and four-eyed consumers like myself have been purchasing their frames from web dealers.
I decided to give two big online retailers a go, WARBY PARKER and EYEBUYDIRECT.




First up? Warby Parker.
Warby Parker has an extremely easy to navigate website and allows you to choose up to 5 frames from select options to try on at home. I immediately took advantage of that fact and had 3 pairs of glasses and 2 sunglasses shipped. For free.
They arrived quickly and well packaged (I'm a marketers dream) with clear instructions and suggestions. I tried on all 5 pairs and snapped pictures, then tweeted my two final contestants to Warby Parker's team for their super professional opinion.
THEN, tragedy struck, I discovered that my script was outdated. My doctor wrote the script for one year instead of two, even though he had no reason to do so which is borderline illegal in Michigan. But whatever.
Jerk.
So I scheduled an appointment with a different optician for an updated script and in that time decided I didn't really love any of the frames they sent.
So I ordered 5 more.
For free.
I had a clear winner in the second batch and placed my order online. This is the part that gets tricky.
They take your PD (Pupillary Distance) for you using a photograph. I think that's a huge mistake. For most people it isn't an issue, but the glasses they shipped gave me serious headaches and nausea.
I emailed the kind customer service team who put me in contact with one of their on site opticians. She helped me troubleshoot the issues and sent a second pair after having me shoot another selfie while wearing the glasses.
These were not better. My PD is monocular - which means I have two different numbers because my eyes aren't symmetrical. The ones measured using my photograph are binocular, which means they're equal distances. They were also 3 MM further apart than they should have been,  so one eye was off by 2 mm and the other was off by 1. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but the headaches were out of control. I couldn't wear them for more than a few minutes without getting sick.
I again emailed the team and they vowed to this time use the number provided by my doctor instead of the measurement from a selfie, and the result was much better. I love my new glasses.

PROS:
One for One: for every pair you buy, they ship a pair to someone in need.
Cost: My frames were $100 out the door, including shipping
Customer Service: To their credit, they stayed with me until those glasses were solid- they made THREE pairs!
Style: Their design team is on point with new frames coming all the time.
Try On Program: Come on! You can try before you buy FOR FREE!
Packaging: They arrive beautifully packaged with a case and a sleeve which doubles as a cleaning cloth. However,  my glasses are too long for the case (you can see this in the above photo).

CONS:
PD: Measuring this using a selfie seems like a terrible idea. They should encourage people to use the PD measured by their optician when getting an eye exam.
Script: You need to show an actual copy of your current script, which isn't required by all companies.
Time: There was a huge expanse of time between when I purchased my first pair of glasses and received the final approved pair. June 29th- August 15th.
Returns: You absolutely cannot get in contact with them to make a return.


EyeBuyDirect:
My experience with this company was short and sweet. Their frames start at $6, but that isn't including shipping or a prescription lens. Keep in mind when ordering that adding a script will up your cost $20. I also saw zero frames for $6 while casually browsing.
Their site isn't quite as clean or easy to navigate as Warby Parker, but it is FULL OF FRAMES! They have a HUGE selection and you can upload a selfie and try the glasses on virtually. I did that with the pair of glasses I ended up buying and while it was helpful it wasn't extremely accurate. The glasses looked different on me in real life, they were larger on my face, which was a good thing.
EyeBuyDirect allows you to just enter your entire script (including PD!) so you don't have to use an updated prescription. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing, but it would have been helpful for me.
UPDATE: I ended up ordering a second pair of sunglasses from EBD. They didn't work at all and I could not get in touch with a live human to return them. I sent several e-mails and called multiple times. Once I was able to get a live human and she promised to send me a return label but never did. That was over 6 months ago and I've never been able to return my glasses. It's definitely something to keep in mind.
Also, they offer rewards programs for referrals and send out tons of coupons. I paid $37 total for my new sunglasses and they were perfect from the moment they arrived.
Lastly, they have a premium line which is more expensive- these are identical to the Baker frame that I purchased from Warby Parker, they even come in tortoise! With the added charge for a prescription and case, they would be about the same price though.

PROS:
PD/Script: You can enter the PD from your doctor, script doesn't have to be brand new.
Price: The prices are just so cheap, even the "premium line" is affordable.
Time: They were at my door in about 8 days after ordering.
Selection: MASSIVE
Coupons: They're always offering sales, money off for referrals and incentives to buy if you wait it out.

CONS:
Quality: I like them, but they don't seem sturdy enough to last as long as my expensive prescription sunglasses. These are backups.
Website: It could be a *little* cleaner.
Packaging: I don't find their packaging to be very appealing. They come in a sliding box which cannot be used as a case and have a fabric sleeve. A case is a $4 extra charge that I'm wishing I had paid!

In summary, both companies are good. I lean a little more toward EyeBuyDirect if you plan to have several pairs or often lose/break yours. Otherwise, Warby Parker's frames are a bit more sturdy. Using my link to their site allows you to save $10 on your first purchase :)

Have you used a different online retailer? I'd love to hear your experience below!

*I have not been solicited for my opinion or received anything for writing this piece. All opinions are my own. The provided link for EYEBUYDIRECT is unique to me and does provide a referral kickback if used, the same as it would for any other customer who is part of the referral program.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

DIY Easy Sweet Pea Wreath

What's beautiful, easy, plentiful and dries like a dream? A sweet pea wreath!
I recently discovered some sweet peas growing through the fence into our yard from our neighbor's home. And I loved them.
My friend, Carol, told me that she had made wreaths from them in the past and they were easy, required no tools and dried really well. When we got to our cottage "up north" this year and discovered a bountiful supply of sweet peas, I decided to give her suggestion a go and make my own wreath. It was extremely easy and my first attempt was a success!
I've tried to recreate the process for you in this tutorial, but we are running very low on sweet peas on my side of the fence... anndddd.... I'm not going to ask my neighbor if I can raid her stash! But it's so easy that this should suffice. If you need more clarity, just ask!

Start by collecting lengths of sweet peas on the vine. I suggest leaving at least 18 inches of length, if not more. I could only get about 3 lengths of 18" this time, but for the previous wreath I used 8-9. The more, the better.
If you have an extremely long length, wrap it in a circle (your desired size) and wind the ends around each other. For smaller lengths, start with two pieces. Holding on in your hand, wrap the second piece around the first- with about 8 inches of each length intertwined.
Hopefully you an see int his picture how the two pieces are intertwined.
Here are my two pieces woven together. Add the third length, starting opposite of where you started with the previous two and wrap it around them. Continue doing this until you have your desired thickness. Don't be worried about the snapping sound! Sweet Peas are very resilient. If you like a messy look, allow the outer vines and branches to hang free. Otherwise, wrap them around the base as well.

Wrap, twist and tuck til you achieve your desired look.
TIPS:
This is a super easy version and results in the pictures I've shown you. For a more polished look, you can start with a metal wreath as a base, or you can create a circular base from floral wire. You can always secure the loops with floral wire as well, but mine held together just fine without it.
I made this wreath the day we left, threw it in the trunk with our luggage and headed home. It was a super long drive and the wreath endured a lot of shifting, squeezing and smashing. However- it made it home just fine!
You can leave the wreath as is and it will naturally dry on its own into a much more compact version. This is another reason to start really lush and thick.
Here she is all dried! The dark pink flowers dried into a deep purple and the lighter pink became white. The colors will remain for about a year and then fade.
I absolutely love the way they look, and you can find sweet peas on just about any roadside (in our area anyway!). They grow easily if you'd like to start your own garden! I can't wait to add more to ours.
If you create any of your own wreaths, I'd love to see them!
All the best, and as always, thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

DIY Fresh Peppermint Tea

Last year I planted mint and sweet basil in our outdoor garden. Generally I keep herbs indoors on a window ledge, but it seemed like fun to try those two outside.
Alas, the basil did not survive- but my mint is back this year and has FLOURISHED, nearly quadrupling in size.
A friend of mine was staying with us from Germany and suggested that we use this abundance of peppermint leaves for tea, since peppermint tea happens to be my favorite.
She said her parents had a rather large harvest one year, so they snipped the leaves off the plant and allowed them to dry in the sun. Afterwards they bottled them up and used them with an infuser to make tea for a solid year.
This seemed like a perfectly brilliant idea, and something to do toward the fall when they're likely to die off, but I wanted some fresh tea now!
I saw that you can use fresh leaves for mint tea and decided to give it a try.
It's obviously extraordinarily easy, so this will be a super short post.
Snip 5-6 leaves from the plant and give them a nice washing.
Throw them in the bottom of a mug, add boiling water and allow the leaves to steep for a few minutes. If you're feeling so inclined, you can tear them up first or use an infuser or a French Press. This worked well and was super easy. 
Enjoy!
Peppermint tea lattes are my FAVORITE in the fall, so I can't wait to try this then (with fresh or dried leaves) as well. I use almond milk, boil it and throw in the tea, but for dairy drinkers, it's probably even more delectable with real milk! 
I grew the peppermint mostly for using to freshen our home naturally, but if you have any great uses for fresh mint, I'd love to hear them!
All the best, and as always, thanks for reading!
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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

DIY Fairy Garden Inspo

My mom is a creative genius.                                                    She comes up with the most incredible ideas for children, and I've said a million times that she made our childhood magical. So this weekend when she showed up at my house with these beautiful, handcrafted fairy garden pieces it wasn't much of a surprise at all.                                                               I asked for her permission to share them with you, as well as a little explanation of how she did it. Originally she was going to recreate another piece with me for a proper tutorial, but with all the birthday celebrating we just didn't get around to it.                                                                                           For each piece, she used foraged wood- lots of branches and then large straight pieces as well. She connected them with hot glue, but I would suggest using wood glue or something really strong like E6000 for longevity.                                      The pieces were all sawed with a hand held miter saw similar to THIS one.  Please remember to follow all safety guidelines when working with saws and strong adhesives. 
Her fairy fountain includes seashells attached to a branch. The branch was glued to a "base" made from a piece of branch that she sawed a section from. Moss attached with glue as well.
A swingset and table with "chairs".

Fairy dresses were made from the petals of silk flowers. She used floral wire to create hangers for them.
This slide incorporates a piece of curved bark she found, and I think that it would be the hardest to find and recreate. She also has ladder steps going up the slide as well.
Her wheelbarrow is my favorite of the pieces, and the most complex. I included pictures from a couple angles. She drilled a twig sized hole through the center of the "wheel", everything else is still the miter saw and hot glue- but again, I would recommend something other than hot glue.
This table has an acorn bowl, and is a bit different from the other which utilized a cross-section of branch for the table top. This is a section of bark instead. 
Cross section of branch attached to a thicker and shorter piece create the table. The stools  are cross sections of that same branch which was used for the table base. 
And here is her swing set again, which would be the easiest to recreate.
Since she left, she has already made several more things! There's also a candle dipping station, seesaw, park bench and more! The fairies at her house are going to have quite the party.
My nieces (5 and 7) think this is absolutely brilliant and cannot keep themselves away from their grandma's fairy playground. So, I guess my mom's magic has extended to another generation! I hope there's some inside of me for our little ones someday as well.
All the best, and as always, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

DIY Attic Bathroom Update

I haven't done a very good job documenting what our old victorian home looked like when we first bought it,  and this bathroom is no exception.
We knew right out of the gate that it was already pretty much done for us- the clawfoot tub was all the showstopper we wanted or needed. So unlike our KITCHEN MAKEOVER, or even the MULTIPURPOSE office, guest and studio room, there wasn't much we needed to do.
And yet, it has taken over a year to "finish". Technically I still want to change out the flooring, but that will be a while.
This bathroom was at one point part of the attic. The wall was knocked out and drywall and shelving were installed. The plumbing was brought up from the bathroom below it. If you're going to turn an attic space into an ensuite, definitely try to make the plumbing easily accessible. Otherwise it may be much more expensive and better off as a closet.
 
While we love this room and it's full of natural light, as a (not at all professional photographer, not even close) amateur, the room is generally under or overexposed in pictures. So apologies in advance. We knew there were four big issues with the room as is.
First, the color wasn't so great, but that's true for nearly all houses when you move in. The entire house was actually painted in this sea foam green.
The
Entire
House.
Including stair railings.
I also didn't like the main lighting or this giant, clunky vanity. It has a genuine marble top and we felt it was a beautiful piece but it didn't match the bathroom. And it was way too big for us.
Lastly, this little vanity area needed help. The room is a modified attic with tons of storage space, but it's very short and the walls are angled so there isn't space for an actual mirror above the sink.
Right out of the gate we painted over the green using extra valspar paint from our living room. I'm a huge fan of valspar reserve- it really does generally only take one coat to cover up old paint. It was supposed to be a gray but turned out a bit more blue which was perfect for the bathroom.
In this picture the ceiling looks white, but it's the same blue-gray as the walls.

My grandparents have both passed on, but my grandma shared a love for birds with us. From her home, I have a beautiful collection of James Audubon books, and the cover of her favorite was this flamingo print.
To follow the pink bird theme, I added this shot of a gorgeous pink cockatoo from the Cincinnati zoo, but once it was actually on the wall it looked too dark for the room so eventually it will be switched out. Sorry little buddy.
This room has TONS of storage, mostly enclosed, with the exception of this shelving. Considering I lack folding skills, my sanity should be questioned for choosing the open shelving as linen storage. Most of our linens are white, and I wanted them easily accessible. Plus, I used the closed door shelving for our insanely printed beach towels (of which we have many) and other things that would have been even larger eye sores (hair tools, giant vats of nail polish, huge containers of pink french clay...). I have big plans for trying to make this area more beautiful to the eye (including learning how to fold), but for now here we are!
 The vanity area got a few additions to make it more user friendly. an IKEA spice rack, spray painted with metallic silver, holds makeup while I get ready so that I don't constantly have to open the medicine cabinet to get products out.
The scalloped box shelf was a find at a local vintage store.
And a sweet little flamingo from the Cincinnati zoo happily greets me while I dress, bringing remembrances of summer all year long. Yes and amen.
 This little target stool is the perfect height but doesn't quite match with it's gold legs. I've toyed with painting them silver using RUSTOLEUM's insanely effective $4 paint, but for now I carried the gold into the scalloped frame above.
One more shot of the vanity area. This corner is actually a lot happier in person, but was super hard to photograph without being caught in the mirror :) I should mention that the light above the mirror also has electrical hook up so that I can blow-dry  and curl as well. I have a special sleeve for hot tools that can rest on the rack while I'm doing my hair, but an oven mitt would work too.
My goal was to put a chandelier in this room, but I couldn't find any that were short enough. I spent an entire year searching with no luck. I ended up with a sparkling flush mount, which isn't quite the impact I wanted, but still is so much better than the previous lighting!
Lastly, in the end, I couldn't sell this behemoth and buy a new vanity like we had wanted. I put it on several sites, but no one wanted to come haul it away. The marble is gray, taupe and pink so I experimented with just painting the vanity and it worked in the end. Valspar Reserve paint to the rescue, once again! 1 pint was way more than enough to do the entire vanity, but it did need two coats. However, I didn't sand or prime the (very dark) piece at all prior to, so if you do sand (or have a lighter piece) then you may only need one coat.
The built ins above the vanity are much despised. I really hate the towel rack and toothbrush holder there. For starters, we use electric toothbrushes which are too big and know better than to keep them sitting on a counter (have you seen the bacteria stats? Ew.), and the towel rack is no better. It's an awkward size and just an eyesore. But removing them would mean retiling, and we aren't ready for that yet. I attempt to keep the toothbrush holder covered with a pretty little powder.
 In the end, it's a very simple and clean room which is our goal for most rooms. John especially likes simple lines and zero fuss in decor- which will be very obvious when I post about his studio. Since this was our master ensuite (and he let me add pink...) we tried to make this room uncomplicated and calm. In total, we put less than $150 into the bathroom making it our cheapest room yet- but it was also the easiest.
*UPDATE*
This month I made a series of errors that ended in our main bathroom (with the only shower!) being unusable for 9 days. We couldn't even get ready in there.  So this master bath became our only bath and after getting ready in this space for nine solid days, we made an excellent addition...
 

This awesome cart is from TARGET and is very similar to the super popular Raskog from IKEA. I got it on sale for $24.99 and spray painted it metallic silver, though I wish it were gold now to further tie in the gold chair legs on my vanity seat. It may be redone soon, since it's only a $3 fix :)

Now I keep everything on the cart. Everything.
Shampoo, soap, makeup, hot tools, essential oils, salts... I discovered that the rack wasn't enough for holding a hot straightener while getting ready at my vanity and the ledge on our bathtub was no match for slippery soap! This rolling cart has made getting ready such a breeze. If you would like it in a color that isn't metallic, I always recommend rustoleum ultra cover which comes in various shades.
If you have unused attic space, make it's time to turn that into a bathroom! You'd obviously spend a lot more money, but the space is actually perfect for a master ensuite - or maybe even a closet!
We still have to finish quite a few rooms in the house, and it takes forever, but it feels nice to (mostly) cross another off the list.
All the best, and as always, thanks for reading!