Aunt Fran ~ by Sam

Yesterday, I forgot to wear my pearls.

I didn’t forget, initially.  I thought about it the entire time I was preparing to shower, showering, dressing and getting ready for the day.  I just never actually put on the pearls and wore them.  Isn’t that ridiculous?

Of course, I don’t mean I thought obsessively about wearing pearls the entire time I was going through my morning routine.  To be honest, I thought of them once.  After that, I thought of Aunt Fran.  Aunt Fran would have worn pearls.  They go with everything.

Aunt Fran was more than my aunt, if that’s fair to say, and I hope it won’t make any of my other aunts feel like they are “less than.”  Every one of my aunts is unique and special and important, of course; but, since today is about Aunt Fran and her pearls, which I neglected to wear yesterday, today, we are talking about Aunt Fran.

Aunt Fran was my mother’s oldest living sister when I was born.  Twelve years older, she was my mom’s “little mom,” helping look after her when they were young.  I think, because she knew that some of us wouldn’t have a Nana (Mom’s mom had passed away some years prior), she sort of stepped in to that role for us…but only sort of, because she also knew that she wasn’t our Nana.  She was Aunt Fran.  She would stay over at our house for Christmas; and sometimes, one of us would get to go spend a special weekend with her.  She lived alone in the City, in an apartment that I thought was very posh and sophisticated, and she had a beautiful but very persnickety cat named Priscilla who wold hide behind the curtains and hiss at visitors.  You felt very privileged if Prissy graced you with her presence.  While you were visiting, you got to go all over the City with her, and you felt very grown up and sophisticated, riding escalators, shopping at department stores, stopping to pick up mail at the front desk on the way back up to her apartment.  I remember being impressed by everything.

After Aunt Fran passed away, while talking with my cousins, I had a momentary selfish pang of realization that I wasn’t the only one.  She had taken a bunch of us for the same magical, exciting weekends.  I was an adult ~ like a really, grown up, married-with-kids adult ~ and I had this moment of selfish, little-girlish feeling that I wasn’t as special as I thought I was.  Luckily, I have the best cousins in the world, and talking with them made me realize that one of the best things about Aunt Fran was the way that she managed to make each one of us feel like we were the most special.

Last night, I felt a little sad when I went to get in to my pajamas and realized I didn’t have to take off my pearls, because I had never remembered to put them on.  Then, I remembered while I was in the shower and getting myself ready for the day, thinking about Aunt Fran yesterday, my thoughts had drifted to a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson.  It was one I remembered from my childhood, and while I know that it was really written about a nanny, and Aunt Fran was absolutely nothing like a nanny, I thought something about it captured something like the role Aunt Fran played in so many of our lives.

So, I will wear my pearls today, and I will share this here.

Coincidentally, I first read it many years ago in a copy of “A Child’s Garden of Verses,” that was given to me by Aunt Fran on Christmas when I was 5 years old.

by Robert Louis Stevenson

Chief of our Aunts ~ not only I,
But all your dozen of nurselings cry ~
What did the other children do?
And what were childhood, wanting you? 

What did the other children do?  And what were childhood, wanting you?




What’s in a Name? ~ by…someone

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title.”

So says Juliet, upon discovering her true love’s despised moniker, and perhaps it rings true.  After all, it is our character that truly defines us.  Isn’t it?  We could be called practically anything, but it is our actions ~ how we choose to conduct ourselves ~ that really matters.

Why then would I find myself hopelessly bereft over the notion that I might be in danger of forever losing my name?

This occurred to me earlier this week, on the heels of yet another call from yet another healthcare provider calling me “Kathryn.”  Only doctors, police, the DMV and IRS call me Kathryn.  Well, and my dad, who calls me by my full name, sometimes, and that’s okay, because he’s my dad.  I have never been Kathryn.  Aside from the first day they called role and I corrected them, even teachers didn’t call me Kathryn.  I was Kay when I was little, then Katie, and, ultimately, Kate.  Everyone back home called me Kate, up until I started college.  Except my dad. His nickname for me (when he wasn’t calling me by my full name) was Sam.  But then, being an adolescent girl, I got, well, you know, adolescent, I guess, I demanded he stop calling me that, because it was NOT MY NAME!

And so, he did.

But then, I felt kind of rotten about it.

So, I told him that, when I grew up to be a famous author, I would use it as my pen name.

Obviously, you can see the odds of me being a famous author are quite high.  Did you note the wry wit?  The affable charm?  The effortless prose?  It’s inevitable.

Then, I went on my merry way, being a Katie, and then a Kate.

I did all kinds of things.  Strange, awkward things, really, because I was, not surprisingly,  as strange and awkward a teenager and young adult as I am a full-grown human.  Also not surprisingly, I have not yet become a famous author.

What did happen was I went to school.  Well, everyone goes to school, I suppose.  Well, not everyone; but most everyone in the U.S. who falls above a certain tax bracket, anyway, after a certain point in history (after which I was most definitely born) has some kind of education, and so, I did go to school.  I even almost finished high school.  Wow.  What I meant was I went to college.  Junior college first, and, in fact, I liked it so well, I went for a very long time.  It’s either that, or I wasn’t very good at it, and I had to spend a lot of time working out the kinks.  Whatever the case may be, during my seven illustrious years in junior college, I pursued acting.  I did quite a lot of acting at school, and even outside of school.  Since, during that time, I found I wasn’t getting any closer to becoming a famous author, but I was acting quite a lot, I decided to use Sam as my stage name.

The thing is, when you do a lot of theatre, it tends to lead to more theatre, which leads to more theatre, which leads to more theatre…and, well, pretty soon, most of the people you know are people you met doing ~ guess what ~ theatre!  So, pretty soon, I had a lot of new friends, all of whom were calling me “Sam.”  I was having a grand time, making friends, doing shows, going to parties, trying to remember to do my homework because ~ whoops! ~ that’s what I went to college for!  It really was great fun. Some of the best years of my life, to be sure.  I made some of the best friends I have ever had during those years, and I have even managed to keep in touch with some of them.  I learned so much.  I landed an incredibly important (to me and my future) job that ended up shaping my career, completely changing the path I thought I wanted to take in life and helping me find the direction I had lacked.  There were so many great things I accomplished as Sam.

But it was always great to go home to where the people who had known me and loved me since I was a little girl still called me Kate, because, somewhere in there ~ strikes breast ~ I will always still be Kate, too.  You see, I like Kate, and I never meant to lose her entirely.

When I transferred to Arizona State University to pursue my Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre Education, I got a job at a childcare center to help pay rent and bills.  I used the name Kate at work, and Sam with friends.  When we moved to California, I initially used Kate when I was teaching and at places like the children’s school and our church, and   Sam friends, but I found, as the children got older, it got confusing.  It probably wasn’t confusing for the kids yet, but it was confusing for me, and for others around us, and I worried it would be confusing for them.  What would happen when someone asked, “What’s your mom’s name?” and they gave a different answer than the name by which that person knew me, or the name they had on record?  It was too much to expect a kid to remember.  It was too much to expect me to remember.  Now, what name did I tell THESE people?  And so, gradually, I just became Sam.

Looking back, now, I don’t know why I became Sam, and not Kate.  At the time, perhaps, it felt comfortable, because I was used to it.  It hadn’t been long since my college days.  Maybe I longed for the days of rehearsals and greenroom chatter and late nights at Denny’s.  Maybe I just wanted to be different, because I was still young, and kind of ornery.

But now…

Well, now…

Now, I think, with the advent of social media, we don’t talk on the telephone as much as we used to.  So I don’t hear the voices of my family and friends back home as often as I once did.  They don’t hear mine, either, because I don’t call, and I should.  I mean, I think I should.  They might be reading this and thinking, “Oh, dear God ~ now she’s going to call me!”  I like hearing people’s voices.  Unfortunately, I think our lives have all evolved in ways that don’t allow for telephone conversations often.  I fear…or, no, not fear, exactly, but suspect…I strongly suspect we are all now hardwired in to social media communication, which is a wonderful convenience, and I am thrilled to have it, but I do miss the voices.  I miss hearing them say my name.  It’s old-fashioned, I know, and, perhaps, a little bit self-centered.  I can accept that.  I have lived a very other-centered life as a wife, mother and teacher, so, on this point, I can be the tiniest bit self-centered. I think it’s been a little bit too long since my last trip back to Maryland, and I want to hear people say my name the way they have said it since I was a little girl.  People like my mom, my siblings, my cousins, my childhood best friends.

Then, of course, there are the ones that will never say it again: Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt Fran, Uncle Frank, Aunt Dody, Uncle Jack, Uncle Jim, Uncle Joe, Aunt Eleanor, Aunt Kay, Uncle Tony, Aunt Dee…  I haven’t even named them all.  I could never name them all.  It’s too hard.  I feel bad.  I keep thinking of people I need to go back and add. Geez.  That’s a lot of people.  And it’s probably still not everyone. What do you do about them?  I can still hear them, clear as a bell, in my mind, so, sometimes, that’s what I do.  I just close my eyes and listen.

What occurred to me recently, I think, is this notion that I am losing my name.  That, if I don’t hear it ~ if fewer and fewer people are calling me Kate, and no one out here in California calls me Kate ~ I will just gradually stop being Kate.  I felt like Alice, walking through the forest with my arms looped lazily around a fawn, both of us blissfully unaware of who we are, because we’ve lost our names.  As if somehow I will simply cease to be Kate altogether, when I know well and good that all the Samming in the world couldn’t un-Kate me.  I mean, let’s face it: once a Kate, always a Kate.  Am I right?

In the end, I might have to take exception with Juliet’s opinion on names.  While I don’t think our names necessarily define us, I have to admit, there is something decidedly “Kate” about me, and there always has been.  After much consideration, I am not ready to completely divest myself of my Kateness.  I suspect, like Shakespeare’s Kate, I have and will be called “plain Kate, and bonny Kate and sometimes Kate the curst,” and I can live with that.

I’m not asking any of you to change anything.  If you call me Sam, continue to call me Sam.  If you call me Kate, call me Kate.

And, you know, if either of us ever has a minute, we should probably call each other.

The Girl Who Lived ~ by Sam

17 years ago today, on March 28th 2000, I was 29 years old.  Gosh, it seems like a lifetime ago.  Shane and I lived in the upstairs apartment at the back of our building of six units, which faced another, identical 6-unit building.  Our daughter, Justice, had recently become a big sister for the first time, to Hallie, who was born at 11:58 pm on March 17th ~ St. Patrick’s Day! ~ on the front seat of our Honda Civic in front of Kaiser Permanente Hospital’s Emergency Entrance in Woodland Hills.  We almost made it to the hospital in time, but, what can I say?  Hallie was in a hurry to be born on St. Paddy’s Day.

When I think about that little baby, my first impressions are of a strong, alert child, right from the word, “go!”  I had a hard time, hemorrhaging and requiring a couple of courses of pitocin to get the bleeding under control upon being transferred up to a recovery room, but not our little baby.  Hallie was eager to nurse, wide-eyed, alert and responsive.  I remember lying on the sofa the day we brought her home, with Hallie resting on my belly.  She just wriggled her way up my body all by herself, like a tiny little mountain climber.  I know, I know ~ babies do this ~ but we were so impressed right from the start by her strength, her grip, and how awake and aware of the world around her she was.  She just seemed interested in everything.

On the evening of March 28th, baby Hallie was just 11 days old.  Justice was asleep her room.  She would have been 2 years and about 4 months old.  Shane was working at his desk in the living room, and I was napping on the sofa.  Hallie was asleep in the cradle my dad had built, which was in the room with us.  We always had our babies sleep wherever we were.  So, we kept the cradle in the front room.  I learned later that Shane had somehow become aware that something was wrong with Hallie.  Maybe it was the absence of breath sounds.  Maybe it was a choking sound.   Maybe he saw something out of the corner of his eye.  I don’t know, but I thank God that something alerted him.  I awoke to the sound of him yelling her name.  He was holding her, her face was bright red, mouth wide open, like she should be screaming, but there was no sound.  I could see the terror in both of their eyes.  I don’t even think I was fully awake before I was across the room whisking her away and saying, “Call 9-1-1!”

Having worked in a preschool classroom, I had, at least, been trained in infant CPR.  I went in to auto-pilot.  It’s hard for me to put in to words what happened next.  I can remember it all so clearly, like I am watching a movie, but it’s difficult to articulate.  I remember checking her airway.  I remember running through all of the steps in my head ~ which I remembered then, but don’t now ~ I remember performing the infant Heimlich maneuver, and feeling a tremendous sense of relief when she coughed up a huge chunk of mucous…and then a renewed sense of panic when, instead of starting to breathe, my tiny little baby went limp and blue.

I remember that Shane was on the line with the 9-1-1 operator by this time, and that she remained on the line with him until we left for the hospital.  I remember that, at some point, little Justice was awakened by the commotion, and wandered out.  I remember that the paramedics from the nearby fire station arrived within two minutes that felt like an eternity.  I remember.  I remember loosening her clothes, jiggling her limp little limbs, begging her to breathe.  I remember Shane’s voice pleading with her to breathe.  I remember repeatedly thumping the soles of my baby’s tiny feet, so she would gasp for air, and hoping against hope that, eventually, those tiny little gasps would “catch,” and she would start breathing regularly again.  And I remember that, eventually, miraculously, she did.  Right before the paramedics arrived.  She was breathing, albeit shallowly, by the time they got there, but, since she had not been, of course, a trip to the ER was still in order.

I remember when the paramedics explained to me that I couldn’t hold her on the way to the hospital.  That I had to hand her over to them.  That she had to be transported by them the way any patient would, but I could ride inside the ambulance with her.  Shane and Justice could follow in the car.  I remember the look on Shane’s face when he realized he had to let them drive away with his baby.  I remember how tiny she looked inside the ambulance on that huge gurney.

I remember sitting at the hospital while they checked her over and over and questioned us about what had happened, and found no explanation.  No explanation.  And just…sent us home.  I remember the diagnosis.



I remember searching for information to try to understand what had happened to my child and finding that it stood for “Apparent Life-Threatening Event.”

As if we couldn’t have guessed.

I remember months later when I had to fight for the insurance company to cover that ambulance ride and hospital visit, because, they told me, the incident “wasn’t life-threatening.”


“Please refer to doctor’s diagnosis.  A.L.T.E. – Apparent Life-Threatening Event.”

I remember how, at about two months, she suffered another episode of the same type.  Still with no further explanation.

I remember how, years later, she developed asthma, and often suffered respiratory complications such as bronchitis or pneumonia.  I remember the time she had croup, and developed stridor, and her little chest would cave in, instead of expanding, when she took a breath, and my heart would ache for her.  I remember other parents thinking I was being “overprotective” when I said it was important for her not to be exposed to respiratory ailments because she was at high risk for respiratory complications.

But, more than anything, on this day, I remember my child’s beautiful eyes, smile, voice.  I think of all of the amazing things this almost grown person has achieved.  I think of the art my child has created, the roles this young actor has played, all the music and dances and stories…and everything yet to come.

Hallie was due on March 27th, born on March 17th, under rather unusual circumstances.  Then March 28th came along and did its best to wrestle her away from us.  Every year at this time, I can’t help but pause and count this particularly incredible blessing.


To Start Anew ~ by Sam

2017 finds us all poised at the breaking dawn of a fresh, new year.  A year full of hope, and promise and possibilities.  The problems, the struggles, the tears, the regrets, the trials, the toils of 2016 and before lay behind us, and what lies ahead is infinite and unknown.  People encourage us to move only forward, to cast off the negative, never looking back; but, like Lot’s wife, we find ourselves compelled to cast that glance aft, and then…

Then what?

Isn’t it our history that informs us?  Isn’t it our past that makes us what we are today?

And so, I offer this advice for the New Year: Don’t attempt to make a brand new start, as people suggest.  That is far too tall an order for anyone, and destined for failure.  Sure, go ahead, move forward.  But don’t just put one foot in front of the other and trudge blindly on.  Move forward informed by the past, strengthened by your experience, hardened in your resolve ~ battle-scarred and imperfectly-perfect, as are we all ~ ready to conquer whatever life happens to throw your way.

In that spirit, I give you my Resolutions for the New Year, in no particular order:

In 2017, I resolve to:

Be Kind.
Visit Places.
Make Things.
Plant Things.
Play Music.
Take Care of Myself.

I might clean some stuff, too.

I think I can handle that.

Wishing you and yours Peace, Love, Health & Happiness in the New Year and beyond.  With all of those things, how can we possibly go wrong?

So Much to Say ~ by Sam

After seeing how well the photo-heavy post worked last week, I decided to do another this week.  Perhaps, I will just keep posting that way, just to keep posting something.  Shane has promised to post about the computer he is building ~ oh, the trials and tribulations of the Great Computer Build of 2016! ~ when he has time, but he is, as usual, working several jobs at once, so it might be some time before he gets to that.  Well, he is not working several jobs at the moment.  At this particular moment, he is sleeping, as he should, after a much-needed night out for just the two of us at Cheesecake Factory (and, yes, there are things I can eat there ~ there is a Vegan Cobb Salad, in fact, that is quite good, and almost as large as I, to boot, so I will be eating that for days) and a very heavy work week.  Kaia is at a friend’s Bat Mitzvah, and the other kids are still asleep, because it is Saturday morning, so they can sleep in.  Me?  I was up to get the kid to the early Bat Mitzvah, and now I am drinking coffee, writing, and neglecting chores.  Three of my favourite pastimes!

I decided to do another photo-post this week, because I enjoyed looking back on my week.  Sometimes, I feel like the days and weeks and months all bleed together, and I find myself gasping for air and thinking, “Wait!  Stop!  What??  It’s April?!!  When did that happen??  Where were January, February, March???  Didn’t we celebrate Christmas???!!!!  Slow down already!!!”  It is my hope that, by taking time to make a regualr “Week in Review” post, I will remember to pause and appreciate all of the moments, big and small, that make up our lives.  As Social Distortion told me: “Life goes by so fast!  You only want to do what you think is right.  Close your eyes and it’s past.”  Yeah, that certainly is the “Story of My Life,” too.  So, I am pausing to think, and I am letting you in, if you want to come along for the ride.  Here it is, then, my week in review:

We went to see The Tempest at the Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival (find more info here: Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival

I had a lot of busy days, but am trying really hard to remember to make healthy choices.  I don’t like much fruit, but I know it’s good for me.  The medication I am on impairs my appetite somewhat, and can, in combination with another medication I must take, cause dehydration, so I have to be very careful to make sure I:
a) REMEMBER TO EAT (trust me, this is not as easy as it sounds ~ and yes, I realize how ridiculous that is), and
Because I practically live in my car, I have to eat there, sometimes, too; but I am trying to make healthy choices when I do.  Pears I can stand.  They are an acceptable fruit.  Coconut water is very hydrating.  Violets are always a winner.


Right.  That thing about being healthy.  I just said that, and now, I am gonna post poptarts.  It’s true, I made poptarts.  I made them because it’s all good and well to be healthy, but you have to also eat delicious things and have fun, too, and homemade poptarts are really the best poptarts.  You can make your own crust, or just use store bought piecrust (I make my own, because I prefer it, and it’s really pretty simple, using an oil pastry recipe my mom gave me) and you can fill them with jam or, as I did, brown sugar & cinnamon mixed w/ a little almond meal, butter and pinch of salt.  Okay, so they are still a little bit healthy and kind of nerdy, as compared to regular poptarts.  Being a little bit healthy and kind of nerdy, myself, I can live with that.


I added a few little touches to the Alice Garden, including teacup & saucer birdfeeders I made using pieces purchased from a thrift store; and while I wouldn’t call it “finished,” by any stretch of the imagination (and I don’t think I ever will), I do think it is looking quite “Alice-y,” indeed.

Shane brought me a tiny bouquet of flowers; and I picked up two magazines about two pretty amazing people, but I haven’t had time to start reading either of them yet.

I continue to walk and use the free equipment at the local park 2-3 times/week.  I keep thinking about signing up for a gym membership or the YMCA, and I might just do it when it gets too cold for me to be outdoors, but, for now, this is my gym:


Saw yet another positively glorious North Hollywood sunset.  I got to enjoy it with my kids, thanks to a phone call from Shane, to give us a heads-up from our homework and chores.  I love that we do this for each other.  Any one of the five of us will call or text to say, “You have to go outside and see (the Moon/sunset/rainbow,etc.).”  It’s just one of the things that makes us who we are.  I hope we always do that.  As usual, the pictures just don’t do it justice.  The sun was glowing deep red.  I did the best I could to capture it with my little phone camera, but you’ll just have to trust me, it was roughly 8,000x more glorious.

We celebrated Gene Kelly’s birthday by watching a bunch of his best dance numbers (which pretty much means all of them ~ they were all his best).

I baked a darned good gluten-free apple pie, if I do say so myself (I do, by the way)!  I didn’t intend for it to be gluten-free, but discovered, after I had already started peeling apples, that I didn’t have enough regular flour to make pie crust.  I did, however, happen to have some gluten-free flour left over from a baking project Kaia had done for her Girl Scout troop, so I decided to just go ahead and make a gluten-free pie crust.  Turned out great, so, should the need arise, I now know I can do this.  Also, I got to have pie for breakfast one day.  Oh, we totally had pie for dinner.  It has fruit, see, and fruit is good for us.

Justice brought home a huge bouquet of sunflowers!  Thank you!


Kaia did her homework outside one day; and it was accidentally left outside.  The next morning, at 5:00 a.m., the sprinklers went off.  Later that morning, as she was getting ready to leave for school, she couldn’t find her homework. I’ll bet you can guess where it was.  Yeah.  We used a hairdryer set on low to dry it.  Only one finished math equation was completely washed away.  Her teachers were very understanding about its rumpled condition.


I FINALLY started painting the detail above the shower in the kids’ bathroom.  I know.  It still looks pretty shoddy here.  Give me some time.  And look with your hearts. The Fox taught me that is only with the heart that one can see rightly.  What is essential is invisible to the eye!  (I’ll post more pics when it’s done.)


Last, but not least, I played my banjo.  I am getting used to the new banjo.  She looks, feels and plays different than the old banjo.  I will still play both, but, for now, I am just playing the new one, because…well, the old one is a little easier to play, I guess; so I feel like I need to work with the new one until I get used to her.  The new banjo is so much heavier!  I feel like I am lifting a small child (or a medium-sized child…who is carrying a small dog).  I love her.  I mean, she’s beautiful, so it was kind of love at first sight, if you believe in that sort of thing.  Have you met her?  Her name is Babe.  Ain’t she a beaut?



Worth 1,000 Words ~ by Sam

My, it’s been ages since anyone has posted here, hasn’t it?  It would be impossible for me to try to summarize everything that has been happening, so I had this crazy idea.  What if I just gave you a peek at this past week?

There were a number of significant events I feel I should mention.  We drove out and watched a bit of the Perseid meteor shower.  The kids went back to school.  Shane has been trying to build this computer, and I have been trying to get back to exercising.  We snuck in a date night.  I have been working on some projects.  Justice received the news that she had been accepted to her Major!  (Congratualtions, again, kiddo ~ we never had any doubt). Kaia very unexpectedly had her braces removed!

One day, while talking with my mom, I realized that, as of July 19th, 2016, my dad is ~ and this is HUGE, you guys ~ my dad is OFFICIALLY CANCER-FREE!!  That means his last chemo-treatment was July 19th, 2011, and he has been Cancer-free for 5 years ~ 5 years Cancer-free=officially Cancer-free, so this is cause for much celebration.  After I got off the phone, I lit a candle at St. Francis De Sales Catholic Church, and left some roses with the Holy Family in the crying chapel there, because they listened to a lot of my prayers during those five years.

So, without further ado, here are lots of pictures from this latest week of my life.SerenadingTheMoon

And Shane brought me silk flowers, so they won’t ever wilt.

Photo on 8-18-16 at 8.39 PM

So, that was my week.  As you can see, It was pretty exciting.  First week of school down!  Can’t see what the next week has in store for us!  Here’s to an excellent year.

Lace-Stenciled Table & Chairs

Recently, Shane and I have been preparing for a big shindig here at the Homestead.  This July, we will be gathering friends and family in our backyard (and front yard, and house, and driveway, because our backyard isn’t very big) to celebrate our 20th Anniversary.  To that end, we have made a list of Things To Do Before The Big Day.  On the list are a number of projects, including “Paint Patio Table & Chairs.”  Now, when I say “Patio Table and Chairs,” I don’t mean what most people mean.  I mean the table and chairs that used to be our dining table and chairs before we had more kids and outgrew it, so we just moved it outdoors.  In all fairness, it has been painted at least twice before.  Nevertheless, it was in desperate need of a new paint job.  Don’t believe me?  Get a load of this:


Fancy, eh?  I suppose one could argue that it goes with the rest of the yard, but we are working on that situation, too.  Besides, that’s rude.  One could also NOT say that, thank you.

Anyway, as you can see, it had seen better days, having been purchased when our oldest child (now 18) learned to climb up through the back of the folding chairs onto the folding picnic table we had been using as our dining set, and then relegated to the outdoors when our little family outgrew it.  You might also note that when we outgrew it, one kid was still in a kid chair.  Perhaps, one day, I will acquire another grown-up-sized chair.  Then again, we often host kid-sized guests, and we have plenty of grown-up sized chairs that do not match the set, so I am cool with this as it is.  Except that the paint job kind of sucked.  So, I started looking for ideas.  I wanted something fun, colourful, eye-catching.  I decided I did not want it all matchy-matchy, and that I would like to try my hand at stenciling something onto the table.  I thought maybe flowers, words, birds, a garden-theme… And then I saw furniture stenciled with lace.  I had seen this idea used to stencil other items, and I liked the look, so I did a little research, read up on how it was done, worried a lot about all of the ways in which I could possibly mess it up… and then I just got over it and bought some paint, some lace, and some repositionable adhesive.

If you want to try this, here is what you will need:

Furniture to be painted
Mild Detergent & Water
Spray paint (at least two colours)
Repositionable Adhesive (I used Aleene’s)

*Optional Items:
Clear Coat
Painter’s Tape/Masking Tape

The first thing I did was wash my furniture thoroughly but gently and dry it very well.  Now, a lot of people will probably advise against getting wood furniture wet, and they are right, I’m sure, but mine had been living outdoors for some time, so a) that ship had sailed, and b) it was super grimy.  I washed it using just a few drops of Dr. Bronner’s Liquid soap (you could use dish soap or any mild detergent) and water, rinsed it well, dried it thoroughly with a towel and then let it air dry for a while, just to be sure it was good and dry.  Because my furniture was…well…let’s say, “weathered,” some of the paint flaked off when I cleaned it.  After cleaning it, I lightly sanded it to make sure there was no lose paint or splintery wood.

Now, the wood was ready for painting.  I used spray paint for this whole project.  These are the colours I chose for the table:

And for the chairs:

So, in case you cannot read all of that, that’s:
Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch 2x Ultracover Paint & Primer in Marigold, Real Orange and Aubergine for the table;
and Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch 2X Ultracover Paint & Primer in Green Apple & Aubergine, and Rust-Oleum Universal Paint & Primer in One in Robin’s Egg for the chairs.

I really wanted some robin’s egg blue (my favourite colour) in this project, and I coudln’t find exactly the right shade in the 2X Ultracover series, so I used the Universal line, instead.  I will say, the 2X line really does cover better, so, if you are doing a larger piece, you might want to buy more paint if you end up using the Universal.  I was okay with a sort of sheer, weathered look on some of the chairs, and I was going to be stenciling over my base coat and finishing it all with a clear coat to seal it, so I decided one can was enough for two chairs, but, if you want a more smooth, even look, you might need more if using that product.  I ended up using a whole can of orange, a whole can of green, a whole can of marigold a whole can of robin’s egg and about a can and a half of aubergine, I think.  It took a lot of paint.  In fact, I might have used a can and a half of orange, now that think of it, but my table was in REALLY BAD shape.  Your furniture might need a lighter coat of paint, if it’s in better shape.  You’ll note I used the Aubergine to tie all of the pieces together so it reads as a set, despite not being overly matchy.  More about that later.

Now, down to business.  The first thing I did was to pain the underside of my table, which was just going to be a plain, bright orange.  Nothing fancy ~ just turned the table upside down on a tarp and sprayed two nice, even coats of Real Orange.  Wow!  Is that ever bright!  Just what I wanted!IMG_0672

In the background, you can see that I had also started to spray the basecoat on some of my chairs.  At this point, I knew I was using orange and robin’s egg, my favourite colour combo, and I knew I would be adding aubergine overall.  The rest was yet to be decided, and I was off to the hardware store to try to make some decisions.  Luckily, I had my phone, and Shane doesn’t mind too much if I pester him about these things.

Originally, I was going to paint the whole table orange, but then I saw this lovely shande called “Marigold,” and, you know, Aubergine is a purple shade, and “Marigold,” being a yellow, would be a perfect complement for a purple…so, yeah, I totally got the Marigold.   Then, I came home, flipped over my table, and painted the top Marigold.  I was so tickled with it, I took another picture.IMG_0683

It’s totally cute, even just like that.  Already way cuter than it was way back at the beginning of this post, right?  Once that was dry (in a couple of days), it was time to start stenciling.

I was lucky enough to find a gorgeous piece of lace both on sale and on the end of the bolt, so I got a double discount ~ and I had a coupon, so it cost me so little that I didn’t even remember to write it down.  I am so sorry.  I did not keep track of costs for this project at all.  The size of the lace you need to buy will depend on the size of the piece of furniture you are painting.  Sorry, that’s all I’ve got.  It should be big enough to fit over the thing you want it to fit over.

When you get your lace home, you will want to lay it out on top of your piece of furniture and get a rough idea of how you want to position it, keeping in mind that you will want to place it with the smoother side down, against the furniture. The reason for this is that, if you place the rougher side against the furniture, you will leave more little gaps for your paint to leak through, and you want a nice tight seal between your stencil and your surface.  So, lay your lace out on your piece of furniture and decide how you want it to look.  I wanted mine to kind of hang over on some sides and not quite reach others, so the pretty border would be visible.  You can play around with it, reposition it until you think it looks good. (You should not be using any adhesive at this point.  Your furniture is painted and has dried for several days, and you are just setting a piece of fabric on it.) When you think it looks right, stand back and look at it from several angles to make sure you like it.  Maybe take a picture or two.  When you are sure you like it, cut your fabric to fit.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  I was lucky enough to have a nice big piece, so I had one large piece to use for the table and a smaller one to use for the chairs.

I am going to put a picture here of one of the chairs before I started painting it, because I think you need to see how lovely they were.  IMG_0436

As you can see, they have a very nice shape, but the paint is faded, chipped and peeling.  (in the background, you can see my sad, old rocking chair.  Don’t worry, it gets a makeover, too ~ more about that in another post.)

Okay.  Back to stenciling.  This is the repositionable adhesive I used.  IMG_0706
I looked at a lot of them, and this one seemed like it would work well.  After reading a lot about the process online, I decided to wait for at least a couple of days between painting the basecoat and trying to do the stencil, since it would mean sticking the stencil to the fresh paint with adhesive (even temporarily).  That did mean this project took a hefty chunk of time, but I think the result makes it worth it.

Lay the lace carefully on your tarp with the smooth side up, taking great care to smooth any wrinkles.  It’s a really good idea not to do any of this on a windy day, by the way.  Spray painting on a windy day is an exercise in futility, and trying to keep your lace flat and prevent it from sticking to itself after it has been sprayed with adhesive (even if it is only temporary) will be frustrating, at best.  Follow the directions on your adhesive.  I found it useful to spray a light, even coat over the surface, then wait about one minute before positioning it on the furniture.  If it doesn’t go down exactly as you like, or, if your lace sticks to itself, DON’T PANIC.  Remember, your adhesive is repositionable.  Just calmly peel it up and reposition it.  It happened.  It freaked me out.  My table and I survived.   Here is a picture of my lace, all ready to be turned into a fabulous stencil. It does not yet know it holds the power to transform the drab into the fabulous. IMG_0707

And here is a picture of my lace as stencil ~ holy cow!  This is actually happening!!IMG_0708

Okay, so, now that you have actually placed your stencil on your table, you want to make extra sure to carefully smooth out any small wrinkles or bubbles.  This may involve lifting and repositioning small parts of your stencil if you are working with a large piece, such as a tabletop.  This is why the “repositionable” aspect of the adhesive comes in handy.  Well, this, and the fact that you don’t actually want the lace itself to be a permanent feature of your table.  You need to firmly press and smooth down every little bit of your stencil.  Any tiny piece your miss sticking to your furniture will not work as a stencil, so you need to be super carefully to stick it all down.  Or not.  I mean, it really depends how much of a stickler you are for detail, I guess.

Now that it is all stuck in place, you can start painting.  Again, I used spray paint, and I did several light coats. The wind was interfering with my spraypaint this day (remember what I said about wind?  I said it with far more expletives that day), but I had already stuck the stencil in place, so I decided to gently turn the table on its side, so the wind would work with me.  Then, I took this one very blurry picture, so I am afraid that is all you get.  Sorry.  There will be more stencil-painting-in-process pictures later.  IMG_0711I let it dry for a little while (but not completely) before I carefully lifted the stencil, and ~ voila! Stenciled lace tabletop!  IMG_0715

You guys, I was stunned.  Like completely stunned.  Like knock-me-over-with-a-feather stunned. I was sure I was going to be running to the hardware store for another can of paint to paint over the whole thing in a solid colour when this didn’t work ~ but…it worked!!  And, look, if I can do this, you can do it.

So then, I figured, well, I did the table, now I’ve got to do the chairs to match.  Sorta.  So I did.  Sorta.  I followed the same process, giving them each their basecoat: Two in Robin’s Egg, two in Green Apple:


Then, I played around with my lace again:

Sometimes, I used paper and tape to mask parts I didn’t want aubergined:

I tried turning the lace in different directions:

And in the end, I decided, the one finishing touch the chairs needed to tie them in perfectly with the table was a little touch of Marigold or Real Orange, so that’s just what I gave them:IMG_0822

The last step I took might have been unnecessary, but a gentleman who assisted me in the paint department at Home Depot suggested that I consider finishing everything with 2 coats of this stuff:

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 8.35.44 AM

So I did.  My understanding is that the paint itself should be enough to protect the wood, but, after all my hard work, I would like this to last a long time, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to add an extra clear coat or two on top.  It’s like insurance.

It took me a couple of weeks to complete this project, partially because we are a family and we were busy being a family and living our lives, and partially because all of the various coats needed to dry in between; but, in the end, we have this beautiful new patio set, and I absolutely love it.  IMG_0843

If you enjoyed this post, and you decide to try your hand at using lace to stencil your own furniture, please let me know how it worked out for you.  I would love to hear about your experience (and to see pictures).

~ Sam.