And the Winner is… First Friday Freebies – and you might be next!

I’m excited to announce the winner of our first “First Friday Freebie” winner.  As you may recall from last time, Midwest Storyteller will be giving a free gift each month to a faithful subscriber.  This happens on the first Friday of the month, so subscribe now and you’ll be ready to enter to win in November!

Our October winner is…

October 2017 Freebie Winner www.midweststoryteller.com

Donna from Bunceton, Missouri!

All Donna did was leave a comment on the post, saying, “I’ll take the wreath!” and she won!

You can see the wreath a little better in this photo –

Free Wreath www.midweststoryteller.com

If you’d like to partake in the monthly give-a-way, do a few things to be sure you don’t miss out.

  1. SUBSCRIBE! On your computer, you can do that in the right side-bar.  On a phone or tablet, you may need to go to the “Contact” page.  Only subscribers are eligible to win.  You’ll get an email when there’s a new post or freebie.
  2. Follow” Midwest Storyteller on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Even if you forget to check your email, you’ll still see the offer.
  3. Spread the love – and the FREEBIES! “Share” Midwest Storyteller with your friends on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.  Pin this post to Pinterest and send the pin to friends you’d like to see enter to win.

Take a look at the rules on our last First Friday Freebie post here.  It includes a tutorial on making the Sweet Annie wreath.  For a look at other things I grow in the great outdoors, take a tour here.

Get ready!  The next free gift will be given away on Friday, November 3rd!

Introducing: First Friday Freebies!

There’s nothing like getting something for nothing! Oh, that glorious word – F R E E !

I’ve been wanting to do this for a while and so I’m happy to announce (drum roll, please) First Friday Freebies! Each month, on the first Friday – I did that on purpose to make it easy for you to remember and wasn’t that clever of me – I’ll be offering a gift to one of the loyal and loveable fans of Midwest Storyteller. All you have to do is: Don’t dawdle!

First, let’s take a look at our first gift –

In my last post, I gave a “2017 Tour of the Estate” in which I mentioned Sweet Annie and posted a photo. I’m offering a wreath today (hand-made by me) of Sweet Annie. Let’s look a little further into what it is and what I do with it and you can decide if you want to win!

As mentioned in the last post, Sweet Annie is a fragrant herb that grows tall and is happy in a sunny place. It smells “like fall”, so this is the perfect time of the year to decorate with it. I’ve filled my wicker planter with it to give it a fall “weedy” look and make my porch smell nice and I’ve also used it around this little bucket next to Hermie.  I am lagging behind in decorating my side porch, but at least I’ve got my “weeds” as Smuffy likes to call them, in place.  You get the idea.

Weedy Porch www.midweststoryteller.com

Here’s a photo showing how I make a wreath.

Sweet Annie Tutorial www.midweststoryteller.com

Let me state this clearly. Sweet Annie, like any other plant, is organic. That means it’s been in the great outdoors. That means that other little “organic things” once strolled through it’s branches saying hello to their little organic friends. This wreath has been drying under my porch for a couple of weeks and should now be free of all the critters that may have liked to munch on it while it was green.  I make no promises.  However, I’ve never had anything on my wreaths once they dried.  (If I’d brought “creepies” into my house, you would have heard my screams.)  

Also, dried plants are exactly that – dried. I use Sweet Annie as a candle ring or a wreath on a wall or mantle-piece, but I don’t place it on a door that we’ll be opening and closing, as that shakes it around and causes it to shed.

Here’s the wreath I’m offering as Today’s Friday Freebie.  You can easily remove the burlap ribbon and replace it with anything you like.

Free Wreath www.midweststoryteller.com

And now, here are the rules. There are always rules, aren’t there?

  1. First Friday Freebies are available to SUBSCRIBERS ONLY. That means if you have come to this post through social media or someone has emailed you a link to it and you haven’t become a subscriber yet, you’ll need to hop on over to the right sidebar and do that really quick. If you are on a phone or tablet, the easiest way is to go to the “About Me” page. As a subscriber,  you’ll receive an email each time Midwest Storyteller has something new, which won’t likely be more than once or twice a week. It keeps you from missing out on all the fun and FREE STUFF!  And, I’m not sharing your emails with anybody.
  2. You’ll need to scroll back up to the top of this post and under the title, “Leave a Comment”. The first subscriber to comment with, “I’ll take the wreath!” will win, provided that you’re already on the subscribers list and that you live within the continental United States.

Two rules. So simple. Have a wonderful and blessed First Friday of the month!  Now, go!  Subscribe!  Comment!  Go!

The Rose Leaf Project

I promised in the earlier post, “Creativity Unhampered”, that I’d return to my flight of fancy concerning my new discovery – Triple Thick. I suppose it may have been sitting on the shelf in Hobby Lobby for years, but I never knew it. Now, I’m giddy with possibilities.

Triple Thick www.midweststoryteller.com

After using it to restore my mom’s vintage clothes hamper, I wondered how it might work on various objects. Check out the hamper restoration here.

Rose leaves, partially decayed and plastered all over my porch after wind and rain, offered an interesting experiment. With nothing left between their veining, they looked like tan lace. I salvaged a few, pressing them between paper towels and flattening them with a heavy book.

I’d like to point out here that I exercised a great amount of restraint in getting started. My very nature called out to me to collect about five hundred of these beauties, because what if the experiment turned out to be the greatest thing I’d ever done! I reigned in the urge, for once, counseling myself that it could also be the biggest flop I’d ever wasted time and energy on. Forcing myself to keep it simple, I reasoned that Hobby Lobby had more supplies and that the bushes would lose their leaves again next year.

Once dry and flat, I spread my perfect lace leaves out onto a piece of paper to paint.

Dried Rose Leaves www.midweststoryteller.com

Now for color. I wasted some brain-time on this. Somewhere during my twelfth trip around the mulberry bush, I decided that it didn’t matter -they just needed color. Spray paint seemed the best idea. None of my leftover colors, however, seemed like anything I could tolerate, even as a test. I’m sensitive that way, you know.

So, I raided Smuffy’s paint stash and came out with chrome automotive paint. Why not? I rather liked the result. I let them dry before turning them over, giving the other side a silver coating as well.

Chromed Rose Leaves www.midweststoryteller.com

Next step: Triple Thick! I could have brushed it on, as I did with the hamper lid, but my curiosity tempted me to see what happened if I dipped them, giving them a thicker, sheeted coating. But then, how to let the very wet things dry once both sides were wet? Hmmmm… I had a brainstorm. (Now, don’t be a smarty-pants and ask me, “What with?”) Placing waxed paper in a cardboard box and up the side, I secured it by sticking straight pins through from the outside. These would provide “hangers” for my leaves while the waxed paper caught the drips.

BONUS: I didn’t find Triple Thick to be overly smelly.

DRAWBACK: The leaves were extremely thin, and doing a complete dip got them extremely wet, so some of them did tend to curl a little. 

Triple Dipped Rose Leaf www.midweststoryteller.com

Follow the instructions for drying time. I had lots of other things to do, so I probably waited half a day between re-dipping. My leaves got dipped three times. I suppose you could do as many coats as you like.

If you wanted to do this to a larger object, you would either paint the Triple Thick on with a brush or pour it into a shallow tray for dipping. The tray would need to have an airtight lid to keep it from drying out between times.

The results of my experiment? I’m rating it a success!

I know some of you have keen powers of observation and are wondering why there are fewer leaves in some photos than others.

I went to the basement to gather my leaves that had been drying on a large piece of paper on the floor. They were missing. So was the paper. I’ve lived with Smuffy for a long time, so instead of assuming that I had lost all my marbles or taken up sleep-walking, I went straight to the source and asked him what happened. He informed me that, assuming the whole thing to be trash, he’d wadded it all up and put in the garbage can. Sighing, I dove in, muttering something along the lines of, “If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard…” Yes, Smuffy is a tidy man. A very tidy man. Anyhow, in the process, there were casualties.  Another one got stuck to the sleeve of my sweater and came out the worse for wear. I ended up with four. See? I knew I should have collected five hundred!

The leaves came out slick, glossy and slightly bendable. And, I might add – nifty! While I was finishing this post, I also discovered that Triple Thick comes in a spray!  Here we go again…

I began to think how I might use the leaves. Here are some ideas –

Rose Leaf Ideas www.midweststoryteller.com

I’d love your ideas! Comment and let me know if there are any items that might otherwise be too fragile to keep that you are thinking about preserving with Triple Thick.

One last instruction – When you finish your project, remove the waxed paper from the cardboard box and peel away the dried puddles of Triple Thick. While not half as much fun as dancing on bubble wrap in bare feet, it does offer about ten seconds of entertainment for those of us not ashamed to indulge our inner child.

Speaking of children, I think Triple Thick has possibilities for all sorts of projects with your kids.

Next up: Smuffy’s back! SUBSCRIBE, so you don’t miss “Life with Smuffy: (Episode 2) Smuffy Takes The Cure” (or, “Think You’re Invincible?…Don’t Bet On It!)

SUBSCRIBE so you don’t miss it.

If you are on a computer, subscribe by entering your email in the right sidebar. On a phone or tablet, you’ll need to go to the “Contact Me” page on the menu and enter your email at the bottom of the page. After subscribing, you’ll receive a confirmation email and you’ll need to confirm your subscription.

Creativity Unhampered!

I thought I’d begin my first creative post by posing a question. What in tarnation is this thing, anyway?

Take a Guess www.midweststoryteller.comThink.  Whimsical?  Practical?  (Close family members are not allowed to take part in this quiz.) Don’t scroll down. Control yourself! Give yourself a chance. By the time you finish reading this, you may end up with the satisfaction of knowing that you think like my mother.

My mom could literally make something out of nothing. I never knew anyone quite like her for inventing what-cha-ma-call-its and doo-dads.

Like Mom, I loved turning my imaginings into realities, but I didn’t want to do it her way. I’d been in the stores. I’d seen the catalogs. I wanted glorious, brand new, coordinating supplies that would meld together seamlessly into a masterpiece.

That didn’t happen. I’d gather up what scraps and tidbits we had around the house, complaining that it would never come close to what I had in mind. She’d listen, then dive into her stash. She had a knack for squirreling away the oddest things. I know, you’ve all got that auntie who saves cottage cheese cartons or the plastic rings off milk jugs. Mom, however, saved the singular, the curious, the nifty.

I’d pout when I ran short of materials for a project. Mom would say, “Don’t worry. We’ll piece it.” I remember telling her one day (I was at “that age”) that I didn’t want to piece it! I told her that someday I’d march into stores and buy up plenty of just what I needed. I’d make wonderful things, not even caring if I kept the leftovers! “Piecing it” would be a thing of the past and as far as I was concerned, the sooner the better! On the whole, I was a good, compliant kid, but I had my moments.

I had no idea! The things I learned from Mom while we “pieced it” have come to my rescue over and over again.

Have you figured out what that thing was yet?

Without Mom, without “piecing it”, my community wouldn’t have had a youth theater. Well, anyway, if we’d had one, we wouldn’t have had much in the way of sets, props or costumes. Have you ever stared at a script that called for an “Inthermo Device”, capable of blowing up the Statue of Liberty? I pieced it. It was cool! A lifetime of “piecing it” gave my daughter a fabulous wedding on a budget that didn’t make us hyperventilate. More on that in future posts.

Among Mom’s things that I couldn’t throw away was a cruddy old clothes hamper. Sitting in our bathroom for as long as I can remember, it was a sad-looking thing. The braided trim drooped. It’s wicker, decades behind at receiving necessary paint jobs, took a further beating from seven children. It’s wooden lid, covered in a strange laminate “stuff” that had grown tired and peeled away sometime back in the 1950’s, snagged at your hands and clothes if you happened to brush against it. Once it passed from decrepit to hideous, Mom retired it to the recesses of her upstairs, stuffing it full of other things she didn’t throw away.

Smuffy advised me to pitch it. He sighed when I said I had plans for it. My cogs turned for months, considering methods and materials. I took before, during and after photos. And now, here’s where I give my disclaimer. Creative minds can have a bit of a problem with keeping all the snippets in their proper mental cubbyholes. I have no idea what happened to my “before” and “during” photos, so I’ve given up looking. Here’s the hamper, minus the drooping braid, banged-up wicker and naked wood lid. Not bad!

Rescued Hamper www.midweststoryteller.com

Braid and wicker didn’t pose a huge problem. Smuffy tacked the braid back on and I spray painted it.  Then, I met my challenge. The handles in the photo are original, somehow managing to survive with their laminate “stuff” in good shape. Determined to keep the hamper as original as possible, I racked my brain for a way to make the top look like this shiny, black-with-swishes and a hint of gold stuff.

I did the logical thing. I spent a good, long time in Heaven. Oops! I meant to say Hobby Lobby. I found this –

Triple Thick www.midweststoryteller.com

Triple Thick! I had a hunch this might be the answer. I gave the wooden lid three coats of gloss black paint with a sponge brush. Then, I mixed (at a ratio of about 8/1) faux-finishing glaze with some ivory paint. I sponged this over the lid until it looked as much like the handles as I could achieve. (Sponging with glaze has a long drying time, allowing you to wipe off mistakes and start over.)  After it dried, I mixed a dab of gold paint into some more glaze and gave it a coat to tone down the ivory, “aging” the finish a bit.

Now for the Triple Thick. I needed something to give a slick mirror-like finish to the lid without my having to sand, lacquer, sand, lacquer….Oh, please! Triple Thick gives a diamond, non-yellowing clear finish that looks like you’ve applied coats and coats. I used the whole jar – the large size.  It sells for $5.99.  The small size is pictured above.  I’m pretty well pleased with the shine, depth and the degree to which it matches the handles.

Hamper Lid Makeover www.midweststoryteller.com

I had rescued the perishing! Mom would be proud. But, this Triple Thick stuff – WOW! The possibilities! What else might I be capable of with a jar of this in my hands?

And then it rained. The rose bushes dropped their leaves. The wind pasted them all over my wet porch. I noticed that they looked like lace, having lost all but their veining. And then I heard that little voice say, “You could save those.” Then, the voice said, “Triple Thick!

Not about to let anything “hamper” my creativity (I’m so witty), I pressed the leaves between paper towels and waited. And you’ll have to wait, too. That story’s coming soon.

Oh! Did you guess? Here it is –

Mom's Recipe Holder www.midweststoryteller.comIt’s a recipe holder, of course! How could you not know? Mom did what anybody would do, right?  You’d know, wouldn’t you, to save the innards of an old broken percolator and an old fork that’s lost it’s bakelite handle? Then, of course, you’d shove them together to see if they fit, because you’ve been wanting a way to keep that recipe right in front of you. Mom left it “as is”, but I gave it a snazzy paint job so it would look cute in my kitchen.

I believe there’s a TV show called “Strange Inheritance”. I could show them a thing or two!

Coming soon: The Rose Leaf Project. SUBSCRIBE, so you don’t miss it!

Questions? Comments? I’d love to hear from you!