Planting Sequoias

In which I blog about a life (hopefully) well lived.


Gray Shabby Chic End Table (in which I make Ken an accomplice by driving the getaway car)

You might recall that a few weeks ago, I found a veritable treasure trove of dumpster goodies over the span of just a few days.

It was a delightful time in my life, but for Ken, these few days were very stressful and, in his mind, completely and utterly embarrassing.

I mean, I get it. It takes someone with a strong sense of self to march up to a dumpster and claim someone else’s cast-offs.

While Ken doesn’t have the gumption to do that just yet (he’s in training), he does love me an awful lot, so he can sometimes be convinced to drive “the getaway car.”

Now, this role is very important, don’t get me wrong! Our apartment complex seems quite massive when you think about lugging a few dozen pounds of awkwardly shaped furniture across several parking lots.

So on this particular day, Ken drove one very-excited me over to the dumpster and I hopped out and wrangled the finds into the car. Did I mention it was raining?

Even though there was no one in sight, Ken kept glancing around to see if anyone would notice our dastardly deed. The man still has yet to come to grips with the fact that if someone puts things in/by the dumpster, said things are no longer wanted.

Unfortunately for Ken, his loving wife has the gall to post all about these escapades on the internet. Poor man.

But I digress. Back on topic: These sidetables.

Free end tables

I immediately got to work on them while Ken hid embarrassed in the apartment, Or maybe he was studying for the Bar exam. One or the other.

I was particularly excited about the table on the left in the picture above. It was your average dark-wood laminate table with sleek contemporary lines.

The other end table, while it had a lot of potential (despite the missing drawer), got the boot. This is a sad story, so brace yourself.

One of us (either Ken or Anne, not naming names) accidentally left the keys in the door of our apartment one night. OVERNIGHT. Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has happened.

While we were thankfully not murdered in our bed, some well-meaning neighbor DID remove said keys and they were unaccounted for for about 8 hours.

During that 8 hours, Ken went into survival mode. He called the locksmith to see about changing the locks. He called the car dealership to see about getting a new key fob made since yes, our new car’s key was on that keyring. And, worst of all, he announced that we would have to start parking the car in the garage again.

This was, sadly, a logical move, one with which I could not argue. Though someone somewhere had our car’s keys, if we parked the car in the garage, it would in theory be more safe since we maintained possession of the garage door opener.

This meant that Anne’s furniture finds were being evicted. The headboard (which I sold for a cool $85 last week) stayed since it was slender, but I had to tote the curved-leg end table back to whence it came. From whence it came? What’s the phrase? Anyway, it went back to the dumpster, along with another end table not pictured above.

But the sturdy laminate end table to the left got special treatment and a special spot perched precariously atop our boxes of camping gear.

You see, I had just listed it on Craigslist, after giving it a glorious makeover. Behold:


Though laminate (yes, I learned my lesson here), it took the paint much better than the headboard did without primer. So sometimes painting shortcuts do work? Not sure what the lesson is in this story.

I distressed this piece as well and listed it on Craigslist as shabby chic (even though I greatly dislike that term for no good reason).


While I’m not the hugest fan of the cottage-y style look, I do on occasion like a good distressed piece, if for no other reason than the fact that it can take a beating and still look awesome/rustic.


It is currently awaiting a lovely new home though yeah, I’ll be sad to see this piece go as well. Perhaps someday I can start a home for abandoned pieces of furniture, but right now, our 670 square feet doesn’t cut it.

Oh, and the keys? The same neighbor that found them the last time we lost them found them again. We need to give that man a medal or something. Or permanently attach the keys to our body so they don’t get left in the lock. Or both.

Anyone else have a good dumpster-find story? or a good key-losing story? or need a shabby chic (bleagh) side table?



How Not to Paint Laminate Furniture (in which I learn a valuable lesson about not taking shortcuts)

Two weeks ago, I found this leaning against our apartment dumpster.

Excited does not begin to describe how I was feeling about this magnificent freebie.

free headboard

Ken had a hard time seeing the vision, but I knew I could transform this weighty hunk of laminate into something awesome.

And I know, I know, it doesn’t look that bad–from a distance. Up close–well, it had issues.

Not the least of which were these mysterious screws poking out the top of the headboard.

free headboard--old canopy bed?

My guess is that at one point this bed used to be a canopy bed. A quick appointment with my pliers did the trick, however, and I filled the gaping holes with some wood filler. There were also a bunch of holes down by the bottom of the legs where various bed mechanisms had been attached that I filled in too.

I sanded down the wood-filler-filled places and gently sanded the rest of the piece, and then I got to painting.

Which was my huge mistake.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. It was looking pretty awesome.

Here’s the picture I texted to my mom (I have to turn SOMEWHERE for praise, since Ken has zero appreciation for painted furniture that originated from the dumpster of all places).


Happily (and innocently), I finished painting, and the next night, I set out and distressed the things.

Only that process went a little too easily.

The paint chipped off wonderfully.

A lot of it.

And then I realized that if I even looked at the piece sideways, the paint would chip off.

Frantically I began to Google.

Apparently there’s a very important step between not painting and painting and that would be PRIMER.

Since laminate is so smooth, there’s nothing that paint can really adhere to. DUH.

I, in my infinite wisdom and constant state of impatience, thought that I would be the FIRST PERSON to finally succeed by taking this particular shortcut. FALSE. SO SO FALSE.

So, tearfully, I set up a play-date with my mouse sander and undid what I had already done. Which, in all actuality, did not take very long at all since the paint came off so easily.

And then I primed, and than I painted. This was a multi-day process spent in a dark, sweltering garage. I took no pictures because I was so mad at myself. And then I painted again. WOULD IT NEVER END???

Yes, it would.

After I’d painted it the second time (third if you count the time I sanded off; fourth if you count the primer–but who’s counting?), I got out my glaze and antiqued the thing.

I used Behr’s Faux Glaze and a test pot of brown Glidden paint I had on hand. The glaze helps the paint to remain “open” longer, aka, not dry as fast so you can manipulate it more. Note: do not use on husbands–they don’t respond well to manipulation. Either that or I’m doing it wrong. 🙂

Behr's Faux Glaze and Glidden Test Paint (brown): Perfect for creating an antique glaze

Mix these together at a ratio of 1 part paint to 4 parts glaze. I used a dark brown paint but you can in theory use any color.

Normally when you glaze thing you just smear the concoction all over the furniture and wipe it off, but I didn’t want to get my hands dirty, so I just “dry-brushed” the paint on, focusing on the edges/corners and smearing the stuff lightly all over. I did have a rag nearby so I could wipe off any part that got a little out of hand.

This is what I mean by using a “dry brush”–I just BARELY poke the edges of the bristles in the paint every couple of minutes.

"dry brush" darker paint on furniture edges to create an antique look

This method uses practically NO paint. I like to use the paint that sticks cover of the test pot and that’s about it.

It’s sort of a different way to “distress” furniture–it gives it a chippier look, as if the gray paint is wearing off to show the wood underneath, but it’s really just a big ruse. Shhh. It can be our secret.

antiqued headboard (click for tutorial!)

Also, I’m happy to report that the paint did not chip off at all once I finally did things the correct way and used primer.

I could have finished this with polyurethane or something similar, but after all I’d been through, I decided I really liked the matte finish over something shinier.

antiqued headboard (click for tutorial!)

Since we can’t keep this headboard, it’s currently posted on Craigslist (here, for interested locals)…sniff, sniff. Someday we’ll have a guest room and I will greatly lament parting with this piece, but for now, it can’t stay. Kenny keeps muttering something about wanting to “park the car in the garage” under his breath…


Fabulous Finds and Freebies (in which I horrify my husband by taking in other people’s cast-offs)

It is a well-known fact around these parts that Ken does not share my love of thrifting. To him, it is a particular form of torture that he would avoid at all costs if it were not for his lovely wife.

So Ken, when feeling particularly magnanimous and brave, will only on very special occasions suggest going to a thrift store.

I have come to terms with this fact about Ken, and I love him anyway. I usually try to spare him from my thrift store adventures because I’d like our marriage to last. It’s a sacrifice I willingly (yet sorrowfully) make.

Last week, I roped my mom and sisters into thrifting with me. They’re much better at Ken at enabling and therefore are much better thrift store companions.

Which is why, on our latest trip, I picked up this great piece of fake artwork. My mother and sisters were very supportive in spite of Ken’s text message indifference. The price? $6. The size? Rather large (scientifically). The frame? Simply amazing.

old artwork in antique frame

On the same trip, I also grabbed this piece for $5. The colors are a little “meh” (okay, a lot “meh”) but again, my mom and sisters sensed my deep desire to adopt this and gave me the go-ahead. I have big plans for this piece.

old artwork in antique frame

However, poor Ken could not escape my foibles entirely. Whilst out on a jaunt through our ghetto neighborhood, we had the good fortune to come across a veritable treasure trove of dumpster goodies.

Let me just pause to explain Ken’s inner turmoil.

The man does not like thrift stores. Which means that dumpster finds are COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY out of the question.

Luckily, the man loves me and I convinced him to drive the getaway car so we could snag these finds and usher them into their new home in our garage.

Free end tables

Can’t you just SEE the potential oozing out of these free beauties? This one was particularly intriguing to me, as it has a great brass strip around the base and very interesting curvy legs. Methinks Emily Henderson would approve. It is missing a drawer, but I’m willing to overlook it. Ken was quite disgusted and wholeheartedly NOT willing to overlook it.

Free end table

But then. THEN.

The best thing happened.

It was the day before the Bar Exam. I had to work, but Ken was going to fit in some last minute studying.

On my way out of our apartment complex, I spotted it. Sunlight burst through the clouds and angels sang a majestic chorus.

But, dressed in my business casual maxi skirt, cardigan, and strappy sandals (and running perpetually late), I had little choice but to throw myself at the mercy of the Free Stuff Hater. I would have to ask Kenny for help.

How could I not? Check out those curves.

free headboard

My husband, in his hopefully limitless love for me, carted this laminate beauty all the way from the dumpster to our garage on the day before the biggest test of his life.

The moral of the story: ladies, marry a great guy who loves you very much. It has worked out well for me.


Fantastic Finds (in which I increase our fancy art collection by almost 50%)

What is it with bloggers and alliteration? It’s like we can’t help ourselves. I just let it happen now…no use fighting it.

Anyway, I’ve had some fabulous thrift store finds lately, and since I love hearing about what other people find secondhand (seriously, do tell!), I thought I’d share with you.

First is this super sweet little original oil painting. If you recall, I love oil paintings with hefty frames. The painting itself is an 8×10, so with the frame it’s quite a bit more substantial. If you squint, can you see the price tag? It was  just $3! Can’t beat that with a stick.

original oil painting $3

I would totally have paid that much for the frame alone! It’s a great gray-wood finish that I’m really digging lately. And did I mention that it’s an original? Love that.

At the same thrift store, I also found this original painting (why yes, I was silently screaming with joy inside my head). Ken wasn’t digging this one as much because of it’s floral nature, but I think I like it a tad better than the first because of the teal-y green colors.

original oil painting $2

Again, that frame. Worth way more than the $2 I paid for it (at least in my professional opinion). This is just a tiny painting–probably 5×7–and I did throw the idea out to Ken that I could perhaps paint a seascape that tiny if we do get sick of the flowers. You know, to add to our “collection.”

There was a third $3 oil painting at the same thrift store, but I used some discretion…it was an interesting painting of a thatched roof house and some dutch people in 1800-era costumes. I’ve had enough dutch costumes for one lifetime, I think; more on that later (if I ever work up enough courage to share THOSE photos)…

And then I found something at the Goodwill that made my heart burst into song and put a weird/sneaky grin on my face as I approached it stealthily. No, that giant green ball is not a weird decor decision for me. It’s an ice cream maker–the kind you literally throw around while doing other fun things like camping. This is the second unused one I’ve found at the Goodwill; the first one I passed on and mourned its loss for months. This one was just $4.99.

icecream maker and brass sailboat

I also got a brassy little sailboat at the Goodwill for $1.99. It’s going green around the edges and has a little sticker residue, so I’m off to Google how to polish brass to bring back its luster.

I thrift a lot–I think I normally hit 3+ stores a week–but probably 90% of the time I walk out empty-handed. So if you’re the type of person who “never finds anything at the thrift store,” keep an open mind! It’s like a treasure hunt…and lately, I’ve found lotsa treasure.

Have you found thrifted gems lately? Share your story in the comments! I love a good deal!


Let’s Talk Budgeting (in which I force a spreadsheet upon you)

If you have an unlimited amount of moolah, I give you full permission to skip this post.

BUT, if you’re like Ken and Anne and have a set income, let’s talk budgeting (my apologies for saying the “b” word). Especially if you’re like Ken and Anne and that set income is, well, not very large.

Let me give a little bit of a preface before we dive in completely (keep taking those deep breaths).

So, Kenny and I come from very different monetary backgrounds. That is not at all a bad thing, but we knew that this would make our marriage…interesting…so we decided to be proactive about our finances. We wanted a way that we could track our expenses and income, make a budget, and see how much we spent monthly in each category in our budget.

Inserting completely unrelated picture. Ken was entirely on board.

groom with broken bouttonniere

I searched high and low on the internet to find such a magical spreadsheet, and, while I know there must have been one that met my strict criteria, I could not find it. So I put on my big-girl pants and decided to make my own. That was a scary thought, though, because I had not exercised my spreadsheet skills since I learned them in sixth grade math class. I’m a writer for a reason, guys.

But it had to be done, since I knew it was either that or being like “YAYYY! WE HAVE MONEY!!! WE CAN BUY STUFF AND THINGS!!!” after which we’d surely enter into a spiral of debt and die.

Kenny's haul


So I created this nifty little Google Doc Spreadsheet.

budget spreadsheet google doc expense tracking


Let me explain some of the nifty features that it has…and then we’ll get to the link where you can download this for your own personal use. I know you’re excited, but hold your horses for just a minute.

First, this is a year-long expense tracking spreadsheet using the Google Drive platform. If you have a Gmail account, you have access to Drive. And the great thing about Google Drive is that you can share the document with other people, so if you want to keep your husband in the loop, say, you can share this document with him. Kenny and I both use the same document and it helps us keep track of each other’s spending (since we share bank accounts but aren’t with each other 24/7).

I made it to be a year long, but each month has a separate sheet where the budget starts afresh. All you have to do is plug in your budget in January (in the yellow cells) and the rest of the year will automatically update to those numbers. But don’t fret–if your budget changes in March, you can manually override the budget numbers as well.

To use the spreadsheet after you’ve plugged in your budget in January, all you do is type in the date of the income or expense in column A and then put in the number under the correct category (which, BONUS: you can customize the categories to fit your needs). There’s a place for a description for each expense if you want to add it too.

The spreadsheet will automatically calculate how much you’ve spent in that category, how much you’ve spent overall, and how much you’ve saved (aka, the amount of income you have left after expenses).

DISCLAIMER: Consult your doctor…ahem, spouse, before beginning any budget program. Also, this is a very simple spreadsheet. But it is great for people like us who don’t have very complicated finances and want a place to track expenses month to month. Be sure to keep an eye on your overall financial health as you use this sheet.

Here’s the link where you can download your own copy…or if you already have a way to track your expenses/budget, spill in the comments. Oddly enough, budgeting is one of my favorite things, so let’s talk. Oh, and for other posts on saving money/spending money wisely (one of my passions), click here.