Uncle Paul’s Sea Chest

Greetings, friends!  Over the years, I’ve told you that my grandparents raised me. Two of Grandma’s nine siblings lived in the same town as us, and they and their spouses were much like my grandparents since my actual grandparents were technically my parents.

When Uncle Paul died in 1989, my uncle inherited his sea chest, a tangible memory of his years in the Coast Guard.  Fast forward a few decades.  Last year, my Sweet Cousin Kathy found Uncle Paul’s sea chest and knew I’d want it.  I felt like a kid on Christmas morning when she dropped it off.  (If you know me and how I love projects, you know what I mean.)  Unfortunately, I couldn’t wait to dive in, so I started cleaning it before I remembered that I should’ve taken “before pictures” first.  I grabbed the camera and decided I’d just document the progress as I went along.

As you can see, the trunk had been badly neglected for years decades.  I had to get a hammer to pry it open because one of the latches was bent and had caused part of the metal strap to bend inside of itself.  This, in turn, broke off a big chunk of the side to break off where it closed.  The whole thing had apparently been spray painted and you could see where some drips had dried.  And the veneer of the lid had obviously broken away, then somebody attempted to “repair” it by using about 79 staples.  (Don’t ever do that!)

I’d never restored a trunk before, so I turned to my good friends, YouTube and Google, for assistance. These both offered big help. I attempted to find a photo of an identical trunk on eBay, Etsy, and Google, but my search was unsuccessful. I’d hoped to restore it to its original glory, but since I was unable to determined what that was, I decided to stick with keeping it black.

When I finally got inside the trunk, the musty smell almost knocked me off my feet.  Research told me that when something smells, it’s most often paper holding moisture.  So, I removed the wallpaper liner and set a plate of DRY freshly ground coffee beans inside.  I found this hack on an antique restoration website on Google, and by golly, it worked!  It was much better than just baking soda, and I added this to my list of solutions to keep for the future.  (You’re welcome.)

Next, I sanded and stained the inside with a light cherry stain to preserve the original look of the wood. I then added a satin-finish polyurethane to ensure no more moisture would seep in. (If it was not is such bad condition, I would’ve kept the wood stained but naked.)

Each of the 6 faces of the trunk had approximately 70 rivets that were badly rusted. I dremmeled them down to the original stainless-steel finish then polished them with my Dremmel’s buffing attachment.

The lid was the most challenging part of the project.  Not only was the missing and stapled veneer a major problem, but it was warped so badly underneath that sanding would not take care of the problem.  I conditioned the old wood then cut away the damaged veneer.

At first, I tired filling in the void with wood putty. This may have worked fine if it were a newer piece of wood, but this 70+ year old wood was really dried out, so it absorbed the moisture from the putty and warped badly! In fact, it looked like a mini roller coaster track as it was drying. The next day, as I pondered what to do, I moved the trunk, and the putty fell off! (That was easy!) I left it alone to dry for another day, and the wavy wood went flat again. (Phew!)

That’s when I discovered my new best friend, BONDO! It worked great on the top, and since I was painting it anyway and not staining it, this was no problem. In fact, YouTube showed me how to make a mold out of wax paper-covered furring strips, and I used Bondo to repair the side that had been damaged. (And since then, I’ve used it to repair a friend’s front door as well as her bathtub.)

Each corner surface had a leather strip that was riveted on.  The leather was so hard, it felt like plastic.  In fact, until I started researching trunks, I thought it was some sort of plastic-like material.  The only reason I knew it wasn’t actually plastic was the age of it.  At any rate, I conditioned the leather numerous times, and that actually softened it a lot. Also, the hardware was badly rusted, so I sanded off the rust, oiled the moving parts, then painted them with antique gold oil-based gilding paint.

The original leather handles were both broken off and dried out, and the metal tabs that held them on were badly dented.  That unfortunately meant that I wouldn’t be able to retain the original hardware and handles.  But another internet search led me to Brettuns Village, an amazing trunk restoration store, and I purchased similar pieces as well as the mini railroad spike type of nails that are actually used to hold them on.  (Did you know trunks don’t actually use screws, not even in the hinges?)

Next, I came to the name plaque. It was made out of copper or brass that was dingy and had started to patina.  I buffed it to its own natural shine then added a thin coat of polishing wax with the Dremmel, and voila! All that natural beauty was just screaming to get out.

Finally, I masked, primered, and painted the exterior wooden parts black, then I used a glossy polyurethane on the outside.  I figured this poor thing had been neglected for so long, it deserved to be the center of attention for a while.  I originally intended this to stay in my spare room, but I loved the way it looked so much when I was done, I kept it in the living room, and people often ask me where I bought it.  I think I’ll check this project off as a success.  What do you think?

Thank you Sweet Cousin Kathy, and thank you, Uncle Paul!

Let’s talk:  Do you like restoration projects?  Have you ever used Bondo?  Did you know that trunks don’t use screws? Did you know coffee was great for removing odors?

Cake and Appliances

Greetings, friends!  I hope all the Bloggyville Mamas had a wonderful Mother’s Day!  In my little corner of the world, Daughter Stefani was sick, so she couldn’t come over, but she and Son Jeremy conspired to give me a wonderful day anyway.  First, let me share the backstory…

About a year ago, I didn’t feel well enough to write, but I needed a creative outlet. When I was a teenager, I worked as an assistant to a cake decorator for a brief time, and ever since then, I’d been wanting to get back into it. But for most of my children’s lives, I was a single mom with no child support, so buying the tools I would need was a mere dream. Last year, I decided to treat myself, so I loaded up my Amazon cart, and a couple of weeks later, I found myself squarely in the middle of a cake business.

Even though I didn’t intend for this to become a side-gig, friends and neighbors started asking me to make cakes for their occasions… so I complied. At the time, I had a generic stand mixer, a 15-year-old oven, and some new cake supplies. Here’s a few examples of the projects I did. (I like to call these “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”, 😂 LOL!)…

These are a few of the birthday cakes I made…

This coconut cake tasted as delicious as it looks.
This is dark chocolate-peanut butter cake with fudge icing and peanut butter icing and with Reese’s on top and inside. YUM!
I realized too late that I should’ve used a thinner piping tip for the web. 🥺
This is a light cake with Mascarpone icing
…and the filling was made of fresh raspberries.

Here’s when I got bold and taught myself how to make both a creamy cheesecake and a New York-style cheesecake (though I think these photos might be of the same cake)…

When Sister Michelle’s office contracted me to make 6 dozen Halloween cupcakes, I got started then realized I didn’t have nearly enough candy eyes… So, a little research showed me how to make Royal icing eyes, and they were really quite easy and fun…

Frankenstein is peanut butter-dark chocolate cake with a Reese’s on top.
The stem is a chocolate-dipped pretzel.
The bat is obviously an Oreo.
The brain has cherry “blood”.
The werewolf face is peanut butter icing with Reese’s Pieces eyes, ears and nose,
The tombstone is a chocolate-covered Nutter Butter.
Pretzels hold the Royal icing eyes.

After the cupcakes, Sister Michelle’s office wanted a special Thanksgiving cake, so I experimented with fondant.  (I wish I’d have taken the photo after everything dried, but I had to box it up and send it off to her work)…

For my own house’s Thanksgiving, I tried an experiment that failed miserably! I make this pathetic turkey’s face, wings, and tail out of melted (then re-hardened) chocolate covered with Royal icing. I do NOT recommend this. It was WAY too heavy (and ugly), and the appendages fell off before we were ready to eat the cake. 😂 But it was good for a laugh…

Luckily, this sad guy tasted better than he looked.  😂 😂

For Valentine’s Day, Sister Michelle’s office wanted more cupcakes…

And then my oven broke. (This turned out to be the “break” I needed, because I’m so sick of cakes, I could scream! 🙄 This sampling of photos only represents about a third of the cakes I made in the year. Thankfully, my cake baking business is now officially CLOSED.)  As for the oven, Sister Michelle and I had already replaced the thermostat, both heating elements, and the plug. But this time, there was no reviving her.  In fact, she was so sick that she tripped the breaker every time we even turned a burner on.  So, we were lucky in that this pretty little thing happened to be on sale for 25% off!  We’d been eyeing her for months but didn’t want to put the money into that yet, then fate stepped in and made up our minds for us.  We love the way she looks.  (And we HATE the way she performs, at least the stove part, but that’s a story for another day 🥺)…

Pretty? Yes! Functional? Meh…

So, for Mother’s Day, my kiddos, decided Mom needed a new mixer to go with her new oven, so they bought me the Passion Red KitchenAid that I’d been eyeing for years as well as a pasta roller and cutter attachment!  SQUEEEEE!!!!  ❤️❤️❤️ Apparently, Sister Michelle was in on the surprise too, because she got me a ravioli press.  At any rate, I was so excited, and hopefully, I’ll figure out how to use the attachments soon.  When I do, you’re all invited to my house for pasta, ravioli, and pierogis! YUM! (Who knows? Perhaps my next side-hustle business will be pasta making. Lord, I hope not. 🙄)

YAY! What wonderful kiddos I have! ❤️

Let’s talk: Did you ever have to buy a new appliance out of necessity because one broke? Did you ever hate a new appliance soon after you bought it? Have you ever made a baked cheesecake? Have you ever gotten sucked into running a business that you never intended to do?

Outside the Box

Greetings, friends! Most of you who’ve known me very long know that I often discuss my Asperger’s diagnosis and how it affects me. You may also remember that both of my children are also Aspies, and I’ve discussed their particulars at times also. One of the things that Autistic people experience is the need for routine. For example, most people generally like to change up their menu and don’t really mind when the TV stations change their daily line-ups. We don’t like that.

This quirk is also present when you’d think that it shouldn’t be, such as when there’s a holiday or special fun occasion. Nope. It’s still there. I’ve learned to take deep breaths and get through holiday seasons when we decorate the house differently (though after the holiday, I can’t wait to get things “back to normal”). But what people find particularly odd about me is that, knowing how much I love computers and technology, whenever I get a new computer, I usually bring it home from the store, then I literally set the box in the room and leave the computer boxed up for a few days to a couple of weeks, just so I can get used to the idea that a big change is coming. Yes, I know others chomp at the bit and can’t wait to unpack their new toy. Weird, I know, but that’s what works for me.

For Christmas 2020, Sister Michelle and Son Jeremy got me a Cricut. YAY! I’d been eyeing them for years, and when enough people I know got one and were able to use theirs successfully, I decided I was ready to take the plunge. Once again, adversity to change or fear of the unknown prohibited me from opening the box until mid-January 2021, but it wasn’t long before I started creating my own designs in Photoshop and thinking “outside the box” for different projects I could make. (See how I tied that in?)

And because I have the world’s best niece and nephew, they allowed me the honor of creating them some custom art to decorate their rooms. My niece, Jocelyn, loves mermaids, so I make her mermaid-themed goodies. My nephew, Julian, loves fishing, so I focus on angling for him.

My first fun custom Cricut project was a “portrait” of Julian catching a sailfish. (Or a marlin.) I used his school photo to create a vector of him, and I drew the waves, sky, fish, etc. in Photoshop then used Illustrator to convert the layers to SVG format and cut them with the Cricut. Now, if you don’t use these programs or machines, what you might have heard was, “Blah blah blah Cricut blah.” Don’t worry; there’s not a quiz at the end.

Bottom line, I made a picture of Julian in a boat. And he liked it.

With Jocelyn, I stuck to the familiar and just made a digital art of her as a mermaid.

In fact, the Photoshop welcome photo at the time was a beautiful image of a girl-turned-mermaid, and that’s what inspired me to do that for Jocelyn.

{This was the gorgeous Photoshop opening image in 2020.}

And she liked it.

By the next Christmas, I ventured a little further into my creative vein, and I made them each a box. I designed their names in the theme (Julian’s “J” was a fish on a hook, and the “L” was a fishing pole; and Jocelyn’s name was part of mermaid scales.), and I cut their names out with the Cricut. Then on Julian’s box, I mounted a net and several antique fishing lures.

On Jocelyn’s, I used polymer clay along with tulle, glitter, and gems to make an underwater scene of fish, seaweed, and a little mermaid that looks just like her.

They liked them.

(If I’m going to be transparent here, I should confess that whenever I make them gifts, I also include cash. Just in case. They’ve never complained. That’s what aunts do, so I’m happy to comply with the Auntie Guild Bylaws.)

In conclusion, last year for Christmas, Sister Michelle, Son Jeremy, and Daughter Stefani bought me a laser cutter. I’d been dying to have one, and I researched for weeks to find just the one I wanted. I even started a list of the different projects I planned to make. To date, it’s still in the box.

Let’s talk: Have you even looked forward to owning something then left it in the box for more than a couple of days? Do you include cash when you give gifts to your nieces and nephews? Did I make a marlin or a sailfish?

This and This and That

Greetings, friends!  I know I’ve been waning on my blogging duties lately, and that disappoints me because I was just starting to get to all the art projects I’ve been working on that I wanted to share with you.  Buuuut… I’m still navigating the learning curve with this Lupus diagnosis, and just when I thought I’d be in and out of a quick flare, I got a bad sinus and upper respiratory infection, I injured my knee in an apparent sleeping accident (another fine benefit of Lupus), and then another flare followed.  So, this…

…is the second Medrol (steroid) pack I’ve had to take in the past four weeks.

…is the new (and grossly disgusting!) homeopathic turmeric milk drink I’ve started taking daily to attempt to help with inflammation.

…is the remnants of a cute little egg I found on my doorstep.  (Any ideas on what hatched from this would be greatly appreciated.  My first guess was a ringneck snake because we have a lot of those here, but after Googling it, this egg is too round and large.)

And then this…

…is when the shingles for my new roof were delivered this week.  (How cool is that conveyor belt truck?)

…is the roofing crew installing my new roof this morning.  (Actually, this is what my roof looks like naked!)

…is the color scheme that Sister Michelle, Son Jeremy, and I will be painting (or attempting to paint) the exterior of our house this weekend (though with my current state of health and the medical recommendation that I avoid the sun, I believe my contributions may be more in the nature of a supervisory role).  The house will be the Mined Coal grey, the trim will be Bakery Box white, and the accent trim will be Little Black Dress (to match the new charcoal roof).  And once that’s done, I’ll be building two gable pediments which will be white.  Since we are using an airless sprayer for the first time, we’ve all also been busy watching YouTube and See Jane Drill tutorials on how not to end up wasting 15+ gallons of paint.

So, since I’m not able to do the regular blog-thing again quite yet (but hopefully after the house is painted and things are a little more back to normal), I just wanted to pop in today and share some photos I took in Washington D.C. last year, and a couple from other places, and also say that…

…I hope each of you have a Happy, healthy, and SAFE Memorial Day weekend!

…I hope you all remember the purpose for Memorial Day is to honor America’s servicemen and servicewomen who paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect our nation’s values (and that whether you agree with each and every one of those values or not, you at least appreciate the sacrifice that was made when these lives were lost…I already know you do).

…you all (or at least all the Americans) remember that on Monday at 3:00 p.m. in whatever time zone you are in, that is the time for the one-minute moment of silence.  (In case you have never heard of this, in December of 2000, Congress passed the “National Moment of Remembrance Act” which asks Americans, wherever in the world they may be at 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day, to pause for a duration of one minute to remember those who have died in military service to the United States.)

Finally, thank you to all the amazing heroes that serve or have served in our nation’s military.  And thank you to all the front-line workers, essential workers, and to those who are helping keep us safe during this current Covid-19 crisis.

Let’s talk:  What are your plans this weekend?  Have you ever painted the outside of a house with a sprayer?  Do you think we’ll do a great job or have the biggest headache of our lives in this attempt?  (I’m sure it will be one extreme or the other, with no in between.)  Did you know about the 3:00 national moment of silence for Memorial Day?

So, this happened…

When Sister Michelle, Son Jeremy, and I bought our house a couple of years back, we, of course, had our mail forwarded.  We were so proud to own our first house and no longer be renters that we changed our Driver’s Licenses, Voters’ Registrations, magazine subscriptions, various insurances, etc., as soon as we could.

Between the three of us, we probably get a total of about five or six magazine subscriptions per month.  When you go on the magazine’s website to change your address, most of them tell you that it will likely be after the next issue is mailed before the change will take place, so be sure to notify the Post Office of your new address.  Okay, no big deal.

All three of us spent a lot of time those first couple of months camped out at Home Depot, Lowes, and Floor and Décor, among other home improvement stores.  We had tons of changes to make to make this place feel like it was really ours, and nothing was going to stop us.

Meanwhile, the mail piled up on a table by the door while we busily learned how to build walls, change out light fixtures, paint textured walls, etc.  Then came the day that we took a break and sorted through the mail.  That’s when we found this magazine.

Or what was left of a magazine after the Post Office damaged it.  (If you can’t tell, this is literally the bottom corner of the cover only of a magazine!)  At least they apologized for their error and included their wishes that the problem didn’t cause us too much inconvenience.

Let’s talk:  Is this hilarious, or what?  Did you ever get something like this from the Post Office?  What’s the most damaged item you’ve ever received from any shipping company?  Regarding the last place you moved, did you make any changes as soon as you got there, or did you wait a while?


I do realize I need to clean the glass on my front door.  But, putting that aside, look:

How rude!  Good thing I didn’t clean the glass yet, or I’d have to do it again to get the slime off.  (But seriously, he’s still small enough to be cute.  When the larger guys come to the door, that’s not as photo worthy.)

Let’s talk:  Cute or creepy?  Have you ever eaten frog legs?  How are you and your family holding up?  What’s changed this week in your city?


These days of the unknown are certainly frightening, and the cabin fever doesn’t help.  Which is why I guess when I went out in search of food and somehow picked up this hitchhiker, he gave me just the hearty laugh I needed.  (He seriously didn’t want to leave!  I had to get out the car and hand-feed him some French fries to coax him down.)

Let’s talk:  How are you and your family holding up?  Do you have a curfew or stay home order where you live?  Are you running low on supplies yet?


When I read the word NIJOD, I know I can cast my worries aside and enjoy peaceful sleep.  “What’s NIJOD?” you ask?  Allow me to explain…

My 26-year-old son Jeremy lives with me.   But at 26, he’s not a child, so he does his own thing and it’s not like I can stop him, even if I think whatever it is he has planned might be a bad idea.  However, because we are technically roommates (and because he doesn’t have the most reliable truck and is no stranger to speeding tickets and traffic accidents), I still get a little mama-bear-worried if he’s not home around the time he says he will be.

My 30-year-old daughter Stefani does not live with me and hasn’t for years.  While I still get pangs of mama-bear-worry over her, they don’t usually come unless I happen to know she’s in a potentially dangerous situation (such a traveling out of state with bad tires or brakes).  But as for her day-to-day life, since I don’t know her hourly plans, I just have faith that she’s doing well unless I hear otherwise.

My sister Michelle lives with me.  We are technically roommates and have witnessed a lot of the worst life has to offer (unlike my kiddos who are still young enough to think bad things won’t ever happen to them), so because Michelle and I are both old ladies responsible adults, we’ll both still give a courtesy call to each other or even to Jeremy if our plans have changed and we’ll be home significantly later than expected.

It took several years times of trying to explain to Jeremy that I’m not trying to control his every move, but rather just want confirmation that he’s not been in an accident or ended up in jail for some reason (not that he’s criminally mischievous – he’s definitely not, but he also would have no qualms about defending himself by beating the crap out of someone if he felt they were threatening him).

Finally, I got him to agree to texting me a code word if he’s going to be very late or not come home at all that night.  NIJOD.  NIJOD is our code word, and it’s an acronym for “Not In Jail Or Dead.”  I used to text him “NIJOD?” and hope he replied, but now, he almost always automatically sends a quick NIJOD text on his own and I go to bed without imagining all the possible reasons why he might be so late.  Apparently, texting NIJOD is a lot cooler than answering calls from your mama-bear-worried mommy who calls to check and make sure you’re okay if you’re not home when you said you would be.

So, if you’ve got a teenager or twenty-something kiddo who still lives with you but doesn’t feel like they should still have to report their whereabouts or change in plans, you can feel free to adopt NIJOD for your own covert communication efforts.

Let’s talk:  Do you call or text your at-home person or people when your plans change?  Would you be happy with a code word if your at-home person or people was running very late?


Last week, I posted a call to writers to respond to a writing prompt and allow me to interview you.  So far, I don’t have any takers on the writing prompt part.  It’s okay. I’m patient.  I can wait for anyone who wants to attempt to write a short something in exchange for me asking you a few fun questions and give you free exposure to promote your book(s) or other offerings.

In the meantime, please check out the following photo of some bees I found in the exterior wall of an old shed when I was hired to do a photo session a while back….

Photo: ©R. Carrera

Have a great Hump Day!