Quick Halloween to Thanksgiving Decor Transition

Good morning friends, and Happy November!

I hope you all had a blast trick or treating with the littles yesterday. You’re probably not quite ready to dive in to updating your decor today, but that’s ok–I’ve been getting ahead of things all fall, so I might as well share my decor experiments with you, right?

Halloween Display

This is kind of a spin-off of my post last month about the early fall to Halloween transition. I was working on those photos feverishly for a few hours that day because I had planned the post but then the buffet in this photo sold a lot more quickly than I had expected it to, and so I had to rush to finish everything before the customer came to pick it up, because I didn’t have another piece that I could use as a backdrop.

Then a day or two later, I found a new buffet and painted that so that I could get a quick Thanksgiving post done that used a similar piece as the base. I was trying to get some Christmas ones done, too, but I wasn’t satisfied with what I was coming up with, so I’ll just share the Thanksgiving one for today.

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Again, this is something super simple that I put together in about a half an hour. When I’m putting together something like this for a post, a show, or for my house, I think about the season, the pieces that I already have and how I can use them in a new way, and about the materials that the pieces are made of (for example I have some real naturals, some fake naturals, some paper, some wood, some glass…I like a nice mix of materials to give some depth and texture to the look).

The only pieces that I used throughout the season were the grass vases on either side–I really like the movement and interest that they add. Everything else was moved around or switched out at some point or another.

I moved from the fabric pumpkin banner to a paper “Give Thanks” banner that I made with my Cricut 2 or 3 years ago, even though the pumpkin banner would still technically have worked. Confession: I was cleaning out my basement and got totally distracted as soon as I found the “Give Thanks” banner–I had to drop everything that I was doing and take my Thanksgiving photos right then. This is part of the reason why my list never gets done. I’m trying to work on staying focused.

I don’t love paper banners as much as fabric ones, but I don’t have a huge inspiration for a fabric Thanksgiving banner right now, so oh well. This one still looks nice.

I also knew I wanted to go the crate, bushel, ladder section route, too–all of those things tie in nicely with the season of gathering and harvesting and giving thanks, and the mini white pumpkins spilling out were also a good transition from Halloween to a neutral Thanksgiving, echoing a horn of plenty type image.

If you’re not a neutral person like I am, you could easily add some great color here with a couple of Mason jars with bold fall color bouquets on either side in place of the grass vases, some bright orange mini or pie pumpkins, and a colorful banner. I go through neutral seasons and color seasons, so it’s only a matter of time before I’m back to doing something super colorful.

Would you be interested in seeing a more behind-the-scenes look at how I got to this point with the display? I know I said I put this together in about a half an hour, but that was with switching things in and out and back and forth, debating with myself about what looked good and what had to go. Anyway, I think I might try that when we get to the Christmas decorating post.


Share your Thanksgiving space by giving me a shout out on Instagram @itsjessforton! I’d love to see what you’re doing to usher in the next phase of fall!

Talk soon,

Jessie

Quick Early Fall to Halloween Display

Good morning friends!

Here’s a super quick post for you on how to easily transition from early fall to a spookier Halloween vibe in your decorating. I thought this would be fun and easy, and I’ve been looking for a few ways to sprinkle in some quick posts throughout the week.

Here’s my simple early fall display:

cute fall display

I kept things light and airy here, softening the transition from summer to fall with some fading florals, the white window, and these test tube vases that I got on clearance from Magnolia Market. I couldn’t find anything similar for sale online when I was writing this, but any clear vase or grouping of vases would work.

I put this wreath together myself, pulling bits and pieces of leftover stuff from last fall and some cotton bolls I had from a different project.

I love birch branches at any time of the year, but they are particularly pretty in the fall and winter. I have these layered in an old grocery cart, which brings them out from simply leaning against the wall and gives the look a little more dimension.

There are a few linen and buffalo pumpkin banners still hanging out in my Etsy shop if you want to snag yours. Buffalo check is one of the easiest ways to bring in a little more fall here without being super overwhelming just yet. I didn’t want to get rid of summer that quickly!!

And here’s my quick transition to a spookier October set-up:

Halloween Display

Swapping out the white window for a trio of heavier dark frames seemed like a natural choice for the backdrop–there’s something about these old, dark, empty frames that’s a little bit creepy to me–in a good way. These are from an estate sale that I found in an old-timey photography studio that had been closed for years–there were all these bottles of solution around, a real darkroom, and stacks and stacks of frames–more frames than anybody could ever want in their life, it seems like. It would have made a great themed haunted house except for the fact that they had the sale in the spring.

I kept my wheat vases because they don’t look as whimsical without the floral wreath–on their own they usher the fall in with a bit more force since there’s nothing “alive” about them and no green left for them to work with.

The skull fabric swatch came from the 1011 Fabrics booth at Shed 5 last year–they have the coolest stuff and do such amazing work. It’s a bit of a hike to Fenton, but it’s a super pretty place. I typically wouldn’t pick out something with skulls on it, but I’m glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone a little because I think it works here, and it was only $1! I liked the fact that it was a swatch because it was finished around the edges and it has some grommets in the top in case I wanted to string it onto a banner somehow.

And that’s my early fall to Halloween transition in a few easy steps! Thanks for reading–I’d love to see your Halloween setup in the comments or on Instagram (tag @itsjessforton to share!). Stay tuned next month for the transition from Halloween to Thanksgiving!

Talk soon,

Jessie

Five Ways To Decorate With Vintage Crates

The easiest way to dip your toe into farmhouse style is with an antique wooden crate or two. These boxes add instant interest and dimension to any room with the added benefit of giving you extra storage for those things that never seem to have a place of their own. I’m all about the one-two punch when it comes to decorating my under 1,400 square foot home, and this is probably the biggest reason that I love these crates so much!

I’ve used crates in a variety of ways over the past few years, and I’m excited to share some ideas with you today. I think what makes it so simple to start your farmhouse decorating with these is that they are relatively easy to find (of course, once you start finding them, you’ll see them everywhere, which might lead to a little bit of a crate overload. If you happen to scroll through my Instagram, you’ll probably come across the photo of the wedding prep for Christina’s wedding last year. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, friends).

Another reason I love them is that each one is so unique–whether it has a partial label describing what it was used for, some writing from the previous owner, or some great paint or patina that’s been wearing away for twenty or thirty years, I love all of it. Some of the manufactured-to-look vintage pieces that they sell at Hobby Lobby and Target are cute, but I just can’t see myself ever wanting to decorate with them–they feel a little soulless to me. I like something that’s done a little bit of life already.

If you’re wondering about how to find them, here’s my best tip: I regularly check this website using my zip code to find great estate sales in my area. When I’m looking for something specific, I try to find a sale that has a lot of that item, in this case, crates. When you see one or two, that tends to drive the price up, no matter what the item is, but if you see that there are ten or twenty, odds are that you’ll be able to get a pretty good deal ($5-$15 usually) on a great vintage crate. I’ve picked them up for as little as $2 at garage sales, and I’ve even found a few of them on the curb!

Anyway, here are five great ideas for styling your perfect vintage crate, once you find it:

Pretty Bathroom Storage:

vintage crate bathroom storage

I love fluffy white towels and my linen closet is laughably small. However, even in my dream bathroom (which has ample storage, let me tell you right now) I’m storing towels in a big vintage crate because I just like looking at them.

I don’t know about you, but this little setup just makes me want to run a bath, grab a book and some tea, and settle in for an hour or two of relaxation. Having towels and soap on display in the bathroom creates a visual invitation to just stop and spend a little time on myself, and I’ll take as much of that as I can get!

I love this asparagus crate because it also doubles as a tote (which means multiple uses for one piece, which is amazing) and makes it super easy to roll and display up to four towels, plus soap, bath bombs, hand towels, and wash cloths. This one is for sale in my Etsy shop if you want to skip the long hours of hunting and get straight to styling!

Photo Shoot Backdrop:

crate photo background

Here’s our family photo shoot from 2017, done by the amazing Anna Dwyer. I love being able to take great photos right in the backyard, as we are practically living in a forest. Since there are no fences or anything to worry about, we can take photos back there anytime and basically feel like we’re at a park or way out in nature somewhere, which is amazing, but I still like to jazz it up sometimes (ok, fine, all the time) with a great vintage piece or two.

In this case, I used about fifteen crates of various shapes and sizes to create a little backdrop behind us. All the different tones of wood and various degrees of aging and wear work together really well to add height and visual interest behind us. We tend to do our family photos in the fall, since it’s my favorite season and I’m the one that schedules these things, and the crates also work really well with that time of year–the worn wood really echoes orchard and farm crates and barrels and makes me think of harvesting and apple-picking and all that good fall stuff. Looking at this is really making me think about what I want to do for this fall. Decisions, decisions…

Unique Centerpieces:

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I love wooden boxes in all shapes and sizes–this one is technically a cheese box, rather than a true crate, but I’m counting it because it’s so pretty. I’ve used these for all kinds of events–Bible studies, showers, backyard parties, weddings–and they are always unique and interesting additions to the table.

When I see these at a flea market or garage sale, I almost always pick them up (I wouldn’t pay more than $10, and I’ve found them for $2-$7). I love that they are all different, whether it’s a different cheese company, a different design or color of the lettering, or a different level of wear and patina. I found one not too long ago that had been gnawed a bit on two of the corners, and I picked that one up immediately. What’s better than a vintage cheese box with a few little mouse bites on it?

When I’m putting the centerpiece together, I line the boxes with 2.5″ votive holders filled halfway with water and then almost always start with a ton of filler, like the gypsum in these photos. I want it to look like the flowers are just filled up inside the box and  for the little glasses to be hidden, so I really pile in the filler. One box usually has at least 4-5 stems before the bigger flowers go in.

I actually like how the boxes look just with the gypsum, but I almost always layer in another color or at least a larger flower in white to fill it out a bit more. The box with the roses is one that I did for Christina’s wedding last year. It’s fun to have some contrast between the vintage colors on the boxes and the flowers themselves, which is another reason why I pick up every box that I can–that way I have more options when I’m mixing and matching.

This is a tiny bit off topic but I’ll throw in a little bonus idea here: I’ve often used vintage wooden crates upside down or stacked sideways to add height to a different centerpiece or to a variation of something like this (the sweets table at Christina’s barn wedding–before the sweets, of course):

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I’ll do this kind of stacking at a craft show or vintage market, too, to show off the smaller pieces that I have and add a little height to my display. It’s nice, whatever you’re doing to add height and texture wherever you can so that the eye has plenty of places to bounce around.

Unique Occasional Table/Bookshelf:

crate side table

I have a real lack of entryway space in my house. The front door opens right into the living room, and the back door right into the kitchen. I’ve kind of given up on trying to create an entryway space in the living room–we almost always have people come in the back door anyway–but the kitchen is a different story. I need something in there to help me corral all the stuff that accumulates on my kitchen table.

I found the large crate pictured here at a flea market last spring. I originally bought it for my Etsy shop, but I loved it so much that I stuck it in the corner of my kitchen and it hasn’t moved since. It was a crazy good deal (I want to say it was $20, but it could have been $30…either way, it was too good to pass up), and in really good condition for being WWII-era. I like having it by the back door because it’s a great place to stash my book bag and purse when I come home, and I can toss mail or keys on the top to help myself keep track of them better.

Seasonal Front Porch Display

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I found the old deck rails on the curb a few weeks ago, and I cut them down to fit on either side of my front door–they give me a little porch feeling without the actual porch (someday, friends). I added in some apple crates (this one is a curb find and I can’t remember where the other one came from. A lot of times you can buy them at orchards, though, so keep an eye out while you’re out pumpkin and apple picking!) and some white pumpkins from Meijer. At $5.49 each, they aren’t super cheap, but they were reasonable enough. I love using the squashy, “fantasy” pumpkins, but I’m essentially just buying squirrel food, no matter what I put out there, so paying much more than $5 apiece starts to drive me a little nuts when those guys start chewing on them.

White mums are my favorite (surprise, surprise), but I had to hunt around a little to find some that weren’t already done for the most part. Meijer for the win again, there. And how cute is this little sign from Marshall’s Home Goods? I think this is probably my biggest porch display ever–usually I worry that, because my porch isn’t covered, everything will kind of quickly get ruined or soggy, but hey, if something gets ruined this year, I’ll just replace it, right? It’s worth it to have a cute front porch for the fall, especially since it’s my favorite season. I already have plans for my Christmas porch…these deck rails are going to come in handy for that season, too, I think. Can’t wait to share it!!


So there are my tips on using vintage crates. It’s the perfect time to snag one or two of these. I’d love to see your finds–tag @itsjessforton on Instagram to share!!

What are your favorite ways to use vintage crates? Do you prefer the old, slightly dirty ones, or are you just as likely to pull one off the shelf at Hobby Lobby and throw it in the mix with your vintage pieces? Either way, let’s talk about it!

Jessie

 

 

 

How I’m Transforming Our Garage

Good morning!

If you’ve been following me on Instagram (I post in my stories on the weekends that we work on this) you know I’ve been working hard on cleaning up/cleaning out our garage and moving it from just a work space to a more inspiring and “pretty” space, both for me and for my customers.

I’ve been leaning a bit more minimalist in our house lately, pruning away things that I don’t need or use that are just cluttering up my time and my life. That mindset—exactly what it means for my family and I–has been taking shape over the past few months, but it’s been hard to get there when it comes to business stuff. I had so much in the garage that I was saving for a certain project or idea that I was going to get around to “someday” that it was getting in the way of the projects that I was really excited about and really taking away my motivation to create what I really wanted to create.

I had to realize that in the same way I get overwhelmed “at home”, I was also getting overwhelmed “at work”–I had too many possibilities and not enough time or space to get them all done. I had to let things go or I wouldn’t be able to make the progress that I wanted to in my business or in making the garage look the way I wanted it to.

So here’s the big, scary, “before” (it’s actually not as big and scary as it truly was because I took photos way after I initially started. So look at this but imagine it being a lot worse):

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See that gray washed pie crust table in the middle of the photo all the way to the left? This is what the garage looked like when a customer came to pick that one up. Not great, right? I’ve been running into that situation all summer, though, and I really wanted to create a space that I enjoyed more and that would be more inspiring to me and to my customers.

That’s not to say that I didn’t struggle with this move. For a long time, I really wanted a retail space. I was saving for it for awhile, even. Then goals changed a bit, as they do, and that dream got a little farther away from me. But this kind of pushed it’s way in, and then I would lay in bed and think about how much of a step back this dream was from that one. I almost felt embarrassed about it–who has a store in their garage? Who is going to come and shop in my garage that’s freezing half the year and kind of unpleasantly hot the other half? What about torrential downpours, when the roof leaks a tiny bit in that one spot and water soaks into that one corner? Primarily, though, it just looks a little dark and dingy and, well like a garage.

I played around with my Etsy backdrops for a long time, but they were almost all too small for me to take photos of the increasingly larger pieces that I was creating. So the first step on this journey was to throw up some curb find scrap wood and do a white wash over most of it.

 

 

The photo with the shutter shelves looks all right, but obviously this one with the dresser makes it obvious that this solution wasn’t quite what I wanted just yet. Still, it took me probably two years after I first put up this backdrop to upgrade to this (keep in mind, this is just about one half of the north wall of my garage):

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So much better, right? I used 1′ x 6′ common pine boards with a white wash over them. It actually ended up being a couple of different white paints over the course of the whole project, because, as you know, I have paint everywhere (literally in places I didn’t know I had), and most of it is at least half used, so rather than buying new paint, I pretty much just used up what I had. I don’t know about you, but I get a real sense of satisfaction when I get to throw an empty paint can away. I’ll admit, this is kind of strange, but it’s true.

Speaking of paint, I so should have taken pictures of this corner (the one down below) and what it looked like before, because it was an absolute disaster. I basically had these makeshift shelves that were loose boards supported by 2 x 4’s that weren’t exactly even and definitely weren’t that great to look at. Then I found this beauty one night during a particularly fruitful curb shopping trip:

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This has been my paint can corner for a long time, and before the 2 x 4 shelves, there was a metal cabinet there. The latch on that cabinet never worked properly, and so the door was always swinging open and getting in the way, and the shelves on the inside were too narrow for much more than two cans of paint each, so a lot of it was stacked in the bottom and it just wasn’t that convenient (or pretty).

When I found this piece and Dan measured it and discovered that it fit in this space perfectly and had amazing storage, I was pretty much over the moon. Charlotte was also very excited because this thing was filthy, and before I could wash it, it needed to be sprayed down with the hose to get rid of the first layer of grime. Charlotte’s favorite way to help me is by spraying things down with the hose (painting is a very close second). I really wanted to paint this, but I knew I wasn’t selling it, and I’m always hesitant to paint a piece for myself that I know I’m just going to using in the garage. I compromised with myself and used some paint that I didn’t love (obviously not Annie Sloan–I love the color here but not the finish, for my normal pieces, anyway), and it made such a difference:

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There’s something about seeing my paint cans all lined up like this, out in the open but organized and ready to be used, that is really inspiring to me. I don’t feel like I have to clean up before I can start working. There are three shelves hidden underneath, too, where I stashed my boxes of sandpaper, my box of trash bags, some cleaning supplies, and my basket of shop rags–you know, the less inspiring stuff (all of which used to be just out on my workbench, always in the way and never organized).

We had these big light hoods up in the rafters that were leftover from the previous owners:

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Dan did a little poking around in the rafters and discovered that they weren’t hooked up to anything, which makes total sense, since the electrical in our house has always been a scary jungle of wild cords that go nowhere and connect to nothing but are ominously marked “live” and are constantly appearing out of nowhere from places that we thought we’d checked years ago. It’s a real fun circus over here when it comes to potential fire hazards. Anyway, just to be safe, of course, he turned off everything for about an hour and pulled all of these down for me.

In addition to making it a lot more open and less cave-like, I sold the hoods on Facebook later than night, which helped us purchase the next round of common boards for the walls. I love it when that happens.

Back to the north wall. Here’s the before and after:

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I apologize for the second picture being so dark at the back–I’m fighting the shorter days now. I’m also in the process of pricing a window installation back there to let in a lot more light–I’ve always wanted to put another window in for the extra light and also so that I can see and hear Charlotte more easily when she is in the backyard playing.

One of the things that is back there in that very dark corner is this cabinet (it’s probably going to move across the garage and onto the workbench when that wall is done, but I haven’t totally decided that yet):

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I wish I knew more about this piece. It’s super old and handmade, from what I can tell. When I have better light, I’ll take some photos of the inside so you can see the way that the shelves fit in there. Seriously, so cool. I bought it at an estate sale for about $17, which I still can’t believe. It locks, and it seems like it was made to go on top of another piece. I’ve taken it to a few shows and almost sold it a couple of times, but I’ve never been able to get rid of it, and maybe that’s a good thing now. I’m currently using it to store the props and the little things that I use for my Etsy photos, and, like the paint cabinet, it’s really nice to have a place to store these things where I actually enjoy looking at them and can easily find and pull things out.

Previously, they were either scattered all over the garage, stored in random crates, or, most recently, sitting on a shelf all jumbled up and stacked in such a way that I couldn’t really find anything efficiently at all. It’s always felt like a waste to me to put so much time and effort into the space that I’m working in–I could be using all of those resources to work on more pieces–but it’s honestly made such a difference so far, and I’m barely halfway done. I’ve always enjoyed working out in the garage but now that it’s actually pretty and a lot brighter out there, I’m enjoying it so much more. I can’t wait for my window to be installed and to finish up the back wall and I’m so excited to take the final photos and share how my Christmas sale went with you!


How do you feel about your work space? And does anyone else out there sell out of their garage? I’d love to see your photos! Let’s connect in the comments.

Talk soon,

Jessie

 

DIY Upcycled Bathroom Shelf

Good morning friends!

We were up north in Bellaire for the entire week of the fourth this year which was super fun. It’s really starting to become a tradition since Dan’s birthday is on the third and his company considers that one of his holidays. So two holiday days in a row, one vacation day, and two half days working remote meant that we could stay all week!

What did Charlotte and I do while he worked those two mornings, you ask? I think you know.

Shopping up north is extra fun because I don’t get to go to all of these places as regularly as I do the ones downstate, so I don’t usually mind if Dan has to work a little when we’re in Bellaire, because I love working, too, and if he’s working, I can work!

On Thursday morning, Charlotte and I were driving around looking for a garage sale that we never ultimately found, but I did spot these babies on the side of the road, and I picked them up! I love garbage day.

mid century desk drawers

 

They are super solid and heavy, plus dove tailed at both ends–perfect for an up-cycling project! Dan used to roll his eyes and ask crazy questions like “What are you ever going to do with those?” He knows better now.

I didn’t have a solid plan until I was browsing at my friend Shelly’s store (definitely head there and hang out for a bit while you’re waiting 2.5 hours for your table at Short’s the next time you’re in town) and picked up a little tub of chalk paint and some antique glaze. Then I started seeing shelves. Of course, drawers made into shelves isn’t an earth-shattering concept–I’ve done it a couple of times already–but I still thought it would be fun.

I wanted to share a quick tutorial featuring my drawer shelf, Shelly’s Shabby Chic Paint in Refresh, and her Old Town Paints Antique Glaze.

shabby chic paint in refresh

The first thing I did was add some hardware to the back for hanging. I use these mini D-rings for most of my shelves because they are easy and pretty sturdy.

hardware for bathroom shelfhardware on bathroom shelf

I just wiped this one down with some warm water and Murphy’s Oil Soap. I don’t usually do a deep clean or any kind of prep work if I’m going for a vintage look or using glaze, since if a stain or spot shows through the paint, it only adds to the look. This particular piece didn’t seem like it was going to be a problem anyway–it’s usually the more cherry looking woods and stains that start to come through the paint in places, and since most of this piece was still the natural wood, I wasn’t too concerned.

coverage for Shabby Chic Paint in Refresh

Again, because I was doing the glaze and going for a more rustic and imperfect look, I didn’t go crazy with coverage or perfect brush strokes, and I only did one coat. You can see from this photo that there is some opacity in places. This was my first time using the Shabby Chic Paint, and while I loved the color, the paint went on more like latex than typical chalk paint, and it definitely felt shinier and more like latex to the touch once it was dry. I haven’t used the Old Town brand in a few years, but from what I remembered, I felt that way about their paint as well.

I’m used to working with Annie Sloan’s paints more than anything, and I’ve gotten used to the way that they dry, so for me, working with this paint would have been more challenging on a bigger piece (on something this small it hardly matters what you use, which makes a project like this the perfect experiment for a first time DIY’er). I don’t know how to describe it exactly, but this paint almost seemed to slide if you tried to go back to a section and add more paint or take some away. If I had been doing a second coat, this wouldn’t have mattered, but since I wasn’t, it was a little frustrating not to have the ability to play with it just a bit more.

Because I hadn’t used it before and it seemed like the drying time was a lot slower than I’m used to with Annie Sloan, I just let it dry overnight before trying the glaze.

old town paints antique glazeold town paints glaze applicationold town paints glaze application 2

Shelly warned me that the glaze dried super fast, but I was still not prepared for just how fast it dried! I used an old sock of Dan’s that was inexplicably already in the garage anyway, since that was what she suggested (instead of using a brush). You can see how just in the time that it took me to do one side, the very first application dried before I could get enough on the sock to blend it in to the second one fully. It definitely took some time to get used to it, and it made me curious to try another glaze that was maybe a little easier to work with. Once again, I’m really glad that I didn’t try to use it on anything bigger the first time.

I think it’s so fun that there are all these different products to experiment with–I am always excited to try new techniques, and I love the way that the upcycled Refresh drawer shelf turned out!

finished product bathroom shelfclose up bathroom shelf

I put the two blue shelves in my Etsy shop, along with the rest of the plain drawers that I picked up. I had been thinking about switching up a few things in my bathroom, and for a bit I added one of the au natural shelves to the wall above my towel bar (as pretty as the blue is, it doesn’t really go in there color-wise).

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For awhile I was picking up these insulators super cheap at garage sales. I thought they were interesting and fun, but I didn’t really know what to do with them–kind of like my obsession with apothecary bottles. Mostly they just ended up in my basement, but I figured I would pull them out for awhile and stick them on  my new (old) shelf. I picked up a succulent from the Rochester Farmer’s Market mid-July, and a little antique Hall dish to put it in from the July Utica Antiques Market. I’m thinking about layering in some white and wood frames behind the other pieces to give it a little depth. Really, the last thing I should be thinking about right now is a tiny space in my bathroom, since the mattress is still on the floor of the bedroom and the TV is sitting on an ugly unpainted side table since I sold the buffet that I did have it on…


What projects are you working on and what did you think of my little shelf? Is it something that you’d have fun doing, too?

I’d love to see your projects! Tag me on Instagram @itsjessforton or comment below. Have a great week!

Jessie

Goal update!

Good morning!

I have to say that our whole “word of the year” (mortgage) thing is already way more effective than any resolution that I’ve ever made. I won’t say that it’s been smooth sailing during this first quarter of the year, but it has definitely helped us stay on track and say “no” to things that don’t move us towards our goals.

The biggest roadblock we hit was a medical thing that came up in February. Charlotte had had recurring ear infections since last December, and the pediatrician finally decided that it was time to send her to the ENT after they’d tried several rounds of antibiotics. Sadface. That lead to her having to get tubes put in her ears. Double sadface.

They did the surgery in early March and everything went great. We put our goal on hold and saved everything we could to try and avoid dipping into our emergency fund to cover our portion of the expenses. When I got the bill in the mail I was a little nervous to open it just in case we hadn’t saved enough, but we had saved almost exactly what we needed! We ended up having $100 left over to throw on the mortgage in April. I was so thankful that we were able to cash flow this “emergency” (which never felt like an emergency because we had a plan and we worked it) in one month, plus celebrate Charlotte’s birthday and prepare for Easter. It’s one of the most amazing feelings that we’ve ever had.

So here’s a recap of my first quarter goals, how they went, and how I’m moving forward into next quarter.

Goal #1: No spend January (I did this again in April–for the most part)

Recap of January:

I made it my goal not to shop for the business at all, and it yielded some decent returns.

You might remember my heart banners:

 

heart banner

These did pretty well at shows and in my shop. I kept on experimenting and looking forward, and created a bunny version for Easter that did even better. It is still selling for baby showers and nurseries! This was one of the things that I really wanted to come out of my no spend month–expanding my vision and therefore my product line.

Another side effect of not shopping in January was that I scoured the garage and the basement for vintage pieces that I had never cleaned, photographed, finished listing, etc., and actually sold a lot of pieces that I had previously been reluctant to list. This was super exciting as well–I have a tendency to buy something in the moment, decide it isn’t right for my shop, think about getting rid of it, and then ultimately hold onto it because I might “need it someday.” My no spend month helped me get over that a little bit.

For April:

I shopped a little bit, but mostly for new inventory. I found an amazing estate sale at the end of the month right in Rochester, and got some great pieces for my Etsy shop. My struggle last month was definitely the weather–by mid-April last year I had a huge pile of stuff going in the garage already for my late April shows, but no such luck this year. It was STILL snowing here in the middle of the month and I was stacking pieces all over the house in an attempt to still get work done and keep from freezing to death out in the garage.

I did get one or two warm days where I was able to get a new display piece finished using a bunch of stuff that I had laying around, so that was good.

Goal #2: Stock up my shop.

My goal was 200 listings by February 15–I didn’t actually keep track of when I met it, but I know it was later than that. The good news is that I’m there now, right?

I’m around 220 listings now and listing consistently really brought up my sales in March, which was officially my best month ever! I hit 900 sales and was able to save almost everything we needed for the tubes, which was super amazing.

For April:

Obviously my next goal is to make it to 300, but I don’t know if that will happen for this quarter. My more realistic goal is about 260, but we’ll see how it goes. I think one of the biggest things that has come out of my devotion to consistently posting new listings has been a big increase in sales.

The increase in activity in my shop has led to me making my biggest sales goal yet for my business in April (factoring in two shows, Facebook sales and Etsy sales), and the Richmond show put me beyond my target for the month, which was really exciting. The business part of things used to be really frustrating and time consuming for me because all I wanted to do was create things, but over the past few months I’ve actually begun to enjoy it a lot more, and I think it’s because I’m setting hard targets and then watching as I get really close or even beyond them each month.

Goal #3: Find new things to try.

I haven’t decided on the co-op yet. We tried a spring Junior League show at the Palazzo Grande in Shelby Township at the beginning of March, and it was really disappointing for a lot of reasons, none of which I want to get into right now. Maybe I’ll do a post on it if I can figure out whether it would be worth it or not.

It’s been awhile since I’ve listened to newer Goal Digger podcast episodes though I still refer back to a lot of her early ones. I’m still loving Allie Casazza’s “The Purpose Show“–there was an amazing episode about perfectionism a few weeks ago that I’ve already listened to about 3 times. I’ve also started listening to Christy Wright’s “Business Boutique” podcast, after attending a one-day event in Grand Rapids two weeks ago. I want to do a quick post about that as soon as I’m done digesting all the great information I got.

So far, my favorite books have been Fervent and Missional Motherhood…both focused, obviously, more on faith and family than on business, but it’s all connected, right?

I’ve still been getting most of my planning, writing, and Rochester College work done in the mornings or while Charlotte is at preschool, though I’ve been sprinkling in walks with my dog and a little bit of working out, too. Starting off my day with nothing but a cup of coffee hasn’t been super effective with helping me maintain energy throughout the day (go figure, right?) so adding some physical activity has been super helpful with that. Plus, I’m super unlikely to fit that in at the end of the day…


How are your 2018 goals going? I’d love to hear about them!

 

Announcing My 100 Day Project 2018

I know this is a pretty late announcement, but oh well.

In a nutshell, I’m starting #100daysofsendingcards, in which I make a card every day for 100 days and send them out to people I know. I’m not putting any other limits on it–just one handmade card every day for 100 days.

So you might get a handmade card from me at some point between April 3, 2018 and July 11th, 2018. Chances are that if I know your first and last name, address, and have ever talked to you in person, you will. I have 100 of these to do, after all.

I learned about this project for the first time last year, when I started listening to the Elise Gets Crafty podcast. I was reminded about it on Instagram a few weeks ago, and I’ve been thinking about whether I want to participate and what I would want to do.

Reading more about the challenge helped me. I especially liked the list of questions posed on The Great Discontent website.

1. What are you passionate about? Is there something you used to do that you gave up, something you’d like to explore, something that intrigues you?

The first part of that question is pretty overwhelming to me because I am passionate about a lot of things. It’s way too broad, and I get intimidated trying to narrow it down. But the second part of the question really got me going. There are a couple of things that I used to do all the time that I don’t do now and would love to start doing again.

I used to spend hours on my bed in my room drawing/painting and listening to music. That was me in high school and to some extent in college, though I was more into writing in college. I wanted to spend most of my alone time recharging in that way–I liked to be with my friends and out doing stuff, but when I was alone, I just wanted to be creative.

Another thing I really liked to do was send (and get) letters and notes in the mail. I wrote back and forth with several people when I was in middle and high school–my grandmother in Alpena, my friend Jessica, this young couple from my church that moved away, a friend that had to go to rehab, a soldier that I’d never met–I loved writing and connecting with people in that way, and I did it practically every day for a long time.

I didn’t always make my own cards–at that point in my life it felt childish, I think–I couldn’t get past the construction paper Mother’s Day cards that we used to make–but for my 100 day project I’m going to do it–make a card every day and then every week or so, mail out a pile of them to my friends and family.

2. Pick an object or objects. What do you already have in your possession that could be used to facilitate the project?

This question really spoke to me–I have so many markers, stickers, card stock pieces, actual blank cards, envelopes, rubber stamps and other odds and ends for paper crafting that it actually sometimes makes my head swim. I’m the person that complains about how much clutter there is in the house and then goes off to Hobby Lobby because they are getting rid of two aisles of paper crafting and are having a huge clearance sale.

I’m also always psyched to have a reason to use my Cricut, so there’s that, too. Plus, if I get tired of doing one card style, I can always switch over to watercolor, drawing, or lettering.

3. Consider your location. Will you be home, traveling, or a combination? Pick something that is feasible to complete.

This was a good one to consider, too, since we go up to Bellaire so often, especially in the summertime, when the bulk of this project will be taking place. I couldn’t pick a big project that would be hard to complete on the go–one of my first (insane) thoughts was to paint a piece of furniture every day for 100 days–glad I talked myself down from that nonsense.

I also backed off of the idea to create and send a card every day–I’ll be creating one card a day and then sending them off once a week or so. I think that will make it a little more manageable (though I’m back and forth to the post office several times a week for my Etsy shop, so it probably will be oftener than once a week anyway).

4. Choose your action. What’s your verb?

They give a whole list on the website, but as soon as I read the question I knew. Connect. I’m not going to claim that I’ll be creating 100 cards that are perfectly personalized to 100 people that I know for the express purpose of connecting myself to that person on a deeper level in which we’ve never been connected before.

What I will say is that I’ll try to create cards that will speak to people, on one level or another. I’ll try to use what I know about a person, or what I know is going on in their life, to inspire or encourage or comfort or cheer them. I’ll be praying over every card and every brush stroke, praying for these people as the cards go out each week. I’ll be working through my own moments of insincerity and discomfort and unwillingness.

I’m trying to think back to all those notes and letters I wrote in high school. It was probably a lot of just what was going on with me. I doubt it was anything substantive. Still, the people I was writing to were going through big things. Infertility, divorcing parents, active duty, separation from family and friends. There were smaller things, too–bad grades, acne, embarrassing things done in front of crushes. I don’t remember where my head was at when I was writing all those old letters, but I do remember one specific night when one of my friends was at a dance with the boy I had a crush on at the time.

I was in a funk, right? I just wanted to be sad and grumpy and eat pizza and go to bed, but I remember pulling myself out of it to write a note to my friend in rehab. I remember wanting to turn the night around, to put something into someone else rather than to continue to think about myself and my problems all night. That’s the moment that I want to distill and keep with me throughout this challenge.


There’s obviously the creative portion, too.

I don’t know exactly what I’m hoping to get out of this challenge. I know when I started thinking about this my first thought was “what am I going to do with 100 little projects after this is over?” I have pack rat tendencies, though I try to purge every few months or so. Usually that starts with big dreams of getting rid of everything that I haven’t used in the last five minutes, and ends with me taking two tiny boxes to the thrift store because I “might use that stuff someday.” I need Marie Kondo up in here stat.

So I’m happy to have come up with a project that I can immediately release into the world.

I’m also hoping to get past some creative blocks that I’ve been struggling with. I’ve always been great at reproducing ideas–drawings, Pinterest projects, paint techniques–and I’m getting really good at coming up with variations on ideas that I’ve seen. What I feel like I struggle with is originality. This paragraph could be an entire blog post, complete with example after example, so I’ll just leave it there. I’m excited to come up with some original designs.

I’ve always struggled with perfectionism, which is probably why I didn’t just jump at the thought of doing this and run off into the sunset immediately with it. “Done is better than perfect” just never really works for me. If I don’t think I can do something perfectly, chances are I won’t do it until I think I can. I’m trying to work on that. The first week of the challenge went ok. I’m trying not to plan too far ahead (factoring in birthdays that I know are coming up, holidays, milestones, etc.), although ideas just pop into my head all the time and I have to write them down or else they will keep me up all night. Am I doing this right? Oh yeah, perfectionism. Working on it.

Are you doing the challenge? Comment with your hashtag so I can follow you! And it isn’t too late to start–you can do it anytime!!