A Christmas Card Story

Every December, our mailbox is usually full of incoming Christmas cards from family and friends, complete with loving family portraits and sweet notes about their accomplishments throughout the year. And every year I feel this great sense of pressure to come up with some witty, custom illustrated card to mail back that says, “Check out this clever and cute cartoon I took the time to draw for you for the Holidays…our little family is so artsy.” There are only so many times one can digitally render a candy cane or a snowman before you start to feel like a burnt Christmas cookie.



I started to get the idea for a Christmas portrait after the little one was born, especially since all of the relatives kept asking for a group photo featuring the baby. Problem was we had never taken a family portrait together of any kind, since our blended family got together seven years ago. And frankly, I think the Mr. would rather run out of a room screaming than put on a pair of khaki pants and smile for a camera.



That’s just not us. And that’s okay. We are weird…I’ve accepted that and that’s who we are. We are quirky people who would rather talk about rock n’ roll than politics. We spend our Saturdays digging through thrift stores and stopping by the local hardware store to pick up goods for our next home improvement project. We make a point to eat together as a family almost every single evening, but we can argue for an hour about what character should be eaten next by a zombie on The Walking Dead. And we always try to out-do each other at Birthday time to see who can purchase the funniest card (the more awkward the better).



One such Saturday while the Mr. and I were out at one of our favorite thrifting spots, I came across a mega pick and scooped up a bundle of vintage Christmas clothing that would make Clark Griswold envious. Then I got online and ordered a few gaudy accessories such as Christmas ornament earrings, a Santa hat and a few ridiculous Holiday headbands…and voila! Our characters for our family portrait photo started to come alive! And I think for three tacky sweaters, two candy cane printed turtlenecks and matching accessories…the grand total spent was around $15 or $20. You can go on Ebay (like this one) or Etsy.com (or this one) anytime of the year and purchase a tacky Christmas sweater, but it will cost you about $50. That is just ridiculous. Here’s the insider tip: If you start looking around your local thrift stores right after Halloween they start to put out the Christmas goods around November 1st. That’s the time when you can find some real treasures for under $5.



Then we did our research for inspiration. There are some real winners on Awkward Family Photos. No shortage of crying babies, bad clothes, creepy Santas and big hair here.



Next we hired our photographer friend, Patrick Biedrycki, who specializes in environmental portraits. We did the entire photoshoot in our backyard with a 9 foot blue paper backdrop and a few lights. The hair and makeup were probably the most complicated thing about our own awkward family portrait. I apologize now for the hole we put in the ozone layer from the use of aerosol hairspray.


To say that this was one of the most fun things that we’ve ever done together as a family is a true understatement. Even the teenager got into it…I think I saw the corners of his mouth turn upwards into a smile at one point. My hope is that when the kids are grown, they can look back at this ridiculous family photo and say, “Gee, our parents were a lot of fun.” And my hope for everyone that gets this in their mailbox this December is that they laugh hard, really hard and maybe get inspired to celebrate their own family quirkiness. Merry Christmas!



Before & After: Vintage Metal Porch Glider

When the bees are out and the blooms start to open, it’s definitely time to grab your sweet tea and head to our front porch for some seriously lazy hang-time. My front porch is probably my favorite place in the world. It’s where silly and serious conversations take place, where I can sit and enjoy the view of my beautiful garden and where my children play. It’s a place where memories are made with family and friends.


Growing up, one of my favorite places to hang out was my grandmother’s covered brick porch at her 1950’s brick ranch home. I would spend weeks at her home in Pennsylvania in the summertime when school let out…hanging out with my cousins, drinking ice cold Coca-Cola and chasing fireflies with mason jars in the back yard. She had a large, forest green metal porch glider that I practically lived on during those days…rocking back and forth, curling up agains Grandma’s lap and sometimes falling asleep. When she passed away, I was only 18 at the time and off to college, so there was no where for the beloved metal glider to come home to. Sadly, it was given away and I never saw it again.


When this past spring rolled around, that warm, nostalgic feeling started to wash over me again. Coincidentally, the Mr.’s father had generously offered to give us a vintage metal glider set that had once belonged to his mom (who passed away from cancer back in the fall of 2012). The glider and matching chair sat in a screened in porch for years and had hardly ever been used…so it needed a good cleaning and a good home.

A few weeks had passed and the metal glider and chair finally made their way back to our house. Man…they looked pretty sad. They were in great shape, but had years of dust and dirt stuck to them. They needed some love…



So now what? What color were we going to make them? How would we do it without powder coating them? The Mr. and I combed the web for days, looking at a million different color combinations for inspiration. Then we spent a lot of time in the spray paint isle of Home Depot debating over what color to use.


Here were a few images off of Pinterest that we used to point us in the right direction:




Before we applied any new color, we had to sand, sand, scrape and sand them some more to get any rusty paint flakes to come up. Luckily, the Mr. used to be a painting contractor…so I knew they were in good hands!

Next we applied a healthy coat of Rust-Oleum’s Rust Reformer to any areas that had a lot of dark rust spots. This is supposed to help stop the rusting process…only time will tell how well it really works!


Then the Mr. applied a generous coat of white enamel gloss to any of the areas on the glider and chair that had the basket weaving…so we would end up with a cool, two tone look.



After the painted basket weave pattern had dried, we taped off all of the areas that we did NOT want to be turqouise. This is the tedious part of the project…and we actually enlisted the help of our 14 year old son for this job. You don’t want to go sloppy on this part of the project…because when the furniture is painted and the tape is pulled off, what you see is what you get!

This next part serves as a warning. DO NOT and I repeat DO NOT select a day that is almost 100 degrees with almost 100% humidity to do your outdoor, home improvement project. My husband is saint! He went outside on an early Saturday morning, where the temperature had already reached 90 degrees, put on a respirator mask and goggles and repainted the glider and matching chair. After several hours and six cans of Rust-Oleum’s Turquoise spray paint….he came inside our house and looked like someone had cooked him in a frying pan and drowned him in vegetable oil. Not pretty!!


But look how pretty everything was starting to look with a fresh coat of paint!


Once the furniture had literally baked in the hot, southern sun for a day, we felt confident enough that it was okay to remove the tape. When the tape was gone and the drop cloths were put away…this is what we were left with…



I can’t even tell you how much I love our new/old patio set. I’m so excited to create new memories with our family on the porch. We also get to remember those we loved while we enjoy the sunshine and sweet smell of our rose garden, just a few feet away. This was a long, drawn out restoration project…but worth every second (and every ounce of sweat out in the heat!). Do you have a restoration project that you are working on this summer? If so, I’d love to hear about it!