81. the July Stuff challenge — successes and failures

This is one of several posts discussing Richard Foster’s chapter on Simplicity in Celebration of Discipline.

How did I do in July with trying not to buy much that might “break the back” of someone else?

I promised to let you know the results, and here it is the end of August beginning of September!

I did some things well, and some things were harder. But I won’t say that I failed at anything, because all month, I was very conscious of what I purchased, and where and how it was made; and I have to say, that it has carried over into August. Well, sort of… More about that later…

Knowing my memory lapses, I kept a notebook of my purchases, both ordinary and not. So here’s the results:

  • Paint and House Supplies:

I bought paint — Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Willliams are both made in the USA. Behr (Gasp, yes, I bought Behr!) was a little more difficult to find information about — I actually had to google it…They are owned by Masco (Arrow staples, Delta faucets, Behr…) with headquarters in Santa Ana, CA and manufacturing facilities in Georgia, Kansas City, and Chicago. Made in USA is written on both Ben Moore and S-W paint cans in very large lettering. One would think Behr would take the hint…

Paintbrushes were a task as well. Purdy brushes are made in the USA, but they are very $$$. Mr. H.C., the contractor husband, gasped and complained mildly when I brought two Purdys home this month. The second time he specifically asked me to get him a brush, and he showed me the one he wanted from his stash of seventy gazillion paintbrushes. It was a Zibra. I said, “I’m not buying it if it’s made in China.”

I practically opened the Zibra brush in the store — I read the entire label and the country of origin was nowhere to be found. It was two dollars cheaper than the Purdy. So I put it back, bought the Purdy and resolved to find out about Zibra. According to their website, they are a women-driven company from the U.S.. Yes, their paintbrushes are made in China, but they also run the Made in China Foundation, which is a foundation existing solely to make it easier for U.S. families to adopt Chinese babies. So, the jury is still out on that one…

  • Clothing:

I bought three pieces of clothing in July. Two of them — scrubs and a t-shirt were bought at the local Mission store. The other was a nice dress.

My son is getting married in September, and my daughter made a secret Pinterest board for me called Mom’s Dresses.  She pinned 63 dresses for me to look at! So I bought one from Shabbyapple.com. It was made in Malaysia, but on the dress is this tag:IMG_2588

On their website, they say, Shabby Apple donates 5% of its net income to support work with 62 microfinance institutions in 31 countries throughout the world. So the jury is still out  on that one too.

And I have to add here, since it is September, that I’ve bought some clothing — for the wedding, and for back to school — and this is where I think it is the hardest to discern what to buy and what to avoid. In addition to finding something that looks good, fits well, is within a budget, and is made of  natural fibers, NOW we have to worry about where it was made, and under what conditions??? Sometimes all that is Just. Too. Hard.

  • Groceries and Food:

This was where I failed the most, but it is also — overwhelmingly — where I spent the most money. Avocados from Peru and Mexico; Bananas from Guatemala; Organic limes and grapes from Mexico.


But I also found Fair Trade Coffee at Aldi’s Market (and they have started carrying organic Fair Trade bananas as well) and Fair Trade Raw Sugar from Malawi at the Food Coop. July made it easy to go to the Farmer’s Markets where local produce was abundant. There is also Fencerow Farmer’s Market in Waynesburg where they sell local meats, (Greene County lamb is world-famous!) honey, milk, and eggs year round. Also right up the road from us at Apple Hill is Mother Earth Farm, who also stock local organic eggs and fruits and vegetables. It is almost more convenient to buy locally in Greene County, than it is in Pittsburgh. Of course, Pittsburgh has the Food Coop and Trader Joes.

Buycott Phone SnapNow I will tell you about my new-found app to make buying and supporting (or not supporting) companies easier. It is called Buycott; and it really helps in the grocery store, where most of my problems occurred. Of course, that could be because 75% of my consumer dollars were spent buying food.

It is a free app. You spend a little time inputting what you want to support, and what you don’t want to buy. Then you scan the barcode of your items and it tells you (most of the time) where it was made or other information. It’s cool. It makes your shopping time longer, especially the first few times you use it. But then, once you know what products are safe, you can just go to them every time.

  • Miscellaneous Health and Other Supplies:

I also broke my own rule and went into a Dollar Store. I needed Band-Aids and Triple Anti-biotic Ointment, both of which were had at cheaper prices than the drug stores, AND they were made in the USA as well. Success! I also found that greeting cards in the Dollar Stores are made in the US. And as far as deodorant and dishwashing liquid goes, this month, I MADE MY OWN! but that’s another post…

Here’s another example of cheap vs. natural: little scrubby sponges — the green ones you buy for scrubbing pots? At the dollar stores they are cheap — sometimes three for a dollar. Made somewhere far away, probably by some poor woman who can never get the green dye off her hands. The alternative is  a nice natural sponge, made in the US, a pleasant tan color like a sponge should be, and it costs $4.99!  I bought that one (mostly because I don’t think sponges should be green). But I gotta say, sometimes it just depends how much money I have that week!

Two other things stymied me — gasoline and aluminum foil. I have no idea where Getgo (Giant Eagle) gasoline comes from, who the company is that supplies them, and I’m really of the mind that it doesn’t matter; all gasoline is from bad companies. If anyone can correct me on this, please do.

And aluminum foil —  Reynolds has a very good ethical statement on their website, but I rarely buy Reynolds Wrap, I usually buy the cheap stuff, and I have no idea where it comes from. And it doesn’t say on the boxes, either…

  • Eating Out:

Found this photo at

Found this photo on the blog CarrieOn

We didn’t eat out too often this month, but when we did, we ate at locally owned restaurants except for one lunch — we were on the road, with a group of people, and we ate at Wendy’s. But to be honest, this was atypical too. We do eat at Subway and Wendy’s and Papa John’s  more than we should…

In some ways, July was an atypical month of spending. I’m not working through the summer, and cash is always a little tight, We were watching spending anyway this month, so it was a little easier to buy cautiously. For instance, I will confess that just last week (August) we went to a big box store and bought a new light for our city kitchen, knowing full well that it was probably going to be made in China. Yep, it was, and we bought it anyway.  Sometimes cheap is more important, I’m sorry to say.


I’m glad I did this buying challenge. It translated into giving me a cautious buying mood (most of the time). And it made me consider what I really need; I don’t think I bought anything frivolous in July. I’m going to really try to have this be a new attitude for my spending.

Ellen Tracy "Ophelia" ballet flatsBut I might need a pair of new shoes for this wedding that’s coming up soon…

78. random thoughts on painting wood (from a carpenter’s wife…)

I’ve been painting lots of wood lately. Doors, cabinets, woodwork… I love paint. I love color. But I also love wood.

Paint and color and wood can co-exist, but finding that perfect balance is difficult. Rooms with too much wood need color for drama; rooms with too much color scream out for wood to give rest to the eyes. It’s that perfect balance that makes us all sigh and sit down in comfort.

Mr. H.C., the carpenter, hates to paint wood. “When wood is painted, it’s painted,” he says. “And only a huge effort can get it back to its original state, and even then, it might not look good.” (For a very funny post on men and painting wood, read The Decorologist’s post, Why Men Fear Painting Wood)

When I was about fifteen, my mom and dad undertook the making over of the basement in our fifties ranch house. They were on a shoestring budget, but they wanted a room where their teenaged daughters could hang out with their friends. It was a gigantic room — just putting carpet on the floor, a dropped ceiling, a big comfy couch, and room dividers at the ends probably put them over-budget. So Mom was gathering furniture from every attic and garage that she could find. Two of her scores were pretty little washstands. She painted one late-sixties orange. As she was preparing to paint the other (late sixties chartreuse) I stepped in. In my fifteen-year-old wisdom I said, “Mom, why are you painting that pretty washstand? You should never paint wood furniture.”

She gathered together all her parental wisdom and said, “When you’re older, you’ll understand.”

In the infinite circle of life, twenty-five years after she painted it chartreuse, I inherited this charming little washstand. It was still chartreuse. I took it to the local stripper and told him I would pay him well if he could take that paint off for me. A few days later he called me back. “Was this painted in the late sixties?” he asked. “And then maybe antiqued?”

pretty washstand painted in nineties blue stenciled with nineties flowersIt absolutely was.

“Yeah,” he said. “That stuff just can’t be stripped off.”  He sanded the door and then gave up. His advice? “Just paint it. It’s only poplar.” So I painted it early-nineties blue and stenciled it with early-nineties flower stencils. And now, twenty years later, it is relegated to holding craft supplies in my upstairs craft room that is not open to the public.

So many pieces of beautiful old furniture ruined.

And so I learned — Don’t paint it, if it can never be reclaimed.

Truth be told, my mom paid her dues for painting all that wood furniture. (She also painted a carved wooden love seat and several oak pressed-back chairs orange, as well as two beautiful rattan easy chairs chartreuse!) When the trend for country furniture started in the late seventies, she and my dad were early adopters. (The first Country Living magazine was published in 1978  — probably a direct result of all that bad furniture painting and colors of the sixties and early seventies!) They bought beautiful old furniture at auctions and sales, stripped it, and refinished it with natural oil finishes. When she found this  primitive hutch in Uncle Judd’s basement, it was painted a lovely shade of pink and was storage for paint supplies  — a fitting tribute to what often happens to painted furniture…

primitive walnut hutch

Aunt Sara and Uncle Judd were astonished when my mom picked that particular pink piece of furniture. Mom dragged it home (it comes apart in two pieces) and she and Dad lovingly restored it. Mr. H.C. thinks it is walnut. It is a bit quirky, but I love the fact that it is a one-of-a-kind antique, passed down through family, that many hands have touched it, restored it, made it their own. I love the circle that life is.

I understand wanting to make a piece of furniture, or a house, your own — individualizing it. That’s what we are doing with Apple Hill Cottage, after all. DIY is good. But what happens when the DIY goes bad? Let’s face it, that little washstand  I painted and stenciled? I didn’t do such a good job of it. AND fashions change. The turquoise of today will be tomorrow’s outdated color. The white cabinets of today will be dated in ten years.

This is the classic pressed-back chair, and very similar to the one I painted glossy forest green...

This is the classic pressed-back chair, and very similar to the one I painted glossy forest green…

Recently I read a post about “reviving an antique Windsor chair” by painting it blue. I laughed to myself. I did that once. I painted a lovely oak pressed-back chair glossy forest green; BUT I only painted it because it had already been painted orange. (Yes, by my mom — it sat right next to that orange washstand in our basement.) And it was never going back to its beautiful oak original beginnings.

All those rungs? All that carving? All that glossy paint? I repeat:  Don’t paint it, if it can never be reclaimed.

…Which translates into the following rules suggestions for painting wood:

  • Do not paint any family heirlooms.
  • Do not paint anything that might be valuable the way it is.
  • Do not paint anything that has carving or curves or moulding that would be hard to sand back to its original condition.
  • Do not spend any more than $35 on any piece of furniture you are planning to paint. (Well, maybe $50 if you live in a city…)
  • Try to find pine furniture (or poplar) for painting. Or better yet, find something that has already been painted.
  • Paint only furniture that you are willing to refinish or throw away, when your mind (or the fashion) changes.

And our minds change frequently, don’t they?

With all that said, I’m looking for a few cheap dining room chairs to paint….

This lovely painted pressed back chair is from the Irish Lady’s Blog. If you live in Texas, you could drop by her shop and purchase this pretty chair. It looks lots better than the one I painted glossy green (but that’s because glossy forest green is currently out of fashion…)

Emerald green, however, was Pantone‘s color of the year this year. And Tricia at the Domestic Fringe just posted this DIY painted desk. She found the desk set out for the garbage — in which case, it is totally OK to paint. Especially when you can do this to the top:


To find directions on how to do something like this to the top of YOUR old desk, see the post on DIY: Trash to Treasure desk renovation..

I have an ugly wood desk in my not-open-to-the-public craft room upstairs. I would love to have that flower top on it… And I could paint the bottom a pretty, rust-colored orange… oh, wait. I can’t paint it orange! It belongs to Mr. H.C., the carpenter who hates to paint wood. But I do have a washstand that could stand to be painted…Maybe orange, huh, Mom?

77. Living Color

Here at Apple Hill we are obsessing over color. Again. It seems to happen every time I think about painting a room.

I have just found the best tool AND I’m going to share with YOU. Now, I admit to not being the first one on the block to hear about and adopt the new. I’ve never been (and never will be) trendy. BUT this is one cool tool. And if you already knew about it, WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME?

Even Mr. H.C. was excited about it! His eyes lit up when I described it to him; he made me download the app on his newer, nicer IPhone (but we won’t go there…) and immediately started messing around with it. Yes, I was miles ahead of him. I had already played with it for an hour before he got home.

Okay, so everyone knows that Benjamin Moore has all the best colors. The decorators all use their paint; the fancy home decorating mags all use their colors; I, myself, love their colors. BUT this tool is from Sherwin Williams and it has any Benjamin Moore color tool beat all to pieces! Ahem…

It is called Color Snap. Go to your favorite app store and download it immediately. It’s Free. How could a color junkie have so much free fun in the privacy of her own home?

Color Snap

As you can see from the logo page, Color Snap lets you use a photo that is already in your photo library, or you can snap a new one that inspires you. Once the photo is loaded into Color Snap, you can move the cursor around to find the color you like, and Color Snap matches it with a Sherwin Williams paint color. This is like your own Design Seeds (without all the hard work!)

This app is super easy, but I’ll walk you through it because it is so much fun! We are going to find the paint colors in this beautiful photo I took of a sunrise at Apple Hill.Sunrise

Here is what it looks like on the Color Snap App: (Hold your tongue and say it three times fast…)
Color Snap Once you select “use” the fun starts. Just tap the color you want to find first, and that color shows up in a little square. If it isn’t quite the shade you want, move your finger around until you find the shade you like. Then lift your finger, and the color (and its name) appears at the bottom of the screen.Color SnapYou can save up to eight colors on the screen in a palette. You can also adjust the colors, if you would like to have one color just a little bit lighter, or another color just a bit more intense. Once you have all the colors you like in the palette, save it under a name by tapping on the curved arrow at the top right of the screen. I would save this palette under sunrise, but you can be as creative as you want!

I have been going back and forth on the Benjamin Moore web site for days trying to find the right paints that match my Forest Tones palette from Design Seeds.Design Seeds Forest Tones
I’ve been trying to pin the paint colors to my Pinterest board, but some of the colors just won’t pin, and I can’t get them side by side to look at them, and it has just been very frustrating. In about thirty minutes, I had the colors from Sherwin Williams saved on my phone — and that includes downloading the app and learning how to use it.

And the colors are: Springtime, Dancing Green, Overt Green, Saguaro, and Copper Mountain. I know you can’t tell colors from a computer monitor, but check out this screen shot of my pinterest board.

Pinterest screen shot

This compares the paint color with the Design Seeds palette Forest Tones. If you check out these colors on the Sherwin Williams website, it also gives the RGB value for all the colors…

The only drawback I could find to this clever little app was that sometimes my fingers travel to a wrong spot, and I lose the photo and the colors before I’ve saved it. That’s happened twice now; it is mildly frustrating. So just save the colors once you have the names! Now, get out there and capture some color!

Just so you know, Sherwin-Williams paid me nothing for this rave review. They don’t even know I exist. They should at least give me a free gallon of paint, don’t you think?