Thursday, April 17, 2014

Easter Plans, Chocolate Cake and Pretty Flowers

Who is looking forward to Easter?

I am for one. I am not picking up a paint brush until Tuesday despite a workshop full of vintage treasures awaiting a lick (or three million) of white paint. I've been working seven days a week lately with loads of custom orders and some business consultancy jobs for clients. It's a great mix for a rewarding career (if you can call it that, more just work than any career, at this stage of life for me as a mum at home) but it does mean that work can pile up if I don't plan it all well. I've had some lovely pieces to paint these last few weeks and I'm looking forward to sharing them with you over the next week but for this evening, I've poured a little glass of champagne and am making a few plans for our Easter weekend.

Phil's parents and one of our very close friends are joining us for lunch tomorrow. I didn't grow up with many (any!) religious traditions but Phil is very particular about Good Friday and Easter routines - no meat allowed, only fish. I freaked him out when we were first living together and suggested eggs and bacon for breakfast on Good Friday. I've since learnt and enjoy a big festive seafood lunch.  I've bought a whole snapper each for the adults and flathead fillets for the kids, as well as fresh king prawns, fresh bread, and ingredients for a pomegranate, goats cheese and walnut salad.  I'll be baking the snapper with herbs and lemon, and pan frying the flathead fillets in breadcrumbs. For dessert I'll be whipping up our best chocolate cake. This is our family favourite and I use it for most celebrations. For the kids birthdays I have a huge round pan and triple the recipe. However I usually make it in a Tupperware bundt/gugelhof silicone form.

This Chocolate cake recipe just might be the easiest recipe in existence  - it takes 5 minutes to measure everything out and mix. One of those wonderful recipes that you just toss all the ingredients (including melted butter) into the mixer and then into the oven.

Our friend Jane served this cake years ago so we call it Jane's cake.

3oz (85g) butter
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoon of cocoa
1/2 cup milk
1 cup Self Raising flour
2 eggs
Vanilla extract (or essence)
    (N.B. in Australia our cup measure size is 250ml, I think the US is different)

    1. Place flour, sugar, cocoa, milk, vanilla essence & eggs into mixer bowl.
    2. Melt butter and pour over ingredients.
    3. Beat well for 4 minutes (the mixture will turn a much lighter colour).
    4. Pour mixture into greased cake tin and bake for 45 mins in moderate oven.
    5. Let the cake cool for 5 mins in the tin then cool on a wire rack.

    If chocolate cake is not your thing (!!) we made this pavlova roll, with mascarpone, balsamic strawberries and basil last weekend and it's really light and delicious and not overly sweet.

    We have made this a couple of times, first seeing it made by Karen Martini on Better Homes and Gardens. It sounds more complicated than it is.  The recipe is here.  We just used strawberries but her recipe includes raspberries as well.

    I'd love to hear what you have planned for Easter? Do you have a big family lunch or something more chilled. My best friends from uni are heading off camping by a river out near Cumnock - that sounds good to me. I could do with getting totally away from everything!  I am however looking forward to having Phil home and taking it easy. I hope the weather stays deliciously warm and sunny and we can get to our favourite beach.

    Wishing you and yours a wonderful and happy Easter.

    See you next week with more painted furniture and a review of a wonderful new sanding tool

    Fiona xx

    Tuesday, April 15, 2014

    Pine Bookcase Makeover with French Flair

    Katie was moving house last week and took the opportunity when the removalists were around to bring this massive book case to my house for a makeover. It is huge and just fitted under my carport for me to paint.

    She asked if the orange pine could be painted and would it look good and I said "yes, that orange pine is crying out for paint!"

    On the outside I gave it two-three coats of ASCP Paris Grey and a top coat of clear wax. I also changed over the big brass colonial style handles on the drawer to some fluted nickel cup pulls.  The new handles make a big difference.

    I painted the bench bit last in case I dripped white paint on it when I was painting the inside - and I also needed to sand the doors down a little as they were scratching the bench bit and scrapping the paint off. I have a new sander from Bosch to show you soon and it worked wonders! I also sanded down the shelves a little so that they didn't scratch the sides when sliding in.

    For the inside I did two coats of primer - the first Zinsser BIN (the white tinted shellac) as the pine knots would bleed and once any bleed through was contained, I gave it a coat of Zinsser 123 (waterbased) just to help with the opaque coverage. I then gave it 4 coats of Dulux Aqua Enamel in a colour called Peplum (half strength). It's a very bright white with a tiny hint of grey/lilac that I thought would be a beautiful contrast to the Paris Grey. The reason I used a waterbased enamel inside it that I wanted a very hard paint (once cured) so Katie wouldn't have to worry about sliding books and treasures on the shelf.  The thought of waxing all those shelves and inside also wasn't looking very attractive!

    I then cleaned the paint off the glass with a razor blade, popped the shelf brackets back in and the removalists picked it up yesterday afternoon. I have kept the shelves out and will let them cure for a few days more before giving them back to Katie.

    A big difference isn't it?

    If you have dated pine furniture that has turned orange on you, or you no longer want it timber, don't stress. Painting pine furniture is very easy and very satisfying. Because it's a soft wood it's easy to sand (once painted) to eliminate any brush marks and get a smooth finish on - much less sanding than when painting vintage hardwood furniture.  I would use a primer even if you are using chalk paint if your pine furniture has knots. You could always just do a coat of chalk paint first and if you have bleed through, then do a coat of shellac. You can always fix these spots with a spray can of Zinsser Shellac BIN.

    Armed with a tin of paint and a good paint brush we can change the world!

    Fiona xx

    Monday, April 14, 2014

    Painting a French Blue Picture Frame

    A good way to practice your painting skills is to paint picture frames. You can pick up old timber frames (or even plastic or metal ones relatively cheaply at markets or ops shops. They are lovely to paint especially the ornate ones and are quick and easy and you end up with something very useful that you can either keep, give away or sell.

    As with most things in life, practice will improve your skills especially if you are wanting to do more advanced painting techniques. Don't expect that the first time you pick up a paint brush to get a perfect finish or to be able to overcome the myriad of problems you find when painting vintage furniture. I'm not saying that your first piece may not be very lovely but i do know that the more you paint and practice your technique the finer your finishes will be.  I am always working on improving my skill levels. I still practice certain techniques on scraps of timber, I read endlessly about painting furniture, timber finishes and interior design and I experiment all the time with new products and processes. 

    So next time you have a spare half an hour grab an old picture frame and some paints and practice your skills in painting in an antiqued French style.

    This frame was gold initially and one of my lovely customers, Judy, asked for me to paint it in an ornate style with pale blue as the main colour.  I first primed the frame using Zinsser primer (if you are using chalk paint this step is optional) and then painted the frame with Autentico Provence (a lovely soft blue very similar to ASCP Louis Blue). Lisa from Autentico Australia provided me with a range of sample pots of Autentico Chalk Paint and I thought that this colour was perfect for the look that Judy was after.

    Once the Provence was dry, I highlighted the details on the frame with white paint. To do this I used a flat edged artist's paintbrush (about 1cm wide), dipping the very edge into a tiny bit of paint and dry brushing it over the raised details. I didn't want the white paint getting into all the crevices so don't over load your brush. I find it easiest of hold my paint brush almost horizontal to the surface rather than at a high angle.

    I also brushed some white onto the blue paint to give it added interest and a faded look.

    The next step is to wax. Frames don't necessarily need waxing as they don't get touched much but because I wanted to achieve an antiqued effect, I initially applied clear wax followed by dark wax on the details. I applied with a small natural bristle artist brush and then wiped off with an old sheet cut into rags.

    Judy loved it.

    Here are some other frames I have painted.  The first one I did was to practice antique glazing. Frames are great for this because of all the ornate detail for the glaze to settle in. Details for how I achieved this look are here.

    I also love turning vintage frames into chalkboard.  Everybody needs a chalkboard!  These frames below were all painted with ASCP Duck Egg Blue.

    Happy painting 

    Saturday, April 12, 2014

    Help for your painted furniture projects

    Hi, I'm back and hoping to be a bit more consistent here!! Thanks to those of you who noticed that I've not been blogging much these last few weeks and contacted me. I really appreciate hearing from you. I've still been working and painting - updating Instagram and Facebook. Both those social media forums seem much more connective than blogging - so few people leave comments here these days but there's lots of interaction on those channels.  Is blogging passe these days?

    Last week I received a lovely email that reminded me that all the effort I put into maintaining this blog is worthwhile. 

    Kelly wrote:

    Hi Fiona

    I have been reading your blog for a while and want to thank you for your generous tutorials and information.  I recently painted an old chest of (orange) pine drawers for my niece - they were actually mine when I was growing up.  I followed all your advice, instructions and recommendations from start to finish even when the guys at Bunnings tried to talk me out of it and it came up perfectly.  There is quite a lot of pressure when you are doing something like this for someone else.  My sister and niece love it and it was nice to know that something from my childhood will be used for hers.  It is by no means a family heirloom or beautiful antique piece but still a nice feeling.  

    It is hard when you are looking for advice/direction as most of the diy bloggers are in the US and the products are not available here or really really expensive - I genuinely believe that you offer the best advice in Australia and I know that I have really appeciated it.  I am sure I am not the only one.

    Thanks again.  I look forward to continuing to read about your work.



    I love hearing that I've inspired someone to pick up a paint brush and transform a piece of old furniture into something beautiful again. 

    If you want some help with painting furniture or solving paint problems then these tutorials below might help you.

    and this post is always popular as lots of people don't want a shabby chic look but want to use ASCP Chalk Paint or other brands. 

    Here's a lovely comment about this post.

    "After trawling the net and watching you tube videos researching Annie Sloan and home made chalk paints, I had all but changed my mind on using it it - after seeing several pieces of furniture on you tube ending up looking like my grandchildren had already been using them as climbing frames the whole "shabby" thing really put me off.

    I'm painting my bedroom wardrobe and dressing table BECAUSE they look shabby and I want them to be clean and bright and new! However your page has convinced me to buy a tin tomorrow. I hope my furniture will look as pristine (at least for a while) as yours does. No doubt it will not be long before they do begin to look like everything else in my house - including myself ie both shabby and distressed. Thanks for your great advice and by the way I think Annie owes you a few complimentary tins of paint for promoting her great product in the way that the vast majority of people will actually want to use it!"

    Hope you have a lovely weekend.

    I'd love to hear what you are up to and if you are painting anything today


    Wednesday, April 9, 2014

    Routines and habits

    I am feeling a little stretched thin at the moment between painting custom orders, business consultancy work, school P&C commitments and my own family. One thing I've been doing to help me keep my head clear is going to bed a little earlier and getting up an hour or two earlier. The way our house is currently set up, my son's bedroom is plonked in the middle of the living areas so it makes getting up and making any noise in the house quite disruptive. So I've been sneaking out of the house just before 6am, walking to our local coffee shop (The Local Press) and having a coffee, planning my day, and doing some work there before I start getting the kids ready for school and getting on my with day. 

    I've never really been a morning person (even when I was in the RAAF and started work at 6am on Flight Line) but I am loving this new routine. I find I am actually much happier throughout the day (not that I'm an unhappy person by any means) but I think having some time to plan my day, answer emails, do some work before the kids get up and I slip in to motherhood mode is really beneficial. (I probably should be going for a run in these early mornings ... I'll work up to that)

    Saying that I have started exercising again. I did boot camp last week and also swim squad and am wondering why I ever stopped exercising.  My muscles are certainly regretting the hiatus and I am so stiff. Luckily I really love that burning ache after exercise as I've certainly been feeling it. I've lost five kilos since Christmas and I am looking forward to losing more this year and feeling more like my old self. It's hard balancing it all, isn't it? I get so distracted from looking after myself and I wonder why... In almost every other aspect of my life I'm quite disciplined and diligent - but when it comes to looking after myself, I am not consistent.

    I have a little saying on my iPad to remind me to be more consistent.

    We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.

    So I'm developing some new habits and reinstating some old habits that I'd forgotten.  

    ...and of course I'm still painting loads of furniture. I've got some lovely pieces coming up - a wonderful grey glass door cabinet, a french sideboard, a sweet french china cabinet and a couple of french style coffee tables as well as some custom painted pieces.

    Have a wonderful day.
    Fiona xx

    Friday, April 4, 2014

    White Painted French Style Drawers

    I've been having a little break from blogging but not from painting. I thought you might like to see a sweet before and after of a bow fronted chest of drawers. These were bought by one of my lovely friends for her bedroom.

    The drawers were in relatively good shape except for a split in the middle of the top surface and that they had outdated shiny lacquer. I repaired it with builders bog to ensure a good fix. Builders Bog is such a great product and you can adjust the working time if required, sand it very smooth or even carve it. 

    I gave it a light sand, two coats of primer and then about four coats of ASCP Pure White for completely opaque coverage, and lots of sanding and wax and buffing for a very smooth finish. 

    Serena loves them. 

    It's always lovely to have my frieds buy my furniture. Mates rates of course! 

    Have a good weekend, I'll hopefully be blogging a bit more regularly soon


    Thursday, March 20, 2014


    Do you follow FatMumSlim on Instagram and if so, do you partake in the #fmsphotoaday? I am a bit hit-and-miss with it to be honest. Sometimes I'll look at the day's topic and snap a pic but often I don't get around to it. However on Tuesday, I saw that the topic was #fiveyearsago and it got me thinking about what I was actually doing five years ago. I hadn't started painting furniture and had never thought  about having a blog. Actually I probably was hard pressed to know what a blog was.

    I had painted some furniture (white of course!) in our house and lots of walls and skirtings and a bank of built in cabinetry for our lounge room but I certainly didn't know anything near what I know now. I had two little kids, one still at home and one in Kindergarten and was definitely not concerned about making my house pretty - making it clean was a big enough stretch.

    My main work at the time was my business consultancy and the odd project management gig. I still do both things now but I never look for work in that field (but never turn it down when it comes my way either) so it's very sporadic but enjoyable when I do it.

    Funny how you can totally change your life and your career in a relatively short space of time. Five years ago, I was not furniture obsessed at all and hadn't started Lilyfield Life. I am so grateful to have found a passion that I'm good at, to be able to earn a living from and to be able to work flexibly from home so I can be with my kids after school. 

    Thank you to all my customers and supporters. I am very grateful every day.

    By the way, today is International Happiness Day, go do something that makes you happy even if it's just taking time out for a cup of coffee in the sunshine or cuddling your kids a little longer than normal.

    Fiona xx