Friday, March 29, 2013

The restoration of the shabby 'Velveteen' Letterbox

...Once upon a time, a mother gave her daughter a hand painted, keepsake letter box.  Along the way, her little daughters drew love notes on the box with the magic marker that doesn't come off.  And, they glued fuzzy (velvety) things to the inside top.   

Maybe because it is small.  Maybe because I really like the owner. Maybe because it was such an unexpected job. Just maybe, it was because it was such a challenge and no fees were discussed. The hand painted letter box is completed, and I think I'm delighted with the results....


Trial and error at mixing the paints, and a good sanding, it came out very close.  Graffiti gone, but preserved in photos.

View of the front inside of the box

Before-missing the veneer piece.
This shows the new, primed veneer piece.

I took a piece of Luan mahogany floor underlayment and carefully separated the layers with a hair dryer and a drywall knife.
I retrofitted the piece to size with an Exacto knife.

Then wood glued and taped it to the box to hold, while drying.  Paint cans held them in place till dry.

I decided that a light peachy tone would be perfect as it would dry darker and the the glaze would age it even more, almost to the original color.

I left the little divider drawing in its original state.

The edges had sort of an ochre shade that I matched.

The dilemma was how to preserve the flowered painting, yet not show the paint lines on the repainted surface.  Magic. [Before]

I did not sand out all the scars and scrapes where the paint was "loved off", which were necessary to the history of the piece. [After]

The restored bottom with new veneer.

It's hard to see the seam line with the distressing glaze.

The letter box now.


Everything old... new again!

And they lived happily ever after.


"What is REAL? asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day... "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse.  "It's a thing that happens to you.  When [someone] loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY love you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful.  "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse.  "You become.  It takes a long time.  That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or have to be carefully kept.

"Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.  But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real, you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand...once you are Real you can't become unreal again.  It lasts for always." [Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit]

Thanks Gloria, for trusting me with your letter box. It is curing now, but ready to retrieve soon.

As ever,
La Verne

Thursday, March 28, 2013

4 months and counting...

Four months ago today I started this blog, Hope & Salvage, not sure where it was heading.  Mostly it was a notion of mine and a vision of my friend, Lynn. The counter on this blog tonight is 3886! Three thousand, eight hundred and eight-six times, people checked in to see what I was up to.  I humbly thank all of you for that honor.


Lately, I've been more of a starter than a finisher.  I come to a place in a project where I can't go any further, either because I lack a supply, a skill, a tool, or a hand, to proceed. Tonight, I finished something that wasn't even really a project.  I dug this piece, sort of shelving unit, out of a dumpster at a maintenance job I had years ago.  It held paint in the basement, then my soap supplies, and now, I'm upcycling it to hold the signs I'm starting. It was probably made by a rough carpenter out of old industrial signs, but it's a sturdy piece and too heavy to move around on a whim.  Which always means....La Verne buys casters. I added what I laughingly call 'crown molding' on the top and bottom.  The funnier thing is how I mitered the edges. That is eyeing it up. I bought a table saw on Craiglist a few years ago for $30, but it's wedged in the other refrigerator (my garage) and doesn't have a guard, so I hesitate to use it in a confined space.  Thank goodness for wood filler-where the molding swallowed most of the tube whole. Two coats of paint and the signs will overshadow my (un)-handiwork. Here is a look:


I attended the BEST concert last night at church.  What parish has an oboe? We do. Horns, and a cello, violins, a tenor sax, drums, guitars, flute. A real orchestra.  And a first rate choir, filled with gusto and passion. I noted 3 standing ovations with whistles.  Okay, I was the whistler. My little Mom taught me and why let it go to waste? 


Right now, prom gowns, wedding attire and alterations are eating up my time, but pretty soon, full speed on wood refinishing. 

One item that is quite fun is a little keepsake letter box that I am restoring.  I will have more on it tomorrow when I show it to you finished.


As ever,
La Verne

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Have a good Holy Week everyone

"You alone are holy, You alone are Lord, You alone are worthy to be honored and adored. Mercy You have given, Kindness You have shown, Love is You alone."  Just the sweetest little Sunday song, by Sarah Hart.

This Wednesday our choir (and orchestra) at St. Ambrose is having a Passiontide Concert at 7:00 PM in the church.  Tom Bonezzi, our music director is also the director of The Fest. What church has violins every Sunday? Ours does.  Consider this my personal invitation to a truly spiritual musical event.

As a kid, my favorite thing to do on Palm Sunday was braid my palm. One. Singular.  Tonight there were bushels full and the palm police were no where in sight.  Here is mine.


I'm having a dickens of a time on a friend's credenza this week, therefore no posting.  If anyone ever offers you anything made of pressed board, sawdust or anything made by Sauder, run away.  Fast. Even with an oil primer, I cannot get the paint to stick to this thing.  It is a nice enough looking piece, but TROUBLE, with a capitol T and that rhymes with P, which stands for Piece of ______.  It is unusually heavy and I'm not really sure how I'm going to get it out of house when it is completed.  It came in sliding on its top, but I dare not rub it against anything because of its paint shedding problem. 

There are a couple of exciting things coming up this week: one is refinishing a 1945 Lane cedar chest, and the other is restoring a keepsake letter box.


Yesterday was my Dad's birthday.  I thought of him a good part of the day and how he left so soon, I never really got to thank him and tell him how much he taught me. All my writing skills are from him. He wrote the SIC Manual (Standard Industrial Classification) for the Department of Labor Statistics in Washington, during the 60's, 70's and 80's. He also typed up Grammar manuals for each of his secretaries.  As soon as he got a secretary trained, he would get them promoted.  His co-workers were baffled by this. "Don, what are you doing?  It's too much work to keep breaking a new one in."  My father would answer back that they were single moms and couldn't support a family on that low of a wage.  He also gave me my love of wood.  Seeing as how my brother didn't come along until Child #5, I filled in as my dad's "boy" until then.  We got up early to shovel sidewalks, painted the house together, and I helped him 'build' things. I was always amazed at what he knew, as it wasn't his trade. He was stationed in Labrador during the war, and the souvenirs he brought back were from the Eskimos.  College trained him to be a teacher.  Life trained him to be a defender of humans.  My parents were social activists long before Jane Fonda even had the notion. I thought it was going to be my dad that helped me get through college when Howard died, but he died a month later.

The last photo taken of all of us.

Remembering you, Dad!


I'll check in more often from now on.  
As ever,
La Verne

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Walking in Fields of Gold

"You remember me when the west wind moves among the fields of barley.You can tell the sun in his jealous sky when we walked in fields of gold......I've never made promises lightly. There have been some that I've broken. But I swear in the days still left, we will walk in fields of gold, we'll walk in field's of gold....Many years have passed since those summer days, among the fields of barley.....See the children run as the sun goes down as you lie in fields of gold....You remember me when the west wind moves among the fields of barley.You can tell the sun in his jealous sky when we walked in fields of gold, when we walked in fields of gold, when we walked in fields of gold."

I wanted to find a good Danny Boy rendition to play for my St. Patrick's Day Sunday-Song.  I found an awesome one by an American girl with an Irish name, from a town in Maryland where my younger siblings grew up. They graduated from the same high school, had lunch in the same cafeteria, went to the same proms. They never had a voice like hers, and she never had a life like theirs.  She died at 33, years before her talents were truly recognized, but not before she was able to record songs that were made into albums and received posthumous awards, decades after her death.  In 2005, announced its Top 25 best selling musicians, and she ranked 5th behind The Beatles, U2, Norah Jones and Diana Krall.  Her name is Eva Cassidy. While listening to other tracks by her, I got sidetracked by this one. By rights, this is not an Irish song, or my typical Sunday song, but it is the purest melody accompanying the lyrics of a land where I imagine my ancestors walked.

Here is Eva Cassidy and Walking in Fields of Gold


One of the cheekiest Irish toasts I think is this one:
        May those who love us, love us.
        And those that don't love us,
        May God turn their hears.
        And if He doesn't turn their hearts,
        May He turn their ankles,
        So we'll know them by their limping.

Speaking of walking in Fields of Gold, a third or so of my children will be limping alongside the green line at the St. Patrick's Day Parade later today. Limping because they will be bogged down selling my Irish Flag Pins and fresh homemade, frosted Shamrock sugar cookies.

Close-up of one of the 'little pins', (the most requested)

Each pin is packaged in cellophane and nestled in an Irish saying

The green sprinkles are tiny candy shamrocks

My friend Lynn stayed up with me late, frosting and packaging.  No peanut or nut oils.


Be sure and tune your radios to WJCU  [88.7 FM] today from 6AM to Midnight for the annual St. Patrick's Day Marathon.  Nothing is finer than Uncle Fred, Aunt Jill and Greg Priddy spinning Irish tunes the entire time.  You can request songs by calling 1-216-397-4438, or emailing, or go to to stream. 

A lady at my sister Michelle's church in Maine's cousin (John Broderick from Galway) wrote a song called Paint me a Picture of Ireland, which Fred has promised to play tomorrow between 2 and 4 PM.


Bethany wanted me to remind you that the following furniture pieces that I've either painted or restored are available on Craigslist.  Some of these items will be heading for a consignment shop in Columbus, or a boutique in Baltimore shortly, unless snapped up in the next few weeks......

The Union Jack is no longer available.

The olive-red sienna glazed phone bench is no longer available.

Wall mount custom flags (turnaround time 4 days)

Coffee table

Pot of Gold? No longer available.

Swedish chair

Taupe sofa table No longer available.

Faux leather side table

Soon to be finished dresser with baskets and pine planked top

Black patchwork vanity bench. No longer available.

Child's secretary desk and chair

Custom designed Subway Art dressers and sideboards


I remember as a girl waking up every March 17th, to the sound of 'me mither' calling, "Top o' the marnin
't ye".  Groggily, we would answer back, "And the balance of the day t' ye!"  This I wish t' ye......

As ever,
La Verne

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Letter to Lisa

Most households have a 'guy' figure.  Mine has been dead for decades.  I raised my kids by myself with the notion that homes are meant for living in.  They are a tool, just like a hammer; not a showplace.  In October, when I tore my third meniscus, (second in 4 months), my garage was no longer an option for making my messes.  Enter my dining room.  People would be appalled to see my dining room.  Appalled.  At the least, they would get hives just looking at it.  I have saws, and drills, 100's of paint cans and buffers, and any manner of tools on carts and tables, the floor, all surfaces.  I vacuum up the sawdust daily, and mop about twice a week.  I am in love with my house!  It was built in 1824, and in 11 years will celebrate its 200th birthday.  We are only the 6th family to live in this house, and that, has been for 42 years. It is the best servant I could have ever asked for.  And, no one cares, because there is no "guy" figure to tidy for, to please.  I live in a 'FUN HOUSE'.  The grand-kids run from stem to stern, up and down both staircases, or sliding down them in sleeping bags.  [We have the hospital visits to prove it]  When they think no one is looking, they rappel the balcony on karate belts.  I have an entire closet filled with costumes, that are worn more often that a favorite item in your closet.  My whole house is a craft area, but I try to confine the messes to the dining room.  There is hardly a spot anymore that can't be removed by some wonder product with a little elbow grease, and no spot is worth having someone feel bad for having made it.  If one lives in a house with a "guy" figure, who would frown on such doings, then off to the Home Depot for some Visqueen for tables and floors.  Visqueen is my go-to product, just like duct tape.  It is a heavy mill plastic that is lighter than carpets for rolling up bodies, and duct tape sticks to it better.  Roll it on the floor and the table before the paint and the blood splashes, and virtually no clean-up.  I have never used it for a body, but it never hurts to be prepared. [Sorry-dark humor]

Also, at the Home Depot, in the paint department, are little pots of OOPS paint for .50, quarts for $2.00, and gallons for $7.00. You will be in craft heaven for years.  Get cheap brushes at Harbor Freight or ReStore.  If you need any kind of rugged craft wood for painting, see my deck, the side of my garage, my dining room.  Before I throw anything in the wood stove, I examine it for future painting possibilities.

There you have it.  When I lost my job, a year ago Christmas, I probably felt the most devalued in my life. I was no longer the fresh candidate at the front of the line.  I just found out that I had breast cancer.  I had been expecting to work forever, and fall dead in the parking lot of my employer at 90 something. Didn't happen that way. Now, for the 80th or so, time, I had to reinvent my life. By golly, this time it was going to be within My parameters. Although I actively job-searched (see 4" thick 3 ring binder in my bookcase) while collecting unemployment; the surgery and radiation wiped me out.  Then one day at ReStore (I had to stop-it's on my way home from the hospital) I was lifting a fireplace mantle into my van and my meniscus snapped.  I don't know how I got home-drove with my wrong foot-cruise control.  I unloaded my van by heaving things out of it, and then tried to rest.  I hoped I could wake up from a very bad dream and be healed.  Alisa took me to the ER. My unemployment ended a month later.  I did not apply for the extensions because there is a statement on the online form that reads something like, "are you physically and mentally able to work?"  I couldn't check yes to that anymore.

Everyone has to figure out, and re-figure what defines their life, and with me, it sure wasn't going to be that I wasn't worthy to be a law secretary.  I had skills. I HAVE skills.  I can create mostly anything that enters my mind, or can find someone to help me do it. And, my mind never stops.  I/you/everyone has to be their own cheerleader.

When we tell our kids that they can be anything they want, why do we exclude ourselves?  This IS what I want to BE. I'm living my best life, with the resources that I have.  If God needs to slow me down, He gives me a new infirmity the reorients me, and brings Him closer.

I think at the beginning of this missive, I was trying to make a point, but I've forgotten it, so "take what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away."

As ever,
La Verne


In real news, the Cardinals (of Rome) have elected Pope Francis the First. Viva la Papa!

New pope: Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina. IMAGE

He is humble, holy, and as a Jesuit has taken a vow of poverty. Now we're (Catholic Church) finally going to kick some ass on social justice issues.  [That seemed disrespectful, somehow] Well done, good and faithful servants.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Amazing Grace

One day, many, many years ago, I left my house with the intention of doing something really bad. Really, really bad. I worked up in my head that a wrong needed to be righted and I was the one to do it. I got in my car and turned left out of my driveway.  As I came to the stop sign at the corner, I found that with all my might, I could not turn my car to the left.  Again, at the next stop, no left turn. And again. And again. I could only make a series of 'right' turns. As it turned out, the only left turn I was able to make was back into my own driveway. I was furious. How come my vehicle was not obeying me?  What was wrong with my steering? As I barreled into the house, I caught sight of a picture on my wall of Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, and below it was the framed sheet music to Amazing Grace. My eyes centered on the words to the third verse:

       "Through many dangers, toils and snares,
        I have already come.
        'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far,
        And Grace will lead me home."

Grace did lead me home, and saved a wretch like me.  I never felt it necessary to pull that stunt again.  Who knew what kind of strong-armed enforcers 'Grace' had that would prevent me from my left turning ways, next time?

Tonight's Sunday Song is Amazing Grace.  Although we sang the Chris Tomlin version about the chains, I have always preferred the simple, raw, angst ridden version with no 'pop' variations.  I found something close in Judy Collins' acapella offering. The lyrics were written by a former slave trader turned clergyman, John Newton, after a spiritual conversion at sea in a storm. Give a listen:


Quite a few people wondered where I was this week.  "I didn't see anything on your blog."  "Are you ok?" Busy-ness in the area of pillow making, alterations, Irish pin painting, and trying to hustle some things on Craigslist kept me active, but not introspective.  One thing I did for myself, in keeping with my New Year's Resolutions, was that I took a class at MetroHealth called, Managing Chronic Disease.  It was week 1 of 6.  It's a fairly new interactive class, a nice, diverse group, where we work on ways to manage pain, and give ourselves, by making changes, our own best life! The chatter as we were leaving was very positive.  Our assignment, besides reading from a workbook, was to figure an action plan for the week.  We were to choose an activity, list the number of times we were going to do it, time of day, and what we thought the percentage rate of being successful at it. The percent is what makes us 'commit' to actually "doing" it. My action plan was water exercises.  I had belonged to LifeWorks for a year, but gave it up because of the high cost, and the inability to walk after my knee injuries.  Oh, how I missed it.  The getting up in the dark and heading to the pool early so as to frighten the least number of people when they saw me in a bathing suit. That place was the bomb! Fresh towels, shampoo and body wash right in the shower-no need to bring your own. You could even spin dry your suit.  A quick 2 minute loll in the whirlpool, knowing that was the nicest thing you ever treated yourself to.....I called around to all the pools in the area, even hotel pools, looking for the least expensive rate.  The MOST expensive was in my OWN town.  The new 'Y' Rec is aptly named. It is $100. to join and FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTY SIX DOLLARS A YEAR for membership for seniors.  You read that right-SENIORS.  I thought "Y wRECk my budget joining you, when there are plenty of nice places close by." I joined one today, at $20. a month. On my action plan I said I was going to go 4 days a week, early in the morning, and I thought I would probably have an 80% chance of being successful at it. What a wonderful life.


I did eek out one chair this week, something I had been playing with for a while.  Not sure I'm happy with it yet.  I'm not a grey person. I want to scribble on some more color.  Here is a before:

A perfectly lovely chair, sturdy, and I thought I was just going to restore it, BUT...

I told Paddy to paint a base coat on the brown chair and this is the one he thought I meant, SO...

It started off sort of a taupe-y color, and THEN...

I added some deeper greys, and a new hint of aqua, and THIS...

is what it ended up looking like.

I accentuated the areas where a posterior would give it a workout. 

A little side view after distressing and waxing and buffing.


These are some of the pins I worked on this week.  I got some pretty nice orders from people in town who have followed me on my blog through Craigslist, and mailed several pins out of state.

I have another idea for something to sell at my table.  Although I would love to pass out Slyman's corned beef sandwiches, not gonna happen.  Think something SWEET!

I wonder what my grand total will be....any guesses?


When I was but a wee lassie, one of my sisters sprayed a powdered poison in my eyes that was used to kill aphids on rose bushes. It left me quite sight impaired for a few years. My 4 and 5 year old pictures all are of me, in black, wire-rimmed coke bottle glasses.  I seldom think of it anymore, and only need glasses now for driving. [Or, for throwing in the Post Office mail chute accidentally with my mail.]  I did reflect on it tonight when I was reading the song lyrics:

      "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
        That saved a wretch like me.
        I once was lost, but now am found,
        Was blind, but now I see."

See you later....and do the next "right" thing
La Verne

Sunday, March 3, 2013

"Send Down the Fire...

...of your justice. Send down the rains of your love;  Come, send down the Spirit, breath life in your people, and we shall be people of God."  Marty Haugen's rousing Spirit-lead song was the closer at Confirmation tonight.

This is another children's choir with some dance moves for this week's Sunday Song.  What made this so special was the handicapped girl with the arm crutches. [One thing of note:  Marty Haugen is a hometown St. Paul, Minnesota boy, who along with 2 other Minn contemporary liturgical writers (Haas and Joncas) produce a good portion of present day worship songs.]

When I was a youngster, my mother was a Girl Scout leader to Michelle's troop, among whom was a little girl in crutches named Delores Dufresne.  Michelle will correct me if I have the name wrong.  She has total recall about every person, place and thing that we encountered as a child, which I re-experienced a few years ago on a trip back. Mom made red 'caroling capes' just like riding hood.  Whenever the scouts wore them, Delores was happier and more animated-maybe because the cape hid the infirmity and she was more of an equal participant. Working with challenged adults now, I find myself contented when I see more accommodations made to include folks with hampered abilities.

This is an ever so quick post tonight as "I have miles to go before I sleep" x two.

As ever,
La Verne

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Look who is in hot water now

I wasn't figuring on getting a new tank for a couple of months, but my brother-in-law, Jack, and sister, Therese, saw on my blog that my HW tank was history and contacted my children. After that information trickled down, a new tank was installed by 6:30 last night by Larry's brother, Bobby, and dad, Larry (the wiser). All that was required of me was to dispose of the box; the bill was absorbed by the kids and J&T, whose kindness to us has always known no bounds.  Many, many thanks to all of you.

New tank

This photo was supposed to show the steam coming out of the faucet, but even though the new water is hotter than blazes, no steam appeared in the picture.  It is however, a good view of my clean kitchen sink, which does not happen often.  The picture stays!

Bobby Muniak (my daughter's brother-in-law) owns American Climate Control, and he is the angel who put my circa 1824 house back into the 21st century.  Please avail yourselves of his skills if you are in need of any heating and air conditioning services, hot water tanks, generators, and much more.  Thanks Bobby!

American Climate Control

Phone: (440) 821-6703Fax: (440) 582-350110571 Glen DrN RoyaltonOH
BBB® A+ Rating
On a scale of A+ to FReason for RatingBBB Ratings System Overview

I made a new batch of Irish pins today that are smaller, as per a request.  Thank you those of you that have ordered so far.  Very encouraging.  When ordering, state your preference for size and character.  The new same size pins are for the little twinks, and the suits.

Next time I photograph, I will do a close up of several different types next to a ruler.


As ever,
La Verne