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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Birdhouses Old & New

Monday, September 30, 2013

Bird feeders, birdcages, and 
Bird Houses
always catch my attention, and 
as a result, are scattered throughout my house. 

Over the years I have acquired birdhouses
for their architectural details, unusual design,
color, quirkiness, or sentimental attachment.
Some were gifts from friends and family.

One of my oldest birdhouses was built by
my husband after we saw a duplex birdhouse at
a lavender farm in Fredericksburg, Texas.

The birdhouse sat atop a post in a flower garden in our backyard for many years. 
To prevent further deterioration from the weather, 
I repainted it and brought it inside. 
Wonderful memories fill my heart whenever I look at it.
Great memories of trips to Fredericksburg...
 Great memories of building the birdhouse and painting it...

Great memories of the flowers in the garden that surrounded it...
Some of the flowers were grown from seeds that
my husband brought home to me from an overseas business trip.
Other flowers grew from seeds we harvested from wild basketflowers
growing in fields on the highway to my in-laws' house.

This Christmas birdhouse was a gift from my dear sister, 
and it is displayed year round. 

One of the prettiest birdhouses in my house
once belonged to a close friend.
When she passed away over ten years ago,
her children had an estate sale,
and the birdhouse was one of her things that I bought.

I was with her when she bought it from a
vendor in an antique mall.

We taught together and developed a close friendship
since we shared similar decorating tastes.
For many years we shopped together,
toured holiday open houses, played bridge,
and even went to France together.
I miss her at Christmas time especially.

A few years ago I was part of a craft show and sale
at the high school where I taught.

This little birdhouse was one of the 8-10 variations
of small birdhouses that my husband and I made for the sale.
He made them from 2x4's, and I painted and decorated them.
Finding just the right quirky twigs for the bird perches was a challenge.
The twigs gave each house its own personality.

Here is the latest birdhouse under construction at my house.
For two-three years, I have been collecting license plates to use
in some kind of projects without a real vision of what the projects would be.

This past Saturday, building began.

The weathered cedar wood was lying under my deck, and 
the blue and white bird perches are ceramic knobs from Hobby Lobby. 

Truth in building, 
a handyman did the actual sawing, gluing, and drilling.

I did make the handle from an old sturdy wire clothes hanger.
After untwisting the hook and straightening the wire,
I bent the wire around a small artist round-handled paintbrush
to create the squiggles.
This wire is so strong that it holds the birdhouse very nicely.

The California license plate is from my sister's car. 
It looks brand new and unused, but it was on her car until 
she replaced it with her new TEXAS plate. 
Another birdhouse with ingrained memories of family...

The license plate is not attached to the birdhouse yet.  
Right now, it is just lying on top of the birdhouse. 
The birdhouse lid should open in order to clean out the house on occasion. 
So, I have been thinking of how best to attach the license. 
I'm seeing more coat hanger wire going through the top 
screw holes on the plate and through holes drilled into the back 
of the birdhouse.

This birdhouse could also be used in the house 
as a box to hide the TV remote controls. 

I'm also considering white-washing the wood.
With both the license and the knob perches so white,
a very thin watered-down chippy dry brush white wash
might look really good.

This little birdhouse will be so fun to decorate all during the year.
Immediately, I thought of all the patriotic holidays since the plate
is red, white, and blue.

The red California word will connect with both
Valentine's Day and Christmas.
Tie hearts on it for Valentine's Day.
Add holly and a red ribbon for Christmas.

Can't you just see the birdhouse hanging from a hook?

Please join me at these inspiring sites...


Restored Rustic Box w/French Graphic

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What is it about 
that is so appealing? 

I can't walk by one without looking it over, 
often picking it up, thinking about how it can be used. 
For what can I use this box? 
Fourteen inches wide and thirteen and a half inches tall... 
Scrapbook paper? Remote TV/DVD/xBox/Computer controls? 

Always trying to organize my life, making order out of the disorder, 
making things better tomorrow than they are today... 

Unexpected treasures without going on a treasure hunt 
are often in plain sight... 
Just opening my eyes to see what is right in front of me all along... 

Older wooden boxes or drawers surely have 
a second life... a third life...  
Dovetail joints, carvings, rare wood, beautiful images... 
all reasons to salvage a box, a drawer. 

But this box?

No dovetail joints, no carvings, 

No precious wood, no beautiful image... 

But this box?
The inside is not even finished at all. 

Sure, it is a great size, has a good feel to it, easy to carry... 
Sturdy, no loose joints... 
and inside, one small piece of fluted molding... 
Maybe... it has potential. 

What a little Valspar sample paint can do! 
Honeymilk on the outside and Navy #5 on the inside... 

Still rustic with nicks and scrapes, and some deep gouges from living, 
but with tender loving care inside and out, this little box still has hope for a new use. 

The Graphics Fairy French flower seller label paired with 

A hydrangea stem tied with a bow from the Etsy shop Graphicals 

Gives the tired, old unloved box a fresh look to face the world anew. 

A Hobby Lobby porcelain blue and white knob is just the 
finishing touch for the rejuvenated little box to lift its lid. 

So, what will this restored box hold? 

Perhaps a new life in the garden shed to hold bulb and flower catalogs? 

Or, to hold magazines filled with inspiration and beauty?

A new life filled with inspiration and beauty that makes order out of disorder... 

Salvaged shards of a previous life that were shattered and discarded 
can hold the beginnings of a restored life with beauty and purpose. 

Burlap Canvas Paris Postcard

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Is any vignette complete in my house without a touch of 


After arranging the grapevine basket 
with a light green pumpkin and 
multicolored hydrangeas, 
I found the perfect ribbon hiding in my house to add to it. 

Iridescent purple with a green sheen and wired edges... 

Not only was the ribbon added, but I also added a new burlap covered canvas displaying 
a vintage 1925 Paris postcard.

Domain XCIV, a home decor store in Ft. Worth, Texas, advertises that 
"every piece in our store is chosen with the utmost consideration, and bought only if 
it appeals to our hearts and souls." 

For me, their pieces speak to my heart and soul, also. 
This summer Domain XCIV had old French postcards displayed 
on linen in beautiful frames. 
From their inspiration, I created a burlap-wrapped 
canvas frame to display 
an old postcard I bought in Paris, France. 

Here is how you can make something similar. 
First, use Mod Podge to attach a piece of cream-colored burlap 
to a 6"x8" canvas stretched over a wood frame.
After the glue dries, paint the burlap, including the edges 
wrapped around the sides of the canvas frame, 
with Valspar Honeymilk paint.

To create a border for the postcard, 
cut embossed white heavy card stock so there 
will be a graduated set of two borders framing the postcard. 
The outer border is the white-painted burlap, 
and the inner border is the embossed card stock, 
both of which add textural interest 
around the old Paris postcard.  

Wait until all the parts of the composition are finished 
before attaching the postcard.

To soften the angular edges of the composition, cut 
the corners of the card stock with a rounded-corner paper cutter. 
Set aside the embossed mat to attach later. 

Then, Mod Podge glue a narrow 1/4" gold-toned ribbon to the 
sides of the canvas frame to cover the edges of the burlap. 

Next, attach a push-in metal picture hanger 
to the back of the canvas frame.  

Instead of permanently gluing the embossed card stock 
and the 1925-vintage postcard to the canvas, 
use a decorative bulletin board push pin to 
attach them to the canvas. 

Do this for three reasons. 

The presentation is three-dimensional with loose edges. 

Changing what is displayed on the burlap-wrapped canvas will be easy. 

A small push-pin hole only minimally damages a vintage postcard. 

This postcard was sent from Paris on July 27, 1925. 
Even though it was written in pencil, 
the handwriting is distinctly French and has beautiful flourishes. 

The "S" resembles a musical clef symbol, 
and all the capital letters were written with flair. 
Such penmanship is no longer taught in the United States.  

The two green stamps are an oft-used symbol in France of a sower. 
Different-priced stamps with the sower image were issued in 
different colors. 

The simple frame focuses our attention on the postcard, not the frame, 
and the rustic burlap complements the grapevine basket.  

Ahhh... the vignette now more completely 
speaks to my heart and soul.
Vintage Postcard - Paris flea market 
Fleur-de-lis push pin - Ballard Designs
Canvas wrapped frame - Hobby Lobby
Burlap - Hobby Lobby
Valspar Honeymilk paint - Lowes
Ribbon - Michaels 
Embossed card stock - Michaels, a few years ago 
Please join me at these inspiring sites...


Not Your Usual Fall Colors

Friday, September 20, 2013

Fall settings, inside and out, 
are ushering in the season even if the temperatures are not. 

blues, mauves 
are not the usual colors that come to mind 
when thinking of fall. 

Officially arriving on September 22, 2014,
the Autumnal Equinox
heralds a new season, but the old
season lingers in my part of the woods.

The green leaves, bright sunshine, and hot temperatures 
belie the season that our calendars bespeak. 

An old rustic grapevine wreath basket laden with 
a freshly picked pale green pumpkin surrounded by faded dried hydrangeas 
and artificial paper hydrangeas transitions our breakfast room 
from summer to fall. 

Flowering vines on the placemats echo the bare curly tendrils of the 
of the grapevine, and the brown bare vines of the basket reflect 
the brown background on the placemats 
to suggest beginnings of a real fall. 

Artificial blackberry vines are reminders of the last fruits of summer. 

A closer inspection of the blackberry vines is spooky, 
taking us into a Halloween look. 

Yet, not so spooky when viewed from farther away. 
Blackberries and hydrangeas ... 
summer still lingers...
Halloween is still a ghostly image yet to appear. 

Faded dried hydrangea blossoms match the pale green pumpkin 
making a super close image look ethereal, but not spooky.  

A soft fall picture full of both summer and autumn. 
Summer lingering, clutching us with its heat... 

And... calling to us with its last fading hydrangeas...

Not your usual fall colors, 
but the colors that transition my house from 
summer to autumn. 
Please join me at these inspiring sites...


French Soap Bird's Nest

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Blue-colored bird eggs made from 
French-milled soap 
are the perfect small gift for friends. 

Especially when presented in 
excelsior birds' nests 
nestled in peat pots made in France... 

Details about how I made these are below, 
you have to keep these as a secret from my friends.
They don't know they are getting them. 

Since I began blogging and pinning, 
I've seen beautiful small containers made from 
garden peat pots. 

Begin with 100% natural fiber pots. 

Paint with Valspar sample paint, color Honeymilk. 
Yes, this is definitely my paint...tagged with my fingerprints. 

Not until I began painting these pots did I see 
the word France imprinted into the bottom of the pot. 

For me, this adds another special touch. 

Two of my friends who will receive these are 
retired high school French teachers.  

The label image came from an Etsy shop,
The Graphics Fairy has many images 
that will also be perfect. 
A link to The Graphics Fairy is on my sidebar. 

Type 'french-milled soap' 
or another phrase of your choice on 
each label. 

The pots are small and you should be able 
to print eight labels on one 8.5"x11" letter-size page. 

Use deckle-edge scissors to cut out the labels. 
Glue a label on the front and the back 
using Mod Podge. 

Create a small bird's nest from excelsior which 
comes in more than one color.  
I really like how the brown color coordinates with the 
little brown and blue bird on the label. 

Fill each nest with six small 
French-milled blue egg soaps. 

Place the pot into a clear plastic sack and tie with a 
seam-binding ribbon. 

Ready to fly away to a new home with my friend! 
The French-milled soap eggs can be found at 
where I found my inspiration and soaps. 
The soaps can be bought in different quantities in 
several different colors. 
There is also a little bird's nest peat pot 
with egg soaps ready-made for sale 
if you don't want to make your own. 

No compensation from any source 
for this post. I just provided links to 
small businesses that are giving us 
good products at good prices.