An Old Dog Learns a New Trick

You may have noticed that you haven’t heard from me in a while. That’s because for the past two months I was busy with a new project that consumed a great deal of my time and energy. It left little time for cooking, entertaining, or other “Eclectic Girl” projects. I plan to get back to the usual content of my blog in the coming weeks, but before I do I wanted to share a personal victory.

After over 20 years of being a student of Jazzercise, I decided to train and audition to become an instructor. Jazzercise is a high-energy dance-oriented exercise program that has kept up with current fitness trends for nearly 50 years. I fell in love with the program the first time I tried it and have been a faithful student ever since.

Some have asked why, after so many years of being a student, did I suddenly decide I wanted to teach. Fitness instructors don’t typically earn a lot of money, so financial gain certainly wasn’t my motivation. And it wasn’t because I love being on a stage (I don’t). So why, after all these years, did I decide to pursue this goal?

There have been a few times when I thought life might lead to me to a location where this particular program did not exist. A few years ago, we thought we might move to South America. The country where we would have lived does not have Jazzercise. When we moved to southern California a few years ago, I was surprised that the offerings near me were not as extensive as they were back in Virginia. I came to the realization that becoming an instructor myself would be the only way I could be assured of always having it, wherever I might end up.

I also began to feel that after all my years of being a student, I had learned a few things. I’ve had many inspirational instructors over the years who taught me so many things about fitness, physiology, and movement. I’ve also learned from my injuries, the habits I’ve developed, and from the friends I’ve made at the gym. I had begun to feel that perhaps I now had something to give back.

Given that most of my pursuits in life have been either creative or academic, attempting something physical was fairly intimidating for me. And at the age of 57, I worried that I might be viewed as too old to begin what is often perceived as a young person’s endeavor.

I decided that I would not let age define me! I have been blessed with good health and I feel great. I know my body pretty well by now–what I can do, what I can’t do, how to avoid hurting myself, what I need to eat (or not eat) to perform well.  I also have more time at this point in my life than I have in years.

And so I made up my mind that I was going to give it my best shot. One of the benefits of age is perspective. I found it fairly easy to detach myself from the end result. If I made it, that would be amazing and wonderful. But if I didn’t make it, that would be fine too. I’d just continue to enjoy being a student as I have for so many years. As long as I worked hard and gave it my best, I decided I would be proud of my efforts and unashamed if I failed.

While I wished that I could have gone through the process without telling a soul, that proved to be impossible because of the way the training is structured. My instructors participated in my training and brought the class into the process. I am now glad it happened this way because I got to experience such incredible support and encouragement from my fellow classmates and instructors. Furthermore, if all those people hadn’t known what I was up to, I might have given up when things got hard.

And guess what happened? The hard work paid off. I passed my audition and am now a brand new Jazzercise instructor. I guess this old dog can still learn new tricks.

I hope hearing about my small personal victory might inspire you to try something new, or attempt something you’ve been considering but haven’t followed up on. I learned a lot about myself from this process and discovered that I am much stronger than I thought I was. I believe you probably are too.

 

Preserving Cheese

While I generally have no trouble consuming cheese before it goes bad, occasionally a piece will get hidden in my refrigerator and remain undiscovered until it is pretty far gone. Wouldn’t it be great if there was some way to revive that hardened chunk of deliciousness, making it even better than it was the first time around? I am happy to tell you, there is!

I was delighted to learn about a preservation technique for cheeses that are well past their prime. It has been used for centuries in Spain where it is called queso en aceite, or cheese in oil. The fat in the oil acts as a barrier to bacteria and keeps the cheese fresh despite not being refrigerated. It is rumored that Christopher Columbus brought oil-cured cheese on his transatlantic voyages.

The cheese must be a hard or semi-hard cheese, such as parmesean, peccorino, aged cheddar, or manchego. When I stumbled across this information, I just happened to have two such specimens in my refrigerator, a parmigiano-reggiano and a manchego. I had to give it a try!

Here’s how.

  1.  First, trim off any rind and/or wax. 
  2. Slice the cheese into sticks or slices. Use a heavy duty knife for this and be careful! It may require some effort to slice through very hard or dried out cheese. 
  3. Place the cheese in a jar that has a tightly fitting lid. If desired, you can add additional flavor to the cheese by adding a clove of garlic, a few peppercorns, a spring of rosemary, some dried red pepper flakes, or other spices. Pour in enough olive oil to completely cover the cheese. It is important to use good quality 100% extra virgin olive oil as the flavor of the oil will transfer to the cheese.
  4. Put the lid on tightly and place the jar in the back of a cabinet or other cool dark place where it will not be disturbed or exposed to light. Let it sit for at least one month and up to four months. The cheese will soften as it absorbs the oil and will become infused with the flavors of the olive oil and seasonings.

I added a sprig of rosemary and some black peppercorns to my manchego, and a clove of garlic and a generous pinch of red pepper flakes to the parmigiano-reggiano. I also put a note on my calendar to remind myself to check them a month after putting them up.After one month in the olive oil, the oil had begun to permeate the cheese, but because my cheeses were quite hard, I decided to let them marinate for a second month. After the second month, the cheese had become softer and creamier. The parmigiano-reggiano had absorbed the garlic flavor and had a bit of heat from the red pepper flakes. The manchego was infused with the flavor of the rosemary and black peppercorns.

Enjoy it with a crusty baguette to mop up the flavored oil.

Preserving cheese takes only a few minutes and turns a pricey food item that might have been discarded into a delicacy. The next time you are ready to toss out that hardened piece of cheese, I urge you to give this technique a try.

Preserved cheese makes an impressive appetizer and is sure to be a conversation starter.

The Start of a New Year

 

Lunch table / saladThe start of a new year is a good time to re-think old habits and ways of doing things. I began this blog at the beginning of last year and made it my goal to post every Monday morning for one whole year. This goal was intended to help build up a catalog of posts which would cover a wide range of “eclectic” topics. I accomplished my goal and am proud of this accomplishment.

Blank paper with pen and coffee cup on wood table

However, in evaluating my work, I realized that there were some weeks that I didn’t have much to say. I found myself in a frenzy on Sunday night to write something just to meet my self-imposed goal. Because this blog is intended to be inspirational, and perhaps occasionally even aspirational, I believe this is best accomplished when true inspiration strikes me.

stock photo, celebration, christmas, wrapped, gift, hands, holiday, seasonal, holidays, wrapping, gifts, diy, xmas, christmastime, present, presents, christmaslights, giftwrap

So this year I’ve decided that I will continue to post regularly, but not necessarily weekly. I want posts to be of interest to my readers and to contain information and photos that I am consistently proud of. Realizing that inspiration doesn’t always strike in a consistent or predictable manner, I hope my readers will appreciate this effort to improve the quality of Eclectic Girl Lifestyle Designs.Several Assorted Color Tags

I sincerely appreciate all of you who read this blog and I hope you will keep reading. As always, I welcome your feedback. Happy 2018!

blue, chair, contemporary

Beignet Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce

My sweet husband recently returned from a trip to New Orleans and was so thoughtful as to bring home a big bag of beignets from the famed Café du Monde in the French Market. If you’ve ever been to this landmark destination, you undoubtedly enjoyed hot beignets doused in confectioner’s sugar with a steaming cup of cafe au lait. While I truly appreciated my husband’s good intentions, I knew that even after a few hours in the bag, the beignets had lost much of their original yumminess.

I tried to restore their original soft pillowy texture by reheating them in the oven, steaming, and microwaving, but found all of these techinques lacking. They came out either too hard, too chewy, or gummy in texture.

Here are the beignets several days old, heavily covered with powdered sugar from Café du Monde.

I decided that making bread pudding from the beignets was probably the best way to redeem these treats. Paying tribute to New Orleans, a creamy whiskey sauce seemed the ideal accompaniment.

Cut the beignets (or whatever day old treats you have) into chunks so that they can easily absorb the the custard.
The custard is a mixture of eggs, half and half, milk, vanilla, and warm spices.
Pour custard mixture over the beignets and allow to soak for at least an hour or until well-absorbed.

While you may not be able to make this recipe with beignets from Café du Monde, it can be made with any type of day old sweet bread–donuts, pastries, panettone, or even croissants. If you use a bread that is not very sweet, croissants, for example, add 1/4 cup of sugar to the recipe.

After baking, the bread pudding is browned and crusty on top with a creamy, moist custard inside.
Pour the warm whiskey sauce over the pudding right before serving. If you are entertaining, pouring the sauce tableside creates a bit of theatre for guests!  
5 from 1 vote
Print

Beignet Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce

Servings 8

Ingredients

  • 10-12 beignets, donuts or other sweet pastries
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • pinch salt

Instructions

  1. Cut beignets into 1" x 1" pieces. Whisk together eggs, half and half, milk and vanilla together. Add spices and salt and incorporate. 

  2. Pour over beignets and allow to sit at room temperature for at least one hour or until the beignets have fully absorbed the custard mix. 

  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 - 40 minutes or until set.

5 from 1 vote
Print

Whiskey Sauce


Servings 8

Ingredients

  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup whiskey
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup butter

Instructions

  1. Over medium heat, combine the half and half and sugar. Mix the cornstarch with whiskey in a small bowl and whisk to blend until the mixture is smooth.  Add whiskey mixture into the cream mixture and bring to a boil.

  2. Lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove the sauce from the heat, add the salt and stir in the butter.

  3. Pour warm sauce generously over the top of the beignet bread pudding.

This bread pudding retains the deep fried goodness and flavor of the New Orleans beignets. The whiskey sauce adds a new flavor profile and additional richness. It was the perfect ending to our holiday meal.

My Home at Christmas

For some reason it took me longer than usual to get my home decorated for the holidays this year. While I usually get it done over a weekend, this year it seemed to evolve over several weeks following Thanksgiving. I’ve shared my holiday toy truck, shirt pillow and snow globe projects with you in previous posts. In this post, I thought I’d show you a few other things I’ve done around the house to decorate for the holidays.

I featured these window screens in my very first blog post last year. I decided to repaint them charcoal gray which I think gives a little more weight to the fireplace than the previous blue color. I flanked them with rustic lanterns and intertwined fairy lights through magnolia leaves, pine cones and a “noel” sign.

The family room got some red plaid flannel pillows, a cable knit throw, and a small tree.
The round mirror in the dining room has been encircled with faux greenery and red berries.
I placed a few pinecones in my antique ironstone egg cup collection inside my dining room hutch. A few sprigs of cedar add life and draw attention to this area behind glass.

Rolled up red and white hand towels are displayed on the bamboo shelf. A cinnamon spiced candle surrounded by pine cones and cedar adds festive color and fragrance to the bathroom.

Over the toilet is a festive holiday sign that I topped with a red bow and some greenery. I changed out the towels on the hooks over the tub with pretty red ones that I bring out only at this time of year.

 A red velour pillow, a scented candle and a faux fur throw cozy up the master bedroom.

The crewel work “Holly Jolly” pillow was made from a placemat from Target, while the larger pillow in back was crafted from an old sweater.
A bunch of faux mistletoe on a beautiful crystal hanging from the door knob at our entry door is a lovely reminder to kiss the ones we love often.

I’d like to sincerely thank all my dear readers for your support and encouragment during my first year as a blogger. Every comment, like, share, pin, or repost means the world to me. I wish you all a safe and happy holiday season. Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

Magical Miniature Worlds


Snow globes and terrariums have been around forever. These miniature worlds under glass have always seemed to capture the imagination. And why not? They have a magical quality that evokes childhood memories and wonder.

I recently purchased a glass cloche for the purpose of creating my own holiday-themed miniature world. Going through my collection of Christmas ornaments, I found a couple of ceramic figurines of ice skaters which were the perfect focal point for my scene. Using a vintage silver serving bowl as my base, I filled it with fluffy fake snow. A few bottle brush trees of varying sizes were nestled in around the figurines. A wooden sleigh ornament added another texture to the scene. This little world requires more than a glance to take in, and brings detail and whimsy to my holiday decor. 

To make it even more magical, I placed a string of fairy lights inside the cloche (hiding the battery pack under the snow). It looks enchanting at night!

I enjoyed creating this little scene and once I got started, there was no stopping me! I realized that just about any clear glass container could be used for such a project and set about my home to find other vessels from which to make more snow globes.

I learned a few things the hard way while working on this project. I had to disassemble and re-do my globes several times, so I’m sharing my tips in hopes you won’t make the same mistakes.

Tips for Making Snow Globes

  1. The wider the mouth of your jar, the more space you will have to create your scene, so look for jars with large lids.
  2. A pretty ribbon around the jar lid edge covers any printing and adds a bit of elegance. Glue ribbon around the edge of the jar lid first. 
  3. Test your scene inside the jar (with the lid screwed on) to make sure everything fits before adding snow. I made the mistake of putting everything perfectly in place only to find my tree was too tall to fit inside the jar!
  4. In order to lift the scene enough to be clearly visible above the snow, you will likely need to elevate your pieces. I used a wine cork sliced into rounds to raise my ornaments a bit. Adhere your ornaments to the cork with glue. 
  5. Once you are satisfied with the appearance and fit of your scene, secure the ornaments to the lid with glue.
  6. Place the snow inside the jar.
  7. With your figures upside down, place the lid onto the jar. Then turn it upright so that the snow falls onto your scene. You may need to shake it a bit in order to settle the snow evenly between your figurines.

    I ditched my original jar and found a jar with wider mouth for this one. With the larger platform I was able to fit the tall tree and add a second one.
The German caroler figurine was given to me by a dear neighbor when I was a child. I happened to have the red piano ornament which was the perfect accompaniment. Elevated on a green depression glass pedestal dish, it adds a sweet holiday touch to the bathroom.
I emptied a large glass canister of laundry room supplies and used it to make another snow globe. Positioned behind the canister is a jewelry tree draped with a strand of gold beads. Surrounded by a few sprigs of greenery and placed on my kitchen island, it adds holiday spirit to a room that generally doesn’t get a lot of Christmas decorating.

This is a project that can probably be made with things you already have on hand. While Christmas ornaments make great focal points, don’t limit yourself to them. A bird’s nest, pine cones, or other natural elements also look lovely surrounded by snow and placed under glass.

So I urge you not to toss that pickle jar when the pickles run out! Use it to create your own snow globe for the holidays. I think you’ll find this project will spark your imagination and fill your home fill with a touch of magic. 

Shirt Pillow Tutorial

For me, a big part of decorating for the holidays includes changing out pillows in nearly every room of my home. It’s an easy and inexpensive thing to do that infuses the house with the Christmas spirit. When the season is over, I simply remove the holiday pillow cover and put a different cover on the pillow form. Storing pillow covers takes up little space and allows me to continuously change up the look of my rooms.

Last year, I made holiday pillow covers from a place mat, sweaters, a skirt, a flannel nightgown, and even a velour bath robe. This year, I added to my collection with a pillow cover made from a flannel shirt.

I found this bold red and black buffalo check men’s flannel shirt at the thrift store and knew the print would be perfect for my holiday decor. Here’s how I transformed it into a pillow.

  1. Measure first. This shirt was exactly 20″ across and my pillow form measured 20″ X 20″ so I was able to use the existing side seams without having to cut or sew them.
  2.  Button the shirt completely and spread it out on a table so that it lies flat, making sure there are no wrinkles on either side. 
  3.  Cut straight across the top of the shirt just under the sleeves. Then, cut straight across the bottom so that the total length is approximately an inch larger than your pillow form. If your shirt is larger than your pillow form, cut 1/2″ larger than your pillow form on each side. This shirt’s checked pattern made cutting a straight line rather easy.

4. Now, turn it inside out so that the right sides of the fabric are together. Pin across the cut edges and then sew the edges together.

5.  Unbutton the shirt and turn it right side out. Ironing the seams open before turning creates a more professional look, especially if your fabric is stiff. With the tip of your scissors, poke out the corners so that you get nice sharp points on all four corners.

6.  Insert your pillow form, button it up, and ta-da–you’ve just made a pillow from a shirt!

Would you believe this pillow only took about 15 minutes to make? It’s a fun, easy way to recycle old shirts. When the season is over, I’ll remove this cover and put on a different one, but right now I’m enjoying the cozy look it brings to my living room.

Do you have any old shirts that would make great pillows? If so, I encourage you to give this project a try. It’s easier than you think.

Olive Oil: The Bad and the Good

First, the Bad

I recently read the book, Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil by Tom Mueller. It opened my eyes to the shocking process by which most of the world’s olive oil is produced and sold. While we know much about the health benefits of olive oil, these benefits convey only via fresh, pure, unadulterated olive oil. Unfortunately, there is little chance the mass produced olive oil you buy at your local grocery store actually contains “100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil” as the label claims. Because of lax standards in regulating the industry abroad, and due to lack of truth-in-labeling requirements for imports to the United States, most commercially available olive oil is mixed with other cheaper and less healthy seed oils (e.g., cottonseed, sunflower, canola oil).

Furthermore, due to lengthy shipping times and dubious storage conditions, these inferior quality oils are often rancid by the time they make it to grocery store shelves. Consumption of rancid oils can be deleterious to health. But because the American palate has become accustomed to the taste of these inferior oils, we hardly notice the “off” taste or the adulterated flavor of the olive oils we typically consume.

Mueller educates the reader about how small olive farms can hardly survive in the cut-throat world of international olive oil production. The average consumer tends to base purchasing decisions on the lowest available price and does not realize that the product they are paying for is inferior. As long as consumers are unaware of the poor quality of olive oils they purchase and are unwilling to pay the true cost of quality olive oil, the industry is unlikely to change. And unlike the wine industry in Italy, which became highly regulated after a number of deaths occurred from adulterated wine produced in the 1980s, the olive oil industry has had no such calamity that has forced governments to pass laws and enforce regulations which would implement higher standards.

Now, The Good

In spite of all this bad news, there is hope! As consumers become better educated about the issues surrounding olive oil, small specialty shops have opened throughout the United States that specialize in the real thing. And if you are lucky enough to live in or travel to California, where 99% of the olive oil in the US is produced, you might even be able to visit an olive oil ranch and purchase it directly from the grower.

I recently had the pleasure of visiting the 140 acre Pasolivo Ranch in Paso Robles, CA. Not only did I see the olive orchard where the olives are grown, I also received a tour of the milling facility. Afterwards, I was able to taste fresh oil from these very trees and purchase some high quality olive oil to bring home.

Pasolivo harvests their olives by hand in the fall. (It should be noted that most large industrial growers use machines that voilently shake the trees, damaging the trees and bruising the olives in the process.) After harvesting, the olives immediately go through a sorting and cleaning process before they are pressed. The olives and pits are pressed together in one ton batches, creating a thick paste. This pomace undergoes treatment in a centrifuge to separate the oil and remove any naturally occurring water. The oil is then transferred to stainless steel vats. Over the next several months the remaining sediments settle to the bottoms of the tanks and are drained off. Finally, the unfiltered oil is bottled.

The entire milling operation takes place here. Freshly harvested olives are weighed, twigs and debris removed, and then pressed. The pomace is centrifuged to separate the oil from the paste and remove any water. The oil is then routed to large stainless steel tanks where any remaining sediments are allowed to sink to the bottom of the tanks before being drained off. The unfiltered oil is then bottled.

“Olio Nuovo”

The early oil produced in the first two weeks of pressing is called “olio nuovo” or “new oil.”  It is highly prized by Italians for its robust grassy flavor but is extremely difficult to come by because of its short-lived and fragile nature. I was lucky enough to get to taste three of Pasolivo’s olio nuovo blends from the 2017 harvest. Comprised of different olive varietals, these very special oils were among the most delicious olive oils I’ve ever tasted. They were all dark green in color, with a fresh, grassy flavor.

The rare and elusive olio nuovo, or “new oil” from this year’s harvest.
This olio nuovo is a blend of three varietals of olives: Mission, Frantoio, and Lucca.

The Tasting Room

Pasolivo also produces flavored olive oils, all made with fresh, local ingredients. For example, the lemon flavored oil uses lemon peels that have been pressed to extract the essential oil which is then incorporated into the olive oil. The basil flavored oil is macerated with fresh locally grown basil leaves for a short period of time to impart the wonderful flavor of basil to the oil.

Tasters are encouraged to dip bread in various combinations of flavored oils and vinegars. Spice mixtures are offered to enhance the tasting experience.

In Pasolivo’s tasting room, visitors are given a complimentary tasting of all eleven types of oil they produce. In addition, they mix up their tasting repertoire with various flavored vinegars and herb/spice/salt mixtures from local producers to give visitors a unique tasting experience and to display the range of uses for their products.

This olive oil was fresh, fruity and pungent, far superior to any mass-produced supermarket olive oil. While its spicy, robust flavors might require a palate adjustment for some people, I loved the intense flavor and the kick in the back of my throat that this oil produced. In fact, knowing that this “kick” is exactly what honest olive oil is supposed to provide, I relished it.

As one might expect, this is not an inexpensive product. The labor intensive process involved in producing these small artisanal batches of liquid gold demands that consumers pay a fair price. Pasolivo offers a membership program where a 15% discount is provided to those agreeing to receive three shipments per year. Knowing that I am getting pure unadulterated olive oil makes this membership well worth the splurge. For more information on their Press Club, click here.

Upon joining Pasolivo’s Press Club, I was given this lovely burlap tote bag and a recipe book containing recipes using their olive oils and other products. With each shipment, I will receive new recipes to add to the notebook.

Since reading Extra Virginity  I have not looked at olive oil in the same way. And now that I’ve found a great resource for truly excellent olive oil, I will gladly support this industry. I encourage you to seek out local sources for high quality olive oil near you. Let us help create demand for the real thing so that oils of a dubious nature are not allowed to continue to flourish.

Pasolivo’s beautiful tasting room offers a variety of olive oil related products including bath and body products, handcrafted wood and ceramic items, and flavored salts, spices, and vinegars.

For more information on this topic, see the 60 Minutes expose, “AgroMafia” here. Also, Tom Mueller has compiled a list of the best supermarket olive oils at reasonable prices. To see his list, click here.

Note: I have not received any compensation of any kind from Pasolivo for this blog. All opinions are my own. I do wish to express my appreciation to Pasolivo for the tour and special tasting of the olio nuovo I received.

Sorbet Mimosas

The holiday season is in full swing and it’s always a good idea to have a go-to drink on hand that can be served when guests drop by. Nothing could be easier than sorbet mimosas! This drink requires only two ingredients which can be kept stocked in your kitchen and served up at a moment’s notice.

A small spring loaded ice cream scoop is a very helpful tool in making this drink. It releases the sorbet in perfectly portioned rounded balls.

The two ingredients are:

  1.  A bottle of your favorite bubbly
  2.  Sorbet
Put a scoop of sorbet in the glass first and then slowly pour the bubbly on top of it.

For the bubbly, you can use champagne, sparkling wine, or even non-alcoholic sparking cider or ginger ale. Tailor the flavor and color of the sorbet to the holiday you wish to celebrate. In this example, I am using mango sorbet because the orange color is a nice compliment to my current fall palette. For Christmas, a pretty red raspberry sorbet or lime green sorbet would be fitting. Gourmet shops often stock more exotic flavors so feel free to experiment, coordinating the color and flavor to your occasion.

Served in fluted glasses, and garnished with a sprig of mint and a fun polka dotted straw, this is a pretty cocktail that takes mere minutes to whip up.

I can’t think of a better way to welcome visitors during the holidays!

 

 

An Old Toy Truck

Are you a Pinterest addict like me? I can spend hours drooling over beautiful photographs and gathering ideas. Last year around the holidays, I came across a decorating idea I loved and decided that I would start looking for a way to replicate it. It was an old toy truck that had been decorated for the holidays as a table centerpiece.

I came across this picture on Pinterest and it became my inspiration. Photo courtesy of Janet Collazo.

A few weeks ago I found my truck! I visited a new-to-me thrift store and sitting right at the front of the shop was my toy dump truck. Best yet, the price had been marked down from an outrageous $75 to only $6. I’m not sure why it had been marked down so drastically but I don’t ask questions when I see these kinds of deals–I just do my inner happy dance and snatch them up!

While I initially intended to use it only for Christmas decorating, I quickly realized that it could be outfitted for fall as well. I immediately filled the bed of the truck with fallen leaves, dried foliage, sprays of orange berries, an acorn squash, and white mini-pumpkins for a natural fall display. I even placed one mini-pumpkin at the rear of the truck to make it appear as though it had fallen off during transit.

After enjoying it decorated this way for a while, it was time to look forward to Christmas. The truck’s original bright yellow color had been painted over with black paint and while it wasn’t terrible, I knew I wanted the color to be a little more vibrant for the holiday season. I was leaning heavily towards red but ultimately decided that green would be more versatile.

Milk paint comes as a powder and is mixed with water to create paint. It is a completely natural, non-toxic substance that works well on metal as well as a variety of other surfaces.

Knowing that milk paint adheres well to metal and makes for a old fashioned matte finish, I decided that this was the type of paint I wanted to use. I like its chalky texture and knew from a previous project that it was easy and forgiving to work with. I researched my options on line and purchased a fairly bright Tavern Green color.

After two coats of milk paint and a light brushing with an antiquing glaze, the truck has the rough vintage look I was going for.

After the first coat, I could tell the color was going to be a little brighter than I had hoped so I added a second coat and then brushed on a brown antiquing glaze to tone it down a bit. To add more detail to the truck, I added an accent of cream colored paint on the tires to create “white walls.”

A couple of packages were placed at the rear of the truck to appear as if they had fallen off during transit.

I love how it turned out! I tucked in some evergreen cuttings and placed a small artificial Christmas tree in the bed of the truck. I added a string of fairy lights to the tree to enliven it and filled the bed with a load of tiny wrapped gifts. A couple of the packages were placed at the rear of the truck to create the impression that they had fallen off during transport. To decorate the front grill, I added a tiny spray crafted from a sprig of rosemary, a brass bell, and some faux berries.

The toy truck adds a spirit of fun and whimsy wherever it is placed and I just love how versatile the piece is. I can envision it filled with a pretty spring flower arrangement in the summer or pots of succulents in the summer. I may even use it as a serving platform for party favors, drinks or utensils at an outdoor party. Rest assured, you’ll likely see it again in a future post!

Perhaps you have an old toy truck that once belonged to your children–or maybe you saved one from your own childhood. If you’ve got one packed away somewhere, I urge you to bring it out and use it in your seasonal decor. It is likely to bring smiles to the faces of everyone who sees it.