Building Hand in Glove

vision becoming reality . relax . restore . connect

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HiG PiG: Turning A Sow’s Ear Into A 1960s’ Silk Purse!

Earlier this year I acquired a diamond in the rough (or at least it was a treasure to me, if not my husband). I hunted for — and found — a vintage travel trailer to use on the Hand in Glove property until we get our steel barn fully erected. Her pedigree is a 1965 Shasta Travel Trailer. But her features are what count — a compact structure with solid wood walls, many original details and, most importantly, no leaks or water damage!

travel trailer full side view  travel trailer kitchen

I have been slowly doing small renovations with the hours i have been able to cobble together here and there in the last few months at the property.

What I have shared above are photos of what I affectionately refer to as the HiG PiG in her “before” state. In January and February I will be finishing her renovations. During that time, I will share photos of the work in progress as well as her final “reveal.”

We are currently removing what the previous owner called the “custom tile work” (I believe it could be more accurately referred to it as the “hideous custom tile work”) and replacing it with sunny yellow penny tiles.

I have also received great insights and assembled a cheering squad through the amazing ladies of the Sisters on the Fly network. After visiting with several Sisters in Rhinebeck, NY and Columbus, OH at the Country Living fairs I am truly inspired to create a groovy landing pad to serve as our temporary HQ at Hand in Glove, as well as a tailgating gadabout for future Bama football games.

Visit again to see how I turn our little HiG PiG from a sow’s ear to a silk purse, so to speak!

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Life provides endless opportunities and detours. In these moments, we have a choice — how best to embrace what you cannot predict and find the “teachable moments.” These are words I have always known to be true, but have found even more profound recently.

The last 20 months have been both overwhelming and gratifying:

  • the sincere honor of sharing Valentines Day 2013 with the Sandy Hook community — and my new found friends there;
  • dealing with — and coming out stronger on the other side — from a personal cancer scare that has required numerous surgeries and follow up doctor’s visits; and
  • the loss of my dear brother-in-law, Brian, after his own four-year cancer battle.

I must be honest. Spending a big chuck of my life in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania at this time (or ever, for that matter) was the furthest thing from my mind when I last posted here. But I was presented with one of those unexpected opportunities.

While I was able to have a true impact during this time and develop programs and processes of which I was proud, I also found a broken city in Harrisburg. It is a place with tremendous potential, providing an interesting secondary platform to continue to accomplish many of the things that are important to me. And now, my original reason for coming to this place has passed.

Here are some truths I have learned, or had reinforced, as a result of this latest leg in my life’s journey:

  1. Authenticity is underrated and difficult to find, but vital to happiness and understanding.
  2. Being a creative person is an obligation and responsibility.
  3. Every place has something special.
  4. Giving — of your time, your energy, your spirit — is the most gratifying way to live.
  5. Family IS home, and wherever they are, there is no place like it.
  6. The best life requires relevant focus.
  7. My nieces rock!

That being said — it’s back on at Hand in Glove! We are redoubling our efforts to build this magical place to be enjoyed by not just ourselves, but also so many others.

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Look What I Found: #4

I am certain that our redesigned farmhouse table is going to be the hub of Hand in Glove when we complete construction. I also know that I want it to be a comfortable place for folks to linger after a hearty meal, during a days long round of Monopoly or around a complex group puzzle.

We have a great Paula Deen sofa from my former office that I intend to repurpose as seating along one side of the table. On the other, will be an assortment of traditional chairs all married in style with a cohesive coat of creamy white paint. But what will the exclamation points be at either end of the table?

I knew immediately what I wanted. Two traditional wing back chairs upholstered in a nontraditional manner. I hit antique shops and thrift stores throughout Birmingham looking for just the right thing.

When I got to the Mission Possible store, run by  a local nonprofit, I hit the mother lode of wing back chairs. They had some that were almost throne-like, others that were less ostentatious. Some with nail heads, others without. Some in beautiful brocades, others in busy florals. My goal was to find two that were close in style and with similar lines, that had some level of gravitas, but that would also look great wrapped in nontraditional garb.

And so I found these:


and turned them into these with fabric I found at Sew Sheri Designs.


Interestingly, owner Sheri Corey said that the fabric languished in the store. When I took the chairs to Edgewood Antique Center to be reupholstered, I was out of town for a few days and they sat in the shop awaiting my return. I was told that several customers wanted to buy them out from under me, which points to two lessons: look at the unexpected to create something truly special and don’t leave your newly reupholstered goods unattended for too long!

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Some different kinds of construction

In the midst of the Hand in Glove build, I have been slightly sidelined by two projects – both unintentional.  Each has resulted in construction of a slightly different variety from what we are undertaking at Hand in Glove. And yet both will always be forever linked in my mind to our physical build there.

The first was prompted by the heartbreaking shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in December of 2012. From the moment I heard about this incomprehensible situation, I knew I wanted to do something, no matter how small, to try to bring a little happiness to the community. Through the nonprofit I started two years ago with like-minded individuals , MeetUP for Change, we worked with Newtown officials to develop an event that instinctively “felt right.” As an organization that performs “random acts of volunteerism,” the possibilities were truly endless.

What was the connector between this situation and the work we had performed previously following natural disasters? The message that resonated and provided that linkage between this and other MUFC activities in in the past was a simple one: life is precious.

We realized at that moment that if we could create a movement that shared this message with those living in communities in crisis or need that this could potentially resonate with them and bring a little love, hope and happiness. A “communal hug” if you will.

So a campaign was developed with the LIP Life Is Precious message. Whenever someone made or makes a donation to MeetUP for Change of $30, we take a “get one, give one” approach. They receive a stylish LIP Life Is Precious shirt or hat. In exchange, we would deliver a LIP Life Is Precious shirt to members of a community in crisis or need.

photo (8)

We also solicited cupcake shops and bakeries, large and small, to donate sweet treats, art supplies and small gifts we could share with Sandy Hook Elementary on Valentine’s Day at a cupcake “heartwarmer” event. In a scant six weeks, we had secured donations of over 2,000 yummy cupcakes, cookies and candies that we shared with 500 SHES children, parents and staff. Volunteers from throughout Newtown and Connecticut, and as far away as Alabama and Boston, came together to create an afternoon that many in the crowd proclaimed was “exactly what we needed.”

The meaning and the message behind the LIP Life Is Precious shirts also touched their hearts in the way we had hoped it would.

The second construction project involves a little reconstruction to my actual physical being. About two weeks prior to the Newtown trip, I noticed a previously nonexistent bump on the side of my nose. Not entirely past the occasional acne outbreak, I initially assumed it was the worst blocked pore ever. When no amount of slathering with heavy duty zit-busting cream did the trick, I tried to get in to see my dermatologist between meetings. Not finding a mutually convenient time, the week came and went.

Over the course of the weekend, I visited my aesthetician to get my eyebrows waxed and asked about a facial (she thought it was a bug bite), I stopped by a “doc in the box” (a “staph infection” he proclaimed) and just generally fretted about this less than perfect aberration on my already less than perfect face.

By the time the following week rolled around and my dermatologist and I could actually agree on a time, the prognosis was swift and nearly definitive. I had what sounded like one of the fraternities from my son’s days at UA – KA – but a KA that was much more sinister than a bunch of drunken young men. In this case, KA stood for keratoacanthoma. It was a form of squamous cell carcinoma that needed to be biopsied and then dealt with quickly and promptly, I was told.

With our little “heartwarmer” planned for Newtown, I asked if it was going to be a problem to wait the two weeks until I returned. No, I was generally assured, this would not be an issue. The good news was that this type of tumor is almost always benign and does not travel (meaning it would not move on to other parts of my body and then require more radical treatments like chemotherapy or radiation).

What no one could have expected was the rapid growth that would occur between the biopsy and the actually Mohs surgery to remove the tumor. I had been warned it was an aggressive tumor (heavens, it had popped up literally overnight) but that the biopsy that removed most of the superficial growth would likely keep it at bay until it could be properly removed. In my case, this didn’t really work and over the two weeks before they could perform the surgery it came back bigger than before.

Tomorrow is the next step in the reconstruction of my nose/face. Even though I am both terrified and relieved, I have a  new mantra I am repeating as I approach this next chapter:  LIP Life Is Precious.

And onward and upward to the completion of Hand in Glove!

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Shopping for resources (and inspiration) in unlikely places

We are in the throes of what I would consider the tough part of this build (at least for me): making sure the technical requirements are aligned with the actual construction which is about to hit full throttle. It has made pulling the trigger a little tough at times as I am scared to death of doing something wrong that will result in a costly error (or of equal concern, will illicit an “I told you so” or “what were you thinking?” from my sweet but less engaged husband). As someone who probably shouldn’t be acting as her own general contractor, I am learning a lot but hopefully not at the cost of making a horrific mistake along the way.

One area I do consider to be a personal strength, however, is in finding those over-clichéd “diamonds in the rough.” I have already shared a few of them with you here through “look what I found” entries.

These might be items we can use in the construction of the house or as part of the décor once the structure is finally complete. No matter where I am, I seem to have an uncanny ability to unearth items that others might not give a second look and imagine “what if?” Sometimes that can result in an interesting but unusable relic that I need to then unload at the end of a project but generally I usually make things work in a way that makes people smile or at least say “I would never have thought of that.”

Finds for this house have been sourced from places as diverse as Craigslist, the Habitat for Humanity ReStore and an out of the way booth in a local antique mall.

One of my favorites is this. I knew that I wanted a big soaking tub for the master bedroom. I thought the internet might be a source to find such an item at a reasonable price. At a minimum I was sure that surfing the web would at least give me a point of reference in regard to pricing before visiting all the usual suspects.

But the treasure I unearthed after doing a quick search for “vintage claw foot tub” was mesmerizing, both in terms of its appearance and back story. An entry came up near the top of my search results that referenced  a “steam punk” tub, a unique juxtaposition that compelled me to at least click through and see what appeared at the other end. Imagine my surprise when the image that popped up showed a steel tub with a rusted exterior patina sitting atop three metal wheels. The description authored by its owner on Craigslist, was equally intriguing. This tub was not a creation of an avant garde artist trying to assemble something simultaneously vintage and edgy. In actuality, this tub was the real deal, over 100 years old and found in a factory in the northeast. But what was up with those wheels? I sent a quick note to see if the item was still available (in fact the description mentioned there were several) and to ask some more fundamental questions about functionality and condition.

steel bathtub best

Ben of Housewerks Salvage in Baltimore told me that the tubs had been unearthed in a confectionary warehouse. A century ago, the company decided the best way to move their product around the factory floor would be in a container fashioned after an actual soaking tub. So the company brought in a claw foot tub to create a mold and build dozens of the tub transporters. They were used for decades, only retired for more modern methods a couple of years ago.

I immediately snatched up the tub you see here. I can’t think of anything more fitting than a steel tub for a steel house. We will seal the interior but leave the exterior in all of its rusty, imperfect glory.

And once I have gotten through the stress of construction in a couple of months, I can’t think of a better place to kick back, soak my tired bones and reflect on the process for better or worse.

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Look What I Found! #3

chicken on egg vintage pagecow diagram on vintage pagemouse on vintage page

I love I stumbled upon the site years ago when it was first up and running, offering truly original works of art that were reasonably priced. While the site has exploded since then in terms of volume and quality (both for better and worse), it is still home to some truly incredible efforts. Browsing on etsy is like attending an art festival from the privacy of your home, with access to artists you may not have found otherwise. I still visit often to discover new artists, new works, new inspiration.

Examples of original art snagged from etsy are on display throughout our everyday house in Crestline (some examples shown below). In addition to these wall art pieces which I love, I have scored original serving pieces, jewelry and accessories.

bird on a wire art

white pieces from living roomelephant watercolor painting

trees mixed media piece

My latest find was another stumble upon but a great one. I was actually on etsy looking for an artist to create an original sign for our current house, recently dubbed Ivy Hill (scored one etched on a piece of recycled slate at T. Michael Studios,

But inadvertently I also located Spanish shop PRRINT ( They create art from vintage drawings, collages and original art printed on upcycled book pages. Most, but not all, of the pages are in Spanish which only adds to their charm. And the pieces I ordered, and that just arrived, are even more stunning than I could have imagined (or that you can see in the images shown at the beginning of this post). The vibrant colors and exquisite details literally pop off the pages.

In addition to their beauty, the art prints from PRRINT are also reasonably priced. I actually ordered 10 pieces. Why so many? Individual pieces are $7.99 but you also can order 10 prints for $50, or $5 each. What a great way to fill your home with beautiful art and to do a little holiday shopping at the same time. Shh! Can’t tell you about most of the other images I picked up because they are destine for the gift closet and ultimately to become treasures for beloved family members and friends.