Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Going Round and Round

Am I blowing you all away with my renewed blogging vim and vigor?!! Now that I'm ensconced in my new home and not driving cross-country or living out of my mom's house (which we did for weeks waiting to get into our house—thanks mom!), I'm actually able to sit down a little bit every day to blog. Yay! I've missed chatting with you all!

One of the project I started with my friends back in Utah was a round robin. We each made our own 18 inch square medallion center, then passed it along to the next person on the list. A new talented person every month. I thought I took a picture of my center before I passed it along, but now I can't find it. Sigh. So picture this: I made an extra large spool using selvedges from favorite fabrics. I then waved it goodbye and handed it over to the ever-talented Ella to work on before she passes it down the line. Each person adds at least a 3 inch border, so when we get it back (sometime at the end of the year), we'll have a finished quilt. I'm not sure what size. It'll be so amazing to have a quilt collectively made by such special and talented friends. Oh wait! I already have a quilt like that (see my Gratitude post!), but now I'll have another!

I've been so so amazed and humbled by the incredible talent of the women in this round robin! I don't want to give anything away about what others have done, but let's just say that everyone has set a high bar and I'm a bit freaked out about keeping up with the quality and creativity!

I totally want to write about what I'm doing on this round robin, but have to find a way to do it without giving it away for anyone who might be involved and reading this . . . any ideas? I'll at least show you some of the centers that people have done, editing out the borders that have been added.

Here are two that I'm about to work on:

Aren't these just gorgeous?! So different and each so creative!

Monday, September 16, 2013


Alright, no house updates in this blog, I promise! I'm taking a break to talk about my wonderful quilty friends and wonderful quilty things!

So, because I was a bit preoccupied with my packing up and getting out of Utah (which was quite a feat, given the 28 foot long truck we filled!), I have neglected to tell you all about the most amazing group of friends I have.

Almost two years ago I began to sew, learning most everything from blogs and the internet in general. One of the blogs I was following was Pamela's French Knots, which I found charming and full of great information. One day, I read about a retreat that Pam was hosting about 45 minutes away from where I live, and I decided on a whim to go. I didn't know Pam, and didn't know anyone going to the retreat. In fact, I had never even gone to a sewing retreat before and was still fairly self-conscious and nervous about my sewing skills—or lack thereof! Nonetheless, I gathered up my sewing things (feeling like I was packing to run away from home, I brought so much!) and headed to Utah County for the several day retreat. It was so great! I met the most amazing group of women and learned so much in the few days I was there! Pam threw a great retreat, with yummy food and a terrific class on appliqué.

It was at that retreat that I met Ella, Pamela, Kristen, Sue, April, Emily, and Amy. I'm not sure how it developed, but next thing I knew we were getting together regularly for sew days and retreats. At those days I met many other great people, including Marion and Jenny. Now it's been almost two full years, and I regard these women as great friends who made my time in Utah so special. I think I may have shared this story before, because last time I moved—then it was "just" across town—they showed up at my door with mop and pail (and wearing cute little bandanas) and cleaned our house from top to bottom with us. What a special gift it was!

When it came time for me to move east, I knew that the hardest part would be to leave my friends. I plan to return for retreats and such, but it's still not the same as being in the 'hood! Sweet Ella hosted a lovely farewell party for me the week before I moved, and they surprised me with the most wonderful, gorgeous churn dash quilt. So amazing! Just look at it—here's the front:

And here's the back:

Do you see? It has my first initial in the middle! The pink fabric is puppies from Ella's amazing stash. I had admired it once, and she generously gave me some of the fabric with a blue background. I was so delighted to have that fabric then, but to then discover the same fabric in pink on the quilt . . . so wonderful!

Everyone contributed a square, or binding, or quilting, and then signed it. What a special gift! I always think about my friends back in Utah anyway, but this is a particularly dear reminder. In fact, as I write this post I'm snuggled up in this great quilt.

April, in addition to her contributions to the quilt, made me an amazing, ever-coveted weekender bag. We had talked about making one, but I never dreamed she'd make one for me! I've been wanting one for so long, but they're such a project to make that I was a bit too daunted to try it myself.

Here's the bag in all her glory:

And here's the other side:

Here's the closeup on the front—the clothespin dolls are from my ever favorite Heather Ross:

And here's the closeup on the back—It's so so special, it even has a car pulling a teardrop trailer, just like we did driving across country!

Do you see the great Denyse Schmidt Flea Market Fancy on the bottom? April knows I love my Denyse Schmidt, so she used her fabric throughout. This was my "to go" bag on my trek cross country. You can fit a small country in here!

I miss everyone so much, but I can curl up with my quilt and use my weekender bag and feel so close!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Strip Tease

So the battle continues against the pervasive cigarette smells in our new house. We have officially waged war! The wallpaper is coming down, and not a moment too soon! It looks innocent enough, but waves of cigarette odors are emanating from the wallpaper as it's ripped off. So so gross! Fortunately, because there's plaster beneath the wallpaper, it's a hard, less porous surface than if it were dry wall. Plus, it also seems to come off a bit easier than I remember wallpaper coming off of dry wall. We've just needed to use a razor blade to pull off the top layer of wallpaper and a spray of water to loosen the second, backing layer of wallpaper to get back to the base plaster foundation.

I know, I know, I sound as if I'm a total anti-smoking fanatic! I really don't care if other people smoke, but going through this process of trying to clean up all the tar residue has made me truly appreciate what non-smokers breathe in when around cigarettes!

We're continuing to battle the gunk on the banisters, but it looks as if it may actually be the old varnish aging and clumping together—overlain with a layer of tar. Unfortunately, I think the only solution for this is to strip and revarnish the banister. Sigh.

Once we finish stripping and prepping the wallpaper, we're going to paint the upstairs hallway and stairwell a gorgeous rich blue that will play off the grey/blue in the bedrooms and more taupe-y grey downstairs. I can't wait—both for the elimination of the odor and the replacement of the wallpaper with a much nicer, rich color! We'd love to return the baseboards and trim to the original finished wood, but there are so many layers of paint on them right now, that we're going to simply paint them white and leave the refinishing for another phase of home decoration.

The more we clean the house (woodwork, trim, windows, etc.), the more we narrow down the offending sources of the cigarette odor. We've removed all window treatments (which weren't to our taste anyway), are working on the wallpaper, have painted over a lot already, so the only thing left is . . . the carpet! Fortunately, only the stairway and upstairs hallway are carpeted, and when we peeked we discovered beautiful hardwood beneath. We'll need to refinish the floors ultimately, but for now just getting the carpeting up will be a huge benefit!

Just look at how good the floor looks now that the burgundy carpeting is gone!

(the greenish, splotchy wall behind the stairs is the bare plaster that was beneath the wallpaper. Still some more to strip off, but we're almost there!)

Because it hasn't been as much a priority as battling cigarette smells and unpacking things like the kitchen and clothes, I haven't been able to do much in the Sewing Room yet, but I'm excited to have a sewing room in this new house. It's quite a bit smaller than my last one (where I was really spoiled). Do you remember that scene in Star Wars (the first one) where Princess Leia and Luke (and maybe Hans Solo?) were in the garbage room that was compacting and getting smaller and smaller? My sewing room kind of feels like that. The walls are definitely closer together than they were in Utah! Nonetheless, once I get my fabric unpacked and settled in I think I'll have a great space. I started to unpack my fabric, but then worried that it would pick up the cigarette odor (my fabric is sealed in huge plastic bags), so I've left almost all my fabric still packed safely away.

Here's a picture of the space, with only the bookcases set up and plenty of boxes to unpack:

Okay, enough on cigarette smells! We live only 6 miles from the beach, so we've already taken some great, early morning walks on the beach. I love the salty smell of the air and feel of sand beneath my bare feet! So, I'll leave you with a little bit of the beach . . .

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Back from the dead!

Hi y'all!

I know, I know, it's been MONTHS since I last posted anything, and I may well be posting this just for me to read, as everyone may have long given up on me!

Things have been busy here in Shortcookie's world, so it's not as if I don't have an excuse for my extended radio silence! Since we last chatted, I've moved across country to New York, just outside the big city! Yup, that's right! A Utah girl no more! I've returned to the East Coast at last! My partner got a fabulous job as a professor at a university located close to our new home, so we packed up and left the Intermountain West.

We found a wonderful and sweet little home here in New York, which was built in 1927 and has been in the same family since it was built! It has the most amazing big yard with a gorgeous garden. It has hydrangeas (my favorites!), azaleas, peonies (also my favorites!), and stunning rosebushes, among other great plants and shrubs. Just look at these roses:

I'm going to have my work cut out for me with all the weeding and gardening! We met with the sellers before we took possession of the house and they walked us through all the various stages of weedkiller and fertilizer and such. It was a bit overwhelming! It was definitely helpful to have them give us an overview of everything. Less of a blessing, however, was the large (3 feet high) white metal windmill they left us in the yard. Now I'm open to yard ornaments (to a point), but this one looks like it's right out of a mini golf course! I had been thinking the yard was perfect for croquet, but I may decide instead to build a miniature golf course out there! Not only did the sellers leave the windmill, but also a gigantic (definitely larger than life) white and red mushroom patch. No gnomes, though! 

We're having a good time settling into the house and have already begun putting our touches on the place. When we initially walked through the house we were stunned by how pristine the house was--the basement and attic looked as if they were regularly vacuumed out and every bit of maintenance has been done on the house. We apparently had buyers' goggles on, however, because we somehow didn't notice that the whole house is covered with a coat of tar from the seller's longterm smoking habit. We knew that the house was  bit smoky, and we anticipated having to air it out and clean the carpets and drapes and such, but we had no idea of how bad the tar was going to be. In case you're blessed not to know, when smokers exhale, they breathe out tar (yuck!) which, over time, accumulates on every surface it touches. It has a yellowish cast and is sticky to the touch. We spent the first days in the house washing down the walls. Here's what we've learned about cleaning tar off surfaces: First, leave bowls filled with vinegar throughout the house to absorb and kill the cigarette odor. Next, wash down the walls, trim, and baseboards with a solution of one part vinegar and one part water (you can also add some dish detergent for some added cleaning power). We did that, but the smell persisted. So we washed down the walls with TSP, which is an all-purpose cleaning agent and degreaser. Be sure you get the phosphate-free kind, because the original kind is terrible for the environment. 

The house still smelled just a bit . . . AND we had already decided we hated the wall colors, so we painted and we painted and we painted. Here's a picture of our girl Sophie against the awful wallpaper that ran throughout the living room, up the stairs, and in the upstairs hallway. 

If you can't tell, there's a weird background to the wallpaper that looks like dirt stains, but is apparently a deliberate part of the design. Go figure. Do you see the white baseboard behind Sophie? That was already that way when we arrived. Do you see the baseboard on the left by the painted wall? That was painted off white. Seriously, an off white baseboard just ran right into the white baseboard. This is the case throughout the house. Wackiness, right?

With the exception of the wallpaper behind Sophie and on part of the living room wall, most of the downstairs is wallpaper that was painted over in the past. Looks funky, but we just weren't up to pulling off all the wallpaper (dining room, large living room, staircase, upper hallway) and then possibly having to repair the plaster wall beneath it. Instead, we just painted right over the previously painted over wallpaper. Not a perfect solution, but the color is so much better than what was there before! And it has totally taken care of the cigarette smell! Yay! For those that care, we painted the downstairs Martha Stewart's Sharkey Gray. Yes, I succumbed to Martha's charms. 

The very first thing we painted was the master bedroom, which had been painted an appalling two tones of light and royal/aqua-ish blue. It was truly awful. The room has beautiful baseboards, and they were painted a dark blue! We painted this room Manhattan Mist. It's a grey with light blue tones. We really love it, especially with the white trim!

 My current project is to try to get the tar off of the stunning1927 cherry banister. It's a gorgeous architectural piece, but look how disgusting it's become (the orange peeking out is the natural cherry stain; the black speckles and clumps are tar. Really).

I've tried Murphy's Oil, which has helped quite a bit, but I think I would need gallons of the stuff to get this clean. Furthermore, the black speckly parts are actually rock hard, so won't just wipe off like it did on the walls. We've tried sandpaper, and it seems to work--it sands off the tar without even getting down to the stain. Does anyone out there have any other recommendations? CLR makes a product (Stain Magnet) which is described as safe for wood furniture and good for getting off bad stains and such, but the cherry wood is so nice I don't want to risk it.

Okay, that's enough for now . . . back to work and unpacking! My sewing room is still completely packed up (although we did paint it before the movers came--it had been an awful taffy pink), so no sewing updates for now, but hopefully by the weekend, because I have to cracking on my round robin sewing!