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!
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!