30 April, 2009

Chicago Quilt Festival 2009

As promised I'm back with a few pictures and commentary on the recent quilt show in Chicago. The first day crowd was tremendous, a half hour drive there took two hours. The last two miles alone took almost an hour to cover. Seemed everyone was going to the show. I was so busy looking at the quilt exhibit that I forgot to take pictures of my own but did purchase a CD of the quilts that were up for judging.

One of my favorites was "The Summer Before Christmas" by Maria Bayarena. Did you ever wonder what the characters, in the 12 days of Christmas, did during the summer? This quilt shows us. The detail is outstanding, the picture doesn't do it justice. Everything is hand appliqued right down to the tiny 1/2 long shoes!

A $2,500 winner was "Houston I Think We Have A Quilter" by Martha DeLeonardis.

Another winner was "Threshers" by Ingi Mardal & Steen Hougs, this one won $2,500 too.

Like I said there were a lot of people, most carrying cameras to record as much of the detail work as they could. Always a nice way to get ideas for the quilts we want to try ourselves. From what I know, all the quilts in the contest area were original designs and copyrighted, this is why no picture taking. BUT there were always the people who can't read signs or didn't care. I myself took one of a remarkable quilt with the Virgin of Guadalupe as well as other religious figures from many different religions. I was stopped, reminded "no pictures," and deleted from my camera. Wish I still had that pic, the quilt was covered in all sorts of embellishments - pearls, laces, beads, charms, anything and everything. Unfortunately this one wasn't on the CD.

Spent a good two hours looking over the quilts, then on to the best part of the show . . .the dealers booths!!! Must have been over 100 of them. Like dying and going to quilter's heaven. Everything you ever wanted to find, for quilting and sewing, was there! Pins, needles, threads, fabric, patterns, machines, sewing and embroidery and the best of the best, as far as I'm concerned, the Long Arm Quilters!! Those all-wonderful machines that make it possible to get your work quilted in a matter of hours instead of weeks! I fell in love with the new one in the Tin Lizzie line - show price 10,000 - after the show 14,000. Priced way out of my range but I did get to play with and test it. WOW! Where can I find 14,000?

Lunch was to be found but quite pricey. A hotdog, chips and coke came close to 8.00. There was other food, more like dinner, salads, pasta, beef sandwiches, etc for around 13.00 plus. Next time we take out lunch, a lot of people did although there are, again, signs, telling you this wasn't allowed.

Like I said, last time I met some friends. Chris Booth and her friend Mel from Winnebago west of Chicago on Friday. The quilt behind Chris and Mell is made up of hundreds of tiny octagon pieces stitched together! A version of a Grandmother's Garden pattern.

Then Saturday I met Linda Meyer from Washington and Barb Linares from Florida. These gals are from the online group I belong to—Quilters Who Care. This was the first time I met them, up to now all our talking was on our group's message board.

Here's a picture of the three of us.

That's me on the left, in purple, Barb in the middle then Linda.

Although I was quite conservative in my spending on Friday I more than made up for it on Saturday. But after all, this show only comes once a year and where else can I find anything and everything in one place? :)

That's it for now, I'll post more pictures later.

Box Mom

29 April, 2009

The Smile, Our Quirky Little Flower Bed

We call it "The Smile."

It's a flowerbed I started last year and never got around to finishing for lack of time and money, both of which ended up getting diverted to more pressing house projects. The bed, which is mere feet from the sidewalk, consists of two dwarf cherry trees, connected by a u-shaped band of hostas, above which float three small shrubs. During our first summer at The Box House, we focused on getting the trees and bushes established, since they'd be slow growing, but not much else. The hostas came mostly from my mom's other house.

It looks for all the world like a smiley face, and since last summer, it's been grinning at passersby.

I know it looks kinda stupid. I've caught a few weird looks and one rude comment. Last fall, just before freeze, Mom planted fistfuls of daffodil and tulip bulbs, which only emphasized the grin when they popped up this spring.

The neighborhood dogs continually pee on it. Or, I should say, the neighborhood dog owners allow their dogs to pee on the bed. It drives me crazy. Anyway, it hasn't been the yard's best feature.

Today, I finally decided I couldn't take it anymore. I dug out the rest of the bed.

I used a hose to lay out what I wanted. Then I grabbed Mom to get her opinion, only to disagree with her. She got irritated with me when it was clear I didn't really want her opinion, just validation.

She gave me the finger. Can't tell? Go on, click on the image.

Tsk. Tsk. (I told you I was going to put that picture up, Mom.)

I dug a trench all the way around the bed, approximately three inches wide. I used the refuse to build a berm, raising the middle of the bed slightly. I planted a forsythia in the middle (Home Depot, $23!), and smoothed it out with garden soil.

I didn't even bother pulling up the grass. Last year, I discovered that covering everything with thick sheets of newspaper (I used about 20 sheets) does an excellent job of smothering grass and weeds, while still allowing water to get to the roots of plants. It works just as well as weed barrier fabric. (Jenni at Thirteen Eleven has an excellent blog post on how this works in her vegetable garden.)

Then I dumped on four bags of mulch.

I know it still needs some kind of edging, but I'm actually quite happy with the results. We may need to rename this flowerbed the half-moon, but I doubt we will. Nicknames tend to stick. It's like how, in my old neighborhood, we called the Wilkes House the Wilkes House for a good twenty years after Jim Wilkes (one of my first crushes) and his family moved away.

Jim was soooo cute.

28 April, 2009

Chicago Quilt Show 2009

Box house mom here. This is my first blog post, Joanne is turning me loose for the first time. Yeah!! Went to Chicago Quilt Show a week ago. Have lots of pictures to post in the next day or so. But here's a teaser for now.

Cats were appliqued after the background was machine pieced.

20 April, 2009

1938 Aerial Map / Photo of Our Town, Illinois--Find Your Town

Came across a nifty site today: historicaerials.com, which has current and vintage aerial photo maps of various regions across the U.S., searchable by street address. Although the resolution is pretty horrible, even for the modern images, it does provide a glimpse of how an area changes over the decades. The 1938 aerial photo of our block shows the gigantic greenhouses that I knew were across the street, based on the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps. Our house, however, is just a grainy blob, and I can't see any sort of detail.

16 April, 2009

Chandelier Installation, WD40, and Plaster Color Selection

Oooh...our postal carrier brought us a box yesterday. What could be inside?

The dining room chandelier. Yay! In my hand I'm holding up one of the arms from the chandelier beside one of the sconces we installed a few weeks ago. We couldn't find a patent date on the chandelier, but it's obvious they are from the same line. The sconces themselves are marked 1926. The chandelier came from New Jersey, the sconces from, I think, a seller in Michigan. But we joked around that these were probably the original fixtures to our house come home again.

Unfortunately, the chandelier is not brass and copper, as the seller said. It's brass with copper-painted accents and steel. Know how we know it's steel? Because of all the rust. When we unwrapped it, we were surprised to see tons of rust flecks everywhere. When Ted disassembled the chandelier to rewire it, we saw why.

The base is made of painted steel, and it looks like water had at some point leaked from whatever ceiling it was hanging from, through the fixture, and collected in the base.

I grumbled a bit to the seller who did, to be fair, offer to take the chandelier back for a refund. But it matched our sconces exactly, so I wasn't willing to give it up. However, if a seller says it's made of brass, I don't want to find out it's really rusty steel.

We did what we could to halt the rust. Big fans of WD40, we soaked rags with it and wiped out all the interior rust, being careful not to let it flow onto the exterior finish. It worked pretty well.

We ended up wiping down most of the interior screws and anchoring bits as well, ridding them of rust and adding a protective layer of WD40.

Then Ted replaced the blah and boring lamp cord with bronze cloth-covered cord, at least for the cords that were showing. I think you can see a bit of it in the photo below. The rest of the cord had been replaced recently, and was in good shape, so we left it.

Then we hung it up, stuck in some bulbs, and went outside to admire it from the street. (You can see detailed pics of the chandelier at this previous post.)

The kittens seemed pretty impressed, too.

Or maybe it was just the lady bug crawling across it.

We're nearly done with what we plan for the dining room. Mom and I went to The Home Depot today to pick up some Behr Venetian Plaster for the walls. I'll do a how-to on Venetian Plaster next week, but here's a sneak peek at the color.

Yummy, no?

15 April, 2009

Susan Boyle Sings "I Dreamed a Dream"

I know y'all have probably already seen this, it's been all over the news, but seeing it just made my day. Cynical ol' me actually cried.

If it doesn't start up, you can watch it here.

14 April, 2009

Site Renovation in Progress

Please forgive the messy page and the oddly sized pictures. I'm spending this evening playing around with a three-column template design. It was time to spruce up the blog a bit.

10 April, 2009

New Chandelier for the Dining Room, Take 2

Remember the super nifty chandelier I bought on eBay more than a month ago?

The seller, who lives up in Canada, packed it really, really well. Better than most things I receive in the mail. The five shades were individually wrapped in specially fashioned cardboard containers, and the frame was double-boxed and packed so full with peanuts it would not shift in the slightest. The seller said it took her forever, but she was confident it would get to our house safely.

And yet, Fed Ex somehow managed to break it.

Part of the frame just snapped in two pieces.

It doesn't really look that bad, just a tiny little break. But the broken bit has a screw that attaches this arm to another part of the frame. Still, it's a clean break, and we figured we could probably glue it together. But because it is a 85-year-old light fixture, we decided to check in with some experts first. We first took the light to Marshall Electric Supply, Inc. (7400 N. Western, Chicago), an awesome place for hard-to-find electric supplies...

...and then on over to A Lamp & Fixture (3181 N Elston Ave), which specializes in vintage light repairs.

At both places we were told that because the frame is made of pot metal, it's essentially unrepairable. Neither would touch it. The pot metal could not be soldered because of its low melting point, and neither epoxy nor glue could be trusted to hold, not even the epoxies supposedly meant for pot metal. I Googled this afterward, because I'm stubborn, and found site after site and forum after forum that pretty much said the same thing. Unrepairable.

Technically, we could still hang it up and the other four arms of the frame would probably keep the light stable. But we didn't necessarily want to risk that, and having exhausted the options for repair, we decided to go ahead and put in the claim with Fed Ex for either full compensation, or partial compensation so we could keep the shades, which are lovely, and find another frame. I was glad we spent the extra couple bucks for insurance. One way or the other, Fed Ex would have to pay us something for breaking and devaluing the chandelier. This is where it got to be a pain in the butt.

The seller was, at this point, vacationing in Mexico so told me to go ahead and start the claim process. I did so through the Fed Ex web site, where it asked if I was the buyer or seller, and then had me upload photos and supporting documents. I then talked with a service rep over the phone and was told that someone would come by to look at it, but nobody ever showed.

The seller got back from vacation and tried from her end; after a great deal of hassle in which Fed Ex couldn't find the original claim, she finally arranged for them to come get the light for evaluation. Because it's an antique, they wanted to take it to their expert for an opinion. The receipts for what I paid, before and after photos, and evidence of what similar ones are worth, was not enough for them.

Still, nobody showed up. In the mean time, I got a letter from Fed Ex denying the claim because I was the buyer, not the seller. I was to start the whole process again through the seller, and Fed Ex would deal with the seller only. (Then why allow me, the buyer, to start the claim? I don't know.) This, in spite of the fact that the seller was now dealing with them directly.

The seller spent the next two weeks leaving messages higher and higher up the Fed Ex chain, and nobody ever returned her calls. Finally, completely frustrated herself, she had me pack up the whole thing and ship it back to her where she's going to take it to Fed Ex in person and show them the damage. She's already refunded me for the chandelier and for shipping both ways, but I worry what Fed Ex will say to her now that she has the chandelier back in her possession. I wish her luck. It's been over a month that we've been trying to get this settled, and I'm just glad that, from our perspective, it's over with.

Lesson: Always buy insurance when you buy big-ticket eBay items. One way or the other, the seller will have to find a way to compensate you.

Although bummed, I went back on eBay to see what else was out there. I wasn't feeling particularly hopeful, because through some sort of fluke in the first place our winning bid had been roughly half of what similar chandeliers generally go for; we were shocked at the time, and so excited that an original slip shade chandelier was within our price range.

So, I spent half an hour scrolling through auction listings for art deco chandeliers, and couldn't find anything suitable and affordable.

But guess what? Tucked amongst the other listings I actually spotted one for a 1920s chandelier to match the sconces (circa 1926) we just installed in the living room.

The Sconces:

The Chandelier:

I know, I know; it's a completely different direction from the slip shade chandelier we wanted.

It had a "Buy it Now" option for a little bit more than what we paid for the slip shade, and I went tearing upstairs, shouting for Mom and Ted, to take a look because I simply couldn't believe it.

Although there are some variations, it's obvious this is made by the same manufacturer. The ridges, the flowers, the arrow head designs, the fans. Both the sconces and chandelier have 'em.

And, unlike the slip shade light, this chandelier is made of copper and brass. We utilized the "make an offer" feature of eBay, and waited on pins and needles for all of two minutes before the seller got back to us with a yes.

What are the odds of finding this, do you think? It Fed Ex hadn't been such a pain to deal with and paid out the claim in a timely manner, we never would have seen this. It's fate. This chandelier was meant to be ours.

I still want to fit slip shade lights somewhere in The Box House, maybe the bedrooms. But for that, there is no rush. We already way blew the budget for the month on light fixtures. So no more chandelier shopping for me.

Unless I see a really cool one on eBay, that is.

04 April, 2009

Haiku to Our Washing Machine and Dryer

Joy! A new machine.
Fresh socks and clean underwear!
Wash, rinse, tumble dry.

Yeah, I suck at haiku. But the replacement of our very ancient washing machine and dryer was an event worth celebrating in poetic verse, perhaps the single greatest improvement we made at The Box House in the year we've been here.

I remembered as I was taking a photo of the set this evening for the ad listing I'm writing for the rental unit, that I had never made mention of the new machines--although I had complained bitterly about the old ones, I think.

There were two sets. One on the right:

And one on the left:

I took both these pictures during our final walk through. We didn't test the machines, but saw that the previous owner's granddaughter, who lived in the building, was using them. As it turned out, only one dryer worked, but you had to tape the door shut or lean a heavy weight against it to keep it closed. One dryer didn't really work at all. One washer worked well enough, but clothes never smelled fresh. One washer worked for very small loads only. The washing machine output hose drained directly into sink, something I wasn't used to but could deal with. What I couldn't deal with was the nasty-smelling stocking that was being used as a lint filter. And the flexible dryer house that was supposed to be sending the hot air outside? Broken. Who knows for how long. But it was obvious steam had been doing a number on the paint; you can see how everything in that corner was peeling away.

And underneath, behind, and beside each machine there dwelt a hairy spider. Shudder.

But the tinkers took the old machines away...

And not a day goes by where I don't give thanks for the new machines.

Ooh. Shiny.

For the curious, we went with the LG extra large capacity set that was on sale last fall from The Home Depot. Pricey little things (although less so with the coupons), but look at the color! Bahama Blue. We'll have to design the rest of the room around it.

02 April, 2009

Fan and Antique Art Deco Sconce Lights Finally Installed

Well, the rewiring of the living room took longer than planned--doesn't everything?--but we now have a new fan, antique sconces, and a new push button switch to match the one Ted installed in the dining room.

With the discovery that there were once sconces above our fireplace, we were quite excited to find vintage replacements on eBay. The patent date on the back of these says 1926, one of the three possible dates our house was built (1925 and 1928 being the other dates we've seen). Perfect.

Ted rewired the sconces and installed them last night. (If you're in the Chicago area, Marshall Electric offers some great deals on supplies.) I wanted to use flicker bulbs, but they really didn't produce enough light. Instead, we're using 40 watt (at least I think they're 40 watt) amber bulbs.

The effect is really cool.

The pattern on the surface of the bulbs creates wavy patterns on the walls and ceiling. It kind of reminds me of vintage theatre lighting:

And when you switch on the light of the new overhead fan, the whole room takes on a soft, cozy glow. Even though it was nearly 2 o'clock in the morning when we finished, we had to run outside to see how it looked from the street.

We had discovered that in the forties, a previous owner had removed whatever fixture was on the ceiling and capped it over, removed the sconce lights and plastered over the wall, and removed the only light switch in the room and plastered that over, too. That left only four--or is it five?--floor-level receptacles for plug-in lamps. For the life of me, I can't figure out what their motivation was. It looks so much better now.

01 April, 2009

Applique Quilt of Birds and Birdhouses

Mom just finished a quilt-for-hire project, and I'm really sad to see this one go. It's probably her best work yet. But at least it's going to my Aunt Marsha, and I'll get to visit it every once in a while.

This quilt was done entirely by applique, which means she cuts out teeny-tiny pieces of fabric and appliques them onto the quilt block.

Then she hand-stitches embellishments...

...like the flowers 'round a birdhouse...

...the needles of a pine bough...

...the creepers from a grape vine...

...or the delicate stamens of a flower.

My favorite block may be this one, but I've always had a fondness for blue jays.

Although this sunny yellow guy definitely makes me smile.

Go ahead and click on any of the images...

...it's the only way to see all the detail.

The time and effort Mom puts into her quilts is amazing, and she is able to get the work done despite her furry "helpers."

The end result is an heirloom that will get passed down through the generations.

We are definitely quilt crazy in our family! We have projects scattered throughout the house. This one that Bella is lounging on is a pillow made from a quilt square given to us by my grandfather's friend Ruby. She was quilting all the way into her nineties.