Moving day tomorrow? Or snowed in?

I have been very pressed for time due to the moving situation, so I didn’t get to write anything lately.  Luckily I have a few new projects in mind, which I can post about, thanks to the house.  🙂

Last night I heard about a big storm predicted to begin today and last through tomorrow in the NYC area.  They were predicting 20-30″ of snow or more!  The problem is that our move is scheduled for 9 tomorrow morning!!  OMG.

I wanted to try to re-schedule, but my husband wouldn’t ask the company to when they assured us they wouldn’t have to re-schedule (but that if they “did need to then we’d work it out.”)  Gah.  So, I have to rush and pack per the original plan and not find out until morning if the move is then or Thursday!  I think that sucks royally, and I would really, really prefer to have been able to take a couple more days in packing not to mention shovelling the long driveway at the house.  I woke during the night again and didn’t sleep for hours.  This morning the snowfall is said to be down to 18-24″, but that is still a complication.  The high winds are a bigger problem, I would imagine.  Big truck + wind + bridge crossings = bad, no?

Years ago, when I still lived in central NY, there was a big storm which snowed the family in at my aunt’s on Christmas day.  There were 3′ of snow, and it was a big mess.  A few people tried to leave, but they didn’t even make to it down the road.  I take this kind of snow seriously even though it is difficult to trust the weather stations these days with all the hype they create for every storm.

I had to go buy food this morning, because most is already taped up in boxes, and I have tried to empty the fridge.  There were still plenty of spices, olives, pickles, sauerkraut, but nothing actually substantial in the pantry, not even a box of pasta.  I was so good about not buying anything extra.  

I need to go pack…  I’m afraid I may not sleep until nearly Wednesday.

Walnut-sugar snap pea-mint Pesto (the old fashioned mortar & pestle way!)

Last night I made something new, which, as seen in the title, was a fresh pesto of walnuts, sugar snap peas, and mint.  It was something very new for me to prepare and was inspired by a recipe I saw on my Facebook feed.  I’m never able to follow recipes without making changes, refuse to measure, and the local stores didn’t help matters: thus the pesto became my own recipe completely.

The FB recipe called for walnuts, mint leaves, pea shoots, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Of course the H-Mart across the street didn’t have pea shoots or walnuts, but I was already dead set on having some sort of fresh pesto!  I bought a clove of garlic, oregano, and mint then walked a couple of blocks to a big Chinese grocery (I think it is called GW?)  There I saw sugar snap peas and decided they would do.  Walnuts were nowhere to be found in the snack isle aside from some that were candied and unsuitable.  I settled on a package of pine nuts although they weren’t shelled, gah.  I was so hungry by now!  Luckily, on my way to the cashiers, I saw two options of shelled walnuts.  Once I was home I happily set about the preparations confident that I’d be eating soon.  Wrong.

Years ago I purchased a Jenn Air “attrezzi” copper clad blender (and mixer.)  It was quite the score off of eBay since they were discounted and discontinued but beautiful.  They worked very, very well too.  Unfortunately the kitchens in the last few places I’ve lived haven’t scored well in the countertop department.  My last kitchen was straight out of the ’30s, which was endearing, but there was no counter at all.  So, the blender and mixer were both rather inaccessible and infrequently used all this time.

After washing all the produce, toasting the walnuts, and putting some of the ingredients in the blender I tried to turn it on.  Nope!  It was dead, dead, dead.  D:  By now I was starving and very, very frustrated.  I tried the other power cord and a different outlet but to no avail.  Then I Googled, found that some other people had asked about the same trouble, but no one ever gave an answer.  Finally I chatted with customer support, but all they told me was that nothing could be done since the product was discontinued.  😦

I returned to the kitchen, stomach growling, husband cranky with hunger, and stared at the big pile of produce (of course I had begun making enough for several suppers!)  What to do??

I resorted to the original pesto making method: mortar and pestle, and to be honest it wasn’t too bad.  My only wish would be to have a much larger mortar since I had to resort to using a mixing bowl.

The ingredients:

pesto ingredients

Toasting the walnuts a bit:

toasting walnuts

The pesto:

the pesto

Finished, with a bit of parmesan:

walnut-pea-mint pesto

At least after all that effort it was absolutely delicious, and I have a few containers in the fridge for quick meals.  That will really help during the next week or so of moving stress.  I used only about four cloves of garlic, by the way, and I added a good amount of olive oil. The oregano was just something that I thought would be nice added to the mix.

What to do with an ugly sofa: Part II -planning

Hi!  So in part I of the sofa series I talked about supplies and promised photos.  Today I am including some and will talk about the first steps of tackling the project.  Let me start with the photos.

Remember when I said that the sofa was covered in some rather hideous baby blue brocade when I bought it?  Here is that fabric:

original sofa fabric

I still have to try and dig up photos from back then, but they are all saved on a hard drive somewhere and…  I’m just glad I had saved a cushion cover.  Imagine eight feet of this fabric!  Not for me!  😀

At the time the sofa had two seat cushions, and I have changed it to a single one.  I think it will look better.  Let me continue to describe the original design before showing the current “before” look.  It had two seat sections and four matching back pillows.  They were all box construction with cording at the seams.  The arms also had a corded seam and were a two-piece design.  It was all very tailored and formal.  When I began ripping everything apart I found that the thing had been reupholstered at least twice before.  I know I took photos of this evidence, and I really will have to find them to share.  😉

As for now?  Well, I’ve mentioned the temporary solution of wrapping a blanket around the cushion, but I made some other changes to it when upholstering it last time.  I kept the corded seam on the arms, but I didn’t want to do corded box cushions for the back pillows.  Instead I simply used two pieces front and back for each but dressed up with pleated corners.  That also made them boxier which seemed better for their use than plain corners which would have been weird.  Oh, and I didn’t get around to using the matching velvet for those and chose dark blue silk dupioni instead (to tie in with the other blanket I was using for the seat cushion.)

Here is the result and current look with the temporary blanket cushion cover in all its glory:


The new plan is to eliminate the corded seams on the arms.  (I’ll need to prep the padding better than I did before too.  You may see the ripples?)  This time I want a less tailored look, and changing to a less fussy construction also hides a few amateur mistakes better too, I think.  😉  I am considering adding a final layer of padding using memory foam, but I have to make sure that isn’t unwise first.  The back pillows covers will be made just like the silk but cut a little larger since I think they ended up undersized.  I’m also making four matching throw pillow covers to replace the ratty old ones.  Maybe I’ll use some sort of self fabric embellishments on two of those?  Lastly, I think I’ll keep the cording for the seat cushion.  It shouldn’t look strange since the edges around the wood will be finished with double cord.  Perhaps I’ll cord the throw pillows too?  Yeah, I like that idea.  My plan had been to get the pillows and cushion done first since I dislike that sort of sewing and never get around to it at the end, but it seems I may need to leave the throw pillows until later for cording and deciding about embellishments.

Moving on, I obviously did some rough yardage calculations before buying supplies, but today I began the cushions and pillows by figuring the dimensions to cut.  The four throw pillows require eight pieces of 19×19″ fabric.  The back pillows need eight 20×27″ rectangles, and the seat cushion two 25×84″ oblongs, one 4×125 for the front and side edges, and two 2 1/2×93″ pieces for the back zippered piece.  I’ll be sewing it in the muslin first in case I messed up.  😉  The muslin is mainly being used to add strength, but it is also a cheap way to be sure I like the looks of the changes I’m making.

Something I recommend for calculating yardage is to not only use online charts but grab some graph paper and a pen.  Use it to plan the layout on the fabric and you’ll see a more accurate number for your project.  I just did this, and unless I made a mistake, there is a significant difference in yardage require from last time (due to the nap of the velvet) and from charts!  I’d estimated 12 yards in my head, I bought 16 yards allowing for extra throw pillows and just to be safe, but the layout shows that exactly 10 yards may suffice if I am careful.  Sketching a layout also makes you consider the nap or direction of a print if that applies, and it should allow you create a less wasteful layout.  If I had just started cutting to begin the pillow cover then I would have wasted yardage for sure.

Before penciling in the cutting layout on graph paper I made some very rough sketches of the pieces required for everything noting the dimensions.  Like this:


Quite rough, eh?  😉

I decided that the graph paper lent itself best to half scale with each square representing 2×2″.  I drew the boundaries of the fabric in pen then switched to pencil for the layout to avoid headache.  It made sense to begin by sketching in the largest pieces required, and from there I just fit things in as looked wise.  The shaded areas are waste.  The section reserved for bias isn’t drawn to scale.  For some pieces I rounded up to make using the graph more quickly, but it should all give a general idea of the yardage required.

cutting layout

I am quite happy about only needing 10 yards.  Even if it takes a little more I definitely have plenty extra.  (Although I keep wondering what huge mistake did I make?)  There should even be more than enough to do the matching loveseat-sort-of-chair that I’d planned for later, yay!  Using a plain fabric is the <strong>best</strong> way to save money on upholstery fabric.  Any pattern, stripe, or nap will add yards upon yards to the purchase.

Well, I think this is a perfectly good stopping point.  I don’t think I am up for cutting and sewing today, so this is probably the last post about the sofa for a while since I have to pack, paint, do repairs… but I’ll try to post about other things over the next few weeks.

Geoduck adventure

I’m afraid that I may not have much time for posting in the next few weeks (or more correctly that I’ll not be able to tackle certain projects that I wanted to write about.)  Today that means a food post, but I don’t think it is a boring one.  😉

Last March I noticed geoduck clams being sold at our local H-Mart.  There is a good chance that you have never seen a geoduck, and I hadn’t before either, except on TV.  I’m pretty sure the first time I heard of it was on an extreme foods sort of show, but it sounded very yummy.  I had to try this for myself.

The geoduck is a clam from the Pacific Northwest.  The part which is commonly eaten is the neck, which the clam uses to siphon water while safely deep in the mud, and the very long neck sure gives it a questionable appearance.  😀  Every resource that I found instructed one to peel the siphon, slice it very thinly, and consume it raw.  I’m adventurous, and I love raw food, so I was ready to give it a go and planned a ceviche.

This is the funky looking clam:


Peeled and starting to slice:

sliced geoduck

It is very simple to peel once it is parboiled.  I read that the more the edges of the slices curl the fresher the geoduck, so I thought this looked pretty good.

For the salad base I just went with what sounded good to me that day.  It was a bed of spinach topped with avocado, slices of little sweet red peppers, red onion, jalapeño, and quartered cherry tomatoes.   Next I arranged the slices of geoduck, fresh coriander, squeezed one lemon’s juice, one lime’s, fresh black pepper, salt, and drizzled olive oil.  Doesn’t it sound delicious?

geoduck ceviche

geoduck ceviche closeup

Well, the verdict wasn’t so good actually.  I ate it all, but my husband declined after his first taste.  Perhaps the clam wasn’t fresh enough, I wonder, because it did have a sort of ammonia taste to it.  I’m sad that it didn’t work out, but I might try geoduck again someday if it is offered at a restaurant that I trust to have the most tasty presentations.

I was wondering what to make for supper tonight, and writing this post has me considering a re-make of the salad portion but topped with shrimp!

Repairing cracked marble results: nearly undetectable

Hi!  Today I had planned to begin the sofa reupholstering project, but I realised that I had better wait for the move after all.  It turns out that closing on the house is basically one week away, and I have a lot of moving preparations to make.  So, I did some errands and chores today, and I finally tried to repair the marble tray that I mentioned the other day.

The other day I had a little kitchen accident.  😦  You see, I love marble, and since I couldn’t have a fancy marble countertop I used a tray I found on sale at the local Restoration Hardware outlet as a way to include it in our kitchen.  I really liked the antique/rustic look of the tray and thought it made a great dry sink to place herbs, greens, and vegetables in after washing while in queue for chopping.  Then I fumbled and dropped a full bottle of olive oil.  It hit a corner of the tray as it fell, and the corner cracked right off in two pieces and some crumbs!  :sobs:

This isn’t the first time I had to deal with cracked marble.  When I was moving in with my husband the piece that tops our coffee table snapped in two.  I still haven’t found a suitable replacement a couple of years later and had found the table in my favourite Salvation Army thrift store.  It was quite the find being marked as sold at 150$ yet not picked up after weeks.  Their policy is to allow a day, so I asked about it.  They told me I could have it for 17$ (35, but it 50% off day) if I took it immediately.  Sold!  I planned to strip the base and do a particular finish, but it turned out to be plastic overlay not carved wood (surprise to me!)  So, I did a wash over it with plaster mixed with white paint and liked it very much.  When it cracked I was sad but thought I’d find something nicer.  Eventually hasn’t happened yet, and I wish I had done better than the hack-job glueing that seemed okay at the time.

Now I know better but still didn’t know exactly how to repair a crack.  I did some research and found that epoxy mixed with stone dust is the way to go, but I couldn’t find an exact product.  I’ve ended up with some sort of Loctite epoxy and a piece of marble tile to pulverise.  I’m not pleased with the fact that it is described as translucent yellow, but I hope it will not be too obvious, because it was the best I could find at Home Depot.  If I begin mixing and it looks terrible I’ll keep searching.

…So I crushed a bit of the marble tile.  It wasn’t too hard, and finding a surface to smash it on was the most difficult portion of the task.  Haha.  Then I left everything for a week since it looked passable held together with scotch tape.

held together with scotch tape

The repair actually wasn’t the bother I expected, and it took me only about ten minutes.  I laid out the supplies, read the instructions on the epoxy, and extruded some onto the foil.  I realised pretty quickly that I would need to cut the cotton off of the q-tip, because the fibres were sticking in the mix.  It wasn’t difficult to transfer the mix to the pieces, really.  Then I held it together while it set.  I did my best to line it up well.  Next I swabbed away any excess epoxy with rubbing alcohol.  After the mending layer held I mixed another batch of marble dust and epoxy to fill in the voids.  Applying this was easier than the first portion, and it filled in almost on its own.  I think it was a very successful repair!  Looking at the whole tray I’d bet no one would realise there had been a repair made to it.  Do you agree?




mixing crushed stone into epoxy




side closeup

I hope this post helps other people as a cheap but very nice looking way to fix broken marble items they may have.  🙂

What to do with an ugly sofa? Part I -supplies and where to get them

I meant to write sooner, but I’ve been sick.  😦  Today I slept in again and awoke feeling quite a bit better, so here I am.  (Actually, I began writing this a couple of weeks ago and am posting now that I finished the post.)   I had some normal cleaning to do, like vacuuming, and one thing led to another until I’d organised a very messy (embarrassing) closet and made the living room look a little better.  The closet project was very satisfying and was due to seeing a box of Space Bags at Costco.  I used all of them and shrunk my hoarded linen pile into comparative nothingness.  Yay!  It also eases my concerns somewhat about bedbugs in the building, because Do Not Want!  Anyway, I’ve mentioned an upholstering project that I plan to write about in the coming weeks, so here it begins…

A few years ago I was at the Salvation Army thrift store on half off day, and I saw a great vintage sofa.  It was mid-century-ish with a sleek wooden frame and rather ridiculously was upholstered in a pale blue brocade featuring some sort of blossoms.  (My mother loved the fabric.)  I’ll have to try to dig up photos.  Anyway, wooden frame sofas really appeal to me, and I figured I could re-upholster it.  Myself.  After all I was able to buy it for only $50, and surely upholstering wasn’t *too* hard, right?  Soon I’d bought some supplies, a book or two and tackled it.

It didn’t go too badly although there was a big mess for a while.  The only trouble is that one of my cats is really, really dumb… and she peed on it a few times to protest being left alone too much while I dated my husband.  Ugh!  Now all that work was ruined when the only things left to complete had been the pillow covers and part of the seat cushion covers.  :cries:

My solution for a while, which turned into more than two years, was to remove the cushion batting, wrap the foam in heavy duty trash bags, seal it with tape, and pin a heavy blanket around them as a sofa cover.  It worked very well, but it sucked.  😀

These two years I’ve wanted to re-reupholster the sofa, but my husband didn’t seem bothered by it and wouldn’t agree to fabric and foam as suitable holiday gifts to me.  This year I finally talked him into it, and the pain of having to redo the work has faded too.  My birthday was in November, I have finished sourcing my supplies, and I need to tackle the project before we move (in less than a month?)  In December I purchased new seat foam and wrapped it temporarily with a smaller throw blanket.  The new foam was a joy to sit on compared to the old worn out stuff, and my husband seemed to be happier about the project.

First things first: supplies and suppliers

For this project I knew I wanted to use heavy grey or natural greyish linen fabric.  Last time I tried velvet, and it is of course a cat fur magnet.  It also is trickier to work with due to the direction of the nap, and it requires more yardage.  I ordered a pretty dark grey swatch from a wonderful seller on eBay, but the fabric was too thin for a sofa.  The reason I mention them is that their customer service was excellent, and when the swatch didn’t work out they sent me other options at their own expense.  I feel bad for not ending up buying from them, so here is a shout-out instead.  😉

I did a little research and found several mentions that the Warsa linen line from Gray Line is suitable for sofas and chairs.  I had a colour card of their Judy linen since I use it a lot in clothing, but Warsa has fewer to choose from.  When I finally made it to the store last week the only colour that came close to what I wanted was “dark wheat,” and I bought 16yds.  I’m pretty sure that is enough.  I hope so and know I used less last time, but I’m covering more pillows this time around.  I almost bought extra for a round loveseat thing that I might want to match, but I can always go back for more.  Anyway, if I ever buy so much again I’m looking into the shipping cost, because lugging the heavy bolt home via the subway was awful!!

The cushion foam I wanted was 24×84″ and 4″ thick.  You may not know this, but aside from the fabric the most expensive item you may need for an upholstery project is likely the cushion foam.  Bigger pieces are pretty insane!  (Normally upholstery fabric can be 15$ a yard and goes up to hundreds or more, depending, but you can be thriftier with effort.)  In this case I could have spent more on the foam than fabric!  You don’t always have to buy new foam, but I sure had to.  First I planned to use diyupholsterysupply, but it was soooo much money that I shopped around first.  Joann’s often has coupons, so that was an option, but they didn’t quite have the size I needed.  I actually ended up purchasing it on Amazon even though it wasn’t a prime item and there weren’t many reviews or clues about the quality.  The foam turned out to be perfect and something like 50$ less than diyupholsterysupply.  (Gawd, from now on I’m writing DIY instead, because that is so unwieldily.)

I did order other things from DIY such as cambric for finishing off the bottom of the sofa, muslin to pre-upholster with, and seat decking.  From Joann’s I bought a roll of upholstery zippers and batting.  They didn’t have the invisible zippers I needed, so I purchased them in the city at Pacific.  I already have a staple gun, a roll of tack strip, a tack puller, thread, hot glue, and foam adhesive.  I’m not sure if I’ll end up using cording, but if I do I have a whole reel of it from last time.  As a note on the staple gun, if you will be doing a large item or many over time then try to get one that is air operated as long as you can use a compressor.  Living in an apartment building I couldn’t.

Alright, it is time for me to actually go work on this instead of writing about it!

Just a note, I have decided to give links to products that I use or stores that I mention.  At this point I am writing for myself and not encouraged, paid, or compensated for anything on this blog although it would be cool to become an Amazon affiliate or something eventually.  Anyway, I wanted to link to certain things and figure I better link to anything mentioned, wherever it is online, although it looks kind of weird and commercial . 

“BILLY” bookcase as a dust free shoe-case

Hello and happy 2015!

I sure wish I had written a post or two between the last and now, but things have been really hectic with the holidays, tiling a backsplash for my mother-in-law, and some other things.  Meanwhile I began some posts but didn’t finish them yet.  One project that I worked on will be featured in a post soon: revamping ugly grout with a sealing stain product.  That was… interesting.  😉  Aside from that I am about to begin re-upholstering our sofa and will show the process step by step.

The sofa:

Sofa with new cushion and blanket for now

Today I will be cutting fabric and sewing the pillow and cushion covers, but before that I have to repair a broken marble dry-sink trough.  My next post will likely be about mending the cracked marble.

For this post I’m sharing a shoe storage idea that I have used for about two years now and am very pleased with.  Before moving in with my now-husband I, like most people, simply kept my shoes on an inexpensive shoe-rack in the coat closet.  Well, when I moved in with him I was irked that there was no such coat closet, and even if there was we each wouldn’t have had enough space.  Additionally I dislike when things are not “away” and out of sight although a couple of often used pairs for each of us can be left near the door if kept orderly.  😉

So, at first I bought some sturdy and nice-looking shoe shelves from Amazon, and I installed them as a towering unit in the bedroom.  It was great!…  Until the dust began to build up.  Meanwhile his shoes were on a wire rack in his clothes closet.  Neither of us were thrilled to have to remember to grab the pair we were going to wear before leaving, and the dust became a big problem on mine.  For some reason this building has levels of dust that I’ve never encountered before, and in spite of vacuuming every other day my shoes were coated in it before long.  Nobody has time to periodically vacuum each and every shoe they own inside and out, plus the shelves, so I had to come up with a better solution.  Enter the Ikea “BILLY” bookcase.

Several years earlier I purchased a couple of BILLY units and set of etched glass doors, and I had been using the one with doors for my sewing supplies (and one without doors for books.)  The doors made a huge difference in dusting requirements, so I went off to buy another pair for the bookshelf.  As I perused the specs I wondered if my shoes would fit, measured, and they did!  Wonderful, so I ended up buying another unit, pair of doors, extra shelves, and put everything together.  Every pair of shoes, even boots, has a space, and I haven’t had to dust any yet.  Perfect.

Unfortunately the frosted and etched doors I had bought years ago weren’t available any longer.  I had to clear but etched instead.  My husband would like for me to put rice paper or something behind the clear glass, but I don’t mind the current look with the darkness of the “black-brown” finish.  Currently Ikea doesn’t even have etched glass, which I am sad about, but paper, fabric, or paint can be a fun solution if you want to hide things and personalise.  This certainly isn’t the cheapest shoe rack, but if your shoe size accommodates it (I’m a 37 or 38) I think it is a excellent storage solution.

Here is my BILLY shoe-case:

shoe BILLY  BILLY pair

I didn’t even pretend to organise the sewing BILLY for you.  This is the clutter as we generally see it… in our living room.  😀  We both cannot wait until we move into the house where I have an entire sewing room.  Aside from that clutter I do really like the look of two+ BILLYs almost like one unit.  If I had reason to I might have a whole wall-full.  *Don’t tell my husband, but I am thinking of using the same set-up in our house, too, but storing my purses/bag in the second unit.  (Right now I only use the same daily backpack-purse even if we go someplace nice, because the others are all in storage above a 93″ tall PAX closet which is definitely not ideal.)