Day 6: The project.

Dear friends,

I started a new project today — a quilt for a special friend.

It’s a surprise, so I won’t say much here except I hope she likes it.

Based on what I know and what others have told me, bright colors, bold graphics, and a modern layout will please her. I skipped using a pattern and decided instead to improvise the size and placement of each fabric piece.

Here’s a sneak peek:

improv

Once the quilt has been gifted, I’ll tell you the story of the person it’s for. And when I show you the finished quilt along with the story, I think it will all come full circle in the way that only a lifelong friendship, a milestone occasion, and a mother’s love can stitch together.

In the meantime, I’ve got to get back to the sewing table, er, dining room. I’m on deadline.

With gratitude {for the joy of piecing together the story of a life},

Joan, who loves nothing more than a tight deadline and a challenging assignment

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Legit.

Dear friends,

I came home today to the best stack of mail, ever!

First, there was a sweet and thoughtful handwritten letter from my CupKate . . . the kind that makes a mother’s heart melt and that somebody will no doubt find after I die amongst my most treasured keepsakes.

Then, there was a typed form letter from the Missouri Department of Revenue. Magpie Quilts is legit! I have a tax ID number and am finally authorized to do bidness in the Show Me State.

<Picture me here doing a spot-on Steve Martin/Navin Johnson impression after the phone book arrives in The Jerk. “I”m somebody now! Things are going to start happening to me now!”>

As I have a habit of reading the mail over dinner, I very nearly did the happy dance over my plate of Mr. Mom’s homemade spaghetti. For a day of the week that normally produces little to cheer over, this Monday kicked boo-tay.

So here’s the deal: I finished a new quilt last week. And because it doesn’t make sense to mail my quilts one at a time to my cousin in Oklahoma, I’m going to post it for sale here. If none of my 47 faithful and 13 random readers are interested, I’ll ship it off to my bidness partner after I finish two or three more and the shipping cost is worth it. (Yes, I’m going to keep saying bidness through this entire post. I’m sorry. Chalk it up to Government-Stamp-of-Approval giddiness.)

By the way, I’m still thinking about opening an Etsy Shop for Magpie Quilts, as a friend suggested I might develop a Missouri following who will be disappointed that my creations are only available in Oklahoma. (I realize she was probably just being nice, but I’m willing to run with it.) Anyway, it’s going to be a while before I can make that happen for a variety of reasons mostly related to not enough time in the day.

So here it is folks . . . Listen hard and you can hear the drum roll reverberating in my head.

Sunday in the Park (Strawberry Jam, #2 in a series) — $125.

cherrystripe

A picnic basket. A shady spot under an oak tree. And a soft and colorful quilt on which to stretch out and spend a lazy afternoon with your sweetheart. These are the elements of a relaxing Sunday in the park, and Magpie Quilts’ latest design creates the perfect landing spot for your next outdoor excursion.

Strawberry Jam is the second in a series of Sunday in the Park quilts. It is made from 100% cotton fabric and features cheery and modern prints, with a touch of old-fashioned gingham. The front is an expanse of whole cloth featuring pink “berries,” punctuated by a column of multi-colored geometric and floral patterns.  The back features four large panels of pink gingham with window-frame sashing made from the primary print. The quilt is entirely hand-made — pieced, quilted and bound by a single artisan in her Missouri studio — and measures 58″ X 60″, making it suitable for covering your lap as well as your picnic spot.

All Magpie Quilts are safe for the washing machine if laundered in cold water with a gentle detergent and dried on a low-to-medium setting. The batting is an 80/20 cotton-polyester blend, which gives the quilt an exceptional drape and a light weight. The quilt was made in a smoke-free environment and has been pre-washed to give it the vintage appearance of well-loved linens.

If you’re interested in Strawberry Jam or have questions about Magpie Quilts, don’t hesitate to leave a comment here or email me at magpiequiltsbyjoan@gmail.com.

With gratitude {for a creative passion that is definitely lighting my fire},

Joan, who wishes to say one more time that Magpie Quilts is the brainchild of a woman who grew up in a heartland town she calls Mayberry, where catching fireflies on summer nights, sleeping under quilts hand-stitched by the local quilting bee, and sharing the bounty of a backyard vegetable patch never went out of vogue. Her quilt designs combine both vintage-inspired and contemporary fabrics in unfussy patterns that evoke a simpler time, a slower pace, and a love for the creature comforts of home.

The pretty thing.

Dear friends,

I promise after this post I’ll retire the naming convention of “The+adjective+thing” for my headlines.

It’s just that I had a bunch of stuff in my brain — all of which has been swirling around for more than a week and some of which I plucked out here and there and plopped down in a post. And I promise this is the last of that bunch.

Although I want to reiterate, as a thing, what I’m talking about today is very pretty.

But I guess by now you know I love pretty things.

Anyway, here’s a photo of my dining room I took about a year ago.

I have despised the dining room light fixture since the first day I toured the house in January 2011. The previous owners had a pool table in this space (guess they weren’t high on dining), so that sorta explains the billiards-appropriate light fixture even if it doesn’t explain the cheap, fake-brass approach to lighting up a room.

It’s shocking, really, that I lived with this monstrosity for more than a year, especially given how quickly I tackled the other eyesores in this house. (Anybody remember the awful blue Formica counter tops?)

Problem was, my house is contemporary. And I’ve never lived in a contemporary home, so all my stuff is not. Even though I’m learning to like the contrast of antique/vintage furniture in a contemporary home, I have been stumped on the lighting front.

Which way do I go? Vintage? Modern? Something in between?

I’m not kidding you when I say I’ve looked at thousands of chandeliers over the last year. I considered everything from starkly modern ones . . .

To something with a little mid-Century flair . . .

To something far more traditional (but with a twist) . . .

And part of the puzzle is that I’m cheap. I found chandeliers that, as Goldilocks would say, were just right, but they cost upwards of two grand.  So finding something I liked AND that was in my price range ($500 or less) was one tough assignment.

In the end, I decided the room was busy enough that I didn’t want a light fixture that made a statement. Something simple, something not too heavy, something with decent wattage for a big room, something not too modern but not too traditional was what I searched for. And I finally found it at Ballard Designs. Take a look:

I think it’s even prettier up close.

The white finish of this light fixture helps it recede against the white walls of the room. Given that my dining room is open to my living room — which means there’s a lot going on in a big space — I found this to be especially important. Better yet, the jute-wrapped shades bring a little warmth and earthiness to the decor and also match the jute rug in the living room (which, unfortunately, you can’t see in these photos but is visible in this post if you’re curious).

Ballards’ white coral chandelier is a knock-off of an insanely expensive designer version that’s been photographed in some very chi-chi rooms. I love a good knock-off and even though coral is hot right now, I also think it’s classic enough to last a good long while.

I’m getting very close to finishing up what I envisioned when we purchased this house. I still need two major light fixtures (one for the master bedroom and one for the den) and a couple of lesser ones (for the laundry room and the back hall), one more window treatment, and a couple of rugs, but I’m getting there.

And we all know getting there is most of the fun.

With gratitude {for the convenience of online shopping and a very handy man who tackles my honey-dos},

Joan, who’s not ashamed to say she’s mad for twinkly lights and always has some wrapped around her buffet mirror, which you might have noticed in the last photo and which she considers another very pretty thing

From boring to bravo: Bathroom re-do uno.

Dear friends,

After a few obstacles (there’s always obstacles), Mr. Mom and I finished up one of our bathrooms yesterday.

The powder room off our kitchen and pantry was beyond boring when we bought our house. It was downright tacky. Take a look:

The good news is the bathroom was tacky in a clean-slate kind of way. I’ve told you before how much I disliked the golden oak cabinets and blue Formica counter tops that were everywhere in this house. But at least there was nothing seriously bad to tear out. And the house was sparkling clean. I would have eaten off the floors (before we moved in — not so much after.) The previous owner painted everything white for a reason. She had an eagle eye and banished every speck of dirt. Even the garage floor was clean. Emphasis on was.

So what did I do to jazz up this small space? I added a little drama in the form of color and texture. Some wallpaper, a little paint, a new light fixture, a frame around the mirror and, voila, I suddenly had a powder room worthy of guests.

Isn’t it amazing what a little wallpaper and paint can do to a space?

I’m not usually a silver wallpaper kind-of-gal. But in a space this small, daring can be good. And this is essentially a contemporary home, so I needed to break out of my vintage-cottage shell.

The crazy thing is — I actually thought that wallpaper was going to work with the blue counter tops. I pulled a similar trick in the kids’ bathroom — I used wallpaper to tone down bad counter tops. (I’ll show you that re-do in a future post.) But as soon as this paper was hung, I realized it was never going to work. So I simply broke out the paint and a sponge and remade the counter tops with my own hands.

Here’s a close up:

Painting Formica is the oldest trick in the book to update on a shoestring. You just have to use a really good primer (I’m a Benjamin Moore fan) and cover the paint with three or four coats of polyurethane. Repeat with a new coat or two of polyurethane annually, and you’re good to go.

If I had my druthers, there would be white marble in this bathroom. But we don’t always get our druthers and I solved my counter top problem for $20 and a little elbow grease.

I know a lot of people are afraid of wallpaper, but I have always loved it. (My first job at age 18 was selling wallpaper, flooring and light fixtures in a home improvement store. I think I’ve had a pretty good eye since then.) Nothing transforms a space faster than wallpaper so, in that way, it’s really an economical decorating choice. The pattern is this room was on clearance for $9.99 a roll. I often buy wallpaper on clearance because it’s just too pricey otherwise.

By the way, I’m not a fan of wallpaper in large expanses. It gets boring fast. I find it works well in bathrooms, closets, pantries, laundry rooms, rooms with wainscoating, or rooms where a single “statement” wall is appropriate. And, by the way, I went through a wallpaper-border phase in my life. Please don’t go there. The time for wallpaper borders ended about 20 years ago, though I’m sad to say they had a longer shelf life in my homes.

One thing I haven’t figured out is how to photograph a room like my bathroom without capturing  myself in the mirror. I guess if I knew how to use Photoshop, I could cut myself and my camera out of the photo, but I’m not that skilled.

At anything except painting. (I told you I was an excellent painter.)

With gratitude {for my early stint in the home improvement store where I learned all about home decor and determined a college education was my ticket to something more than a minimum-wage retail job},

Joan, who, kitchen and bathrooms completed, can now turn her attention to the master bedroom where surely something fabulous awaits