the isle of skye.

Way back when Mr. Q and I were trying to figure out where to go on our vacation this year it was Mr. Q who stumbled across the cruise we ended up booking.  The main reason he was drawn to this particular itinerary was the stop at the Isle of Skye.

You see, Mr. Q’s step-dad is a McLeod.  And Castle Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye is the seat of Clan McLeod.

So you could say that this entire trip was planned around seeing Castle Dunvegan.

And this is where my story takes a turn for the dark side.

I made the decision to book an independent shore excursion to Castle Dunvegan with a company called Tour Skye (not to be confused with several other tour companies operating on Skye with similar names).  I’ve booked shore excursions with independent companies before and always had good luck with them, so I wasn’t particularly worried about the fact that we had to pay in full in advance (and after all, we also paid for our ship sponsored excursions in full in advance as well).  But when I couldn’t get the tour operator to commit to a specific start time for the tour I started to get a little nervous.  Instead we were just told to get off the ship as soon as possible and we would be met at the pier.

I understand where they are coming from on this.  They are taking a group, and they want everyone to get off the ship as soon as possible while at the same time they don’t want people to be worried that the tour will leave without them if they aren’t the first people off the ship.  Since this port requires a tender (that means the ship is anchored away from shore and you take a small life boat to the pier), it can take a while to get everyone off the ship.

Sure enough, we were met at the pier as soon as we disembarked from our tender and we were told to walk up the hill to the town square and wait there for our entire group to be assembled.  So far, so good, I thought.  But what I didn’t realize was that our group of 8, all of whom were ready and waiting at the appropriate meeting point by 8:30 a.m. would be left waiting in the town square until 9:45 for our tour guide and van.  It seemed as though our guide was responsible for getting all of the other tours organized and on their way before she could head out with us.

Had we known how long we would be waiting, we could have walked around Portree and at least enjoyed a little of the town.  Instead we sat in that square not knowing if our guide was going to show up in five minutes, or in 75 minutes.  Turns out it was the latter.

But we finally loaded into our van and headed off to see the Isle of Skye.

It was a foggy, drizzly day, but I actually loved that.  It was exactly the kind of weather I expected to find in Scotland and it gave everything a misty, mysterious air that was very romantic and lovely.

As we drove along our guide explained that she was taking us to a scenic overlook, but we might not be able to see much in the fog.

 Sure enough, we pulled off the road and were surrounded by nothing but fog.  We drove on to another site with a similar result.

We drove to a third site, Kilt Rock, and this time we could see the view and it was lovely.

But I was starting to wonder, when were we going to go to Castle Dunvegan?  Did we somehow get on the wrong tour?  Our tour was supposed to include a morning stop at Castle Dunvegan, then a lunch stop where we would dine on “the very best of the Scottish cuisine”, followed by a “whiskey tasting experience” in the afternoon.  After our late start it was already closing in on lunch time and we hadn’t even gotten to Dunvegan yet and the last tender to our ship was leaving at 3 pm so how were we possibly going to fit it all in?

Our guide next drove us quite a long way down a harrowing single track lane in ever thickening fog to take us to the Fairy Glen.  If you aren’t familiar with the concept of a single track lane, it is basically a narrow road that is only one car wide, but yet it isn’t a one-way road.  Cars can travel either direction, but every so often there is a little spot where one car can pull off and let another pass.  So, if you come upon another car and you aren’t near one of those spots, one of you has to back up until they can pull off.  Cars are bad enough, but people drive camper vans down these roads.  And trucks pulling trailers.  It was quite the experience!

But we made it to the Fairy Glen in one piece.  The Fairy Glen is made up of unique geological formations that were the result of a landslip.  Or, as I prefer to believe, it was created by fairies and they may still live in ‘Castle Ewan’ (below) to this day.

The Fairy Glen was beautiful and so unique, and it was perfect seeing it in the misty fog.

As much as I loved seeing it, it really wasn’t supposed to be on our itinerary so I approached our guide and asked “um, we are going to Castle Dunvegan right?”

“Oh yes,” she said.  “We’ll have lunch next and then we’ll go to Dunvegan.  Don’t worry.”

Our lunch stop was at a lovely hotel, but I was surprised when asked if I preferred a ham sandwich or an egg/mayo sandwich.  Huh?  This is “the very best of the Scottish cuisine” that we were promised?  A sandwich and some tomato soup.  Underwhelming, to say the least.

At this point it was about 1:30 in the afternoon.  Everyone in our small group of 8 was wondering how in the world we were going to fit in a Dunvegan visit and a whiskey tasting and still make it back to our ship in time for the last tender.

Our guide kept assuring us this was possible though, so I was shocked when I asked her how far away from the ship we were and she said about 40 minutes!

By the time we pulled into the parking lot at Dunvegan it was 2 pm.  And we were 40 minutes from the ship!  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out at this point that not only are we not going to get to the whiskey tasting, but we are only going to have 20 minutes to see Dunvegan.  Oh, and did I mention that our guide/driver hit a pedestrian with the van in the Dunvegan parking lot?  Thank god the person wasn’t injured, just startled and rather pissed off.

Dunvegan looked like a lovely place, what little we got to see of it.  We took some really quick photos including one of Mr. Q in front of the castle so he could prove he really was there.

I felt just sick inside that we were standing right there at Dunvegan castle, but we were going to have to race through it and not see much.  I had this experience once before at Versailles and I am still bitter about it years later.

The quick glimpse I got of the gardens while running past them told me that I was missing out by not getting to see them at all.

We basically dashed through the castle straight to the gift shop.  We HAD to bring souvenirs back for Mr. Q’s step-dad.  After making our purchase we literally had to run back to the van.

What followed was a nail biting 40 minutes of dead silence as our guide drove us back to the port.  Not a single person said a word that entire time including our guide.  I think we were all wondering the same things, were we going to make it back in time?  Would our ship really sail without us?  Is the last tender at precisely 3 pm, or will there be another at 3:10 for the stragglers?  How far is it to our next port of call if we miss the ship and have to get there on our own?

I think I looked at my watch about 25 times during that ride.  I kept thinking that surely the port was just around the next corner.

We finally screeched to a halt at the pier at 2:58 p.m.

We all practically jumped out of that van and kissed the ground.  The personnel from our ship were there to greet us and welcome us back on board the Zuiderdam with smiling faces.

We had made it!

Upon our return home I sent an email to Robert at Tour Skye to express our dissatisfaction with the tour.  Of course, that email as well as a 2nd email have fallen on deaf ears.  I haven’t even received a reply, let alone an apology or remuneration of any kind.

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that booking independent shore excursions is a mistake.  As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I’ve done this many times and never had a problem.  I’ve also had equally bad experiences with ship sponsored shore excursions, like the time my tour bus caught on fire.  The local tour guide told us to stay in our seats, even though the bus was on fire (obviously we ignored that instruction and everyone got off the bus!).  We had to be rescued by another completely full tour bus from another cruise line, and then stand in the aisle of that bus all the way back to the ship.  I didn’t get my money back from the cruise line for that excursion either!  Although that time we did get to see all of the promised stops on our itinerary, they were just augmented by a potentially life threatening situation.

Travel is always going to involve some glitches of course, but it’s so disappointing when people don’t live up to their promises and can’t even be bothered to apologize for it.  Perhaps Mr. Q and I will make it back to the Isle of Skye someday.  If so, we’ll definitely do it differently next time!  It really was a beautiful place and we’d like to see more of it.

But let’s move on, shall we?  It’s definitely time to put our bad experience with Tour Skye behind us.  Be sure to come back next Wednesday to read about the opposite side of this coin, our fantastic experience in Invergordon with our private guide, Alda.

to paint or not to paint.

I gave you a little sneak peek at this cane back bench when I posted about my current mission, making over our master bedroom.

Here’s a proper full-on ‘before’ photo …

It’s a little dirty, the finish is dried out and dinged up, and see all of that stuff hanging down under the left side?  That’s because there is a big ol’ hole in the cane seat …

I purchased this bench from my friend Lisa.  If you think I paint a lot of furniture, well, I’ve got nothing on Lisa!  She often posts photos on Facebook of pieces she’s brought home to work her magic on.  When she posted a pic of this bench I knew I had to have it.  I asked her if she’d consider selling it to me ‘as is’, even though I knew her plan was to paint it and add an upholstered seat.  Luckily she said yes!

You see, I knew I wanted a bench to place at the foot of my bed, but I wasn’t sure that I wanted it to be painted.  You might be surprised to learn this, but I prefer a mix of painted and unpainted pieces in a room.  I like to have some warm wood tones mixed in with all of the painted pieces.  In the Q Branch it’s my desk top that remains wood.  In the living room it’s my factory cart coffee table.  Up until now it has been the bed in my bedroom.  But now I’m thinking it will be this bench (I plan to paint my new headboard, I’ll be sharing that soon).

So, keeping all of that in mind, here’s what I did with the bench.  First I cut out the bad portions of the cane with a utility knife.  You don’t want to see those raw edges hanging down under the bench right?

I suppose I could have removed all of the cane from the seat, but why bother?  This was much quicker.

Next I asked Ken to cut a piece of hardboard to fit the seat.

Then I used some Murphy’s Oil Soap and hot water and gave the bench a really thorough cleaning.  Once the bench was dry, I decided to try freshening up the finish with some Miss Mustard Seed hemp oil.

I’ll be honest, once I’d made the decision not to paint I didn’t even consider stripping and re-finishing.  That would have been a far too putzy job with all of the detail on this bench.  Plus, I didn’t know how to work around the cane.  In addition, I really didn’t want a brand new looking finish.  I wanted the bench to look old and worn.  That’s my favorite look after all.  But I did want to clean it up some.

So, I poured a little hemp oil into my measuring cup and applied it with an inexpensive chip brush that I use exclusively for hemp oil.  I let the oil saturate the surface and then wiped away the excess with a rag.

Here’s a semi-presentable photo of how much better the wood looks with a little hemp oil.  It darkened up quite a bit, and the oil adds a bit of shine.  You can sort of see how very thirsty this wood was!

Now, had I been planning to sell this bench, I would have used a sturdier piece of plywood for the seat.  Then I would have added some foam and batting and then upholstered it by stapling some fabric over it.  Finally I would have used screws to attach the new seat.

But since I’m keeping this, I’m cheating a little.  First of all, I know we’re never going to sit on this bench.  It will be at the foot of our bed and the most weight it will need to hold is a pile of clothes fresh from the laundry.

After splurging on an authentic European grain sack that I ordered from Etsy, I stuffed it with a couple of pillow forms.  Then I placed it on the bench and realized that it made the perfect slouchy cushion as is without requiring any sewing, cutting or stapling.

It completely covers up the hardboard, so I decided to just go with it.

By the way, how amazing does that wood look now?

I knew that you could refresh wood with hemp oil like this, but I am still wondering how long it looks this good.  How fast does it dry out again?  Well, we’re going to find out.  Since I’m keeping this bench I’ll be sure to report back with some updates down the road.

Now I know that some of you might be thinking ‘dang, that bench would look so amazing painted with some nice, chippy milk paint’, and I’m not going to disagree with you on that.  It definitely would.  But for my purposes right now I think it will work better in my room in its original wood.

But I could always change my mind down the road and paint it.  Once the hemp oil is cured, I could wipe this down with some mineral spirits or some TSP substitute and go ahead and paint it.  You never know, one day I just might …

embracing the imperfections.

I have wanted a ship lap wall ever since the first time I binge watched Fixer Upper.  I can’t remember who told me about that show (I’m pretty sure it was Meggan, am I right Meggan?), but I watched the first episode and was hooked.  That was back when I still had cable TV and they happened to be having a Fixer Upper marathon one winter day while I was painting a piece of furniture in my piano room.  I think I watched the entire first season in one day.  I fell in love with ship lap walls that day, and I bet thousands of other viewers did as well.  Twenty years from now the next generation of DIY’ers will be cursing us as they have to remove the ship laps walls that have become dated.

But in the meantime, my ship lap dream has finally come true.  We’ve added a ship lap wall as part of our master bedroom makeover.

I read lots of ship lap wall tutorials before beginning my project and although I took bits and pieces of wisdom from each one, I didn’t follow any one method exactly so I thought I’d share a post about how we did it.

I’ve decided to add a new feature to my blog posts and I’m going to call it the p.p.p., the putzy-est part of the project.  It seems like nearly every project has one of these, right?  Well, in the case of this wall for me it was buying the wood.  Please note the important words for me.  I don’t know why, but I find that figuring out and acquiring the appropriate supplies is always the most intimidating part of the project.  I’m sure most of you have no issues with this at all, it’s just me.

It began with calculating how much wood I would need.  I measured my wall and then calculated the total square footage as a starting point.  Then I decided to make my boards 8″ wide because that would fit pretty evenly floor to ceiling on both the vertical lower portion of the wall and the upper angled part of the wall with a 6″ board at the very top.  Next I did the math to calculate how many 8′ long x 8″ wide boards I would need.  Then knowing that I would get 6 boards out of every 4′ x 8′ sheet of wood that I had, I figured out that I would need 4 sheets.  To double check I calculated the total square footage of 4 sheets, 128 square feet, and compared it to the total square footage of my wall, 112 square feet.  Seemed like a good bet, so I went with it.  It was a little nerve wracking because after I had the pile of wood everyone kept looking at it and saying “are you sure you got enough?”  No, I wasn’t sure, but I was optimistic.

Next I made a few phone calls to find out which DIY store would cut the sheets into 8″ strips for me.  Menards was out, they don’t provide that service.  Home Depot said they’d do it for 50 cents per cut.  Perfect.

So Mr. Q and I drove over to our local Home Depot and this is where things really got putzy.  First we had to find someone to help us find the right wood (we ended up using 1/4″ thick sheets of 4 x 8 underlayment).  The first employee had no idea where that was, so she had to call someone from lumber.  That guy pointed out the right wood, but then sent us to the Pro desk to arrange to have it cut.  The guy at the Pro desk was on the phone, so after waiting for about 5 minutes for him to finish that call, he then told us that we needed to go back to the lumber guy to arrange the cutting.  When I pointed out that the lumber guy sent us to him, he then suggested maybe someone at the customer service desk could help us out … all the way at the other end of the store.

But then we got lucky.  Sarah at the customer service desk was super helpful and friendly.  She arranged for our wood to be cut, told us they’d call when it was ready and processed our payment for the sheets without charging us for the cuts.  Nice!  The p.p.p. was done!

My next step was painting the room.  I painted the other three walls and the ceiling in a Benjamin Moore color called Edgecomb Gray.

I wanted just a hint of color so that our beautiful white trim would still pop.

I expected this color to be more gray, after all ‘gray’ is in the name.  It really is a greige, in bright light it looks like a very pale warm gray and at dawn it definitely looks more beige.  The color changes throughout the day as the light outside changes.

The ship lap was was going to be painted in a shade of white from Dutch Boy called Cotton Blossom.  I used this color in my living room and piano room and I knew I liked it.  So I painted the wall that was going to be ship lapped with the Cotton Blossom.  I highly recommend doing this, especially in my case because I can see little bits of wall behind the ship lap.  It’s good that I didn’t leave that wall blue.

Next I had to sand both edges of each of the 24 – 8′ boards.  I tried hard not to think about the math … sanding 48 edges … but sometimes I can’t help myself.  The blade that Home Depot used to cut them must not have been terribly sharp because those edges were pretty jagged.  This was certainly not the most fun part of the project, but I cranked it out in an hour or two.

With the boards sanded and the wall painted, it was time to attach the boards to the wall.   For this we called on our amazing handyman neighbor, Ken.  He brought over his chop  saw and his pneumatic brad nailer.  We absolutely could not have done this job without Ken and his tools.  So many DIY’ers talk about how easy these sorts of projects are, but the reality is that unless you already have the tools, it’s not really do-able.  If we’d had to buy the tools for this project, it would have cost quite a bit more.  Thank goodness we have Ken!  We set up the chop saw right in the bedroom which ended up being the best decision ever.  Running up and down the stairs every time we needed to make a cut (which ended up being a lot) would have really been a pain.

And since we’re having those floors sanded and refinished this weekend anyway, what’s a little more sawdust?

Now, keep in mind that I have plaster walls in my 1904 house.  We’ve never had much luck trying to find studs, so we decided not to bother about that.  We used 1″ brads and just used plenty of them to keep the boards in place.  I didn’t want to use glue of any kind because I know that one day, when it has become outdated, someone (possibly even me) is going to want to remove the ship lap.  If the boards were glued in place that would be so much more difficult.

  I know Ken struggled to come to terms with my decision.  He’s afraid one day a board will fall off in the night and take out Mr. Q and I while we sleep peacefully underneath.  But I seriously doubt it.  If anything the end of a board might pop up, in which case we’ll just add a couple more brads to hold it down.

Ken also wasn’t happy with the cutting job that Home Depot did.  As you can see, some of the cuts were really not straight at all.  Plus the boards ranged in width from 7′ 7/8″ to 8′ 1/8″.  This left gaps between the boards that varied from one end to the other.  At this point, I had to introduce Ken to the concept of embracing the imperfections.

After all, those original ship lap walls were certainly not perfect.  Ship lap was just a base to build upon with plaster, it wasn’t precise or even meant to be seen.  I direct you to this photo from magnoliahomes.net.  Take note of the total lack of perfection, fairly raw edges, uneven boards, and also note that the nail holes are not filled.

To me, this is ship lap at its finest and this is the look I was going for.

So ’embrace the imperfections’ became my mantra of the day as Ken and I attached the faux ‘ship lap’ boards to the wall.  This part of the project went way faster than either of us expected.  We started after lunch and were done before dinner.  I think it took about 4 hours in total.  We did get a little help from nnK and Mr. Q towards the end of the day as we got to the top of the wall.  We needed two people to hold the planks in place and a 3rd to operate the nailer.  We just randomly staggered the lengths of the boards.  I didn’t want to see any sort of pattern.

The next day I primed the boards with a stain blocking primer.  I wasn’t sure what those water stains on the boards were all about, but figured a stain blocking primer would be a good idea.  Then I added a coat of Cotton Blossom.  And if you’re wondering, no, I didn’t fill the nail holes.  They are just barely visible up close.

And voila, my ship lap wall is finished.

Speaking of imperfections, you may have noticed that my bottom ship lap board ends about 2″ above the baseboard.  Yep, my math wasn’t quite right after all.  Ken really wanted to fix that, but I decided to just let it go.  This wall will have stuff in front of it all the way across and no one is ever going to even notice this flaw.

Mr. Q must really like how the ship lap turned out because he suggested we consider adding ship lap to the same angled wall in his new study (the former guest room).  Now that he’s suggested it, I realize he’s totally right.  It would be perfect in there.  While we’re at it, it would also be fabulous in the guest room.  And now that I know how easy it is, we just might do it!

But first, I have nnK’s college kids coming to refinish the floors this weekend.  Once that task is done, the really fun stuff begins.  Bringing the furniture back in, some old pieces and some new pieces (not brand new, but new to me), and changing out some fixtures.

 Be sure to stay tuned to find out how it all turns out!

 

 

the shetland islands.

After Mr. Q and I booked our May trip to Norway & Scotland, we happened to stumble across the TV show Shetland.  If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a BBC Scotland crime drama based on a series of books by Ann Cleeves.  We binge watched seasons 1 and 2 before our trip.  We fell in love with the unique landscapes that were used in the show (some of which aren’t really in Shetland at all, but mainland Scotland).  Still, we were really looking forward to seeing the place for ourselves.

One of the main things you’ll notice is the lack of trees.  I was curious about that so I googled it.  According to this article from shetland.org, that is mainly due to the sheep rather than the climate.

Before I continue on about our day in Shetland, let me explain something.  One of the really fun things about taking a cruise is the opportunity to meet people and get to know them a bit.  These days on most cruise lines you’ll have some options for dining.  You can choose ‘any-time dining’ where you just show up at the dining room and get seated anywhere, or you can choose a specific time slot and be seated at the same table with the same people every night.  You can choose to have just a table for two (or however many are in your group), or you can do what Mr. Q and I like to do, choose to have additional dinner companions.  On this cruise we chose the late seating (8 pm) and a table of 8.

We always feel like we are taking a bit of a risk with this option.  What if we get stuck with a total bore?  Or worse yet, someone totally obnoxious?  But if that happens, you can always ask to be reassigned.  So far we’ve always been lucky and have ended up with friendly, interesting dinner companions.  This time we ended up with Ann & Alex from Australia, Craig & Cheri from California and Paul from Boston who was traveling on his own.  What a great way for him to have company at dinner, right?  We all got along really well and had some great conversations over dinner.

The reason I’m bringing this up now is because Mr. Q and I didn’t have any pre-booked plans for Shetland.  While discussing this over dinner, Craig and Cheri (the couple from California) mentioned that they were renting a car in Lerwick and were planning to drive all over the island.  So we asked if they happened to have some extra room in the back seat for us.  They were willing to let us tag along, and we insisted on paying for half of the rental fee (a whopping $30) and considered it a total bargain.

By the way, kudos to Craig for being willing to drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road and on some very skinny winding roads at that.  Not to mention some ‘single track’ roads, which I’ll talk about more when I post about the Isle of Skye.

Our first stop was the archaeological site, Jarlshof.  This site was discovered in the 1890’s when some heavy storms washed away the surrounding vegetation.  It was later excavated to reveal a series of dwellings that dated from 2500 BC to the 1600’s AD.

We rented the audio headsets and if you ever make it to Jarlshof I totally recommend this.  You’ll get so much more out of the site if you have a little explanation of what you are looking at.

For example, the large structure in this next photo is the hall of what was the laird’s house.  Those stones in the yard are exactly what they look like, grave stones.  In this case, marking graves of shipwrecked sailors from the 1600’s.

After exploring Jarlshof we moved on to the Sumburgh Head Lighthouse.

This spot is known for bird watching.  It wasn’t quite the right season for their famous Puffins, but we did see a couple.  We also saw quite a few Guillemots.  In addition, the lighthouse has some interesting historical displays such as the replica of the WWII radar station.

By the way, this next photo is taken from the parking lot.  Yes, you have to walk from here up to the lighthouse, see it there at the tippy top?

Although they do allow cars to drive up and drop off handicapped visitors.

The next stop on our very well planned (by Cheri) itinerary was the Croft House Museum.  I was so excited when Cheri mentioned they were planning to visit this spot.  It was a place I had read about online and really didn’t think I would get a chance to see.

This is a mid-19th century croft that was lived in until the 1960’s.  It was fascinating to get a glimpse of how people once lived in Shetland, with burning peat in the fireplace and box beds for keeping warm at night.

The inside was very dark, with low ceilings and even lower doorways, but I bet it felt like a really warm, snug refuge from the wind and rain on cold winter days.

Of course, there was no rain on our day in Shetland (although wind is another story) as we continued to be really lucky with the weather.

Our last stop of the day was Scalloway Castle.

Construction on Scalloway began in 1599 by Patrick Stewart, the Earl of Orkney.  Apparently Black Patie was not a good guy.  He was a ruthless tyrant who oppressed the Shetland people and was ultimately executed.

It does have a bit of a sinister vibe, right?

Not much remains except the shell of the castle, but it was interesting to see how it was constructed.  This was a fun stop for us as well because there was a great chase scene in Shetland (the TV show) that was filmed inside Scalloway Castle.  By the way, we heard that they were going to be filming some parts of season 3 the day after we were in Lerwick.  Dang!  We just missed seeing it.

All in all, sharing a rental car with friends turned out to be an incredible way to spend the day in Shetland.  We saw 4 different sights that would have been separate shore excursions from the ship each one costing more than our share of the car for the full day.

If you are brave enough to drive in a foreign country, this is definitely the way to go.  And honestly, once we got out of Lerwick the roads were mostly empty here.  The most complicated part of the journey was getting out of the parking lot at the port!

Our next stop is the Isle of Skye, check back next Wednesday to hear more about the seat of the MacLeod of MacLeod, Castle Dunvegan, and what ended up being the most disappointing touring experience from our trip.

 

the family discount.

I was so surprised by the outpouring of comments on my post about the dollhouse from Friday!  My dad would be have absolutely loved hearing all of the compliments from everyone.  A huge thanks to all of you for taking the time to leave a comment, I appreciated every single one!

Now, on with today’s post.

A while back Mr. Q brought home two dressers from the daughter of one of my blog readers.  The first was the french provincial dresser that I painted a couple of weeks ago, and the second was this one.

It’s a bit more traditional than the pieces I normally choose to work with, but it’s a  solid, well-made dresser.  I love giving pieces like this a new lease on life with some paint.  This dresser is going to last another 75 years easily.  It’s not going to fall apart in 5 years like inexpensive (or sometimes not so inexpensive) new furniture made out of particle board (not that I’m naming names, such as IKEA, or anything).

Ken helped me out with reattaching a drawer glide that had come free, but otherwise it didn’t need much work.  Ironically the aspect of this job that took the longest was removing the old contact paper that was lining the drawers.

I wish I had gotten a photo to illustrate, but basically that stuff came out in a million little pieces that I painstakingly scraped off with a razor blade.  And it left behind a sticky gooey mess that required a couple of applications of Goo Gone to remove.  This is exactly why I rarely choose to line the drawers of dressers that I sell.  Because I know that inevitably down the road someone is going to have to get that stuff back out of there and it won’t be fun (and oftentimes that someone  is me!).  The only time I line drawers is when the drawer bottom is too stained to salvage.

Funny little story though, I slogged through the first 7 drawers one evening after work.  Stripping out that liner, cleaning with Goo Gone, removing the hardware, sanding the drawer front and cleaning it with TSP Substitute.  I really wanted to finish all nine drawers that evening so I could start painting right away the next evening.  But as the sun was setting, I looked at those last two drawers still in the dresser and thought “nope, I just can’t face them, I’ll have to do them tomorrow” and I went to bed.  The next evening I went to pull out the first of the remaining two drawers and guess what?  It wasn’t lined!  Neither was the last drawer.  Ha!  Had I only looked inside the previous night I would have realized that I could easily prep them before bed.  Too funny!

Anyway, the next step was painting and that part was a breeze.  I used Fusion paint in a rich, dark grey color called Ash.

I painted two coats of paint, and shortly after the 2nd coat was dry I sanded the edges lightly to distress.

Just the other day my friend Sue was commenting on the fact that a lot of the furniture painters out there don’t distress their pieces.  She and I are of the same mind when it comes to distressing.  We are not fans of non-distressed pieces.  The only time I don’t distress is when I’m working on a mid-century modern piece with really clean lines.  Otherwise, in my opinion distressing is what really brings out the character of a piece.  I know it’s a personal preference thing though, and it just happens to be my preference (and Sue’s!).

One tip, you absolutely don’t need to add a topcoat over Fusion paint, but when I distress the edges I’ll often put a little Homestead House or Miss Mustard Seed beeswax on a cloth and run that over those exposed edges.  It will help protect that little bit of bare wood, but more importantly it will take away the ‘freshly sanded’ look of the wood and make it look more as though it was worn over time.

I have to tell you, I did absolutely nothing to the drawer pulls.  I didn’t polish them or even really clean them. Yet this next photo really shows how different they look on the grey.  Isn’t that kinda crazy?

So normally this is the point where I say “this dresser is available for sale”, but no, this one isn’t!  My sister stopped by shortly after I finished it, decided she really needed to have it for her new house and asked if she could get a ‘family discount’.  Naturally I agreed.  I’m pretty thrilled because she’ll be replacing an IKEA dresser with it!  My plan is to slowly work on her over time until her whole house is de-IKEA-fied.  I’m working on convincing her to replace the console thingie that her T.V. sits on next, but shhhhh, she doesn’t realize it yet so don’t tell her.

 

 

the dollhouse.

Once upon a time, way back in the early 90’s, my dad took an early retirement from his job at IBM.  I believe he was around 55 or so at the time.  Back in the day an early retirement from an excellent company was totally do-able because companies were more likely to provide you with health insurance after retirement.  That’s no longer very likely and now people like me will have to work until they are medicare eligible because health insurance has gotten so ridiculously expensive.  But I digress.  This is not a post about the ongoing woes of our health care system, this is a post about a dollhouse.

You see, once retired my dad quickly grew bored.  He desperately needed a project.  So when I casually mentioned how I’d always wanted a dollhouse, he took that idea and ran with it.

At the time my parents lived in Kentucky, and I was here in Minnesota.  Now remember, this was the early 90’s.  We didn’t have email.  Nor did we have cell phones.  My dad would take photos of his progress, get them developed and then send them to me in the mail.  I would send paint chips, wallpaper (dollhouse sized) and tiny furnishings back to him in the mail.  It was an awesome way for my dad and I to connect.  We were both so excited about the project.  I will always have fond memories of that time (my dad passed away about 10 years ago).

All of that being said, the dollhouse is large and heavy.  For a long time it resided in what is now the Q Branch and it took up the entire room since you really need to be able to get around all sides of it.  I used to decorate it for the holidays when it was on display in that room, I even had a Christmas tree with working lights.  But eventually I decided that it was a poor use of a really great room so we moved the dollhouse up to the guest room where it has been sitting and gathering dust for quite some time.

Since we had to move the dollhouse downstairs to refinish the floors in the guest room, I did some serious thinking and decided it wasn’t going back up.  This will allow Mr. Q to take over the larger room as his study, and the smaller room will become the guest room  with no space for the dollhouse.  I just don’t have a large enough house to devote so much space to something that I barely pay attention to anymore.

My niece used to always say she would take the dollhouse one day, so I asked her if she really wanted it.  The answer was no.  I offered it to a couple of other family members who also didn’t want it.  I was starting to think I might have to just sell it, when Mr. Q’s step-dad mentioned that he would love to have it!  He loves anything miniature (just check out this post about his workshop for proof of that), plus he’s an extremely talented wood worker, so the dollhouse will be in good hands.

So it’s a happy ending.  The dollhouse is going to a wonderful new home.  Tom is in the process of adding a three season wrap around porch at their farmhouse and the dollhouse will fit neatly at one end.  I’ll be able to visit it whenever I want to, and the grandkids will all be able to play with it whenever they visit.

Before I send it off to its new home, I thought I’d take a few photos to share with you guys.

Gosh, where do I even start?  If you haven’t already gotten yourself a fresh cup of coffee, you might want to do that now.  This may be a long one.

Since this dollhouse was for me, obviously it had to have impressive gardens.

Most of the flowers are made out of Fimo clay.  I made some of them myself, like the trailing vines in the window boxes, but it didn’t take me long to figure out that I really don’t have the patience for working with tiny things.

Let’s head inside …

 and begin our tour in the kitchen.

Did you notice the tin ceiling or the ceiling fan?

Remember, this was decorated back in the early 90’s.  Stenciled borders were all the rage.  I added that stencil myself with a tiny little metal stencil.  And even though farmhouse sinks weren’t quite as popular yet, I wanted one in my dollhouse!

My dad was very detail oriented.  The door between the kitchen and the dining room is a swinging door.  And check out the paneling below the chair rail, the parquet floor and the dentil crown molding above the stenciled border.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed yet, but the dollhouse is fully electrified.

Another example of attention to detail, there is a little door under the stairs that opens and closes.  I suppose I could store the Christmas tree under there.  See it back there?

You can catch a glimpse of the foyer through the arched opening in the dining room.  The floor in the foyer is a type of blue shale that is found in Kentucky.  My dad just gathered some up from a field near his house and ’tiled’ the floor with it.

Boy, you can also tell the era of this dollhouse by all of the wallpaper!  My real house was entirely wallpapered at that time as well.  And the garish shades of pink, burgundy, sea foam green and forest green (all chosen by yours truly).  Yikes!

Here’s the living room.  See that wedding photo on the wall to the left?  That’s me and Mr. Q!

Oh, and did I mention that my dollhouse has two original water colors on the walls?  Yep, my dad was friends with local artist at the time and he asked him to paint a couple of paintings for the dollhouse.  The first one hangs over the living room fireplace.

The second one hangs over the master bedroom fireplace.  I really can’t decide which one of these is my favorite, I love them both.  Had I ended up having to sell the dollhouse I would have removed these and kept them.  But now they will stay in place.

Can I just mention here how much I love that fireplace?  Isn’t it fantastic!  This is another great example of my dad’s attention to detail.  He purposely added black ‘soot’ to the brick fireplace insert so it would look well used.  See it?  The little pile of logs on the fire is electrified so that it glows like a real fireplace.

Currently the master bedroom is sparsely furnished with just this lovely four poster bed.

Next door is the bathroom.  Originally there was just going to be the claw foot tub with the towel bar above it, but my dad found this amazing hot water heater and had to have it.

I love all of the details in this room; the tile floor, the wainscoted wall, the tin ceiling, the wall mounted sink, even the little toothpaste box next to the sink.

But I can’t lie.  My favorite detail in the bathroom is the tiny roll of toilet paper.  Seriously, does that thing just crack you up or what?

I decorated the second bedroom in the house as a young girl’s room.  Naturally.

Complete with a faux wicker vanity.

Just above the girl’s room is the attic.

I believe my dad originally came up with the idea for this space when he found the newspaper wallpaper.

My dad had a lot of fun with the details of this room like the exposed studs and electrical, and we both had fun coming up with stuff to ‘store’ in the attic.

The other room on the 3rd floor was inspired by the pool table.  When my dad found that, he knew he had to have a room for it.

Last, but not least, there is one more tiny room tucked away in the tower.

A cozy little reading nook.

I hope you enjoyed this tour of the dollhouse.

I’m looking forward to a week off the day job next week.  A little staycation, during which I plan to work on my master bedroom makeover.  I’ve got several projects planned, so be sure to stay tuned!

 

 

bergen.

Today I’m sharing the last of the Norwegian ports of call on our recent Holland America cruise, Bergen!

Bergen is known for being one of the rainiest cities in Europe.  Everything we read about this city said to be prepared for rain, and so we were … and it didn’t rain at all.  It was a bit overcast in the morning, but it cleared up after noon and was perfectly lovely.

Once again our ship was docked in the most convenient location just across the street from the Bergenhus Fortress.

We walked around the fortress and admired the grounds a bit.

Then headed out the other side to walk toward Bryggen.

Bryggen is the old Hanseatic Quarter of Bergen.  The oldest wooden buildings date from the early 1700’s and were built by the German merchants and traders who established a Hanseatic trading post here.

This area continues as a ‘trading post’ and was filled with touristy shops and tourists.

Next we hopped on the Fløibanen, or the funicular, to ride up to the top of Mount Fløyen to check out the views.

I have to admit, Mr. Q and I are not big fans of the ‘view panoramica’.  I guess we just prefer seeing things up close and personal rather than viewing sweeping vistas from on high.

So, after enjoying a cup of coffee with some friends from our ship, we didn’t linger long at the top.  We decided we’d prefer to walk back down, but we weren’t sure just how intense a walk that was going to be, so we took some advice from our Rick Steves’ guidebook and we took the Fløibanen halfway down, got off at the mid-way point and walked the rest of the way (note: if you are ever in Bergen and want to do this, only the funiculars that leave on the hour and half hour stop at the halfway point, Promsgate, the others do not stop).

As it turned out, we could easily have walked the entire way down.  It was a very lovely walk through a wooded area …

And then a really charming residential area.

By the way, Rick Steve’s calls these ‘delightful cobbled and shiplap lanes’.  Huh?  Shiplap lanes?  Clearly the Norwegians had shiplap way before Fixer Upper came along!

I loved the profusion of flowers along these cobblestone lanes.  Despite the almost total lack of garden space, there were still flowers everywhere.  They were even growing out of the crevices in the rock walls …

I recognized this corydalis right away, I have these in my own garden …

After making our way back to sea level, we headed out to the fish market.  I didn’t take a single photo there.  It was just so touristy and honestly, kind of lame.  We wandered around it for a few minutes, but then after hitting a couple of shops back in Bryggen we headed back towards our ship.

Along the way I spied this lovely azalea in front of the Domkirke, Bergen’s main church that is dedicated to St. Olav the patron saint of Norway.

We had a beautiful sunny evening for sailing out of Bergen.  Mr. Q and I enjoyed it from our balcony.

And alas, this was where we had to say goodbye to Norway, the land of my ancestors.  Our next stop, the Shetland Islands!

Be sure to stay tuned!