Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Am BAD blogger with GOOD excuse...


We have been at the Maine State Quilt Show and I am sooo zonked. We had a booth and sold our wares and I had no idea what to expect (with the economy being so bad and winter coming up with oil bills looming large), but we had our best quilt show ever.

Now, I know I said that LAST year, too, but what can I say? Last year WAS our best quilt show ever. Until this year. So, I am a pretty happy camper. Happy to have had such a good experience (we always meet the nicest people at the Quilt Show- more about that later...) and happy to be back home. However, I must remember for next year that the real work begins AFTER you get home when it takes you two days to put your store back to rights and it looks like a fabric bomb went off.

Of course, being my OCD self, the store in dissarray upset me more than anything, but it's all pretty much back together now. Looking fabulous, too, I must say, as George has built us some new shelves that hold MORE fabric in LESS space and it's a "Rhea-arranging" dream come true.

I must pause and give a shout-out to our new friends, Peggy-Anne and Jessica from Peggy-Anne's Quilting & Sewing Co. in Concord, New Hampshire. I met them on the very first day of the show and I do believe we belong to the mutual admiration society. Peggy and Jess were the only other people at the show whose booth was what I would call "Amy Butler-y." Yes, there are other booths with Amy's fabrics besides just ours and Peggy-Anne's, but they were not "Amy Butler-y." They were more traditional whereas our two booths were a walk on the wild side. I was checking out the other vendors, perusing the merchandise, wearing my Anna Tunic, when all of a sudden I spot two other gals clad in Anna Tunics. These turned out to be Peggy and Jess.

Over the course of the next three days Peggy, Jess and I were always wearing garments we had made ourselves, usually from an Amy or Kaffe print. We talked about what it's like to be a shop with a younger vibe, what was good about it and what was hard about it. The Monday after the show I'm driving through Damariscotta and who should I see crossing the street but Peggy-Anne herself. I continued on to the shop and not a half an hour later Peggy and Jessica are in the shop with their husbands in tow. Just a little visit on their way back to Concord. Hi ladies!!! Thanks for stopping by!!!

If you live in the New Hampshire-ish area and want a good source for all things Amy, you should definitely give them a look-see. Their website is and for goodness sake, tell them that Rhea sent you.

So, what I really want to say is that I am a bad blogger. No pictures of the quilt show. No pictures of our booth, even. Paul Marcus, who is one of our fabric reps, wanted to take my picture on Sunday but I declined. Oh boy, did I ever decline. I said "Paul, if I LOOK as tired as I FEEL then I do NOT want this moment recorded for posterity." He backed away slowly.

It was a hard-working weekend, but definitely worth it. I know some shops do all kinds of shows in the summer and God bless 'em. We just do this one show every year, and one is enough. Call me crazy, but I like to have YOU come to ME.

See you soon (with pictures, too, maybe even!!!), and thanks for the best Quilt Show ever!!!



Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What my Grandmother gave me

Good Morning...

Today I'm going to talk to you about my wonderful, fabulous Grandma.

Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that I am absolutely coo-coo for my Grandmother, Florence. She is my Grandma on my Mom's side of the family AND she not only grew up a couple of houses down from me, right here in the Mills, but she used to work at the shop when it was a general store called "McGray's." Ernest McGray was my Grandma's uncle (I guess that makes him my Great, Great Uncle or something like that) and for many years he owned the building that now houses Alewives Fabrics.

When my Grandmother worked here she was 16 (Just a little bit younger than I was when I started working here...) and the store had, among other things, penny candy, soap flakes, bananas on giant banana hooks and gasoline. All kinds of stuff. I have the pictures to prove it.

Anyhow, my Grandma was (and is) the coolest person I know. She's "Maine" to me: all the best things about being a "Mainer" are corralled in she and my Grandfather both. I can't really explain what that means, but I can tell you that she eats at least 1 smoked Alewife each year AND eats the tamale in the Lobster. THAT is hard-core Mainer.

My Grandmother is also the gal who taught me how to sew. When I was 15, just about to turn 16, my Mom got an amazing opportunity to go on a trip to Italy. The only snag was that she would be missing my 16th birthday. Well, long story short, Mom TOTALLY threw ME under the bus AND (I love to tease her about this...) took off to Italy, leaving me with my Grandparents. I make it sound much more dramatic than it really was, but still, 16 is 16. I was a little bummed and my Grandmother very wisely thought we needed a project to work on together to make the time pass. We went out to Wal-Mart (of all places...remember, this was atleast 3 years before I had anything to do with Alewives Fabrics) and bought a simple McCall's sun-dress pattern and some blue calico and went to work. She taught me all about reading patterns and tailor's tacks and marking and hem-stitches and at the end of a few days we had a great dress all made (Interesting side note: was wearing the blue sun-dress in question when I snagged my first real boyfriend: Thank you, Grandma!). Whenever I tell this story, someone always nods their head sagely and makes the comment "Grandma knows." Truer words were never spoke.

For the most part, I go and visit my Grandmother every morning. We have tea together and talk things over. Periodically she will have something saved-out for me. When I first went to Design School and had to get a Power-Book computer, Grandma saved all the articles she read in the paper about "Macs" (even though I'm pretty sure she has no idea what a Mac is) because she thought I might be interested. She has saved old clothes she thought I might like and the best thing is when she makes Shrimp Chowder she always saves some for me. She likes to take care of me and as I have no objections to a little "being-taken-care-of," we get along great.

Lately, though, with moving into the new house and all, I occasionally will mention something I need to purchase (wooden spoon, spatula, etc.) and Grandma will totally hook me up with her surplus items. For example, there was a serious lack of pots and pans around here a couple months ago. I had no kitchen and was cooking crouched on the living room floor, rotating dishes on and off of the one hotplate I had (which I totally stole from the store, by the way). Good old Grandma came through with a complete set of pots she no longer needed. Not only were they a complete set, they were "Retro" pots and pans with this cool vegetable design on them. They are literally so old that they are cool again. Vintage, I guess you would call them.

But the best thing my Grandmother ever gave me was her mother's sewing machine. She loves this story and still holds it over my head to this day. Everyone asks me what kind of sewing machine I have and they are invariably disappointed when I tell them "a 1961 Kenmore." It's not a very glamorous answer, but - wait for it- it is the best sewing machine EVER.

My Grandmother gave me this machine close to ten years ago, when I first got into sewing. My Great-Grandmother had bought it the year before she passed away and had hardly used it at all. When Grandma passed it on to me I was like "Yeah, yeah..." but I wanted something NEW and GLAMOROUS and COMPUTERIZED, but most of all I wanted something that would sew through heavy fabrics. I love making bags and my old machine was spazzing-out whenever I did anything other than piecing.

About 2 years ago I realized that my old machine was holding me back and it was absolutely imperative that I purchase a new machine. There's only so many times a gal can go through the motions of making a Weekender Bag only to be foiled at the 11th hour by her machine tapping out. I asked Don Sabins (who, as far as I am concerned, is the "sewing-machine whisperer" and totally deserves a blog entry) what he thought I should get for a new machine. Don said (In his old-guard, "Mainer" accent, not entirely unlike my Grandparents') "Well, if you can find an old Kenmore that just about yanks your arm off when you hoist it up onto the table, that's the best machine you can find."

I thought to myself "Hmmm, I just happen to have one of those..." So, I brought my Great-Grandmother's old Kenmore in to Don and he checked it out for me. He said I was one lucky son of a gun to have that machine: It was practically in mint condition. He cleaned it, oiled it, gave me some replacement feet, and my sewing machine and I have been in love with each other ever since. There is nothing I can't do with that baby. I love it, love it, love it and my Grandmother loves teasing me about not using it for all those years. I never knew what I had. I learned then and there that newer is NOT always better AND that Grandma KNOWS what she is talking about whereas I know nothing about anything.

Anyways, I just came back from visiting my Grandparents at their cottage on the lake. I know that my Grandma and Grandpa won't be around forever, but I do know that I am surrounded by people, places and things that will ALWAYS remind me of them and make me smile. Especially my Grandmother, especially every time I sit down at my sewing machine and crank out something that I know will make her proud of me. And that is what my Grandmother gave me.

See you again soon,



Tuesday, July 1, 2008

the house has been warmed

Hello one and all.

Not so much about the shop today but a few tidbits from my weekend:

Oliver and I had a shindig at the house this weekend. I guess you could call it a house-warming party-ish type thing. It was definitely the first time that I have had a crew here at the house. Up until now it was one or two extra people at a time but this past Saturday night it was all of my friends AND all of Oliver's friends in a crazy friend mash-up that could either have gone really well or really badly. It went really well. I knew it was a good party when I found one of Alison's earrings in a wine glass the next morning.

Highlights were:

• Running around the house before work on Saturday, tacking fabric over all of the unfinished cabinets in the kitchen. I guess I am my Mother's daughter after all, as this is TOTALLY something that she would do.

• Alison making Strawberry Daiquiris out of freshly picked native strawberries. They are sooo good it is ridiculous. (Interesting side note: Alison has RUINED me for Strawberry Daiquiris. Ever since she showed up at the store on the Fourth of July last year with a blender full of freshly-mixed-delicious-strawberry-goodness and got my Mother and I tipsy I have been unable to have any other type of Daiquiri. Now I am doomed to only have them once a year when the MAINE strawberries are ripe and Alison appears with her magic blender. It's like Brigadoon or something.)

• Kristine shilling for the store. All of the ladies who weren't acquaintances of mine as a direct result of taking "Turning Twenty" at the shop were seduced by Kristine telling them how AMAZING the store was and what a great group of people we have. Remind me to give her a raise if she ever leaves the VA and comes to work for me.

• Oliver being in charge of the cooking on the grill, starting and maintaining the bonfire, the collecting of wood for the bonfire, the setting up of the horseshoes, the setting up of the badminton and the pre-party lawn care. ME being in charge of the potato salad. He's a keeper.

• THE FOOD!!! Everyone outdid themselves: there was an amazing spread. Most memorable were Margie's pasta salad, Jessica's red pepper hummus, Darren's cookies (they looked like muffin tops, they were so big! I MAY or MAY NOT have stolen one or two of them from the table and hidden them in tinfoil at the back of a cupboard before they were all gone), May and Eric's salad (fresh form their garden!) and the trifle that Andy made (even though he told everyone that his fiancee, Betsy, made it).

• All of us gals piling onto the couch, sitting underneath one of my quilts, talking and laughing and just waiting for some guy to come around the corner and see how cute we were being.

But the best part was seeing everyone mix and mingle and be, and seeing them all in my house for the very first time. It was a very good weekend.

Here's hoping that you have a STELLAR fourth of July. The store is closed on Friday but we'll re-open, sure thing, Saturday morning: I've got a Block of the Month to teach!