Sunday, December 27, 2009

Is It Over Yet?

Yes, I think it is.

Just finished cleaning up after my brunch for 18 (well, 17 really, as one was just a baby and didn't eat anything). That was the last entertainment commitment for 2009. Hoo-RAH!

Christmas dinner for 18 was lovely. The hubs handled 99% of the cooking for that one And thank God for that. I fried the shrimp and cleaned up. (Mostly after 3 a.m., after which I had to sit down and work out the logistics for the next soiree).

It's been a whirlwind 3 days. Off tomorrow and then back to work Tuesday (telecommute). I should be able to work in some quilting. I need to get the SIL's quilt on the pinning table and quilted. The goal is to have it in the mail early next week.

And yes, I did finish Anna's knitting tote (surely you didn't lose faith now, did you?)

 5 different fabrics, 9 outside pockets, most of them pleated. A bit of a challenge, but I pulled it off.

Oh, and it's darn big.

In case you're wondering how I fared for Christmas, I got a Piece O' Cake applique quilt kit and a Gees' Bend quilt kit from the hubs. As well as some books and an Elly Sinkiewicz DVD. (also jewelry, slippers, makeup, Cap'n Jack Sparrow toy and a new badly-needed watch--he's much too good to me)

My daughter gave me Cheryl Ann's design wall--that was pretty funny, her and I attempting to set that up in the family room Christammas morning. 6'x6' is a lot larger in real life than it is in your head. My daughter's boyfriend gave me a way-too-generous gift certificate to Needles and Pins in Frederick, so I've got a lot of damage to do there, which I think I may embark on tomorrow. I'm thinking of outfitting myself with everything needed to pull off a Dear Jane....heck with these Thangles BOMs....let's take on a project with some serious substance!

Well, I'm headed up to pin the SIL's quilt. The hubs bought me one of those little awl-like safety pin closing/opening tools. This should prove to be amusing (and elicit much cursing). I've not exactly won any prizes for my stellar coordination skills....

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wishing you a peaceful Christmas Eve

I am getting ready to finish telecommuting and headed up to the studio to try to finish my friend Anna's gift. If not, she'll be opening a box of fabric scraps and a promise. This will teach me to wait until the day before to start a project that I've never done before (pleated outside pocketed tote  bag).

The hubs is out to the grocery store. In appreciation I sent him off with a typed shopping list arranged by aisle with coupon items in bold.

The BIL is supposed to stop by with his 4-year old daughter to make gingerbread houses, and I'm hoping that his 13-year old daughter comes to supervise so I can rally on in the studio. I've still got to make labor-intensive cinnamon rolls (they need 2 rises) so they're ready for breakfast tomorrow morning. If I don't, this would break what has been a 20 year tradition and I'm not sure I want that responsibility.

There's also gingerbread dough in the fridge that's been there a couple of days waiting to be cut into various sized stars and stacked into trees with powdered sugar snow sifted over them. I'm afraid that may be the extent of cookies, though I could throw something together later. We'll see.

Fortunately I finished the MIL's gift.....

I'll check in later and let you know if I finished the tote. Keep your fingers crossed!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Welcome to my Nightmare

Alright, so it's not that bad. What's 2 feet of snow among friends?

Sorry, but there's so much snow we can't open the storm door, so all photos today are from inside (where it's also warm).

This is the view from the office this afternoon.

And this is what I see out the kitchen window.

And this is the view from the quilt studio.

There's about 19" on the ground when this one was taken.

Now there's about 24, and HALLELUJAH! The snow has finally stopped.

If we are seriously lucky, we'll get a plow through the neighborhod sometime tomorrow. Right now there is 4 feet of snow at the bottom of the driveway that DH thinks the plow may take out. Sadly, he's always been away for our rare snowstorms, so he's got a lot to when the plow comes that nice little 4 foot pile of snow will double in width and be twice has hard to move.

Oh well, it will provide him a source of entertainent (not to mention exercise).

We don't see a lot of snow in Washington, DC, and as you've undoubtedly heard, we fall apart when we get the tiniest bit. Schools shut down at the first flakes, people storm the grocery stores if they hear there's snow within 200 miles of us.

Imagine what we're like when we get 2 feet of snow, and we know we're going to get it 24 hours in advance.

I merchandised in 3 grocery stores yesterday. Starting at 9:30, it was impossible to find a parking space. Customers were waiting outside for carts, and the lines to check out snaked into the aisles. I heard someone say if you thought that was bad, you should go to the mall.

Well, I did, because I had to merchandise there as well. That was nothing. In fact, all the stores that had special sales starting at 3:00, put the signs out and started the sales in the morning because they knew they weren't going to compete with the Safeway when work got out.

At 4:00 in the Safeway people were parking on the curb or circling the lot waiting for spaces.  They were following people to their cars to get their carts, and inside...well, let's just say that you definitely didn't want to buy ice cream. Checkout time was 30 minutes to an hour. Every cash register open, every line down the aisles to the back of the store. You would think we were preparing for nuclear attack.

Once I was out of there I briefly thought about the wine store and came to my senses. I had one bottle of red at home, I could always crack open the emergency bottle on display with the Tuscan tree, and I did buy an extra jar of olives, so I could just suck it up and drink martinis, if need be. (And if we ran out of Vodka, I'd switch to Margaritas--yes, I bought limes.)

Woke at 7:30 to a good 6" of the white stuff and blizzard-like conditions. Had to slip on the boots, put the coat on over the jammies and shovel a trail around the back yard for the dogs, before I could even turn on the coffeepot. That will be the extent of my shoveling this storm, since the hubs is home. By the time I did that (less than 5 minutes), it seemed that another inch of snow had covered the freshly swept back steps. Good thing I bought a broom yesterday when I was out.

Anyhow, housebound isn't all that bad when you've got things to do. We've had a fire blazing, all the trees are lit, so it's festive and cozy. Made a crockpot of stew this morning with some nice hot crusty bread (yesterday's purchase at the grocery store) for dinner, and spent the afternoon prepping the quilty projects.

Got the back made for a gift quilt (far right) and pinned all three. Tomorrow I'll get the gift quilt stitched and bound, and possibly the table quilt (center). The convergence quilt on the left is something I'm totally in love with, so I'm not going to rush that, but I did want it off the pinning table.

Then I've got to work on another gift (not a quilt, but a sewing project), which I hope to knock out on Tuesday. I've got to work half day Wednesday and Thursday (plus some merchandising....if they ever plow us out of here), so SIL's quilt is most likely going to be finished after the holidays and mailed late. But I did show it to her last weekend when she was here, so she knows about it (and is excited), so the pressure is off on that one.

In the meantime....2 feet of snow or not....hope springs eternal....

Thursday, December 17, 2009

And She Comes Up for Air

Been a crazy week, but things are finally mellowing out a bit. I've got the next 3 days off work (well, one job, anyway) and then I'm working 2 half days. The plan is to hit the quilt studio running tomorrow morning an not come out -- except to make gingerbread houses with the niece Saturday -- until the gifts for MIL, SIL and friend are finished.

All but 3 trees are complete, so here's a little tour of how things are shaping up at Maison Entwistle...

 My favorite trees are both in the foyer. The red and white, which I think this year, has finally got enough ornaments to fill it out. It's got both red and white lights on it and is a favorite of most of our guests...until they see the tree across from it....

I will always love the Mardi Gras tree. It's a great flocked tree that you can stand in front of for quite a long time checking out the very cool (and un-Christmas-y) ornaments And the top seems to get better every year.

Who doesn't like gingerbread. This one is always fun, and it is crammed full of ornaments with very little space to add any more. It's only hope is to become a bigger tree, but that's unlikely as it is a tidy fit into the corner of the breakfast room behind the table at it's current size.

One of my favorite things about this tree is the 'skirt'. Everything you need to make your very own yummy gingerbread cookies.

Hard to get a full shot of the traditional tree. Added the elves since a half dozen new ones made their way into the decorations this year (those would be the bright ones with the wonky faces. Like this one....)

The ladder was full, so half the elves came off the ladder and invaded the tree with the newcomers. The huge candy canes also mysteriously appeared. I think the original plan was to use them with the red and white tree, but with this tree being so gosh darn HUGE, it just seemed to work hanging them on it. (It was also easy and required no creative thought process or the ever-elusive spare time to work something out for an alternate display.)

Well, that's all for now. Break time is over and I need to get back to work. I was up---well, actually I was down--in the basement--until 3 a.m. this morning trying to knock out some gift wrapping. I've still got a bunch more to go, but really need to wrap the gift for the Bunko 'Dirty Santa' gift exchange tonight. And I've got merchandising to do after work and need to pick up a can of jellied cranberry and a bottle of chili sauce so the hubs can make a casserole dish of meatballs I can take to the party tonight. It's potluck this year--why couldn't they just assign me wine---sigh (actually 'whine').

Leaving you with a photo of a non-tree's got my favorite things on the table, and some wooden Santas I collected 30 years ago on the shelves below. Check back tomorrow for more....after Saturday, we be switching to all things stitching (and probably bitching).

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Decorating Progresses

Quick update with a few photos. I've got  the day off work to play catch-up and I need to get some work done, after spending the last hour planning out my merchandising work for the next two weeks. Plus I need to run out to Kohls, solely for the purpose of spending the $10 Kohls bucks my daughter gave me, a neighbor is coming at 4:30 for a quick 'how to' freemotion quilt demo, and I've got the quilt guild holiday party tonight and need to wrap my secret sister gift and pick up an appetizer or a dessert to bring. Phew!

Here's the mantle decorations. Finally I get to use the black feather boas I've had stashed away for 2 years. Ya-ay! I REALLY NEED a big ornate clock face to go in that space on the right hand side. Or, maybe that porcelain doll angel I made will work. Haven't run across it yet, but I don't think so. Must be a clock--maybe Kohls will have one. (Right! I'm SURE Kohls will have an ornate, antique clock--Dream On!) Yes, I made the wizard Santa on the right, and that's my Herr Drosselmier (sp?) Steinbach nutcracker.

Monster tree (10 ft) in the family room. Still hanging ornaments. Resisting the urge to get the wire out and reposition branches so they aren't drooping. I don't think I can resist much longer. Thankfully, the BIL went to cut down a tree up the street yesterday and was happy to come by and help the hubs bring this (and the other tree) in the house. Otherwise it would probably be laying the driveway right now.

Moved the Beyers gingerbread display into the family room this year. One less table taking up space in the breakfast room.
The other Frasier is in it's stand, drinking like a fish (now this is a tree after my own heart) in the living room. The flocked Mardi Gras tree is lit and is 'throwing up beads' as DD might say, awaiting it's ornaments. This is my favorite tree, so I never rush it.

The red and white is finished, and unfortunately, in the foyer with the Mardi Gras tree. I wanted it elsewhere, but just couldn't figure out where. It wouldn't fit in the office without moving the 400 pound desk, and I was feeling very un-Teamsterlike yesterday, so no furniture was repositioned.

The plan is to finish the monster tree and the Mardi Gras tree today, and if I'm super productive....the vintage tree in the living room. If there's a good Christmas movie on tonight, all the better. After that, it's all a crapshoot this week.

Time's a-wastin'. I must get to work. So much to do, so little time.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Egads! What have I done?!

A few days ago I pulled this photo of a snowstorm we had in 2006 out of one of my folders and used it as my desktop wallpaper. I'm not a big fan of snow, but I couldn't find an appropriately sized holiday photo to use and settled on this one. BIG MISTAKE!!!!!!

Here's the view today. It's 3:00 and it's still coming down solidly, just northwest of our Nation's Capital.
Okay, I'll have to agree that it is pretty, and it's festive, and it's appropriate, since I'm trying to do some holiday decorating today. Last night they predicted a couple of inches starting at around 4:00 and tapering off during the night. Just enough to ruin the First Saturday holiday festivities we may or may not have attended (luminarias, street performers, horsedrawn carriage rides, cookies and hot chocolate served by the local merchants having special holiday sales.)

But look closely, it's only 3 p.m., and darned if the accumulation on that railing doesn't already exceed 3 inches, with no sign of the white stuff slacking off anytime soon. Sigh.....

Well, if we're snowed in for the rest of the weekend, I'm ready. Vodka? Check. Vermouth? Check. Big jar of large olives? Check.

The ingredients to make a big pot of chili and a pan of cornbread are on the kitchen counter, and there's veggies for a salad in the crisper. Perfect.

This morning we were crazy enough to drive to Buckeystown to chop down not one, but two Christmas trees. It started as rain, and turned to snow at 8:15 as we were pulling out of the driveway. At first I thought this would be a good thing, as I'd rather be snowed on than rained on, and come on, how picturesque to drag a freshly cut Frasier fir through a snow-covered field. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

The snow was wet, very, very wet. The field was muddy, very, very muddy. By the time we had found and cut down the first tree, a reasonable 7-footer for the living room, the wet had soaked through my boots and I was standing in what felt like an inch of freezing icewater inside my boots, in my stocking feet. My rain jacket had also soaked through to the sweatshirt I had on underneath, and my gloves...let's just say that every few minutes I pulled them off my hands and wrung them out so they wouldn't be so heavy.

We headed back to the fields to find another Frasier that was at least 9 feet tall. At this point I'm seriously thinking about just getting over the fact that the trees at Home Depot have already been there for a month and packing up the first tree and heading to the Depot, but my inner voice kept reminding me how much I fretted over last year's Home Depot balsam drying out (in fact, I wasn't happy with that tree the minute it went into the stand), and we slogged on. I can't tell you how many  muscles I pulled to  keep myself from falling on my face every time I tripped over a stump of a tree that the smart people cut last weekend (when the weather was sunny, dry, and 60 degrees). Suffice it to say that sitting here typing is painful.

The trees you  have already walked past and rejected look a whole lot better the second time around, when you're soaking wet, freezing, and limping along in the mud. We find a tree, the hubs throws down his soaking wet towel that he had brought along to lay on while sawing, and commences to saw through what must be the fattest, hardest tree trunk man has ever encountered. The tractor back to the parking lot has come and gone and he is still sawing, making noises like he's having a heart attack with every pull of the saw.

Finally he's gotten it far enough through that I'm able to throw myself against the tree and it falls to the ground, where he can now get out of the pool of slush he has been lying in and cut through the rest of the way.

Okay, I'll grab the top and you grab the bottom and we'll drag it up to the tractor ruts and wait for our ride. Except, I can't pick the top of the tree up with my one frozen, sopping hand. It is WAY to heavy for me. He's able to drag it up the hill, with me leading the way to trip over the stumps so that he doesn't have to.

After 20 minutes or so, it becomes evident that there is not going to be a tractor coming to get us. We can hear them all around us in the other field. Each chugging sound brings false hope. The people standing down the path from us give up and drag their tree back, but we can't do that because we've cut down the mother of all firs and it weighs far too much for the hubs to drag the half mile back to the lot.

I set off through the mud to see if I can wrangle him a ride, and leave him at the side of the path, cold, wet, and getting wetter by the minute. Back at the ranch, while I kept telling the tractor drivers and farmhands that he has been waiting there for 30 minutes, no one apparently is going that way, as all of the other crazy people wanting to cut trees want to visit fields in the opposite direction. Finally, I was able to convince one of the tractors taking someone out to another field to swing by and get him (possibly because I looked so crazed, or maybe my use of the words 'heart attack' and 'ambulance' got his attention. It's just too bad I didn't have the saw with me....that might have got their attention sooner).

He went after the hubs and brought him and the tree almost all the way back (don't ask), and I got a couple of the guys shaking and netting trees to bring the monster tree that was unceremoniously dumped, along with the hubs, back to the parking lot.

They're both sleeping in the van (the trees, not the hubs). Maybe we'll get one inside today, maybe we won't. Somehow, it just doesn't seem to matter as much as being able to feel my fingers and my toes again.