Sunday, November 29, 2009

Where did the long weekend go?

Egads! It's over, and I still have much to do. Sadly, it's back to work tomorrow and I'll be spending a hectic week squeezing in decorating/quilting/cleaning/working. ( might want to distance yourself from me come Thursday...I'll likely be pretty testy by then.)

I've still got a couple hours left though, so I may squeeze in one more tree tonight.

But first, some photos of what I did get done over the past 3 days....not as much as I had hoped, but a start.

First tree up was the Tuscan tree in the master bath. All that's missing is a pretty bottle of Chianti to pose next to the wineglass. This is a tradition. I buy a very nice bottle of Italian wine and it sits there all season. This is the last tree that is taken down, and once it's put away, the wine is my reward for another holiday season's Herculean decorating efforts.

Next up was the beautiful, authentic retro aluminum tree. I really wanted blue ornaments on it, but the hubs would not go out to Baja Fresh for dinner last night (my little con to get him to drive past the shopping center where Michaels is...'oh, I need to run into Michaels, I'll just be a sec'). I was on my second glass of wine and decided to just bag it and use the red ornaments I had in the box.

And yes, it does have a color wheel. This is in the guest room. I just hope none of our December guests are lulled to sleep by the changing colors and leave the wheel running all night. (What's that smell? Do you smell burning plastic, hon?) Maybe I should put it on a timer.

Finally......the quilt studio. I spent a great deal of time on this one. While I have a little sewing tree, and I also have a shabby chic tree, whose colors would have been perfect for this room, I decided that this would be the best place for the snowman theme.

One reason being the Dept. 56 bag o'snow blizzard that this tree was unexpectedly caught up in.
I just love hurling snow, don't you?

Check out the 'tree skirt'. Pretty cool, eh? Boots. Not exactly the boots I was looking for, but what I wanted cost $50 (galoshes with buckles). I settled for a utilitarian pair of $14.99 rubber rainboots in my size.

Today we started with the dining room. A change-up from last year. The feather trees on the buffet are gold. I wanted gold ornaments but amazingly, I hardly had any, so I scavenged ivory (featuring my Margaret Furlong collection).

And we've moved the White Victorian and it's puffy lighted cloud mess o'tuille (which looks way cool when the lights are down) to the space formerly occupied by the vintage tree, which will most likely take over the living room this year.

Now, if we cheat and count the 2 trees on the buffet, we've got 7 trees up. Only 9 more or so to go.

Well, now I've only got an hour and a half left of the weekend. I had best get back to work. No rest for the weary....idle hands reap idle minds....blah, blah, blah.  Anyway, I need to check and see if the melted plastic smell is gone. (Seriously) I'm hoping it's from me touching a silk/plastic holly garland to one of the chandelier bulbs while I was trying it on for size and not the White Victorian trying out for the Wicked Witch of the West in the road production of Wizard of Oz. (That tree has some plastic needles mixed in it to give it a more realistic look.....and which ripped the heck out of my arms today when I was putting it up. I look like I tangled with a feral cat....long sleeves tomorrow, for sure.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wrapping up the home repairs....but not without a hiccup or two

Hallelujah, we have ceased to leak. Six showers since the grout patching, no water. Today he came back and sealed the grout, and my handy go-to guy has patched the hole in the ceiling and repaired the wall. I'm living dangerously, I know, but I refuse to go through holiday entertaining with a hole in the ceiling, though I will admit that I honestly considered stuffing a large stuffed bear up into the hole and dressing his dangling legs in Santa pants and black boots if the hole wasn't repaired.

Lest I be lost in the reverie of the luxury of knowing that the leak has been fixed and we are on our way to normalcy, I was rudely awakened from this sense of wellbeing yesterday morning by a sound of what could only be a small plane that had miscalculated it's approach to the nearby airpark and slammed into the house.

I grabbed my jeans from the bedpost, my slippers from the top of my dresser (if I don't put them up there, Bailey will turn them into his own twisted version of flip flops) and tore down the stairs, through the breakfast room, and into the family room where the sliding door stood open. OMG, it's the hubs! As I'm halfway out the door, pantless and barefoot, he's on his way around the corner with Bailey and wants to know what that noise was, that clearly had come from inside the house.

I immediately look to the hole in the ceiling, thinking the bathroom floor has finally given way from the incessant leak and that the shower is now blocking my access to the, okay there. Cabinets are still hanging on the walls. Hmmm...

As I walk back through the house I find my path blocked by one of the hulking 30 lb. 30x80" mdf bifold doors that hide the laundry facilities. How I didn't trip over it and land face-first in the family room on my adreneline-fueled sprint through the house 5 minutes earlier, is no small miracle. How it is that there is not a small squooshed chihuahua under it is proof that animals can have guardian angels just like people do. (Hey, wait a minute...where has mine been for the past month?) It could have splintered a kitchen chair and the table (guess I'd have to dis-invite one person from Thanksgiving), it could have taken the door off of my front load washer, it could have cracked 6 feet of ceramic floor tile, but it did none of those things. It just made the most excruciating noise possible as it committed hari kari by tearing out it's own heart (the heavy metal spring pin that holds it in place) and collapsed in a lifeless heap in the Entwistle breakfast room at 7:10 a.m. Monday morning. R.I.P.

Fortunately, while every standard item in this house (doors, cabinets, sliders, windows) is some custom size that the builder must have got some special closeout deal on when he built the house, this door was standard 60x80. And I could get a pretty 6-panel replacement (albeit I'd have to custom order something to match for the pantry door), and it was in stock at the Home Depot up the street.

Got my handy go-to guy out last night to check it out, remeasure, and made a plan that he'd come back today to fix the ceiling, hang the new doors, tackle a couple outside projects, and all is well. That is all was well until I walked into the kitchen to find him hanging the wrong size, wrong style doors. He's really good making things fit, so he's sort of added a little false wall to accommodate a shorter door....truly creative, nice looking, but NOT what I had in mind.

He's still at the Home Depot, which is where I sent him to attempt to return the wrong stuff (which he had to uninstall and which he might have shaved a little faux wood off of) and obtain the right set of doors. Leaving me to ask myself when is life going to return to normal here at Maison Entwistle. (and know that when I do ask this, it is in my best angst-ridden Charlton Heston at the end of Soylent Green voice)

(Hopefully by the end of the day, this photo can be captioned 'BEFORE'. Otherwise, some of our guests will enjoy this view Thursday during dinner.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Leave the Umbrellas at Home For Now

At least it appears that we're high and dry...BUT.....I wasn't home all day, so I don't know when the hubs showered. Last weekend it didn't leak until the second consecutive shower and the water had had a chance to saturate the pressboard subfloor. He just headed out to DC to play softball, so today's waterboarding will have to wait until lunchtime when he returns.

Yesterday I spent the day at the quilt shop in Bernina Guide classes. Not quite as comprehensive as I thought they would be, and there's a separate class in a couple weeks for the BSR, so I have to go back. But I did learn to use a #5, #10 and #3 foot. Those automatic buttonholes are AMAZING! I told the instructor that I was going to hire myself out as a buttonholer.

One of the most important things I learned was that there is a specific way to remove thread from the machine when changing threads....

If removing the top spool, cut your thread and pull the remaining thread out through the needle.
If removing the bobbin, cut your thread and pull the remaining thread out through the top of the bobbin case.

By grasping your thread spool or bobbin and just pulling it through the machine/bobbin case in a reverse threading fashion you risk linting up your top tension disks and damaging your bobbin tension.

While I made a conscious effort to unthread the top of the machine properly, I just couldn't remember to take the bobbins out properly. Must continue to work on that. As we all know, old habits die hard.

The embroidery guide class was rather quick, I was the only student after about 30 minutes, when the other lady in class had a question answered and left, and I had the new ArtDesign software that the instructor wasn't all that familiar with. We did ascertain that my machine was working, and I did embroider a design:

I think I can at least get a start on this embroidery thing, but I'm going to need a lot of playing around to actually become a designer and manipulate those designs in more ways than adding type to them and changing colors, size. Maybe I'll embroider something for real later today. Which reminds me of the instructor's words of wisdom that I'll share with you...

There are embroiderers who do sewouts, and then there are those who wish they did.

Superhubs did 99.8% of the Thanksgiving grocery shopping yesterday. Also, the resulting de-bagging and putting away. Ran and emptied the dishwasher, brought his sweaters up from the basement, moved the clothes to the dryer.....his comment was "somebody had to do some work yesterday". As I came downstairs this morning he steered me into the office where he had ordered a Christmas gift for DD's boyfriend (and one for himself) and all I had to do was approve and click 'checkout'. Now, if only I could figure out how to convince him that ironing is some kind of Zen training for softball.....

Well, I'm off to be productive. Need to get a tree or two done today and a start on the necessary cleaning needed by Thursday, and I need to unpack all my sewing stuff and work on those quilt tops. But first, I hear trouble brewing in the living room....sounds like Bailey's finished his giant rawhide chewy and has started his usual con number on Paco to get his tiny one. Off to referree.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

When It Rains, It Pours

Shower update: We had the original guy (softball team guy) back to look at the shower Thursday. He scraped out some of the grout and regrouted with a different type of grout (which I wasn’t sure you could do that…kind of like putting latex paint over oil paint..but what do I know). I think he needs his eyeglass prescription checked because I gave it a close look yesterday morning and he didn’t do the prettiest job—got it all over my $420 caulking job. Maybe it will rinse off. We won’t know if it leaks until we shower, which will be happening in minutes. If it doesn’t leak he’ll come back and seal it next week. If it does leak, we’re one step closer to calling in a professional bathroom remodeler to just tear it out and start over, but first we’ll have to pay the plumber to come back and cut a door-size hole in my workroom wall to see if we can determine where the water is coming from, since he's the only contractor interested enough to try to find the source of the problem.

As for the shady tile repair company, I took photos of the holes in the grout that was supposedly repaired by their No. 1 tile guy (who doesn't wear glasses but probably should). I'll be submitting those photos with my credit card dispute and to the Consumer Reporting agencies.

I picked up my new notebook computer Thursday and the Windows 7 software that’s on it isn’t the right one that allows it to also run XP, so while I could load one embroidery software disk on it (which I needed to do for todays Bernina embroidery class), I couldn’t load the one I paid $500 for, so now I’ve got to upgrade to Windows 7 Professional $$$$$ .

Filled out the Flexible Spending paperwork to get the money back that the husband has put in and realized that $500 or so of it was from his surgery last December 30th and some doctor visits that didn’t bill until afterwards that happened last November. (They had to wait and see what the health insurance paid) Don’t know how that works, but if the rule is the expense had to take place in 2009, we now have to run out and have $500 in some kind of medical/dental work done in a hurry in order to get the money back that he put in. What is up with that…how can you give someone your money to play with all year, and then if you can’t come up with receipts to show that you had medical expenses in that full amount they get to keep what’s left over? Shouldn’t you just get it back and then have to pay the tax on it that you didn’t because it went to an FSA? We should know about that in a week or two--a inconvenience to be sure.

So, obviously it’s not been a good week, and one relaxing weekend day is shot. Have to drive up to Frederick for a morning sewing class, try to meet up with the SIL to get some stuff that the inlaws need when they arrive in a couple weeks during a 30 minute break, back to the shop for an afternoon sewing class, and stop at my sister’s house after that to pick up their turkey fryer thing, because my BIL wants to try to deep fry a turkey on Thanksgiving (don’t worry, we’ll be roasting a back-up turkey in the oven—his history with non-traditional turkey prep is 0 for 1 so far—no sense pushing our luck).

Thanksgiving is in less than a week and I haven’t given it a fleeting thought. Good thing I’m a ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ kind of hostess. In my many years of cooking Thanksgiving dinner, I’ve come to learn that:

  1.  most of your family does not like change, so you can forget about those new labor-intensive recipes you’ve been seeing on the Food Network
  2. the grocery store will not run out of turkeys, so it’s okay to pick one up Tuesday after work
  3. forget the Black Friday sales and head to the grocery store, because they’ll practically be giving away their leftover turkeys and you can pick one up and pop it in the freezer for Christmas dinner
Okay, enough procrastinating. I'm off to shower and then I've got to fly out of here to get to class in time. I'll let you know if you still need to bring your umbrella if you come to Maison Entwistle.



Wednesday, November 18, 2009

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Duking it out with the tile company has not gone well.

While they set an appointment to be here Thursday morning to fix the tile, the owner phoned at 5:30 to cancel the appointment and to tell me that when we do reschedule, he'll be a nice guy and do whatever work that needs to be done for $66 an hour, instead of the $88 an hour he charged me to caulk for 5 hours.

Wait, what alternate universe did I step into when I pulled into my garage when I came home from work? Is he serious?

So I blew off sewing, cooking dinner, being calm, and wrote numerous totally factual bad reviews of his company and posted them on every available Internet service review site. Tomorrow I'll start sending the complaints to every County/City he's licensed to do business in, and file a charge dispute with the credit card I used to pay for the $420 caulking job. I do not take lightly to being screwed over.

Then in despearation, I called the softball buddy who originally installed the shower and he said he'd be here at 9 a.m.tomorrow to take a look and see if he can't fix things up.

Aaaarrrrrgggghhhhhhh. Will the madness ever cease?

Oh, and the new computer was never dropped of this evening so I've got to go pick it up tomorrow from DD's school at lunch time.

One day we're up, the next we're down. And yeah, I didn't win Mega Millions yesterday either. :(

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Niagara Falls...slowly I turn, step by step, inch by inch....

(Oh gosh, remember that? Three Stooges. Funny how the brain can go back and pull out something 50 years old but you can't remember where the heck you put your glasses down 5 minutes ago.)

Alright, I know you've been patiently waiting for the big announcement....brace yourselves......the shower......
still leaks!

Yesterday was the day I finally came unglued about it. I've been trying to do such a good job of holding it all together, but it just sent me over the edge. It was an extra dirty,  two-martini evening, with a trip out to dinner.

Saturday, I took the first shower after the plumber had sealed the faucet plate. I was so sure that was the problem and it had been resolved. I come downstairs like a kid on Christmas morning only to see the paper towel I had placed strategically on the counter below the gaping hole in the kitchen ceiling is soaking wet. Talk about disheartened. Then the hubs, who is sitting at the counter doing Sunday's crosssword on Saturday (I know, shoot him),  smiles and admits to having wet the paper towel, just for fun. Phew! (and good thing we don't own any guns)

So he goes to take a shower, and cynic that I am, I place a new dry paper towel down. When he's done, it's wet. Lovely. Let's just go out and shop for the rest of the afternoon and I will try to not let it ruin my weekend.

On Monday, my hero plumber has some new ideas up his sleeve. Remember, he has said that this is not his problem, as it is not a leak, but he has a couple of suggestions, the least invasive of which is that I go out and pick up a plastic tarp, cover one of the tile walls and  commence to shower. So, last night at 2:00 a.m., I am putting on the finishing touches of duct tape to tile and laying out yet another litmus (paper towel) test.

This morning, hubs showers...I fly out of bed, run down the stairs, look at the paper towel...dry! Eureka!  But I also consider that he's also freaked by the fact that it's like he's showering at the dry cleaners with the plastic, so he's only taken a 5 minute shower instead of his usual 10-15. Taking one for the team, I go up and wash my hair yet again and stand there for 10 solid minutes to allow mass quantities of water to flow. Paper towel is dry. No leak. Yaay!!!!! Thank you Mr. Super Plumber.

Now all that's left to do is duke it out with the tile company, who will be here Thursday (2 more mornings of showering in a Ziploc bag) and we'll see if they step up and fix it without me having to mortgage the house (geez, considering what they charged to caulk, I'd have to kidnap a newborn heir to some oil-rich throne to cover this). Well, at least we know what has caused the leak, so we can fix it.
In celebration of having a huge weight lifted from my chest, while out merchandising this evening I popped into TJ Maxx and found something I've been looking for for a very long time:

Ribboned cake plates!

Ten years or so ago, I used to sell Southern Living at Home (or slah! (like blah!) as we reps fondly referred to this little home party endeavor)  and they made this plate (and mirror) called 'dress me up'. You could thread seasonal ribbon through it to give it a nice, festive look, changeable for occasion or season. All the cool reps had one in their kit (you had to buy it extra and it was not cheap) and would demonstrate by removing the ribbon and rethreading with something festive in the hostess' living room, while the ladies oohed and aahed.  I was too cheap to buy one for my kit--I had this strange policy that I had to earn money before I could spend it. I didn't buy a lot, if you catch my drift. And I have lived to regret that isolated incident of frugality.

I've just discovered pedestal cake plates (I'm a little behind---I just got my first trifle dish last year, which I don't think I've used yet), so I was hoping I'd find one that had some cutwork that I could turn into my very own Dress me Up Pedestal Cak Plate (at the backa of the photo you'll see the cake plate I bought this summer--this is as close as I have come..until tonight).

Imagine my ecstasy when I wander past the endcap and find not one, but two 'dress me up' pedestal cake plates threaded with one of my favorite polka dot. Happy happy, joy joy!. One regular size, one a tad smaller--O-M-G! they're STACKABLE!!!!! I almost had a nervous breakdown in between the painted wine glasses and the Polish Pottery. (I told you, this leak thing has definitely taken it's toll on me.)
I can just see them stacked, one atop the other, to display an arrangement of sugared fruits, cookies, pretty cupcakes, colorful kugel ornaments...whatever my heart desires. I have found Nirvana in a couple of cake plates.

Here I am in the back of TJ Maxx, holding a huge box (something I picked up for the snowman tree--you'll see later), a couple of wild and crazy dog toys (one that has, no lie, 18 squeakers in it), a little gift for my daughter (shh!) and I'm trying to also balance these two plates, one atop the other, WITH MY LEFT HAND, no less. I am an accident waiting to happen.

Fortunately, an angel of mercy, disguised as a TJ Maxx stock gentleman (who looked strangely like Guillermo from the Jimmy Kimmel show), takes pity, empties his cart of dishware he's stocking and wheels to my rescue, carefully transferring my prizes to said cart. Such service!

The perfect end to the day...figured out the leak, picked up a couple Christams gifts, got a lot of this week's merchandising done, and found some plates I didn't really need but wanted. Now, let's not think about where the heck we shall store them when they aren't in use. I think we shall save that ugly thought for after the shower has been totally repaired.

Tomorrow evening my new notebook computer is scheduled to be dropped off and I can install my embroidery software and give my machine a whirl before Saturday's all day Bernina Guide Classes. Ooohhhh! It's Christmas all over again tomorrow. Woo hoo! Things are definitely looking up.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Back on least in the studio

Tonight the hubs went to play poker so I was on my own. After a strangely healthy but tasty dinner of coconut & red curry chicken bisque, salad, an artichoke (okay, so sue me, I dipped it in melted butter) and a glass of Italian Pinot Grigio, I headed upstairs to the studio to try to be productive and start on my SIL's Christmas gift.

Afer a few hours of sewing strips from a jelly roll together in a few configurations, and  alot of rotary cutting, I've got 20 12.5" strip pairs and 40 4.5" 6-strip sets. Colorful, interesting, now what?

Ah...we flank the two-strip pairs with the 6-strip sets and it looks like we're going to wind up with a pretty cute 12" block...twenty of them, to be exact.

So maybe I'll sew 4 across and  down, turning some of them a half turn or so now and again for interest. Then I can border them out to a decent throw size, or maybe I'll intermingle some borders between them. I don't know. I'll put the blocks together tonight and spread them out tomorrow and see how it plays.

Speaking of tomorrow......if you're reading this, before 9:00 a.m. EST or thereabouts, please, please, please cross your fingers that the shower no longer leaks. Yep,,,,after spending an outrageous amount of money for caulking, waiting a day for them to reinstall the faucet correctly, we finally got a chance to give her a spin on Wednesday morning. Surprise, surprise, surprise....the water still dripped from the gaping hole in the kitchen ceiling.

What's a girl to do? Move? Tear out the shower we just put in a year and a half ago and start over? And then what if we've still got a leak after that? Well, I got the plumber to come out again, and I really didn't want the same guy back because the tile guy convinced me that the plumber was incompetent (probably trying to justify the $105 an hour for 4 hours to caulk a shower he was going to charge me) but the warranty company was giving me fits, and the hubs said that Mr Original Plumber should be the one to come back so I agreed to have him out again.

Well, he was very patient with me, and very thorough, and assured me that there are no leaking pipes or drain (and provided lots of visual aids to prove this to me). Fortunately, he did figure out that the faucet plate had it's drain hole caulked over, and that no one ever sealed where the pipe extends through the plate, so the water was most likely splashing back behind the plate and since it can't drain out, once it fills, it pours over into the hole in the wall the pipe comes out (and there's a water line on the back of the faceplate which kind of proves this theory).

While this is totally not in his job description, he recaulked the faceplate, leaving the drain hole open this time and he sealed around the pipe and plate. He said he's pretty sure that's the problem. And I got a bill for $45 instead of the $95 plus paying him for caulking because he said he felt bad that I had been overcharged by the tile people who didn't actually fix the problem, which was (as he reminded me more than once) not a plumbing problem.

Tomorrow morning we find out if his diagnosis was right. Hold your breath and cross your fngers. Think happy thoughts. Work some mojo that our leak is gone and we can go back to living like normal people and have the hole in the kitchen ceiling fixed.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Just Checkin' In

Life's been a little crazy. We had family obligations (which included entertaining) for the weekend. I've been hustling to keep up with the merchandising. It was a very busy week for merchandising last week

Sadly, not a lot of sewing time. In fact, not a lot of anything fun time.

The shower got resealed (not regrouted....but strangely, the price to do the lesser job was the same, go figure). Not sure if it's really solved the problem yet as the tile guy doing the sealing removed the faucet and put it on wrong, so after the sealant had dried I went to take a shower and discovered the knob would only turn a quarter turn, which fell into the 'cold' water zone. Sorry, I like my showers hot.

They sent another bonehead out to fix it this morning. In the meantime, we've left the hole open in the kitchen ceiling so we can tell if the sealing process has cured the leak. Fingers crossed. The handyman comes Thursday to take a look at that and a couple other projects that we can throw more money at, so hopefully all will be well for Thanksgiving.

Got the Sew Steady table yesterday, put on the old Sew Slip mat, pulled out the Quilt Halo, connected the BSR and did a little freemotion practice in the fifteen free minutes I had last night between getting home from work and starting dinner. During that time I realized that the presser foot on this new machine is out of whack, it's not centered. The needle is barely a whisper away from the edge on the #37 foot. Guess all those quarter inch seams I've been sewing since I got the machine are off. Hopefully it's a minor adjustment that can be made when I'm at the shop for classes in a couple weeks.

I did have a couple hours to pull together some projects on Saturday. I got the border sewn on this and got it on the pinning table. Decided to forgo the basting spray and just pinned, heck, it's small, what does it matter? Big mistake! Flipped it over and it's got the wrinklies. Now I need to unpin it and start over. This is what happens when you rush.

Today was the day to make the hotel reservations for Houston next year. My sister says she doesn't want to go to Houston, she'd rather go to Paducah (because that's where her friend would rather go). Paducah is the same weekend as our guild show, and it's been getting some unflattering press lately due to the show hotel closing and the Paducahan economy tanking. The people that run the Paducah show will also do a show in Lancaster this year so I can check that out without having to drive 10 hours and pay for a hotel room shared with women who go to bed a good 4 hours before I do :).
Anyway, I digress. I figured I could go to Houston by myself and take classes, however,  I was put off by the nonrefundable deposit I'd have to make, so I decided to not make the reservation. We'll see what happens. It's a year away. And since it's just me and I'm not looking for an elusive hotel 'suite' for 3, I'm sure I can find a single room come Spring, should I decide that I have to go. It's hard to reserve a hotel and plunk down that deposit when you don't know what the classes are that you'd be I reserve a hotel room for the entire week? What happens if I only need to be there 4 nights? Too much to think about today--definitely not worth the hassle of playing phone redial all morning trying to get through to reserve a room at the Hilton.

And before I allow the whole Christmas decorating scene to fly out of my control (which can easily happen, trust me), once all our guests left on Sunday night I went upstairs and worked on the tree in the master bedroom. Almost done. Needs the top decorated and that should be it. Here's a couple photos of how it's shaping up. Gee, only 15 or 16 more trees to go!

Why can't it be the weekend ?!