Category Archives: miscellaneous

New York, New York

Last week, John and two others in our office had business in New York so the three wives went along for fun and a bit of sightseeing while the husbands were obligated to an all-day meeting.

Most of Tuesday was a travel day, and I was stunned that La Guardia airport looked pretty much like it did in 1986 when I was last there. There was a lot of construction in the vicinity, but 30 years of no visible significant improvements was a surprise.

Tuesday night there was a dinner at the Yacht Club. Now, when I hear the word yacht, I think large boats, water, piers, etc., but it was a place in downtown Manhattan. The dining room was grand, with a high ceiling featuring a back lit Tiffany-style stained glass inset, lots of ornately carved wood trim and scale model boats on the walls: very 1940s.

The strict rule against cell phone use inside the club was a welcome change of pace; how refreshing to converse with people who weren’t distracted by an inanimate object that too many people value as much as their own kidneys. We enjoyed visiting with a couple from Canada and several people from Denver.

The highlight of the trip was on Wednesday morning when we walked over to the Downton Abbey exhibit.

We were especially excited because the exhibit, scheduled to end April 1, had been extended, so we were able to get tickets for a 10:00 a.m. admission. After a leisurely breakfast at a bustling little cafe, it was only a 5-minute walk to the exhibit.

While the exhibit featured various rooms in the Crawley home like the dining room, Mrs. Patmore’s kitchen, Mr. Carson’s office, etc., I had been especially looking forward to seeing all the clothing and the exhibit did not disappoint; indeed, I have 150 pictures to go back through and study. I tried to get one good photo each of the entire outfit and then zoom in for a closeup or two of the fabrics, trims, beading, overlays, pleats, tucks, necklines, hemlines, collars, cuffs, buttons, buttonholes, belts, hats, gloves and shoes.

What a marvel the workmanship is on these beautiful bound buttonholes on this navy and black dress worn by Lady Mary.

It was all just wonderful, and I lingered at every one, trying to soak in every last detail. As I was admiring all the fashions, I thought of my mom and wished she had been there with me; she would have loved it.

In the afternoon, we walked to the Frick museum to see an amazing collection of paintings, Chinese porcelain, sculptures and furniture inside the former residence of American industrialist Henry Clay Frick, who made his fortune in steel.

Wednesday evening, there was another dinner, followed by, for guests who were interested, seats at the Imperial Theater for the Broadway show Carousel.

The theater was pretty inside, and while the seats were comfortable, there was less leg room than you would encounter in the coach section of an airplane, so at least two people in our group were feeling pretty cramped by the second act.

Still, a New York theater experience is quite special, and John and I were grateful for it.

It’s been nine or 10 years since John and I have taken a real vacation and after this trip, we both realized that we’d better start planning other getaways. We have some ideas….

 

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In-house tech support

I have nothing quilty or crafty to show this month. Since I went back to work in May, that part of my life has really fallen by the wayside. I wish there was room for more work/life balance, but startup companies like ours don’t allow for it. It’s okay for now, and my income is helping to pay for college. Plus, I like what I do and I enjoy my co-workers so I can’t complain too much.

We enjoyed having the boys home for Thanksgiving. They flew in Monday evening and left Saturday afternoon. It was hard to say good-bye, but they’ll be home within the month for Christmas. After that, it will probably be another year before we see them again.

While they were home, John arranged it so we both had one-on-one time with each of them, which was nice. Also nice was the fact that when I had trouble booting my laptop, both of them jumped in to figure out what the trouble was.

I am so lucky to have in-house tech support!

The diagnosis was insufficient memory, so all the menfolk piled in the car for a trip to the computer store, which likely doubles as male bonding, right?

The added memory did the trick, and I’m grateful for avoiding the purchase of a new laptop.

Thanks for stopping by!

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Greetings from Harveyswamp, Texas

Harvey needs to leave. It’s almost 7:30 p.m. and it has

Not.    Stopped.    Raining.    All.    Day.

Fortunately, we are still dry, although last night I was uneasy about the water lapping at the top of our curb. It has since receded, but the anxiety returned with news that the Army Corps. of Engineers was planning to release water from the Addicks and Barker Cypress reservoirs. This excess flows into Buffalo Bayou, (already reported to be overflowing) which runs behind our neighborhood. It’s so close, you can walk to it from our house.

It’s so saturated outside, inside our house, both downstairs toilets and the drains in the kitchen and laundry room are gurgling.

Over the weekend, residents in our subdivision have been out periodically to clear the gutters of debris so that our streets continue to drain, and earlier today, a call went out for help clearing this tree that had fallen into the street last night.

A neighbor and his teenage son showed up with a chain saw which worked for about five minutes before quitting. John and I donned beach shoes and rain gear to see if we could help and John ended up fetching his handsaw from the garage. By then a couple other neighbors joined us with a second handsaw and rake and within about 30 minutes most of the tree was out of the street.

With no working chain saw to cut the remaining trunk into sections, the guys tried to rotate it, but that that didn’t work because the roots were still holding firm.

In most places the water was at mid-calf level, which is nothing compared to other parts of the city, so we can’t complain.

On the quilting side of life, since returning to work in May, I have not sewn or quilted much. I did complete a charity quilt for my guild, which is not at all attractive—or square, which is one reason I stay away from panels. I didn’t realize there was a panel in this kit, otherwise, I would have picked up another kit; but it’s done and hopefully, a kid somewhere will enjoy it:

Thanks for stopping by!

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Small adjustment = life changing results

Over the Fourth of July holiday, John and I had a four-day weekend. The better part of one of those days was spent on a medical insurance appeal. I composed several letters, printed forms, scanned documents and made copies for everyone under the sun who was in a position of “need to know.”

That’s when I realized my office space needed adjusting. When we first set it up after we moved, I’m not sure why, but I had positioned the chair, keyboard and mouse to the right of the center support for the desk (where the trash can is in the photo). In doing so, when I needed to use the work table (forming the L in the photo) the chair would run off the floor mat into the carpet. Turning the floor mat the other direction didn’t help, so I was stuck for a solution.

I am lucky to be married to an engineer because there isn’t much he can’t figure out. He agreed that a bigger mat was needed but also suggested I switch sides and work to the left of the desk’s center. Having the mouse to the left opens up space on the right for papers and writing, which is logical for a right handed person like me.

John found a large enough mat that allows for the chair to roll under both the desk and the work table without falling into the carpet. Also, we were able to re-purpose the other mat so we didn’t lose anything there. In the end, I was amazed how much easier it was to work in the space just by switching sides.

If you’re curious about the left handed mouse thing…Many years ago, John and I converted to using a mouse with our left hands to save wear and tear on our right hands. It takes a little getting used to, but it’s perfectly doable.

If only our medical insurance claim effort was that easy.

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Colorado trip

We saw the boys a couple weeks ago when we drove up to Colorado for our niece’s wedding. They were well, the wedding was fun and the weather was perfect.

Fall was in full swing

fall-colors

and we took advantage of our time there to catch up with family friends and Colorado friends, including an extra long walk up the Bitch Hill in our old neighborhood with my friend/walking partner.

We hauled a bunch of stuff up to the boys that they asked for like a book case, a small drawer storage unit, clothes, shoes, camping gear.

unloading

We also took a cooler full of food. Eric had asked if I would bring a meatloaf when we came up so I made four of those, four batches of pizza burger filling, meatballs, lasagna, pulled pork, ravioli casserole, and three loaves each of apple bread and pumpkin bread.

freezer

Cooking all that food took all of Labor Day weekend, one day of the next weekend and both days the following weekend, but it was worth it because I will do just about anything to keep my sons from ingesting Ramen.

While there, we made a grocery run and stocked the pantry with canned soup, beans, pasta and other staples with the hope that they might eat something better than Ramen.

Our last night there, Ross cooked dinner for us before we headed to the airport for a late flight home.

cooking

It was very tasty and I was proud to know that at least one of my sons can function well in a kitchen.

It was good to be back in the land of cooler temperatures and lower humidity, and maybe someday we will return; but for now, we’ll have to get by on visiting.

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What NOT to do

In 1985, John’s maternal grandmother and uncle collaborated to make us a one of a kind Christmas gift that has graced our home for more than 30 years: A beautifully hand embroidered picture in a custom made frame.

A close up of the frame. It’s fairly heavy with a craftsman look to it. The employees at the framing place raved about how cool they thought it was.

A close up of the frame. It’s fairly heavy with a craftsman look to it. The employees at the framing place raved about how cool they thought it was.

We were finally ready to hang some more pictures in the new house, but stopped for this one when we noticed some grayish/white spots under the glass at the top.

Uh oh.

I took the whole thing over to the framing place I love and trust 1000 percent. I waited while they carefully took it apart and nearly had a stroke when they uncovered this:

The framer said the spots on the glass may have been acid from the wood.

The framer said the spots on the glass may have been acid from the wood.

No-no #1: The needlework had been mounted to a piece of plywood.

No-no #2: The needlework had been secured to the back of the plywood with heavy duty staples from a staple gun, making their removal slow and tricky to avoid further damage to the fabric.

No-no #3: The excess needlework had been secured to the back of the plywood with masking tape.

Here it is, all restored—back in its original frame, properly mounted and now protected by  conservation glass, which offers UV/light shielding properties:

birds2

There was some concern over whether the frame would be salvageable, and thankfully, it was. In the interim, though, we had told the framer that of the two components, John’s grandmother’s handwork was more important—you can get another frame, but if you lose the needlework, the frame is irrelevant.

birds3

Now that it’s properly framed, I just hope we saved it in time and that no further deterioration will occur. For now, though, we’re so happy it’s back with the family.

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A week lost, a life saved

So much has happened the past two weeks, I could almost write a book. On the 5th and 6th, John and I walked the house to start our punch list.

Oops! The bench seat in an upstairs bathroom was cracked when the shower door was installed. There was no material left, and there is a search to see if another fabricator has like material. Otherwise, the guilty party will have to cough up for an entire slab. It’s not looking good for them.

Oops! The bench seat in an upstairs bathroom was cracked when the shower door was installed. There was no material left, and there is a search to see if another fabricator has like material. Otherwise, the guilty party will have to cough up for an entire slab. It’s not looking good for them.

I took pictures of everything needing attention and the end result was a 120-slide PowerPoint, which grew to 135 slides after our four-hour walk through with the project manager on the 8th.

Mystery unsolved: At one time, there were shelves for this cabinet. Then there weren’t.

Mystery unsolved: At one time, there were shelves for this cabinet. Then there weren’t.

You get this when an inspector says to move the electrical meter from the side of the garage to the back. There are now four or five spots all along the side of the garage that need bricks replaced.

You get this when an inspector says to move the electrical meter from the side of the garage to the back. There are now four or five spots all along the side of the garage that need bricks replaced.

Later that day, we met with a bank representative to sign some documents related to our construction loan.

The real fun started on the 9th when John went into the hospital for a cardiac catheterization, after which the doctor said it was time for a bypass. The night of the 10th, we were in the ER until 1:00 a.m., on the 11th, Eric flew home for spring break and a week ago today John had surgery.

This is a therapeutic pillow given to all surgical patients. You hold it against the incision area and it serves as effective counter pressure when you cough or sneeze.

This is a therapeutic pillow given to all surgical patients. You hold it against the incision area and it serves as effective counter pressure when you cough or sneeze.

He did well: the surgery did not take as long as anticipated (apparently, he followed my orders to behave himself while in there); he got his breathing tube out in record time; and he was out of bed sitting in a chair the next morning and walked two circuits with the nurse around the ICU. He made good, steady progress, and by Thursday he was lobbying hard to get out, but wasn’t discharged until Friday.

The last time we were this exhausted was when we had an infant and a toddler in the house. Part of the blame goes to scheduling the surgery around the change to daylight savings time. His 5:15 a.m. appointment felt like 4:15. Add to that a stressful week prior and the stress and preparation of what was coming, and you have one bone-weary couple. The night of the surgery, I crashed into bed around 8:30 p.m. and woke up the next day around 8:15 a.m., still fuzzy-eyed and brain dead. It was hard to resist the temptation to stay there all day.

The support and encouragement from our work family has been overwhelming. Several even brought meals to tide us over after John got home. On top of that, our builder and his wife (future neighbors, too) brought us a delicious feast yesterday of grilled salmon, fresh asparagus and two more sides. We were blown away by their kindness.

food

The weekend before the surgery, we picked up the pantry and sewing room closet shelves from the Container Store. With John directing, Eric installed the top rail in all three closets. With the hard part out of the way, it will be easy for me to assemble the rest of the components once we move in, so thank you, Eric!

pantry installation

The master closet was outfitted last week

master closet

and an appraisal was done on the house in preparation for closing. Meanwhile, the subcontractors continue to trickle in and out to address all the bullet points on the punch list. Here’s an example of something they fixed:

Sigh.

Sigh.

In light of some of the larger issues needing correction, we’re rather grateful for the closing being moved out, although we don’t yet know exactly when that will be and really don’t care at this point because we are focused on John.

We are so ready for everyone to GET OUT. Still, there’s nothing like a crisis to jolt you back to the big picture. Our house frustrations pale in comparison to what could’ve been without medical intervention for John. We are hugely thankful that he is on the road to recovery and that all indications point to him returning to a normal life filled with regular activity.

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We went to the Quilt Festival

Yesterday, Rhonda and I went to the quilt festival with two other quilting friends. In spite of our intentions to get there when the doors opened, we had to delay our trip downtown due to the rain which was coming down in sheets and buckets. By the time we got there, we had no time to waste.

Rhonda was on a mission this year. She had made the decision to look for a real, honest-to-goodness sewing cabinet—something where the bed of her machine sits flush with the table top. At our first stop we saw a nice cabinet with some nice features. Good, but she wanted to shop more. We headed to the next booth and saw a nice cabinet, but all the sales people were busy, so we walked to the third vendor and it was there she found what she was looking for:

sewing cabinet

The table has two extension leaves: one on the back that runs the entire length of the table (5 feet) and a small one on the side to support a top when adding borders or binding or when machine quilting. The table also comes with a portable three-drawer storage unit with a pull-out shelf. I just know she’s going to love it and will really appreciate it once it’s all set up.

The bonus? When we sew at her house, there will be a place for me!

Beyond that, it was fun doing something quilty again, after more than a year away from it. I didn’t go hog wild, just found a few things:

quilt show finds

  • A spool of 70-weight YLI cotton piecing thread. I have doubts about this thread being strong enough for piecing, but I was super curious so I’m going to give it go.
  • Stencils in two sizes of the basket weave pattern.
  • Homespun plaids. I’m thinking the black would look good in my Aunt Grace Halloween quilt if I ever finish the design.

black plaid

As usual, the quilts were jaw dropping; many for which I would almost go to prison, just to have them in my possession! Notice I said “almost.”

Not much got accomplished on the house this week—more caulking, sanding and masking in preparation for staining the cabinets. In the meantime, there are a lot of little things that need fixing or adjusting and it’s a matter of scheduling the subs to come out and do them.

The ceiling drywall in the kitchen was patched where the beams we decided against were torn out.

The can light in the pavilion was moved so it would be centered on the fireplace:

week 30-1

Also, when the masons laid the brick for the outdoor fireplace, they covered the connection for the TV. (We won’t be installing a TV out there; we only added the capability to do so for resale value).

We averted disaster and finally found a suitable interior wall paint color and also nailed down the color and finish for ceilings and trim.

week 30-2

The second floor balcony rail was installed:

week 30-3

And it’s still raining….

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Dinner and a play

This week the painters started the tedious tasks of caulking, sanding and taping, which means for the first time in months, I have no progress photos of the house because no one wants to see a picture of caulk.

To that end, our paint color choices were rolled onto the walls and ceiling in the dining room, as were the two trim choices. When we saw them, we said, “What were we thinking?” so it was back to the drawing board.

The cabinet stain sample finally appeared this week, too; although it was a bit dark with the wrong finish. Fortunately, while we were at the house yesterday, we met the guy who had made the sample and talked with him about the modifications. Talking one-on-one with a vendor is not encouraged by our builder, and to a certain extent, we understand why. However, there are some compelling reasons for putting vendor and client together. In the few instances where this has happened, we were able to get enough questions answered and make a lot of decisions in a short period of time, which is good, because everyone wants to get to the finish line as soon as possible.

We also learned that he had the wrong information about how he was to stain the stairs, which was a bit unnerving. When we got home, I found the email from five and a half months ago detailing what we wanted done with the stairs. When stuff like this happens, in no way do I feel guilty for speaking directly with a vendor.

In the meantime, we did something completely different and totally fun last night. Earlier in the week, we were offered four free theater tickets, so we met a couple from work to have dinner at a nice restaurant and then go to see the play Pippin.

Pippin

It was an excellent production, complete with music, dancing, comedy, circus acts, magic and two puppets making out. The set and costumes were beautiful; all great fun, making us realize how much we’ve been rotting since we moved back here a year ago. That’s not to say that we’re not busy, but we came out of this convinced that when our second job of building a house is over, we will definitely be getting out to enjoy more of what the fourth largest city in the country has to offer.

Have a good week and thanks for stopping by.

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Pool party for four

Eric took two weeks of leave and flew in from Fort Drum late Friday night so we’re enjoying some family time right now.

Today was one of those what-should-we-do? days. Early in the afternoon John trimmed a bunch of plants and shrubs out by the pool. Boring.

I ran to the grocery store and bought stuff for lunches and dinners next week, came home and prepped some of it. Boring.

It was hot and last night’s rain had driven the humidity way up. About 4:00, we decided to get into the pool and asked the boys if they wanted to join us; they were unenthused—until they did it.

pool1

pool2

pool3

pool4

pool5

pool6

Three hours later….

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