Thursday, July 26, 2007

Dumbledore's Army

About a month ago, ten people received plain, brown padded envelopes in their mailboxes. They each contained a galleon: These were the invitations to our fifth Harry Potter movie release party. Like the galleons carried by members of Dumbledore's Army in "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", this galleon had a goblin's serial number stamped on it that actually gave the time and date of the next (well, only...) meeting in the Room of Requirement. Originally, the galleon was going to be the only thing in the envelope. But I decided that in case one of the invitees did not remember these crucial pieces of information, there should be a hint inside. So the envelopes also contained slips of paper:
Thank you for attending our 5th annual Bring & Fly Sale. Enclosed is the rebate you requested. If you require any assistance, we will set an army of staff on your case immediately. Contact us at extension 62442.

Ref. number: DA(3121)-71726381322162-2342217261: 733272432153-4373-61323281436241-81436132. 72738371-404-###-####.

This message had to be able, of course, to pass through any Ministry of Magic screenings without revealing its secret, so it was encoded and only contained "vague" hints (LOL) to its real purpose (note italicized words). The reason those last digits in the reference number are "pounded" is because that is our phone number. Can you figure out the code?*

Guests arrived to see this sign on the door:

Thus began a "scavenger hunt" of sorts. Usually, to start the party, we'd have a "mixer" game. One year, it was guessing what everyone's Patronus was by asking no more than three yes/no questions to each person. Another year it was trading Chocolate Frog cards with other guests to find your own (yes, DH made Chocolate Frog cards for everyone by digitally altering pictures of each guest to look "magical"...then I wrote copy for them and constructed the boxes and made the frogs). By this time, though, everyone pretty much knew everyone else. The real news was that the party was in the new place. So I figured everyone would really want a tour when they showed up. So a tour they got!When they entered, guests got encoded clues (same code as the invitation slip) that told them to look for "Harry's old room". Once they opened the "cupboard under the stairs" in our downstairs room, they found a new clue (in iambic pentameter) that took them to their next location. Most clues were multiple choice...they asked you to remember something from the book, and told you to go to a different location in the loft depending on which answer you chose. For instance, the clue in the cupboard under the stairs was
The letter from Hogwarts ended some of his cares,
addressed to "Mr. H. Potter, Cupboard-under-the-stairs."
Now at 12 Grimmauld Place is where he'd most like to rest,
But first they must exterminate each kind of pest.
Without Mad-Eye's help, they tossed the drawing room junk,
Save the boggart in the desk...or was it a trunk?

If the boggart was found in a desk, go upstairs and look in the pantry on the second floor.
If the boggart was found in a trunk, find the breaker panel in the garage right beside the door.

But you were trying to prove you belonged in the DA, so if you went to the wrong location, you got insulted. =)

Once you made it to the second level, you could have your choice of Butterbeer, pumpkin juice, or elderflower juice and h'ors d'oeuvres by the lovely and talented Andy. Here we have Crumpets with Stilton and Walnuts and Devils on Thestral-back (originally "Devils on Horseback"), which were prunes (stay with me!) stuffed with chutney and wrapped in bacon. I know, I know, prunes...but anything "stuffed with chutney and wrapped in bacon" has to be good. And they were. The blue bowl contains "Jelly Rats", bought at IKEA, of all places! They were the consistency of gumdrops rather than gummy bears, though not as sweet, and were quite good.

The final clue was found in the "Pensieve" in our bathroom. You may be able to see that some of the words in the clue are missing. When you held the clue up next to your face and looked in the mirror, the missing words would "magically" appear (they were taped to the wall of the shower in mirror-writing).
Sadly, I had forgotten everything I learned in Optics in college and had to look up facts on the Internet to determine what the relative point sizes of the fonts on the clue and on the wall should be so they would match up!!
Once you got the final clue, you headed upstairs to the deck, picking up your "DA" button on the way. We enjoyed a delicious dinner al fresco... chicken and ham pasties and a fabulous mixed green salad with apples, walnuts, Wensleydale cheese with cranberries and a phenomenal fig balsamic vinaigrette (all cooked to perfection by Andy). I gotta say that having food catered is a splendiferous thing. I actually got to talk to guests!! It was so great being up on the deck, and the temperature was great. The only downside was when the occasional train reduced our conversations to "What?" "WHAT???"

After dinner, guests voted on who had written the best limerick denouncing Umbridge. The winner (who got a bookmark to use last weekend!) was
Fudge has a new teacher for us
The toad-like harpy Dolores
I'd like to throw Umbridge
Off the trestle of some bridge
Or to centaurs - they're half-man, half-horres.

and the runner-up:

Here's to an old gal named Dolores,
Who could do naught but deplore us,
In sweaters of pink
Like a great froggy fink
O, go take a dunk in Lavoris! (<-- a mouthwash from the 70's)

Then we moved down to the living room (second floor) for a team competition for FANTASTIC PRIZES!! Well, pretty cool prizes, anyway. DH designed a logo for Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, and we got some swag made up with the logo: T-shirts, coffee mugs and buttons.

Our poor guests were subjected to untested new Wheezes, in sweet form. Each Wheeze "unfortunately" would render the subject mute for 30 seconds, during which time his or her teammates would have to guess the mysterious symptoms the subject was acting out. (In other words, charades, with snacks.) But we weren't talking simple Puking Pastilles or Fever Fudge here. DH made up the symptoms, which ranged in difficulty from "you're now a canary" to "you can't stop chucking gnomes" to "you're in love with one of your shoes" or "your nose is now a flashlight". Much hilarity (and frustration) ensued. After the swag was distributed (we did another couple quick rounds for an extra T-shirt), everyone bolted for the movie, which was great, and which I want to see again, soon!

*Hint one: See the extension mentioned in the text? 62442? Ring a bell?
Hint two: Remember, that was what Arthur Weasley dialed in the phone booth so that he and Harry could use the visitor's entrance to the Ministry of Magic.
Hint three: 62442 spells "magic" when you use the letters on a Muggle phone dial (not one of those fancy cell-phones).
Hint four: Notice the front of the Reference number..."3121" decodes to "DA".
We're done with hints...each pair of numbers represents a letter. The first number in the pair is the phone button you should look at. The second is which letter we're talking about (remember, classic phone dial, so no "Q"). So, "D" is "31"...the first letter on the #3 phone key.

...and Closed!

We did officially close this morning!! I can hardly believe it. There was some last minute drama with the lender wanting us to have more insurance on the place (we went with our own insurance agent, USAA...much much less $$$ than getting it through the mortgage company), and the fact that the lender is in California and therefore three hours behind us. But we closed, and we have the key and the champagne and the crushing debt to prove it! LOL!

Now comes the process of finishing up and moving...and getting the current place in shape to sell!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


We're actually closing on the new place tomorrow morning at 9am, EST! I can hardly believe it. I promise a more interesting post tomorrow. =)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Christmas in July

This weekend was our annual(ish) stitch group stitch weekend. It originated (for me) from four of us getting together once a year or so, then we kind of merged with an existing local group, so now it's about 20 people, and we seem to gain more each year! One lovely lady volunteers her home as the base of operations for the weekend, and we descend upon it, lounge on her furniture, and cook all manner of food in her kitchen! There's laughter, fun, stitching, knitting, eating, shopping, sharing and lots of talking! This year, for the first time, we also integrated the ornament exchange. We used to do the ornament exchange at ASG, but since it's in October, it was too close to Christmas and too long from when assignments for the exchange were made (usually November the previous year). Plus, fewer and fewer people were actually there, so it became more of a burden on those going to transport ornament kits from those who weren't going. Anyway, here's my haul from this year:

The idea for the exchange (which I run) came from an ornament round robin group I was in. In that RR, each month, you would get a package in the mail with supplies for an ornament. You would stitch the ornament, keep it, and mail the supplies on to the next participant. In that way, the costs were shared...if it only took one small piece of a $5 skein of floss for an ornament, everyone would be sharing the same skein rather than each buying her own. Well, it was fun, but we had people that would pass on the supplies without stitching the ornament because they didn't have time, and that started me thinking...why couldn't it be a kit exchange? Everyone could stitch a different ornament, determine how much materials it required, and make a kit for everyone, then we'd trade. Of course, we'd have to all like all the ornaments...or would we? I figured I could work it out where each stitcher would get the same number of kits they made, but not necessarily a kit from each other stitcher. Here's an example:

Stitcher 1 makes 3 kits of ornament 1
Stitcher 2 makes 2 kits of ornament 2
Stitcher 3 makes 2 kits of ornament 3
Stitcher 4 makes 2 kits of ornament 4

Stitcher 1 gets kits for ornaments 2, 3, 4
Stitcher 2 gets kits for ornaments 1, 3
Stitcher 3 gets kits for ornaments 1, 4
Stitcher 4 gets kits for ornaments 1, 2

See? Stitchers 2, 3, and 4 did not get all the ornaments, but they did get the same number of kits back that they made. Does your head hurt?? Here, look at the picture of an ornament I started from the exchange:

Isn't it kewl? It's the Wee Works one from the 2006 JCS ornament issue. It gets stitched thrice and the pieces are laced together to form a 3D ornament.

As a bonus, one of my friends handed me an ornament I'd proxy-stitched for her to figure out how much materials it took. (Long story...she had a broken shoulder because a car she was loading was hit by some drunken idiot...they should have locked him up and thrown away the key!)

I had totally forgotten about it! So all of a sudden I had this nearly-finished ornament that only needed beads! It's Teresa Wentzler's Intermediate Whitework Ornament.

poinsettiaNow that the exchange is over, I can show my surprise ornament (Poinsettia by Amaryllis Artworks). Wow, it uses some seriously bright Waterlilies!! I was most taken aback when I opened the package that contained the threads. But I really think it turned out lovely and looks like stained glass. I did change the fabric to Misty Blue Cashel, because it was meant to be stitched on some Permin linen, and I detest that stuff!

I decided to stitch on Christmas pieces over the weekend, in keeping with this month's theme. I worked on Partridge in a Pear Tree by Just Another Button Company, kitted up by Drema at Needlecraft Corner. Don't you just love the wacky colors in this piece? It gets three technicolored pear buttons attached at the end. It's a great mindless piece to work on while there's lots of talking going on. =)
After that, I was going to work on Victoria Sampler's Heirloom Christmas, but I didn't have the right frame with me (it's probably packed...). Instead, I stitched on Star of Light, an old class piece by Just Nan. I didn't actually take the class; I scored the kit when an online store was selling off their stock. I honestly can't remember which store it was now!

I had planned on possibly casting on Mystery Stole 3 this weekend, but unfortunately they all made the yarn store run on Friday while I was busy cleaning the new place and getting ready for a party rather than Saturday when I was there. I was told I didn't miss much, since there was no black lace yarn there, and that's what I really wanted, but I would have gone with a dark blue or nifty overdyed if it was there. Oh, well, maybe in a few weeks I'll be able to squeak in a non-working, non-moving, non-packing, non-working-on-new-place day again so that I can go by the yarn store. Yeah, right. Maybe in September. =) I'll probably just find some to order online instead. I'm supposed to be on a yarn ban, and it feels bad getting more "stuff" coming in the mail when we're trying to get organized and moved. It would have felt a little better if I could have brought the yarn in the front door myself. And, of course, it would have been fun to give it the in-person fondle test.

I did do some knitting, though. Just a few rows on these Errant Lace socks in Tofutsies. I love this stuff. Yes, it's a little "splitty", but it is sooo soft. And of course, I love the blue. I had originally cast this yarn on for the Monkey Socks, but the colors pooled most disturbingly. It was basically creating a vertical white stripe down the front of the sock. Next I tried it with the Seduction Socks, but I ended up being bored with the pattern after only a few repeats. I think I tried one more sock in there, too, but I finally hit on the winner:

The nice, gentle white spiral is oh-so-much-more pleasing.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Loft Update

A brief update on the loft...we were supposed to close Wednesday, but the appraiser didn't do his job on time, and the title did not clear because the architects had not split the property (there is another town house attached to ours), so the construction loan is encumbering both pieces of property. We're hopeful we can close this week (like Thursday). But it's a little scary, since there is a leak from the other town house when it rains. It looks like water is coming in their front door, then flowing all the way over to our garage.... I want that fixed, like, yesterday! We were able to have the Harry Potter party there, though. I hope to find time this week to blog about that! It was awesome!!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Insult to Injury

As if being burned by celebratory pyrotechnics wasn't bad enough, as DH walked and I waddled home, we looked up at the deck of our new place AND THERE WERE PEOPLE UP THERE. This immediately made me furious. It seems our architect had invited five of his friends to view the fireworks from up there with his wife and kid. If it had been our contractor rather than our architect, I probably would have called the police. We stood across the street, looking (read: glaring) up there, until they peered over, then DH yelled, "Is this why you haven't finished our place yet???" The architect yelled back, "Hey! Do you want to come up?" I was so livid I just wanted to go home; I wasn't sure I could be civil. Fortunately, my need to be liked cut in, and the only passive-aggressive comment I made was, "You know, for the longest time, when people asked when the new place was going to be finished, I'd just tell them, 'I'm not sure, but just show up on the 4th of July and we'll watch fireworks from the deck...I'm sure we'll be in by then!'" (That is completely true, BTW.)

Now let me stop right here and say that it's perfectly legal for him to have done that. After all, he does still own the place. And I don't even really blame him. I probably would have done the same thing. However, I think I would have called the new owners, who have been wanting to get in the place for six months, and who live TWO DOORS DOWN, to see if they wanted to come, too. They really only were there for about an hour; they got there right before the fireworks and left pretty quickly after we got there. But it still made me intensely mad. I think, mostly, because I thought I'd be up there by now, and I was really looking forward to it after being rained on last year (it was like a monsoon; I've never seen so much water come out of the sky at once, and we get some doozies in the ATL).

We did go up, and the view was incredible, and they told us that you can see about four different fireworks shows from up there (Centennial Olympic Park, Underground, the Ted, and some city one).


Thursday, July 5, 2007

The rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting

'Twas the night of July Fourth, and all through the Park
The people were waiting for it to get dark.
The blankets were spread on the ground everywhere
With a light breeze blowing, we hadn't a care.

There were picnics and lawn chairs and revelers en masse
DH and I wandered down and just sat on the grass.
Free gelato in hand, from our local shop Charm
We had no idea there'd be cause for alarm.

When up in the sky, we saw a big flash:
The fireworks had started with a bang and a crash!
The rockets, how they twinkled! The fountains, how pretty!
Roman candles on building tops...only in the city!

As we watched gorgeous starbursts, we started to wheeze,
and we saw sparks float towards us (remember that breeze?)
When what in our bedazzled eyes should fall,
but debris raining down on one and on all.

Like bright lights that above a campfire swirl
And fly upward towards heaven, and through the flames twirl,
So some sparkles dropped down, really just a few
Most burning out quickly, but some hitting, too.

And then in a twinkling, I heard someone cuss;
A live spark had hit the guy behind us.
The smoke, it encircled our heads like a cloud,
While the salutes continued, frequent and loud.

I felt a sharp pain, and what did I see?
Something was glowing, and it was!
I spoke just one word, "Ow, ow, ow, ow, OWWWW!"
As I patted and brushed and shouted out loud:

"On my shirt! Hey, DH! I think I'm on fire!
Now my leg! Get it off me! It burns like a pyre!"
My thigh was all covered with ashes and soot*
To find something cold, we set off on foot.

Thank God for the employees of The World of Coke,
Giving away free Diet...25th joke!
So a cold can to my leg, I waddled home like a duck,
Thinking if it's not raining water, it's fire--what luck!

*Not to worry...the biggest burn is only about 1/2 a pencil top eraser in size

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy Independence Day!

I'm proud to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave!

The Defense of Fort McHenry (verses one and four, courtesy of
by Francis Scott Key
20 September 1814

Oh, say can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, for our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner forever shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!


Monday, July 2, 2007

Loft update

This post is going to be kind of scattered, because that's the way I feel right now. I haven't given a loft update in a while. That's mainly because most conversations with the architect go something like this:

Architect: Hey, when can you close? Our construction loan is coming due soon.

Us: A week after we get a final price. When will we be getting a final price from you?

A: We're working on it.

I disapprove of this response. We weren't about to try to get approved for a mortgage in that state:

Us: Hey, we want to borrow some money!

Bank: How much?

Us: Well...we're not sure.

Bank: Well...we're not sure we can approve you for that much.

Don't get me wrong; we know about how much it will cost. But how long does it take to write up an estimate, for heaven's sake?? And there's all this "higher math" that's going on...the tile installers messed up and we had to purchase more tile for them. But we're not getting a credit for that because we're tiling places that originally weren't going to be tiled, so instead of paying us back for the tile, they're not going to charge us for labor to put the tiles where they weren't going. The technical term for this is horsetrading. And it makes me nervous; it always feels like we're getting stiffed somehow. I trust our architect, I just don't trust the contractor he's hired, especially when we've been "about to close" for going on seven months now. =)

The big stress is that we're having a party on July 13th. In the new place. (!!) Why would we plan a party in our new place when we don't even have a closing date yet? This party has been "planned' since about November last year, when we found out the release date of the new Harry Potter movie. (I really need to post some pictures from past parties. We go all out...the invitation for Prisoner of Azkaban was a four-page Muggle Mail edition of The Daily Prophet.) We went shopping on Saturday for cheap seating (hel-lo, IKEA!) and ended up buying the most beautiful deck furniture ever on Sunday (not from IKEA). Hopefully we can pick it up next weekend...and it doesn't rain the night of the party. I wish I had taken the camera with me so I could show you the furniture (it's all teak and steel)...but since I didn't, here's some inspiration...what we'll see while sitting in the comfiest chairs ever...


Old Geek-outs