Sunday, July 21, 2013

Carina and Brian's Couples' Rain Shower Shower!

You might note from my previous post that I didn't allow myself much time to plan for the couples' shower that our friend, Amanda, and I would be giving.  No matter though, we are both procrastinators and believe that if it weren't for the last minute nothing would get done.

The shower was for our German daughter, Carina, and her fiance, Brian.  You might be wondering how we got a German daughter.  We hosted Carina as an intern for 10 months in 2005.  When she came to us, she spoke very little English and we spoke very little German.  Over time, her English became much improved and our German stayed about the same.  It is hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

Anyway, when Carina's internship was up, we said tearful goodbyes and she went back to Germany. We kept in touch for a couple of years and then miraculously, in 2008 her application was drawn in the green card lottery!  She moved back to the U.S. and rented an apartment close-by.  Since then, we have acted as her American parents and tried to help out when she needed us.  She, in turn, has treated us like her parents and made us feel loved.

She got engaged to Brian in 2012.  They are very excited about their wedding in September.  They're getting married in a barn!  

Carina has learned a lot about American wedding traditions as they made their plans.  Almost all of her bridesmaids won't be making the trip over from Germany until the wedding, leaving Amanda, the one American bridesmaid, to fulfill the bridesmaid duty of throwing a shower for the couple.  (By the way, the American bridesmaid is our Florida daughter - but that's another story). Tony and I volunteered to help out with the shower & have it at our house.

The invitees for the shower were mostly 30 somethings with a few parents and older friends (us) mixed in. We decided to have it in the basement which opens onto our back yard.  That way we could have some outdoor games to keep everyone entertained.

We finished our bathroom remodel project only days before the shower and then started the preparations for the shower.  

First on the agenda was cleaning the house, something I DO NOT enjoy and AM NOT good at.

Next, we would need a gift.  I like to make personal gifts so I made this burlap pillow and personalized it with information about Carina, Brian, their two fur children and the date of their wedding.

Amanda took care of most of the planning for the shower.  She ordered the dinner from Righteousque which left me with very little to do.  My responsibilities included getting a cake and some appetizers and beverages from Costco. I also came up with some games to keep the crowd interested.

I put together a menu for the party and posted it around the room so folks would know what food, beverages and games were available:
In case you can't read it, here's what it says:

Brian and Carina's Couples Shower

We are so glad you could join us in this celebration
of Brian and Carina's impending nuptials!
We hope you enjoy the party!

Put the Wedding Ring on the Finger
Forever Flip Cup
Whitaker Cricket (Darts)
Rice Bag Corn Hole
Wedding Ring Toss
Wedding Gift Bingo

Newly-Wed Nacho Chips, Salsa, Guacamole
At the Altar Aged Cheeses

Bridal Beef Brisket
Matrimonial Mac & Cheese
Groom Green Beans
Commitment Cole Slaw
Pre-Nup Potato Salad
Compromise Cake
Cold Feet Cakes & Candies

Special Water Sweet Tea
Soft Drinks

I had so much fun putting it together!  I googled wedding terms a-z to come up with the names for the menu items. There was a helpful Yahoo link with lots of ideas.  I love Google!

Coming up with the games was even more fun.  The most popular game was "Put the Wedding Ring on the Finger" based loosely on the Bimini Ring on a String Game. The exception is that we found these coat hooks shaped like fingers that we used for the game. The groom especially liked this game.  He managed to get the ring on the finger a record 4 times!  Hope this is an indication of how well he will do at the wedding!

"Forever Flip Cup" - Flip Cup was a popular game among Carina's Kickball Team so I thought we'd bring it back for the shower.

"Whitaker Cricket" was based on the darts game Cricket, except instead of the object being to get 3 each of the numbers 15-20, you had to get 3 each of particular pictures of Brian & Carina:

"Rice Bag Corn Hole" is just Corn Hole played with pretend rice bags.  A big Thank You to our friends Josef & Susan for loaning us their custom made Corn Hole Game with the lighted ring!  I covered the "rice bags" with monogrammed Brian & Carina cases for the occasion.

"Wedding Ring Toss" consists of a stake in the yard and some Frisbee rings, of course, personalized for the shower. 

"Wedding Gift Bingo" was Amanda's idea!  It was a great idea because it kept everyone's attention during the gift opening phase of the shower.  She created a bingo game with a free space in the center, then each guest wrote in their guess as to what gifts the couple would receive.  The first one to get 3 in a row would win a prize.

I made some signs to direct people to the basement so we wouldn't have to come upstairs to answer the door every time someone new arrived.

We were still finishing the decorations and setting out the food when the bride and groom arrived, but we had it all together before the first "real" guests arrived! It looked really pretty.

Just before the first guests arrived, the sky turned dark, the thunder rolled, and a deluge of rain started to fall.  The water in our driveway was ankle deep.  We had at least 2 roof leaks. Tony positioned himself in the garage with 3 umbrellas.  He would run out to each car under one open umbrella & give each guest an umbrella to get them into the house, but even so, everyone who came was drenched.

We weren't able to play any of the outdoor games.  I don't think anyone minded terribly but I was really disappointed.

We served cocktails including "Special Water Sweet Tea" using a recipe I found for Hard Sweet Tea. People seemed to really like it and it was the perfect accompaniment for the "Bridal Beef Brisket Buffet".

The opening of the gifts was really fun!  Everyone filled out their Bingo Cards in preparation.

 The first gift was a gag gift (a sexual device) that the couple opened, pretending it was from the groom's mother.  She was shocked and everyone got a big laugh, especially Carina and Brian. This gift was not on anyone's bingo card!

I think they liked my gift too, but maybe not as much as the one from the groom's mother ;-) !

We had the cutting of the cake so they can practice for the real-thing!

It was a really fun party & we thoroughly enjoyed all of Carina and Brian's "little" friends!

Just In Time Remodeling!

At the beginning of the year, we decided to do a major remodeling project at our house. We wanted to redo the kitchen cabinets and counter-tops as well as update a couple of bathrooms.  We got a quote from our favorite contractor (the one who did such an awesome job on our master bathroom/closet last year).  

The cost was significant but we felt like we could swing it. And then...

...breast cancer happened and wiped out our budget.  At the beginning of the year, I was feeling so healthy that I raised the deductible on my health insurance.  Big mistake!  The out-of-pocket cost for the surgery & radiation treatments was almost exactly equal to the quote for the home remodeling.

The big positive result is that I am healthy and cancer-free now, but we decided to postpone the major remodeling project.  Another positive aspect from the cancer was that we were able to put the entire cost on our Citibank Hilton Honors credit card and earn enough points for a few free hotel stays! 

In May, one day while Tony was at work, I was feeling a little bored. I decided to tackle the remodel of the small half-bath myself.  The first step was to remove the old tile.  It was not as easy as I thought it would be.  After 2 hours of hammering & chiseling, I finally got the corner of one tile out.

Tony (surprisingly fully supportive of my effort) came home & got out the sledge hammer.  He had the tile removed in a matter of minutes.  The next step was to remove the toilet and vanity.

I decided to try to sell the toilet & sink on Craigslist to avoid having to haul them off. It is amazing to me that you can get someone to pay you to come & haul off your trash!  I guess it is true - one man's trash is another man's treasure!  I posted the ad on Craigslist and got 3 interested emails.  I sold them to the first respondent for $10. When we get ready to do the next bathroom (don't tell Tony), maybe I'll ask more!

Once we got the tile & fixtures out, we needed to remove the sub-floor.  This was more difficult than we had anticipated.  We took the door off first.  We didn't want to do any plumbing so we had to trim the plywood in place to get it past the protruding pipes.  We kind of buggered up the toilet flange in the process. We weren't sure what to do about that, so I posed the question on Facebook and got some advice on how to replace it.  Between the Facebook advice and a few YouTube videos, we got a new flange in place.

That was after we put down new sub-flooring which, again, was not an easy task.  The room is only 8 feet by 2.5 feet with plumbing pipes sticking out of the walls.  We cut the sub-floor exactly to fit the room but couldn't get it in place because of the pipes.  We got it wedged into the room and then Tony got underneath it with a jig-saw and cut out a section to get it past the sink plumbing.  Then we glued and nailed the cut section back in place. 

I had some tiles left over from the master-bath remodel, so I decided to use those. When I opened the box, I discovered that several of them were broken which meant a trip to Floor & Decor in Marietta.  While I was there, I decided to pick up everything else I would need for the project (adhesive, grout and trowels).  After I had everything in my buggy, I remembered that I would need to cut some of the tiles to go around the toilet.  I got one of the sales people to show me the tile cutters.  He showed me one that would score the tile & then break it, but he said to get one strong enough to score porcelain tile, I would be looking in the $200-$300 range.  Not what I wanted to hear.  He recommended I get a wet saw and showed me one for $50.  Perfect!

I would be using 13 inch tiles and putting mosaic strips between each tile to minimize the number of cuts I needed to make.  I created a grid on the floor to show me where each tile would be placed. Starting on the sink end of the room, I started placing the tiles.

It looked smashing, if I do say so myself!  Even the cuts I made around the toilet flange were perfect!  I used the new tile saw to make the straight cuts, then used a dremel tool with a diamond bit to score the curves.  One tap with a hammer and the section broke off just where I had scored it.

The project was a bit slow-going though because it was interrupted by four trips to the beach and then finally a river cruise in Europe.  I didn't get around to doing the grout until July 13th which made me a little nervous because we were to be hosting a couples' wedding shower at our house on July 20th.

I was very pleased with the end result!

When we had ripped out the old tile, the baseboard tile brought a lot of the sheet rock with it.  Since I suck at sheet rock repair, I decided that we would just cover the damaged sheet rock with bead board.  The problem, again, was the plumbing that we didn't want to mess with.  We needed to figure out how to install the bead board around the plumbing.  I took a picture of the plumbing with my digital camera & then used my photoshop software to make a pattern.

I cut out the section using a drill and a jig-saw and then carved the missing piece up so I could glue it back in place.  It was a pretty kludgy job, but hopefully it would be hidden by the pedestal sink.  

We got the rest of the bead board installed using carpenter's adhesive.  We didn't want to risk ruining the bead board with our less-than-stellar nail-driving skills. We had to shim it at the bottom to make sure that the top edge would be level.

Painting came next.  I hate painting.  I got it in my hair, on my clothes and on my skin.  I even sat on the paint can lid one time, but I got it done and it looks pretty good.

Tony doesn't want me using power tools unless he is present so I had to wait for him to get home from work to cut the trim.  I went ahead and painted it so it would be ready to install.  When he got home, we measured, re-measured, measured again and then cut the trim pieces using the miter saw.  We only had to re-cut one mis-measured piece.  We used carpenter's adhesive to install the trim.

We thought it looked pretty good!  With a little caulking & touch-up paint, it would look almost professional.

The light fixture came next.  We needed to get it in so I could see to finish the touch-up paint.  After getting shocked a few times while trying to figure out which breaker controlled the wiring, we finally tripped the main breaker and I installed the light in the dark while Tony shined a flashlight.  We replaced the beige light switches and ground-fault outlet in the dark too.

We were pleased with our progress.  It was 5 days until the shower we were hosting and all we had left to do was install the fixtures.  We thought this would be the easy part.  Wrong.  First, we had to drill into the tile so we could affix the sink pedestal to the floor.  You can't just use any old drill bit to drill porcelain tile.  I had to get a diamond drill bit and then you had to keep it wet while drilling.  Even then it required a good bit of upper body strength, something I lack, so Tony had to do the drilling.

The instructions for installing the sink were unclear so we made several attempts to get it installed.  There was the tiniest bit of arguing while we figured this out.  I had to go to Home Depot 3 times during the process to get the right plumbing parts.  (I think Tony just wanted to get rid of me, and yes, we DO own stock in Home Depot, so with every purchase, we are really just investing in ourselves!).  We eventually got the sink in and plumbed.  It doesn't leak, it looks great, and we don't THINK it will fall!

We thought we would be able to get both the fixtures installed in one afternoon, but the sink took up so much time, we didn't get the toilet in until after we had met friends for dinner (and a bottle of wine).  The toilet installation took place AFTER a few glasses of wine. Thankfully I had bought a new-fangled wax ring replacement thingy so we could re-position the toilet a few times.  In the end, we had to put some shims under the toilet to prevent it from rocking.  We discovered the next morning that it had leaked a little, but tightening up the connection from the wall to the toilet fixed that so we are good to go (literally).

I hung the new mirror and put in the toilet paper holder and still had 3 days until our guests would arrive for the wedding shower!  That should give me time to do things like, oh, shop, clean the house, prepare the food, you know, trivial stuff...

Stay tuned for a post about the party!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Here comes the bride...

My little friend was in a panic because her wedding dress wouldn't zip up! The solution? Replace the zipper with a lace up back, like a corset. First, I got some satin from the fabric store. I was really surprised at how cheap it was. I cut it into bias strips to make the loops for the corset. Next, I sewed the strips. I made them about 3/16ths wide.
I turned the strips using a small metal rod. It was really hard to get started because the strips were so narrow. I used my image manipulation software to create a pattern of circles exactly the size that I needed for the back of the dress. I pinned the strips to the pattern, sewing over each one before I added the next one. (I tried pinning them all at once, but it was too hard to hold them in place.
I opened the back of the dress with a seam ripper and removed the zipper down to the waistline.
While I had the dress open, I decided to take it apart at the waist & adjust the length at the waistline rather than at the hem. (This was my sister's suggestion. I hope it works! Its a little scary!
I created a satin panel to go behind the corset laces. I used iron on stabilizer to give it the body it would need.
I sewed the corset panels to each side of the back of the dress with the paper still attached, then I tore off the paper and attached the satin panel to one side.
I used the same method as above to create the tie for the corset. I just made it a little wider. Here it is all laced up and ready for the beautiful bride!