May 31, 2009

Well, I've Never Been to Heaven, But I've Been to Oklahoma

The title of this post comes from the fact that we're talking vacations today and also that I woke up to a thunderstorm this morning and with that Three Dog Night song in my head. We haven't been on a proper vacation since two years before we moved to this house, so that would make it nearly four years without going very far. We used to pick up and go somewhere--usually overseas--every other year. We'd like to spend our money in the U.S., and we'd like to try something different, so this year we're talking about going to one of the big state fairs--Nebraska, Iowa, maybe Kansas, flying to perhaps Omaha or Indianapolis and renting a car. Road trip! When I was younger I criss-crossed the country for about three years, so I've been most everywhere and want to go again. BF has visited both coasts but has never never been to the Midwest. BF says that if we go to the fair, I have to ride the carnival rides, though. I don't know about that... I need to figure out where the best needlework shops are and plan accordingly, don't you think? Let's see--there's The Silver Needle in Oklahoma. Anyone else have any recommendations on either fairs or needlework stops?

I devoted most of my week to my very long homework assignment, so I didn't stitch much. And wherever I turned, I was running into a problem (generally of my own making). Problem One: La Famille Lapin. I was making great progress in spite of the quarter stitches and backstitching, until the project got separated from its thread. It's red, silk and variegated. I wonder what it was.... It wasn't called for by the pattern.

Problem Two: 1763 Band Sampler. I love this sampler--all but the topmost band (so far--there are more bands over this). On the designer's photo it looks cute--it's sort of freehandish. In my hands it looks sloppy. What to do. I've taken it out and redone it, but to my eye, it still isn't right.

Problem Three: Tulips. It sat in my bag for a while because I don't enjoy the queen stitches. So I sat down one day and finished most of the stitches that are blocking my progress. Except, see the two rows of gold queen stitches? In between there is a row of green queen stitches that fill in the gaps. I actually think I like the gaps left empty, and not just because I don't enjoy doing the queen stitches. Part of me thinks that's a nice reason not to stitch the crowded-looking green stitches, and part of me feels like a slacker for not just DOING them already. But I think the green stitches look too crowded.

And Problem Four: Janet Gibson. What to do, what to do. I'm just not happy with either the coverage of the thread or the limpness of the fabric on this project. I think I'm going to put her away for a while and perhaps restart her later on different fabric. It's just too disappointing to stitch and stitch and then look at it and

This afternoon I think I'll stitch something easy, maybe one of my LHN WIPs, like Morning Berries.

Speaking of Morning Berries, you'll recall the MB verse goes: "The dew upon the berry, relects the morning sun. It glistens like a diamond until the rabbits come." The rabbits came to my new flower garden and munched some of my beautiful new plants right down to tiny stumps. I have to go pick up more plants now because of them. Man, do they love the liriope! And the paprika yarrow.

Here's some of my lettuce crop, safe from their greedy little clutches, in containers on the deck:

It's good to have someone to snuggle with during a thunder storm.

Have a wonderful week!

May 25, 2009

Now, Where was I?

Today I did many of the chores I skipped yesterday. Boring. I did get the flowers planted in the gravesite-looking garden bed: yarrow (bright yellow and paprika), peonies, shasta daisies, liriope and some others. All are perennials for bright sun, and I stuck with a palette of yellows with some reds and white sprinkled in, which is the good thing about starting from scratch--you don't have to work around something that someone else planted. Our plan is to add another segment each year--10-15 feet at a time--we have a very long fenceline. I'll show pictures of the finished bed in a few weeks--I need a few more plants, and it's pretty raw-looking now.

Here's where I left off on 1763 at 11 p.m. last night. I worked on it for a couple of hours after dinner.

And then I picked it up a bit this afternoon when I was through in the garden:

I won't be able to make much progress over the next few days, since school starts this week. I think I need to take some vacation days, but I'll wait to see how bad the assignments will be. I'm taking a required management course and cost accounting this semester.
Here's Pink, offering me some help on my homework:

I hope your Memorial Day was good!

May 24, 2009

Merrily we Roll Along

What with the trip to the farmer's market, the purchase and subsequent fiddling with the camera, making dinner, and cleaning, I didn't get much chance to stitch yesterday. Today the chores can go whistle--I'm working on a case of advanced stitchy butt with Heartstring Primitives' "1763 Sampler." I'm stitching this project on 34 ct. Oaten Scone Legacy Linen from the yard I bought last week, using AVAS threads instead of the called-for DMC. I pulled the DMC colors and then tried to find a close match to each of them; the blues are a little off from their DMC counterparts, but no less pleasing color-wise, I think.
9:30 a.m.

11:30 a.m.

1:00 p.m.

I've even put the needle to a couple of other projects--Alphabetissimo and Peaceful Paradise.
Diana asked how the camera is handling the pets, and here are a couple of examples. This is easy: daylight, a small amount of movement. Scratchy moves very little except to change positions during naptime. This is a cat who basically eats and sleeps. Here he's contemplating dinner.

More challenging: incandescent light, no flash, fast-moving bunny. I played quite a bit with the settings. I don't love the results of low-light action shots, but it does much better than my old point & shoot. I'll still use my DSLR for low light, which means eventually I'll have to pick up another zoom lens. I still have a zoom for it, but it's very large and very heavy, and can't manage macro. I'll take a look at B&H Photo in New York (online) at their used equipment. Once I'm through with this degree, I'd love to take some photo courses. I'd like to be a better photographer and use my equipment more fully. By the way, something I learned yesterday from the photo lady: don't just plop your new memory card into your camera and start shooting. Take the time to properly format it for the camera (it's in your camera settings under "menu") and it's less likely to fail (don't format a card with photos on it in your camera or you'll wipe out all the pictures on the card, and also, from the photo lady, in horror: "why do you have 500 photos on that card!?" And don't do as I tend to--just toss the memory card in a drawer when you're done. Save the case the card comes in, and put it away so it doesn't get dirty or scraped. Who knew!
Pink: "Gotta dash."
See you soon!

May 23, 2009


My older little point and shoot digital camera has been flagging, becoming balky about such things as focusing. Then I dropped my DSLR on the floor (!) on its zoom lens today and heard it crunch. Sure enough, the lens is bent and will never work again. Fortunately, the camera body seems ok. Because I've wanted a macro lens for it for some time, I went off to Richmond Camera to see what I could get. Wow, are macro/zoom lenses expensive! Since it falls into the category of "the same year I buy the Porsche/win the lottery," I poked around and found a new point and shoot camera instead (one-third of the price of that lens) and have taken a few pictures to see what I think. It has more zoom, more megapixels and more adjustments than my other point and shoot.

You have seen these projects before, although I haven't had Americana out since last Fourth of July, when I realized I wasn't going to finish in time to have it framed for the holiday. Maybe this year? Otherwise, it's Tulips and Janet Gibson--I want to see if they look better/worse than the others I shot. I learned an incredible amount from the sales woman at the camera store, and I found some nifty gadgets that I'd like in the future--like a light ring that fits around your lens. It gives a soft white light that eliminates the shadow on your close-up stuff. And they have something that fits over your lens that you can place a slide in. Hold it up to the window, take the "picture," and you've converted your old slide to digital, without the expensive processing fee. Scanners do the same thing, but they're more expensive (this little gadget is $99) and the clarity isn't as good. My parents have box after box of Kodachrome slides. What a great gift it would be for me to turn those slides into photos and put them in an album.

Note to self: the camera's only as good as the dummy pressing the button....
New camera:

Old camera. Of course, the light is different, and probably the degree of my handshake is different too--depends on how many diet cokes I've had.

May 19, 2009

Put Your Hands Up

I worked on Heartstring Primitives' "1763 Sampler" today at lunch while I listened to XM radio, and while I stitched the little jumping guy with the polka-dotted pants, Mary J. Blige sang "put your hands up." Perfect!

"Put your paws up!"

It is so nice to stitch at lunch and after work, but my order of schoolbooks arrived today. Oof. Oddly, the name of the Mary J. Blige song? "Be Without You."

May 17, 2009


Last week was my sister's birthday, but because of finals last Saturday, and the difficulty of getting a reservation on Mother's Day, we postponed the celebration to this week. So yesterday morning I headed out to Fairfax County, making a couple of stops along the way, since I don't get up there nearly enough.

First stop. You NOVA stitchers will recognize this window as belonging to In Stitches.

Eye Candy. That's just the NPI rack. What I purchased there comes later in the post. Aside from the shopping, I got a chance to visit with the wonderful women who staff the shop, including Patricia, who filled me in on some of the details about the Janet Gibson Scottish sampler. Patricia is from Scotland, and her mom lives about 10 miles from Auchterarder, which is where the sampler comes from.

Next stop: Hollywood & Vines, a fabulous plant nursery just north of In Stitches on Route 1. The giant flowerpot and watering can and big metal palm trees are the landmarks. My sister had been wishing for hostas and ferns for her shady back yard, so I bought some, and then wandered around, considering plants for our garden, onto which I have spread composted manure, but which has not seen a single plant. I can't describe the headiness of this nursery; the acres of plants, the sweet smell of the flowers, the piped-in classical music. We'll return next week for that.

I picked up my sister and we headed into DC for lunch. We had weighed various restaurants all week, and in the end she decided she wanted a New England seafood meal, so she chose the Tackle Box, which provides a Maine coast-type dining experience. The restaurant has picnic tables and buoys hanging from the ceiling and they specialize in fried clams, lobster rolls and fish platters.
After lunch we headed over to Georgetown Cupcake. We'd been having a lively discussion about what kinds of business are folding in this recession, and what kinds are thriving, so we were amused to see that this is what's thriving, recession or not. See the line in front of the door? We got in line and waited 20 minutes.

Their cupcakes are delicious, and you can get them packed in a clever little six pack box. They were well worth the wait, although since we hit them late-ish on a Saturday, they were out of the more exotic flavors. You'll note we're big coconut fans.

Here are some of the things I bought at In Stitches, aside from a yard of Legacy linen (34 ct in Oaten Scone) and some NPI, AVAS and CC fibers that I needed to finish kitting up, or restock projects that I'm doing. You'll recognize "Wizard of Oz" by Midsummer Night Designs. So fun I had to start it, using the called-for Crescent Colours and DMC on a piece of linen I cut from the yard I bought.

I also got two charts from a new-to-me designer, Heartstring Samplery Primitives. You may already have read her blog, the Twist Family. The first design is "With One Accord," and the second is "1763 Band Sampler." They're charted for 32 count linen using DMC, and there are instructions for staining the samplers after they're stitched. I predict we'll be seeing more samplers from this designer. And they have everything on my chart wishlist: clear, well-done graphs, and a nice large, clear photo of the finished design.

I particularly like the little jumping-jack men in their polka-dotted pants.

Here's my progress on Janet Gibson. Patricia mentioned that the house shown on the sampler, with all the windows, is a style common to that area. I've encountered some difficulties and challenges with this sampler. While Lakeside is one of my favorite linens, and I think the color is perfect, I wish I had chosen a higher count; 34 might have been a little better for coverage. And this particular piece seems a little too soft and loosely woven. Or NPI has gotten skimpier, which it sort of feels like. The white NPI in particular, seems not to cover as well as I'd like. I could start over, but I've already done a ton of work it feels like, so I don't really want to do that. I could double the NPI, but that crowds things a bit. Maybe on the swan. Have I mentioned the zillion different stitches on the swan? Then there's the over-one. See the little green "v" next to the potted plant? Took forever. Man, I hate over-one, and there's more of it than I anticipated. But there's no going back now! Because when all is said and done, I think it will be stunning when it's finished.

Here's a three-pack of cupcakes.

"I would like a three-pack of cupcakes, please!" This is Gracie, my sister's elderly dog. We don't allow her near the bunnies--she was way too interested in my last bunny, so she was permanently banished from the bunny room.

Thanks for sticking with this long, long post. Back to normal soon, as school starts in just a little more than a week!

If you can, find a cupcake and eat it this week!

May 11, 2009

Just a Peek

I was all jangly today; it's only as we get into evening that I'm settling down. I'd intended to lots of things and couldn't settle--for one thing, it rained all morning and I'd been going to pick up some more compost and do some other outdoor things. I haven't taken a shower yet! I did manage quite a bit of stitching, and I may not have the proverbial stitchy numb-butt, but my back is killing me, because I was too lazy to move off the bed and into a decent chair. I decided that as nice as the Drawn Thread project is, it's too much blue after the blue Alphabetissimo. So here's a peek at the replacement project for Moonlight Garden. Do you recognize it? Here are some hints: it's a reproduction of an original Scottish sampler. The picture on the cover of the project is the original version, I think (which makes me nuts). It features an enormous and very elaborate white swan parked on the lawn in front of the house. (Answer at the bottom of this post.) I'm stitching it on 32 ct. Lakeside in Navy Bean, in the called-for NPI silks. There are about 5 different shades of gold--perfect for a rainy day. Of course, I was supposed to start this AFTER I completed Alphabetissimo. And I did stitch for a while on that this morning but eh....

Here's some more gold--Chester, my stitching pal today.

"Just a peek."

And here's the project: Janet Gibson's Scottish Swan Sampler by Whimsey & Wit.

Back to work tomorrow (obviously I need the structure--other than stitching, I have accomplished NOTHING)--have a wonderful week!

May 10, 2009

Zs and Blue Z

So the semester is over finally. Yesterday was a blur. I was able to slot two exams into the afternoon session so that I didn't have to stay for the evening session. I stopped at Wegman's on the way home and bought a hodgepodge of comfort foods: pupusas and lox and cream cheese and onion bagels. I put them all away and then staggered off to bed at 7 p.m. I got up at 10:30 p.m. to eat and stitch, and at 7:30 this morning to feed the cats and stitch. And went back to bed and slept until 1:30 this afternoon. And now I feel like myself again. Here's a little bit more on Alphabetissimo. I'm working on the big "Z" square. With no homework, I should be done by the end of this month.

Here's something I picked up a few months ago--I don't think I showed you before. Here's the official picture of "Moonlight Garden" by Drawn Thread. I'd like to start it when Alphabetissimo is done.

Here's my photo of it. The cover photo is not especially clear and doesn't really show the huge amount of texturing and the specialty stitches. It's a bit daunting. The silks include some I haven't stitched with before--Northern Lights by Needlepoint, Inc. and Dinky Dyes.
I'm only taking one course this summer, so I should have more time for lots of things. I want to stitch until my butt is numb, and machine sew (I've got some nice drapery material) and get some exercise and eat better and sleep more.
"And pet the bunnies!"

Happy Mothers' Day to all of you who are moms!

May 08, 2009


Thank you, everyone, for your well-wishes for my exams tomorrow. I'll be so glad when they're over--all that studying has been cramping my style. The last paper was submitted Wednesday, and I took today off to relax. I've learned the hard way over the years that it's better to go into the finals after a day off. It will be a marathon tomorrow, with exam 1 at 9 a.m., exam 2 at 1 p.m. and exam 3 at 7 p.m. So today I went grocery shopping, bought 4 bags of composted manure for the new garden bed (why, oh why must everything be in a 40-lb bag? 30 lbs would be so much easier to deal with!), got a few new plants, came home and barbecued a couple of chickens (didn't want to wait for the inevitable afternoon thunderstorm to rain out dinner), did some stitching.

Since it didn't rain today (yet) for a change, I surveyed the yard. This is the first bearded iris of the season. I love these guys!

Art imitating life: do most of you have this chart by Just Nan? It's called "Sparking Iris." Sadly I cannot for the life of me remember if I bought her "Tulips" or not. I've had it in my hands at the needlework shop. I think. I do that in the grocery store too: pick something up, look it over, decide against it, and put it back on the shelf. Then when I get home I wonder what happened to it.

Here's my stitching progress on Alphabetissimo. It's a little distorted because I've clipped it to a hanger--it's getting too large to photograph easily.

Now all that's left to do is take a nap.

"Watch out for those naps. While I was sleeping, someone stole my other ear."

May 03, 2009

A Tiskit a Tasket

...I've got plenty of room for a casket... Now if it would ever stop raining, I might be able to plant something in there. We added this recently; I want to pack it with flowers. Or maybe just lie down in it and have a long nap--I'm still burning the midnight oil on my school projects and studying for exams, which are next Saturday. And then it's over, and the first thing I will do is have a nice long nap, and then go to the nursery and shop for perennials. And stitch. By the way, Sotheby's stock is at 11.99 (up $2 from last week). Too bad I'm not being graded on the success of my stock pick rather than my explanation of how I did it and an analysis of the company's financials.

I allowed myself about 15 minutes a day and to see how far I'd get, and because I'm crazy about Blackbird Designs, I pulled this out of my stash: "Blessings and Kind Wishes." Not bad for just a bit here and there. I'm stitching on a 40 ct Lakeside of some sort, using the called-for GAST threads. It should be a fairly quick stitch.

Here are Peaches and Elvis having a snuggle. Everyone likes to snuggle with Elvis--what a fluffer! Happy week and have a nap for me!