Monday, October 31, 2011


I just love that word.  You're just not quite sure what to think when you hear it.

Wait a second, its Halloween right?  Then why am I posting a winter celebration design?  Because I'm getting ready for Becky's Ornament Challenge!

Hogmanay is actually a Scottish celebration of the new year.  The origins probably go back to the Norse celebration of the winter solstice, and also incorporating parts of the Gaelic New Year's celebration of Samhain. Symbolic gifts are given - salt, coal, shortbread, black bun, and of course whiskey (this is Scotland we're talking about), all mean to give good luck to the household in the coming year.

All of this is really interesting, but I had a good laugh when I read Wikipedia's sentence about the Shetland Islands.  The festival is referred to as the Yules, and is started on December 18, culminating on January 18 with the last tradition - a troll chasing ritual!  Is this one of those times when Wikipedia is wrong?

No troll in this design, but feel free to add one if you want!

This will be my first ornament as part of the great 2011 Christmas Ornament Challenge.  Does everyone else have a project ready to start working on?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

New Addictions

My sleep schedule is so whacked out right now, and it can be blamed on a few things.  Some might call them addictions, other call them time sinks.

 This is a super useful tool, but easily turns into a time sink.  I'm fairly new to the Pinterest craze, but I easily succumbed.  How many times have you come across something interesting on the internet?  Recipes, craft ideas, tutorials, places you want to visit, interesting pictures, decorating ideas, you get the idea.  How do you keep track of it all?  I used to through bookmarks, printing stuff off, starring blog posts, etc.  Now its all organized on my Pinboards, and sorted by category, along with a pretty picture to go along with it.  

Its super easy too.  There's this magic button on my web browser I click if I'm on a page I want to Pin.  Click it, up comes a screen with all the pictures on that page, pick which you want to Pin, type in a description, and voila, you added something to your Pinboard.

Right now this just sounds like the ultimate thing in online organization, where is the time sink you're asking yourself.  Well, you get to look at everyone else's Pinboards, and you can re-Pin.  You can even follow others, just like a blog follower.  There's been more than a couple of nights when I've come upstairs to do just one last check on the computer, and then next thing I know, its 3 am.  Time sink.

Blog Backgrounds 
I got brave one day, and tried to change my blog background to one of those nifty ones from a free site.  OMG, it actually worked and I didn't mess up my blog!  So many choices!  Now if I'm not pinning at 2 am, I'm looking at which blog background I want to use next, and restraining myself from picking a new one every few days.  Because, of course, your header photo or banner must coordinate with your blog background.  And you might even have to change a font (like for the current one I have).

Here's a list of the few sites I've been looking at so far.  If I can figure it out, then anyone can.  I think it was actually easier than trying to set up one of the backgrounds Blogger suggests.
Hot Bliggity Blog
Shabby Blogs
The Cutest Blog on the Block
Background Fairy
Aqua Poppy

Photo Editing
I'm not a great photographer.  I try to do my stitched pieces justice and take good and interesting pictures, to showcase them.  I know I could do better and I'm trying to learn.  So far I've been using Picasa and Picnik in combination to edit my photos.  Neither one does everything I want, or I haven't figured it out yet.  There's also a cute little thing call Pixlr-o-Matic (available from the Chrome app store for free, or go to  Its like a mini cheaters version of Photoshop to apply textures and layers.  I used it on my current header photo.

The problem is it takes time to manipulate photos to look nice.  It takes even more time when you need to use multiple programs.

Ideally I'd like to learn how to use Photoshop.  I downloaded a trial version of Photoshop Elements 10, but I'm so lost.  Its definitely not the Dummies version of photo editing software.  But I really really want to learn how to use textures and actions.  If you're not sure what those are, go check out the Florabella site.  Its not free, but its just a really good place to see what can be done.  There are a plethora (I love that word!) of other sites with free textures, you just have to hunt for them.  The key is knowing what to do with them.  Luckily for me, there's also a lot of free Photoshop tutorials out there.  I probably won't get to them before my trial version expires.

Here's my dilemma.  Do I bite the bullet and shell out the bucks for Photoshop Elements and hope I learn how to use it, do I upgrade to the Premium version of Picnik, or do I just stick with the free stuff available to me now?  Will I be happy with the free versions (and the extra time needed for extra steps) now I've dusted off my digital SLR camera and started using it again?

Wow, for a post with a focus on pictures and various aspects on them, I haven't included a single one.  Sorry for the really blah looking post.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What have I done now?


October 28th and I'm doing WHAT?

Starting a large Halloween project!

To borrow from Battlestar Galactica, What The Frack!

What can I say, I got the urge to do Lizzie Kate's Halloween Rules, and I wanted it done on a blackish-grey linen.  I had several pieces in my stash, but R&Rs 18th Century Blackbird (35 count) won out as being the best match for the floss colors I chose.

I had a little fun with the stickers on Picnik.

There is some method to my madness, I can't really start any Christmas stitching until November 1, since I signed up as part of the 2011 Christmas Ornament Challenge.  Yes, I'm ignoring my 6 Fat Snowmen Project I could have worked on.

As I promised in my last post, here are some pics of other stitching I've been working on, in between my SAL stitching.  Its a really grey and overcast day here, so the colors might not be great.

First up is a win-win situation for me.  I've said before I don't usually stitch Lizzie Kate pieces.  Don't get me wrong, they're fun to stitch, but the colors usually are a bit bright and garish for me, and I don't usually have cutsey in my house.  I got to stitch this as a shop model for Shepherd's Bush, using Teri's floss conversion.  Even better, I don't have to do the finishing, since Teri is a bit busy at the R&R Dyeing to Stitch Retreat, and I don't know if she wants to frame it, or make a pillow.
L*K Ho Ho Ho in a Row, stitched on 32 ct natural linen
using Shepherd's Bush floss conversion.
I worked a bit on building a house mansion, Mansion at Fox Hollow actually.  Not a lot of progress, but some is better than none.  When I first started stitching this I noticed the color key on the chart was off a bit.  I thought it was just a case of a wrong symbol, so forged ahead.  I was wrong.  It was a case of a few wrong symbols, and the blue and green symbols getting reversed.  My door is a green door now, instead of a blue door.  Not a big deal, other than I'm trying to figure out where I'm going to put the blue in this piece.  I refuse to stitch blue stems and leaves.  Ignore the wrinkles on the linen please.  I'm lazy and don't iron my WIPs for progress pictures.
With Thy Needle and Thread, Mansion at Fox Hollow
stitched on 40 ct linen with assorted silks.
Next up is actually a new start, that I totally blame on Margaret.  She started Scarlet Letter's Ann Smith a few weeks ago and I fell in love.  I already had the chart in my stash, but the colors were so bright and vibrant.  My initial start got put on hold when Margaret was kind enough to warn me about needing multiple skeins of some of the colors. Off to the Bush I went, with a list of what colors I needed, and to make sure the duplicates would be the same dye lot.  I don't stitch as fast as Margaret, plus I get easily distracted with other projects, so you'll get to enjoy her finish long before I'm even close.
SL's Ann smith, stitched on 35 ct Lambswool linen
with Au ver a Soie
For everyone that's having crappy weather (rain/sleet/snow), I hope you're able to stay inside with a cup of tea/coffee/cocoa with a nice stitching project.  I almost wish it were raining here.  What can I say, I spent a lot of my childhood in Washington state and England.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

SAL Stitching

This week I was reminded why I don't normally sign up for SALs - I don't deal with enforced stitching deadlines very well.  Carol spoiled me with her SAL, so I sort of forgot about not enjoying being forced to stitch something.  She emailed parts out that were small enough you didn't stress about them, and left plenty of time to stitch each part.  Still lots of time to stitch on whatever else I wanted before the next part was due.

During my memory loss, I signed up for another SAL, a partnership between The Threadbasket and C Mon Monde.  Its really a very cute design, and I'm not regretting signing up for it, but.....
Its coming out in 4 parts, each a week apart.  Compare that to 8 parts, each part every 2 weeks.  Not to mention this new SAL piece is quite a bit larger, so each stitched part will be larger.  Oh well, its only 4 weeks, I can do it.  I have to, since I got part 1 done, I need to keep up or I won't get the other parts and I'll be left with an incomplete piece.  Anyway, here's my Part 1, stitched on 40 count R&R Neptune Blue linen with HDF silk.

And not to be left out, here's my Part 7 of the iStitch SAL.

My other little discovery in the last week were these.

For some reason I got a craving for ice cream sandwiches.  When it comes to ice cream I don't waste my time with the crappy stuff, full of air and chemicals.  And there's no way I'd eat just half of a regular size.  If I open that puppy up, its ALL going in my mouth.  So when I saw these, I fell in love.  Still big enough to be satisfied, not so big I feel guilty.  Unless I eat two.

I promise, I actually have been doing other stitching, and even some "serious" stitching, I just have't taken pictures.  Maybe next post.  Thanks again to everyone for stopping by and leaving comments!  Somehow in the few months I've been blogging I've grown from 1 curious follower to over 50.  I think that might warrant a give-away soon, especially since I noticed I seem to have quite a few duplicate charts.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The wait is over!

I finished this back in July, and immediately took it over to Jill's for framing.  I knew exactly what I wanted, and I think it was the fastest Jill and I have ever decided what to do with a project.  In fact, we spent extra time looking at other options since neither of us could believe the first choice, picked in 30 seconds, was exactly the right one.

There was only one small problem, the molding was on back-order.  So we waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.  There was false hope when one of the ladies at Shepherds Bush said she'd seen my finished piece.  Alas, it was someone else's, my molding was still on a slow boat.

In case anyone is wondering, I did convert this to silks, and change the colors a bit.  That's why it might seem more yellow.  The house and alphabet were stitched in Shepherd's Moon (Threadgatherer Silk-n-Colors), a totally delicious warm gold that fades to a creamy gold.

The wait was well worth it, I totally love the finished piece.  No clue why I love it so much, I'm not normally a pink and yellow type of girl, but this love affair has been going on since Part 2 came out, and has grown every step since.  Mom, keep your sticky paws off it, this is mine.

About my last post, I was comforted that so many stitchers suffer from the same dilemma.  Common consensus is anything is good, as long as we're enjoying what we're stitching.  Right now I'm doing fun stitching, since I'm a bit loopy on Vicodin.  Just a tiny eye procedure to remove a mass on my lower eyelid.  Side benefit was my eye surgeon seems to be more concerned about my chronic corneal ulcers (caused by allergies) than my normal optometrist.  I actually got some eye drops prescribed instead of just a pat on the back and directions to apply hot compresses.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mucking About

To quote Len Goodman from Dancing with the Stars, I need to stop mucking about. No, not mucking out stables, but ignoring my larger projects for the instant gratification of starting new things, or finishing the smaller ones.  If I keep ignoring them, or only working on them once in a blue moon, they'll never get finished.

In my mind I divide up stitching into 2 categories - serious stitching and fun stitching.  Well, there's actually a 3rd category too - things I wouldn't ever consider stitching myself.  Serious stitching is reproduction samplers, and larger projects.  Fun stitching are those things I really enjoy stitching, they're relaxing, easy, and usually quick.  Its that instant gratification thing.

The problem is a lot of fun stitching isn't exactly what I want hanging on the walls in my house.  It just doesn't fit in with my personal style.  My house is NOT country, rustic, cutesy or primitive.  Small exceptions to the country might be made if its French country, and NOT floral.  I guess that's why most of my "fun" stitching is seasonal - I can hang it up for a couple of months, consider it a decoration, and then put it away for the other 9-10 months.

Obviously I need to find a balance.  I haven't had a "large" finish since January, when I had 2.  Well, one of those is sort of cheating since it was a large mystery Quaker I'd been working on for 3 years.  But at least it was a finish, and it looks gorgeous hanging over my bed.  The other finish was the Alpha Trio by Sheepish Designs, stitched as a tribute to Lady, our first family dog.  Yes, I actually voluntarily gave that to my mom as a birthday present.

Back to balance.  Two finishes in January, and who knows how many projects actually started that could be classified as a BAP (I know its over 25), and none of those close to a finish.  I really need to make a point of concentrating on a few of the larger projects, between the fun stitches, and NOT starting more.  Well, at least not starting 5 for every 1 finish.  There needs to be balance between fun and serious stitching, and finishes and new starts.  Does anyone else have this dilemma?

Anyway, I'm going back to my fun stitching for now, since allergies are kicking me in the ass, and I feel like crap.  Sorry about my language, and hopefully I start to feel better soon.  I feel even worse making everyone read through this and I don't even reward with pictures.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Planning, yeah, that's what I'll call it

It seems like I'm running half a season ahead of schedule.  Halfway through summer, I was ready for Autumn.  Now Autumn just barely started, and I'm thinking winter.  No idea why, its been in the upper 80s with near-record high temperatures.  You'll almost think it was still summer, other than its actually been getting cool at night.  Maybe I'll blame it on the JCS ornament issue, or Brenda, with her sneak peak at the next Sampler of the Season - Winter.

I'm going to write it off as planning.  Stitching isn't a hobby that gets finished at the snap of the fingers (unless you're one of those turbo stitchers, yeah, you know who you are), so we need to think ahead and not start stitching our Halloween ornaments on Oct 15, or wait to start on Christmas ornaments/gifts until after Thanksgiving.

What's driving this is I started playing with my design software again and came up with a couple of small pieces, and have the research and plans for a third.  I've always been fascinated by mythology, folklore and alternative religions.  I'm extremely tolerant and open-minded, up until someone tries to convert me or tell me my soul is damned for all eternity because I don't follow their particular brand of religion.  Yes, that actually has happened to me.  The common theme of these designs are how other cultures celebrate the Winter Solstice.  Not every culture focuses on Dec 25, and not everyone calls the winter gift-giver Santa Claus.  As the world becomes smaller due to the internet and mass media, a lot of the regional beliefs are forgotten, or just not followed.

Over the next couple of weeks I'll post the designs for people to do with as they please.  There's a bit of paganism, a splash of folklore, and a dollop of prim in all of them.  I'm not sure what I enjoyed more, playing with colored dots on the software, or doing the research for the background information.

Enjoy Feast of St. Nicholas!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Bad Blogger!

What have I been up to for the last 2 weeks?  Obviously not blogging.

I did some sewing for gifts/thank-yous.  Luckily the recipients didn't point out my sewing flaws, which there were many and my mom did point out when she saw one of the journal covers.

There was a quick trip down to San Diego (home of the parental units) to take a car-load of stuff down.  Princess Annie took the chance to use my pillow as her throne, since she's usually shut out of that room.

There was also a quick stop in Las Vegas, since its a great half-way point between Utah and San Diego.  Super quick review of the Cosmopolitan, one of the new hotel/casinos in City Center.  Public areas look like the designer didn't have a cohesive theme, and was using just whatever was leftover from other hotels/casinos and cheap (which would make sense since Deutsche Bank bought it out of bankruptcy and decided to go into the casino business).  The rooms were fantastic, which is good considering they were supposed to be condos.  Almost all of the rooms have a balcony, mine was on the 35th floor, looking right over the fountain at the Bellagio.
That was the good part, now for the bad.  Water pressure in the shower could have been better (but the soaker tub with champagne bubble jets more than made up for it), and I never could get the lights or climate control working through the TV remote like it was supposed to.  The restaurants I ate at were either fantastic (Milos) or a dismal failure (Va Bene - the cafe).

The real kicker about The Cosmopolitan and the reason why I'll never go back is being treated like a criminal at check-out. There were 2 charges made to my room, that weren't mine.  I didn't even recognize the name of them and had to ask.  I was told it was one of their restaurants, and the charges were at 6:30am.  Impossible. I had complained about housekeeping barging into the room at 8 am, and if they wanted to review security logs, they'd see the only entry I made to my room was at 10 pm the evening before, nothing after that.  How could I charge something to the room from a restaurant when I wasn't even there?  Front desk staff kept questioning me, not believing what I was saying, but refusing to get the information from security that would prove I was right.  The end result was them finally saying they'd do me the favor of letting me fill out a dispute claim.  Thank you Cosmo, your rooms might have a great view, but I won't be back.  Deutsche Bank, stick to banking and get out of the casino business.

Sheesh, I still get riled up, even a week later.  On to something else, if anyone is still reading this.  I did get some stitching done.  Part 6 of the iStitch SAL.  Totally love the scissors Carol added, and I added a new color.  I had to make the scissors a grey.

Raven's Roost, by the Good Husewife.   This is sort of cheating, since I started this last year and it was about 905% finished, I had just forgotten about it.  Oh well, a finish is a finish and I'm claiming it.

My biggest finish was BBD Greetings, from their Christmas book from 2004.  I started this a few weeks ago, and actually had a half-way pic to post, but it never got posted.  This is actually a scan, since I want to try and print it on some cards to make Christmas cards.

The next pictures are all finish-finishes.  All stitching was done over the last year or 2, and had just gathered in a pile needing something done with it.  Pumpkin Row got stuffed with a lovely mixture of cloves, cinnamon sticks, whole allspice, dried ginger chunks and anise seeds.

Such a lovely smell!

I've also done some baking!  Chocolate Pumpkin Spice cake with a Cinnamon Glaze (totally yummy, you'd never know it was good for you and low fat).

And just out of the oven this afternoon, Apple Buttermilk cakes.  One of these will go into the office tomorrow.

Thank you to everyone that made it through this post, and my rant!  I've been reading blogs, but barely commenting.  I'm sorry about that, but life has been a bit hectic the last couple of weeks.  Hopefully I'll be back to my routine, for at least another month, before it all goes upside down.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Gift received

I was the winner of Catherine's giveaway and kept forgetting to take a picture of what she sent me.  Every single time I remembered, the camera was in another room, or it was an awful time of day with horrible lighting.  Finally, almost a week later, I got a snap.  I thought I was getting just the Chessie & Me chart, but there was a fantastic bonus in the envelope, overdyed floss needed to stitch the design!  Catherine, not only do I thank you, but my mother thanks you, and my own summer-time designs thank you since this means they get to stay with me and not migrate to mom's house.

It goes like this.
Mom:  Oh, that's a nice piece you're working on.
Me: Yep, I really like this one.
Mom:  I know the perfect place to hang it.
Me:  But, I was going to keep this for myself.
Mom:  But, I like it.
Me:  Just because you like it means I'm supposed to give it to you?
Mom:  Yes.

For 3 years I kept my Celtic Noel out of her hands.  Guess where it is now?  Its been on "loan" for 5 years.

This year mom spent a good portion of time at my house, helping me out after an ankle surgery (I couldn't walk for 7 weeks, and didn't drive for 8 weeks).  During that time she had a great time snooping exploring my house.  Is it really a hint when she dumps a stack of 20 charts on my bed next to me and says "I like these"?  And then adds, she doesn't have any patriotic stitched items, and she'd happily borrow one of mine until I got something stitched for her.  Borrow?  Yeah right.  To finally get to the end of the rambling, she's going to get this, and I get to keep my stuff.

I feel the need to add, she also tried to say she didn't have any autumn type stitched designs, then I had to remind her of at least 4 items I'd given her, either Halloween or Thanksgiving related.  I wonder which piece up in the loft she had her eye on.

This might sound like complaining, but I swear it isn't.  Its nice knowing she loves my work, and has a great appreciation of what goes into it.  If I gift her with a stitched piece, I know it won't end up in a garage sale or in a dumpster.  In fact, it took me over a year to convince her that yes, the biscournu really is meant to be used as a pincushion and she won't hurt it.

Despite what it may seem, I actually have been doing some stitching, just not really taking pictures.  However, Carol's iStitch SAL forces me to take pictures if I want the next part.  Here's my part 5.
iStitch Mystery SAL stitched on 35 ct WDW Grape Ice
with HDF Old Maid of the Vineyard
I still have no clue what I'm going to do with this, since its too big for the original intent, since the linen was mis-labeled.  Oh well, I'll figure it out later.  Hopefully I can take some more stitchy pictures later today, since I leave on a road trip tomorrow.