Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Swag Bags, Door Prizes and Giveaways

The other day I started posting about the Mystic Spooky Retreat 2012.  But there was so much I didn't cover.  I didn't mention that there were 34 stitchers in attendance, I never talked about the fabulous food, completely failed to note the presence of a very well behaved canine attendee named Abby, and I realized that I failed to take a single photo of Sue.  There was so much going on that I am sure I didn't even register a fraction of it  ... at a retreat, I often slip into the zone and simply stitch, oblivious to all that is around me.

But one thing even I couldn't ignore were the lavender swag bags that greeted us as we filed into the stitching room and the liberal distribution of door prizes.  Each stitcher in the room got two.  The shops and designers are very supportive of the hideaway retreats, much to the credit of Sue herself who does an excellent job of public relations.  Sue has thank you cards to those who contributed to the swag bags already for our signatures and spread out on the table during the retreat so that we can sign them whenever we have a moment.  And she includes a stamped, pre-addressed thank you note in each door prize bag so that all we have to do is write a personal thank you and drop it in the mail box.  No wonder the shops and designers continue to support Sue's retreats.  

Now, of course, the variety of the donated materials means that not everything a stitcher receives will find it's way into the stash.  But  here is my list of keepers:

123stitch                          skeins of Caron, Threadworx and Thread Gatherer floss
123stitch                          Over the Top Limited Edition 2009 [A Christmas tin]
Elizabeth Needleworks     A is for Autumn
Glory Bee's                      Friendship
GPA                                D4 Scissors Case
Lavender Wings               Pumpkin Patch

However, that left a fair amount of non-keepers available to any reader who wishes to claim them.  If more than one reader wants a particular chart, I'll do a drawing.  Please note, only the items listed below are available as giveaways.

Cross Stitch & Needlework, November 2010
JBW Designs     Dear Santa
Jeanette Douglas Designs     Sweet Pumpkin
Lavender Wings     Esmeralda's Brew
Praiseworthy Stitches     Sassy Bat
Rosewood Manor     Crows' Feet Quilt Block
Tempting Tangles Designs     Valentina, the baby chimp
The Victoria Sampler     State Hearts: Massachusetts
The Victoria Sampler     Boo Buttons #5: Muscateer and Catpunzel

Monday, October 29, 2012

Some Photos of the Mystic 2012 Spooky Retreat

Longtime readers know that I thoroughly enjoy Sue Donnelly's Stitcher's Hideaway Retreats and that I try to attend one every year.  Much to my dismay, I didn't manage to get to one in 2011 but I hope to make up for that by doing both the Alumni Retreat and the Spooky Retreat in February and October of 2013, respectively.  The Alumni Retreat can be rather iffy because of the weather but I'd really like to give it a shot.  Some of the folks that I enjoy reconnecting with will be attending that one and one of my favorite designer's, Nancy of Glory Bee, is a frequent attendee.

This year's Spooky Retreat was splendid.  Sue tried a new format, offering mini-classes and leaving the rest of the time as a free-stitch.  The mini-class I selected, The Lady Washington Sampler, was the last one offered in the schedule, late Saturday afternoon, so I never actually stitched on it at the retreat.  Most of my stitching time was spent on The Woodland Angel, finishing Section 8 and getting a good start on Section 7.  I am working around the design in a clockwise fashion so as to get an outline around which I can cut the fabric.  I am hoping to get all three stockings for my grandchildren from the same piece of linen.  I don't want to discover I am 

just one or two inches short of fabric because I cut the first stocking out with too generous a seam allowance.  I have been doing the back-stitching as I finish each section ... it gives me a sense of my progress by bringing the finished cross-stitching into clear focus.  Section 7 is mostly shadows, snow and dried grass.  In other words, it is mostly confetti stitching and moves slowly because of all the careful counting required if everything is to line up in the end..  I am hoping to make up time while stitching the angel's robes in the later sections since they, at least, have swathes of color and shading.  Still, I am very pleased with the progress I made this past 

 Friday and through most of Saturday ... until my Ott lite bulb blew.  At which point I switched to working on the little freebie kit that is Sue's personal gift to the stitcher's every year.  Each year Sue designs some little something that represents the theme of the retreat and makes a lovely souvenir of the event.

Another beloved feature of Sue's retreats is the on-site shop.  Every year she invites Chris of Chris' Collection to set up a shop in a hotel room close to the stitching room.  I must confess I succumbed and bought two charts: Homespun Elegance's Owls Night Out and Brenda Gervais' On Pins and Pumpkins.  I had seen this last item both as a finished piece in the Halloween exchange on Friday evening and as a WIP at one of the other tables during free-stitch time.  What can I say?  I fell in love with it!  And I couldn't resist this lovely little needle minder.  And of course, there are the stash bags and door prizes but I shall save those for a later post.

But, now, on to the really fun photos of  the people and the Show and Tell projects:

Since it was a Spooky Retreat, the Stitching Witches were out in full force.  There were a great many haute couture witches hats to be seen, some in basic black and some in the wildest brightest colors imaginable.  I regret that I did not get photos of them all but I am sure Sue did and that the photos will soon be on the Fun Report on her website [see above for link].  Here you see Donna [right] and a friend.

This lovely and gentle witch, Marie, sat next to me during the festivities.  She had elected to bring a UFO using a color chart for the free stitch time.  All the trouble she had with same symbols differentiated only by background colors that were barely discernibly different shades of salmon served to confirm my dislike for colored charts.

This is Dawn Fisher, the instructor of all the mini classes, wearing the chatelaine that will be her next teaching project ... a class I definitely want to take.  I took a close-up photo of the chatelaine but apparently it didn't come out.  Dawn has antique sterling silver sewing tools dangling from her chatelaine.  Dawn is a meticulous researcher and I learned a great deal about Martha Washington's life, loves and losses during the class on The Lady Washington Sampler.

This is Deb, Sue's stalwart partner in crime, with an exquisite piece of blackwork that she is stitching called Ancestree.  The branches are all personalized with the names of her matrilineal line, starting with herself at the bottom and rising to her  mother, grandmother, great grandmother.

And here is a close-up shot of Ancestree.  The photograph doesn't do justice to the delicacy of the project in real life.  I neglected to get the information about the class and the instructor on this piece.  I will have to write Deb and get the information.  That is definitely one class I want to take.

Not all the Show and Tell was stitchery.  One lady regaled us with stories of bead-making classes she has been taking.  She uses both her own beads and commercial beads to make lovely necklaces, bracelets, earrings and pendants.  Though I recognized her from previous retreats, I didn't catch her name.  I don't do enough socializing at these retreats.  I tend to get so focused on the stitching that I neglect the equal joy of networking with other stitchers.  I intend to fix that next time.
What little socializing I did netted some fascinating results:  The lady seated at the table to my right heard me describe my high school uniform and immediately queried "Where did you go to school?"  It turned out we went to the same high school, though I graduated 7 years earlier than she did.  Another casually overheard remark about "teaching in Stony Point" yielded the information that Ellen and I teach in the same town: I in the parochial venue and she in the public.  She happens to be a colleague of my very close friend, Liz.  Small world!

In any case, these three photos are of the jewelry made by the very talented lady that I wished I had taken the time to chat with.  I love the pendants with the twisted wire work.  I should have gotten a photo of this lady in her witches hat, a tower of shocking pink tulle rosettes.  I shall have to get better at multi-tasking at these retreats.

This is a shot of jewelry made by that soft spoken witch, Marie, using coral found on a beach during a vacation in the islands.  She said it was unseasonably cool, too cool for swimming but just right for beach combing.
Emily, another lady sitting at the table to my right, knitted all these hats for preemies and cancer patients.  She explained that they have to be knitted in a circle since a seam, however soft the yarn, could tear a one-three pound preemie's sensitive skin.  The hat at the upper left could have fit on my thumb with virtually no wiggle room.  She said that only she and one other lady are willing to make the micro-preemie hats since it is so difficult working with four 4" double pointed needles to stitch such a tiny hat seamlessly.

But cross stitch was well represented as well,  though I am only showing a few of the many show and tell pieces here.  First this Alessandre Adelaide Christmas Bell.  A lovely piece.  I apologize for the glare that mars this photograph.  But I own a simple point and shoot digital and barely have the photographic expertise to take pictures at the simplest level.  I still cut off the tops of heads, have problem with maintaining focus and framing a shoot that doesn't look like it was taken on the slanting deck of a ship in the high seas of a North Atlantic storm.

This needle book and fob were masterworks of stitching and finishing techniques.

And, finally, this Seasons of Mystic, was the piece I missed by not going to last year's retreat.  A beautiful sampler done in exquisite colors.

Lots of funny stitching and non-stitching stories were exchanged at the tables during the day.  One of those stories netted me an adorable little seasonal chart for Columbus Day.  When Peg heard me mention my Italian ancestry, she had to tell the story of how she came to design a Columbus Day ornament.  She had made a series of ornaments to decorate her mother's room at a nursing home: with all the usual themes: Valentine's Day, Easter,  Thanksgiving and Christmas and so on.  After her mother's death, a close friend of the mother also entered a nursing facility.  As a loving gesture, Peg wanted to give the ornaments to her mother's friend.  The friend was pleased but after looking at the ornaments, she asked "Where's Columbus Day?"  When Peg explained that there hadn't been a Columbus Day in the original series, her mother's friend replied, in typical senior citizen fashion, "I don't care!  I'm Italian and I want a Columbus Day ornament!"  So what could Peg do but design one.  I must say she did a very fine job and I will be stitching it up soon.  I promise to post a photo as soon as possible.

There will be another post about the swag bag and the door prizes which truly deserve a stand alone post.  In that post I will be noting a few of the generous gifts that don't quite fit my stitching style and I will offer them as giveaways.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


Right now I am enjoying one of Sue Donnelly's fabulous Stitcher's Hideaways.  Stitchers from as faraway as Oregon but most of the folks came from New England, New Jersey and New York.  This is one of those retreats where you have a choice between  taking a class or two and doing a free stitch.  Iopted to stitch on my Woodland Angel yesterday and this morning though I plan on taking aclass..  Then it will be back to the Woodland Angel for the rest of the day.   have taken plenty of photos and will post themtomorrow once I 've had a chance todownload them.   Idid violate one of my goals: I bought one class project kit and two more charts.  But I did score a grab  bag of Thread Gatherer floss for a mere twenty dollarsfor at least a dozen cards..  And I picked up another  small carry-all, the sorton a metal frame that opens up to stand on a table top.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thoughts for Thursday

I am getting too old to try and maintain the mad pace that has become my routine: up at 5:30 or 6:00 am to do several hours of laundry and house-keeping, squeeze in an hour's worth of stitching; run a few errands on the way to work at mid-day; work till 9:00 pm; come home to fix dinner and perhaps squeeze in another hour or so of stitching while watching a DVD.  Repeat Monday through Thursday.  Collapse on Friday.  Handle the usual parish duties at least half of the weekends between Sept-June, breaking up those weekends  into choppy little segments not particularly good for anything.  The allergy season from hell isn't helping much, either.  Last year's unusually mild winter and a very rainy spring/summer have made for a respiratory nightmare: leaf mold, mildew, pollen, particulates of every kind abound.    I walk around in a state of stupefaction brought about by sinus headaches and simple exhaustion.  I'd love to turn the clock back 20 years and return to a time when I could absorb such stress without so much as a blink of the eye.  The other option would be to turn the clock ahead four years to retirement but at this stage of my life, I am not about to give away four years.  Since I can't lay my hands on Hermione's time-turner [H. Potter fans will know what I mean], I'll just have to find a way to deal with my dilemma until retirement comes in the natural course of time.

I have gotten some more work done on Section 8 of the Woodland Angel.  This is the finicky part of the section.  I probably have less than 50 stitches to place but they are so scattered that progress has slowed to a snail's pace.  First, I have to find an unstitched space, identify the symbol, thread the needle, stitch one or two crosses, secure the thread, then scan both chart and project to see if there are any more empty spaces in the same color or color blend.  Note: I invariably miss one and have to repeat the above process after I've gone on to several other colors.  This is made more time consuming by the fact that I don't keep needles threaded for all the 50 or 60 possibilities in a TW chart.  I used to do that but I found that, whatever "needle-minders" I used, the needles would get separated from the symbols making it a headache to re-identify them or that the threads from adjacent needles would tangle and snarl making it difficult to select a needle without losing one or both of the strands, again making it necessary to do a search and identify examination of the tangled floss in hopes of finding the missing strand.  Lots of floss was wasted in the process.  So now I thread only one needle at a time and return the unused floss to the proper bobbin when moving on to the next symbol.  Perhaps this is not particularly efficient but it does save floss and prevents mistakes.

But, at the moment, I feel as though my head is going to explode or maybe my sinuses are going to implode.  I am not really sure.  In any case, it's bound to be messy.  So, I shall end this post.  There are dishes to wash and laundry to do and furniture to dust, then a stop at the bank before work.  But tomorrow is Friday and I plan on sitting and stitching all day, getting up only to eat and drink and occasionally stretch.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wentzler Wednesday Every Day

Now that I have determined to stitch on my Wentzler Christmas stocking BAP exclusively for the rest of this month and through November, things are moving along at a good pace.

I have finished the back stitching on the angel in sections 1, 5, 9 and in most of section 8.  I still have a bit of cross & back stitching to do in section 8.  Then it will be on to Section 7.  Normally, I rather like back stitching and find it very relaxing but I have to say the back stitching in the wing required all my attention. Normally, the colors in a piece are a guide to how the back stitching should flow.  But the strip of wing in section 1 looked like a mosiac.  However, once the back stitching was done you could see the feathering and the mosaic "look" suddenly became much more coherent.  Still, the effect was subtle given that the back stitching was done in DMC 3862.

Unfortunately, however much I am pleased by my progress, a photograph isn't very impressive at this stage.  My photographic skills and my point and shoot digital camera are just not sophisticated enough to make pick up all the subtle improvements since the last photo.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Weekend Progress Report: Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012

 I have been working steadily on my Woodland Angel Christmas Stocking and have very nearly completed section 8 of the chart even though I did have to do a bit of frogging.  One of my dark grey DMC skeins was mislabeled as 543 which is actually a very pale tan.  I had used the mislabeled skein on the trim of the angel's robes and had to pull it and restitch with the proper color.  I then decided to do the back stitching on the  sections 8 and 9.  I'll do the back-stitching on sections 3 & 5 later on today and tomorrow as well as finish up the last stitches on section 8.  I like doing the back stitching as I go for two reasons: first, I enjoy the immediate gratification of seeing the design come into focus and second, it helps me in lining up the other chart sections as I stitch.   I am going into a one project at a time phase with this stocking for now since I am not at all certain that 8 weeks will be sufficient time to finish this piece but I am going to give it my best shot.
The photo above shows my progress on the whole stocking.  As you see I have very far to go.  The photo on the right shows the bottom of the stocking, sections 9 and 8.  If you click on the photo, you will be able to see the areas yet to be stitched ... the snow is a mosaic of confetti stitches in approximately 20  solid and blended needles in varying shades of white, blue, lavender, ecru, tan and grey.  The two rather irregular brown columns are actually the front legs of a young reindeer.

I did take just a few minutes away from the stocking to finish up Peacocks and will try and get a sewing finish done on that soon.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sinus Headaches and Stitching Don't Mix

... so I have very little to report in the way of stitching progress.  Wednesday and Thursday were total losses so far as stitching was concerned.

 But by Friday I had recovered just enough to work on my Purple Peacocks, which I had stitched on an aqua background in GAST Peacock rather than in the recommended shade of purple.  I actually believed I had finished the piece until I saw this photograph and noticed that I have a few flourishes to finish on the tail of the peacock on the upper right.    That sinus headache did a number on my powers of concentration and observation!  And then I will have to decide whether I am going to finish it as a small pillow or a gift tote.  I have abandoned the idea of a biscornu ... it is too large for a biscornu pin cushion and too small for a biscornu pillow.

And I have finally resumed work on TW's The Woodland Angel Christmas Stocking and made some progress on Page 8 of the chart.  The photo isn't one of my better ones, being slightly askew.  And it is often hard to appreciate a TW design until after the back stitching has been done but I am pleased with this morning's progress. It is moderately slow going since, typical of TW, the snow has so many varying shades but the final result will be well worth it.  TW has a painterly eye which she applies to cross stitch design with phenomenal results.  It is one of the reasons I love her designs and keep returning to them again and again.  There are other reasons, to be sure. Her choice of subjects meshes with my own interests in fantasy subjects like dragons and mythological/fairy tale figures and in designs with the feel of medieval tapestries.  Her palette has a delicacy and subtlety not found in many cross stitch designs.  Her designs are breathtakingly romantic in the truest sense of that word.  And she uses DMC in her charts which keeps even large projects affordable ... though one of these days I am going to try and convert one of her smaller designs to silks ... I am sure TW would look mah-velous in silk.  There is one old complimentary chart of a dragon [I believe it is called Futurecaster] that is designed to use an over-dyed cotton and some matching solids in a colorway of the stitcher's choice that should convert to silk easily enough.  Converting one of her blended thread charts to silk would be more difficult but if I could find something relatively small I might give it a try using Perfect Palette silks.   That line of silks has a large range of colors ... not quite as extensive as DMC's range of cottons but close.  Anyway, I have quite a collection of TW charts in my stash since I have two of her seasonal faeries left to stitch [Summer and Winter] and I have the large paperback book The Best of Teresa Wentzler Fantasy as well.  And I have a number of her complimentary charts as well - TW is one of those designers who has been exceedingly generous with free designs over the years.

Now that I have recovered a bit of momentum on this project, I am reluctant to put it down.  This is not unusual for me when working with a TW project.  It happened with Tracery Dragons earlier in the year.  I tend to reach a point in a TW project where I just have to abandon all other stitching to concentrate solely and completely on the TW piece until it is finished.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Compound Posting

Friday was a very good day:

 I had a small happy dance to do as regards my stitching: The Primitives Shop is stitched.  The over one stitching of the display window made this take a touch longer than some of the other shops in this series but, boy oh boy, is it a beauty.  Working from the chart only and without a photo of the stitched model, the window was a something of a mystery stitch.  The doll, candle and stars were perfectly obvious from the start.  The rectangle in the center: well, it took me a while to figure out that it was a painting of a house.  But the little red hen in the lower right corner: until it was fully stitched, I had no clue what it was going to be.

Since Friday was the occasion of another trip to the doctor with my mother, I had to come up with another waiting room stitch.  Something portable, without too many color changes and not requiring constant attention to a chart.  I pulled this chart, Purple Peacocks by, from my file of quick and easy projects along with some aqua 28ct Laguna.  I am using GAST Peacock for all the stitching rather than the recommended purple overdyed floss since it works better on the aqua fabric.  Two of the four peacocks are fully stitched and another started.  Not bad progress.  I am not entirely sure how I shall finish this.  The design is perfect for a biscornu but it would also make a sweet pin pillow.  

However, the best news of the day had nothing to do with stitching.  Mom got a clean bill of health ... not a bad thing when the office being visited is entitled Hematology/Oncology.  The hematologist she sees is a very upbeat guy who told her that some of her test results were better than his own and that he couldn't believe she was 84 and looked more like 64.  He's right, she does!  Especially when compared with all the other elderly folk I saw in that waiting room, my Mom looks like a spring chicken.

Saturday was a lazy day:

A take out breakfast of waffles, bacon and eggs set the tone for a lazy day watching Season 7 of Bones.

Sunday was even lazier:

After lectoring the 9:30 Mass which was also the annual commissioning Mass for all lay ministries,  I helped a car-less friend out briefly and then did nothing at all that was in the least memorable.

Monday was a typical Monday:

Things are getting hectic at work again: parents meetings, annual reports, safer spaces reports, crisis management reports with the Family Catechesis Events [as yet unwritten] just on he horizon in early November.  October can be mildly crazy.  I guess the lazy weekend was a good thing considering what this week brings.

Friday, October 12, 2012

For the Birds

My daughter-in-law, the environmental educator, came through with an identification of the plant pictured in yesterday's post.  Here is what she wrote:

You have native pokeweed.  The young spring leaves are edible when cooked, the berries, older leaves and stalk are all very poisonous.  The taste is likened to that of collard greens.

Pokeweed berries crush purple and dry tan.  Early settler children used to make an ink out of the berries in the summer.  Birds like American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Mourning Dove, Gray Catbird, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Cardinal, Great-crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Phoebe, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, European Starling, Brown Thrasher, Cedar Waxwing, Red Fox, Virginia Opossum, Raccoon, and White-footed Mouse all eat the berries.  This fact is exactly why I teach kids that you can't just watch the wildlife to see what's edible and safe for humans to eat.  Oh...and expect purple poop from your birdy visitors!

It's not a highly aggressive plant and depending on what you want to do with your space, you can tame it and have it there for a nice native addition that will attract birds.

It's so nice to have a reliable resource in the family.  I grew up in NYC and have a very limited knowledge of my natural environment up here in the suburbs.  Armed with this knowledge, I will try and establish this plant above the retaining wall.  It is really quite pretty both in flowering  and fruiting stages.  And I quite like the notion of providing a native food source for the local birds.  We do get robins, mockingbirds, mourning doves and cardinals at the bird feeders and this could make a nice supplement to the seed I put out.  I'll risk the purple droppings if I can add a little variety to the diet of my backyard birds.  And I wouldn't complain if the plants attracted a few more unusual visitors to my bird feeders.  I love watching the birds and am always excited when I spot a new-to-me species.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Thursday's Tale

Yesterday just wasn't the right Wednesday to get back to my Wentzler BAP.  The morning at home was a busy one, baking cookies for the evening's catechist meeting and doing some prep to make dinner an easy one considering the long day.  I did sneak in some stitching on The Primitive Shop between jumping up and down every twelve minutes to switch out cookie sheets.  But I knew my dinner break at work would be short, so I didn't bother to bring my stitching bag to the office.  And by the time I got home around 9:30 pm, I was just too weary and bleary to attempt any stitching whatsoever, never mind something as complex as a Wentzler piece.  I did a bit of reading before finally dropping off to sleep.

And this morning I actually slept through my husband's morning routine and didn't wake till 8:00 am, unusually late for me.  I didn't have to be at work till noon, so I indulged myself with an hour and a half of morning stitching with several huge soup mugs of tea.  Not a bit of laundry, house-keeping, shopping, banking or any of the dozens of chores calling my name.  Aside to myself: I must teach some of these chores to call out my husband's name on occasion. 

This morning's stitching has me closing in on a finish for The Primitives Shop from the 2006 Indy Town Square series.  If I can manage just another hour this evening after work, I believe that will be enough.  I have only three more rows of the over one fill stitching and then the back stitching and lettering left to stitch.  So I'll hope to post a finish photo tomorrow morning.

 In the meantime, I'd like to post photos of a "volunteer" from my backyard garden.  The back section has been overrun by these lovely things.  I can't tell if they are the root stock from some blackberries that used to grow in that area [blackberry cultivars are grafted onto sturdier stock ... kind of like roses] or whether they are the product of seeds from bird droppings.  But they are quite pretty, with clusters of white flowers in early summer and these dark purple berries in late summer to early fall.  I am wondering if they are edible.  I am sending photos to my daughter-in-law who is an environmental educator and a naturalist in the hope
that she can identify them.  But if any of my readers know what they are, I'd love to hear from you in the comments section.  I am a city kid and don't know much about botany beyond the conventional garden flowers and vegetables.  If these turn out to be something desirable like wild grapes, I'll try to transplant them above the retaining wall and let them take over that area next summer.  But I don't want them down in the backyard proper next year ... my yard is too small and I have other plans for the space.

The top photo [left] is a close-up of the berries and leaves.  The second photo [immediately] above] is a shot of three of the bushy plants growing in a clump. And the bottom [left] photo is a close-up of the berries again, this time against the backdrop of  one of my patio chair covers to give you a clearer view.  They are really quite pretty and I'd love to discover if they are useful as well: either for eating, feeding the birds or making a natural dye or whatever!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Endless Zucchini

What to do with the huge zucchini and its only slightly smaller cousin, that I found hiding under the foliage when I began cleaning up the garden for winter?  Your average zucchini bread recipe requires two cups  of shredded zucchini, which used up only a third of the largest zucchini.  I was running low on olive oil and eggs, so I only made one recipe [Mom's Zucchini Bread] and baked it in a spring-lock tube pan.  That was yesterday.  The only change I made to the recipe was doubling the amount of chopped walnuts to a full cup. I tend to like my tea breads to be rich with nuts

To the left is a shot of the second zucchini, which measured 11 1/2 inches long beside the zucchini bread  and a plate of Fig and Bleu Cheese Scones.  I just had to try a recipe for Fig and Bleu Cheese Scones that was in a recent Tea Time issue, while I was doing all that baking yesterday.   Fall always makes me want to bake.  The cool weather just calls out for a cozy kitchen smelling of spices.  Usually, I find myself making fresh apple cake or New England gingerbread at this time of year.  But I have yet to visit the local orchard ... maybe next weekend.

Today, after an early trip to the grocery store for more eggs and more canola oil and more olive oil, I will be making zucchini "cakes" - not really a cakes at all, more of a starter like a crab cake appetizer.  I found both the Mom's Zucchini Bread recipe above and this recipe on the website.  Still, this will only use up the largest of my zucchini.  I guess I'll be making zucchini muffins tomorrow.  Or maybe the Zucchini Souffle that I downloaded from the same website.  I'll have to freeze half of the zucchini bread and half the scones.  At least, I'll be well provided with goodies for afternoon tea for the next little while. That's the problem with being a two person family ... finding freezer space for all the cooking and baking!  However, there will be a bit more room since this morning I am also making 10 dozen cookies for the catechist meeting tonight ... using the boxes of pre-portioned frozen cookie dough that were samples promoting our Fall Fundraiser. 

Since I'll be working late tonight, I took some time to chop and saute the onions and peppers and defrost the chicken for chicken quesidillas that can be assembled quickly for supper and washed some greens so I can throw together a quick salad.  Sometimes I wonder about these days when I don't have to be into work until noon or one.  Waking up at 5am with my husband, I tend to put in a full day of work at home before heading into work at the office.   And then I wonder why I am always so tired.  In the immortal words of the Lethal Weapon duo, "I'm getting too old for this shit!"

On the stitching front, I did get a little more done on The Primitives Shop ornament yesterday but not enough to warrant a photo.  I am hoping to finish it up today.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

And now back to our scheduled programming ...

... after several weeks of chaos, things have finally returned to some semblance of normalcy.  My husband has been back to work two weeks now and his spirits are steadily improving.  For my part, the usual school year rhythms are well established once more.  Work routines are just that again: routine.  No longer any mad rush to make up work backlogged during time spent at the hospital.

 Even my stitching is returning to normalcy as evidenced by these photos of the Mystic Smalls Stitching Pocket.  I have finished stitching this project.  I have included photos of the entire piece and of the section I just finished with the ribbon embroidery between the two stitchers.  Ribbon embroidery has always been my personal stitcher's Everest.  I think the roses turned out really well but I am not happy with the Japanese seed stitch that makes up the leaves.  The directions instruct you not to attempt to frog these stitches but to restitch directly over them without piercing the first stitch [Okay, that should be easy!  As the kids would say, Riiiight!].  So I think I will wait till I am done with all the other pieces in this class kit and see just how much ribbon I have leftover.  If I have enough, I will attempt the restitch.  I'd really prefer the proper tear-drop shape to the skinny straight shape I ended up with on most of my leaves.  But I can live with skinny if I have to.  I suspect the only way I am going to get this stitch done properly is to put the piece on the scroll rods that fit my floor frame so that I can have both hands free to manipulate the ribbon.

I think I'll be gridding out the remaining projects in this class kit on one piece of linen and mounting that linen on scroll rods so that in future I have the best possible outcome with the ribbon embroidery.  The remaining pieces are all relatively small: a fob, a scissor case, a needlebook and a biscornu.  So these should fit on a pair of 12" scroll rods which will be reasonably portable when doing the non-ribbon embroidery.
 I also got a good start on The Primitives Shop ornament from the Indy 2006 Town Square series. All the two over two stitching and most of the back stitching is done and I am currently working on the one over one display window of the shop.  I hesitate to call this a SAL much longer since, of the 6 stitchers who signed on originally, I am the only one still stitching these little beauties.  If anyone is intrigued you can go to the SAL Blog and see some more photos as well as the entire list of charts.  The very first post has all the info about the series and how to get the charts ... or maybe that's in the blog description, can't remember just now.  But it's all there somewhere.    I had originally intended to sew these into a quilt but that turned out to be too ambitious a project for me and I am turning them into ornaments for a Christmas Tree with the theme "small town USA", instead.  I am thinking of using one of those country primitive trees made of dowels.  I think these ornaments would look great on such a tree with nothing more than the addition of my wooden cranberry strands.

I also got something of a windfall this past weekend.  My niece and god-daughter works on the local CSA farm and had more vegetables than she could use this past week.  She's working two part-time jobs while taking a break from school.  She'd gotten some extra hours at the restaurant and wasn't going to have the time to cook this week's share of the bounty.  So she passed it on to me.  We have been enjoying roasted root vegetables: carrots and daikon radishes and onions.  I also have a week's supply of salad greens, some lovely red and yellow peppers, some small eggplant and best of all, fresh beets.  I will be making myself a Fall salad of sliced roasted beets with gorgonzola and walnuts drizzled with balsamic vinegar.  My own garden yielded its last hurrah.  I harvested a bunch of green tomatoes that I'll be ripening with the old apple in a paper bag technique ... not as luscious as vine-ripened but at least there's no waste.  And when I pulled the foliage of the zucchini plants away, look what I found lying hidden all these weeks.  I like to harvest my zucchini small but this one grew to a grand old size unnoticed.  I'll be grating it for zucchini bread and baking this morning before work.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


 As I had promised a few days ago, I am showing my Halloween finishes just as I have shown my Autumn finishes ... or at least as many as I have photographed.  Halloween is one of my favorite holidays - perhaps because I work with children and continue to see it through their eyes.

This first is a Homespun Elegance design, a companion piece to The Stitcher, clearly entitled Witches Stitch Too.    I have stitched both pieces and will eventually finish them as pillows.

This is Miribilia's Halloween Faerie.  Though I love the finished piece, I was not thrilled while stitching it. The charted colors just didn't seem quite Halloween-ish enough.  I am very glad I stuck with the kitted materials though because it really did come together beautifully in the end.  Just an aside: I seldom buy kits because I like to keep my options open as to fabric and fiber.  But this kit was worth the investment.

This is one of the entries in the Shepherd's Bush Be Attitudes monthly series, stitched large on a 10ct fabric.  Ultimately, I'll stitch it into a Halloween Trick or Treat bag for my grand-daughter.  But she is still in the "I love pink - I am a little princess" stage, so I'll wait a bit on this one.  She's only three and I think a trick or treat bag like this would make her cry.

This is one of my favorite ornaments from the various JCS Halloween issues.  Called Full Moon, it is actually an excerpt from a larger piece, Sleepy Hollow, from Ink Circles which I also have in my stash to be stitched someday.  In any case this is just one of two versions I have stitched: the second was on a purple linen and was given away in an exchange.

This is Blue Ribbon Designs's Perched on a Pumpkin, yet another of the JCS Halloween issue goodies.  I love owls and pumpkins, so what's not to like?

This is Winifred Witch from M Designs, also a JCS Halloween issue ornament,  I knew I had to stitch this one as soon as I saw it.  In spite of the green skin tones this is one pretty witch.
Another Ink Circles contribution to the JCS Halloween issues, this is Fleur de Boo: a geometric in Halloween colors with Sharon Crescents Belle Soie.  I think I liked this one just because it was so unexpected.  And of course, any excuse to stitch with Belle Soie is a good one.  I am constantly expanding my collection of Belle Soie silks so that I can convert charts using cottons to my favorite silks. I don't have a complete set by any means but I am working toward that goal.

This little clothespin witch doll was another of those rare kits in my stash.  It was an "extra" in an exchange and was a really fun stitch.  I had it in my office one Halloween and ended up giving it away to one of the children who admired it.  I still have the chart and some more black linen and have always intended to stitch it again someday.

Jane Greenoff's Blackwork Owl:  Owls and witches seem to go together, at least since the Harry Potter stories ... so this little blackwork owl is one more ornament for my Halloween tree.

This is Elizabeth Design's Spooky Tree, from the first JCS Halloween issue.  I trimmed it as suggected with raffia.

Homespun Elegance is one of my favorite designers and I love her Olde Brass charms ... they really add a je ne sais croix to her design, Boo Pumpkin.  I also like her practice of stacking motifs for more visual punch.
This is the Prairie Schooler Night Owl ornament from an early JCS Halloween issue.  I love this little guy but he gave me fits for some reason.  I kept counting my stitches incorrectly.  I own another version of this same chart, stitched one over one, and received as an exchange.  I couldn't help but marvel at the perfection of the one over one version when I had had such trouble with the 2 over 2.  And it is a very straightforward chart.  I have stitched many more difficult and complex projects than this with no trouble at all.  I still can't figure out why it gave me such trouble.

From the very first JCS Halloween Tree issue, this is The Sweetheart Tree's entry, Pumpkin on Gingham. It is another of those painlessly repeatable designs that I have used  for exchanges and gifts and will do so as long as I have some of that gingham linen in my stash.

La-D-Da's Trick or Treat featuring witches boots and stockings was another must stitch but for a different reason than usual.  I had this great blue and yellow cording that I wanted to use so I adjusted the color of the stockings to match.

I am not sure what sheep have to do with Halloween but this ewe in a witch's hat beside a pumpkin stack is irresistible.  It was a gift  and is Shepherd Bush's Boo Sheep.

This simple little beauty was designed by Sue Donnelly and was part of the loot in the swag bag of one of her Mystic Stitcher's Hideaways that I attended.  Sue always includes a little gift kit of her own design.  She is not only a very organized provider of great stitching retreat experiences; she is an extremely creative and gifted designer as well!

This childhood taunt keeps showing up in Halloween ornament designs: I am not particularly crazy about this version but it was a quick and easy stitch.  The designer is Cherry Wood Designs.

I really enjoyed this very quick little stitch.  It came from the same leaflet as the tall skinny witch with a pumpkin that you see several photos below.
This is a Glory Bee design.  If I remember correctly [I no longer have the chart] this was one of three designs meant to be stitched in a row.  I used a higher count fabric and stitched them as Halloween ornaments.  I also embellished them with some beads in the borders to give them a little more glitz  and glamour as ornaments.

I know I stitched all three of these Glory Bee designs, but these are the only two I have on hand, so I must have given the other, Treat Time, featuring candy corn, away long ago

This is another Glory Bee ornament, this one from a JCS Halloween issue.  I may be slow on the uptake every now and then but I honestly didn't get the visual pun of the skeleton key until I e-mailed the designer about it.  As the kids would say, "Duh!"

This is another of my favorite Halloween ornament designs, Starry Pumpkin, a complimentary chart from Homespun Elegance, I have stitched it at least half a dozen times for gifts and exchanges.  Shown here are two versions.  The photo directly above is one version of the Homespun Elegance Star Pumpkin ... only without the star charm.   This round example was given away at a retreat as part of an exchange grab bag.

But the one with the bright orange cording and the Olde Brass charm is the one I kept for myself.

This tall skinny witch was one of two designs in the leaflet [see the Salem 1692 design above].  I think she is very sweet in her own endearingly primitive fashion.

And here are some of the ornaments displayed on my entry hall table along with a few of my owl figurines.  
For over 25 years, I have worked in a Catholic parish, either as a teacher in the parochial school or as the Coordinator of the Religious Education Program for children attending public schools.  We never throw anything away in Catholic schools!  While browsing in the school library one day, I found an ancient volume with this very old-fashioned Halloween poem that reminded me of my own school days in the 50s.  So I stitched it into a classroom door banner.  Many of you will recognize the Black Cat Motif  and vining from Prairie Schooler's Designer Series Halloween chart and the Homespun Elegance Starry Pumpkin motif at the bottom.  I had a lot of fun stitching this piece on my lunch hours in the faculty lounge.  But I remember one of my colleagues questioning how I could just stitch the verse on blank linen.  I was surprised and replied that if I could write with pencil and paper, why shouldn't I be able to do the same thing with needle and thread?  I couldn't understand why she thought it would be so difficult!

This is a Monster Bubbles chart, again from the JCS  Halloween issues.  It is a witty and clever design and much funnier in real life.  It is hard to see in the photo, but those loops of ribbon are actually the over-the-top hair do of a skull sipping from the martini glass.  The satiric take on Madonna's Girls Just Wanna Have Fun was simply irresistible.  This was another of those charts that I knew I just had to stitch the moment I saw it.

This is Primitive Needle's Halloween Revelry, a chart which appeared in JCS Sept. 2009.  I was attracted by the offbeat and quirky design.  I believe this is the first Primitive Needle piece I stitched.  Of course, I have gone on to stitch many of her designs since that time.  Her untimely death in the terrible flash floods that hit her area a  few years ago was a terrible tragedy.  

All I cam tell you about this piece is that it is a freebie that a stitched a very long time ago.

Brightneedle's Esmeralda's House was one of the cleverest and quirkiest pieces I have ever stitched.  Every room has a bunch of little surprises.  It's like one of those Where is Waldo? books ... lots and lots of visual stimulation.  I took a class with one of the Brightneedle ladies and was able to get this chart autographed.

And this is another one of my favorites: Not Forgotten Farms, The Giving Sisters.  It reminds me of the old woodcut illustrations found in 19th and 18th century books.  My only quibble is with the green faces.  I tried all sorts of different flesh tones but ultimately frogged them all and went with the charted green.

This trick or treat bag uses Raise the Roofs' Boo Whoo as its centerpiece.  Instead of stitching it over two on 40ct to come up with an ornament , I stitched it over two on 28ct for this larger version.  I think it made a really adorable Halloween accessory for little Liam.

Another Trick or Treat Bag for the grandkids: this one featuring Homespun Elegance's Mr. Jack-o-Lantern.  It reminds me of another piece I stitched long ago and made into a classroom banner for my niece, Raise the Roof's Sweet Tooth, which I somehow never got around to photographing.

And yet another Trick or Treat bag: if I remember correctly this is a Glory Bee design.  But I am not about to swear to it.

And I have even brought the Halloween theme to my love of tea.  I wish I had a teapot just like this stitched one with some pumpkin mugs to match.  Wouldn't that be fun!  This is a chart from Silver Needle;s Secret Needle Night and is one of Mona Best's designs.

There are still quite a few Halloween pieces that I have stitched but that I have never photographed.  It happens to be a favorite theme of my daughter's as well and I gave her many pieces before I got in the habit of photographing them.  And I can't even begin to estimate the Autumn and Halloween charts I still have in my stash.  Perhaps doing just such an inventory could be material for another post.  I'll have to think about that.