Saturday, May 31, 2014

Assessing May Goals, Setting June Goals

MAY GOALS: I kept the goals list fairly brief this month since a lot was happening in the parish in May: First Communions, Confirmation, May Crowning, Final Exams, Progress Reports, Inventory and Ordering for next year, etc.   Even though two of the items are still in the red, I am pleased with what I have accomplished.  The various new starts have restored my joy in stitching and added some much needed variety to my rotation.
 Current BAP: Resume work on Piper's Stocking.  Still haven't picked this one up again.
UFO/Class Project: Finish up The English Band Sampler.  Resumed stitching 5/6.
Town Square SAL: Stitch The Toy ShopFinished 5/4.
New Starts: Homespun Elegance's Owls' Night Out and Sue Hillis' The Pirate's Creed.   Started Owl's Night Out 5/4 and finished 5/6.   Started The Pirate's Creed 5/8 and finished 5/12.  Started Dragon Dream's A Dragon Tea Party on 5/12 and I am 2/3rds of the way through this medium to large piece.
Sewing Finishes: Try to get three or four projects completed.  No.

JUNE GOALS: Things are settling down a bit so I am increasing my goals list somewhat.
Current BAP:  I am going to ignore this category this month ... it just hasn't been happening for me these past few months, anyway.
UFO/Class Project:  Continue to slog along on The English Band Sampler, a little bit at a time ... which seems to be the only way I can tolerate it now.  I started it two years ago with such enthusiasm but it has simply gone on too, too long.
Town Square SAL: Stitch the Cafe du Monde.
New Start:  Finish Dragon Dream's The Dragon Tea Party and and start Dragon Dreams'  Here Be Dragons.   This pamphlet has two charts and I hope to complete both this month..
Sewing Finishes: Try to get three or four projects completed.

And just because I like to plan ahead, here's my list of the remaining six starts for the year:
July:  Dragon Dreams' Dragon of the Summer Sky.  This is one of Jennifer Aiken-Smith's more fantastical dragons as opposed to the whimsical and somewhat cartoonish ones.
August: Enchanted Lair's Tea Time.  Another fantastical dragon but this one combines my love of fantasy with my love of tea.  Always something to anticipate with pleasure.

September: Workbasket's Quaker Owl.  I own all but two of the Workbasket Quaker  animal series and ultimately plan to use them as quilt blocks.  I have stitched nine already.

October: Workbasket's Quaker Bat
November: Workbasket's Quaker Squirrel
December: Workbasket's Quaker Bear

I have decided to slow down with my BAPs and UFOs now that they have begun to make me feel like Sisyphus rolling that damned rock uphill only to have it roll right back down.   And I have decided to intersperse them even more liberally with new starts.  I was beginning to be bored with my stitching, but no longer.   I simply need a certain amount of novelty to maintain my interest and a generous sprinkling of new small and medium projects among the BAPs accomplishes this.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Still at The Dragon's Tea Party

I'd like to show you a bit more progress on The Dragon's Tea Party.  I have been moving very quickly on this piece and am pleased with my progress.  You can see the guest beginning to take shape, a wizard in purple robes and hat.  The purple is all done in the old discontinued DMC Rayon floss.  Luckily, I had the two purples required in my stash ... something of a miracle since I had only 7 skeins of rayon floss in all in stash.  It's not my favorite thing, being a nasty and slippery fiber.  I am using only 12" lengths of the stuff in an effort to tame it somewhat

I am holding off stitching the wizard's hat's brim and his hair and beard while I decide whether or not I want to use Whispers in white for the brim [thereby turning it into fur trim] and in grey for the hair and beard.  I need to check my stash of Rainbow Gallery fibers to see if I have enough for this project.  If I do decide to use the Whispers, I'll have to stitch them last anyway.  This is hardly a problem since there is so much else left to stitch.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Bit More Progress on the Dragon Tea Party

I guess I have fallen out of the habit of regular posting this month.  Even though I was off for the last 4 days, I never looked at the computer once.  I spend so much of my time on the computer at work that I tend not to associate the computer with leisure activities.  Except for blogging and a few message boards and my e-mail, I am not much of a fan of social media.  No Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest, etc!

Memorial Day Weekend was quiet.  Friday and Saturday were rainy and hot, so I pretty much stayed at home with air conditioning and stitching.  Sunday and Monday were sunny and hot but I managed a very little gardening and even some cooking, in spite of the heat.

I cooked my husband's favorite comfort food: Pasta with meat sauce. I made the meat for the sauce from the usual meatball mixture of 2 parts ground beef, 1 part each ground veal and pork, eggs, Romano cheese, garlic, Italian parsley and bread crumbs.  It's like having the taste of Grandma's meatballs in every bite.  We accompanied it with cucumber infused water over chipped ice.  I had made a pitcher early in the morning so it had time to infuse properly.  It is really a very refreshing beverage.  I first had it at a hair salon.  [The owner had been to a spa where it was served.]  I have been hooked ever since.

What with all the indoor time, I did manage to get quite a bit done on The Dragon's Tea Party, finishing all of page 1 and getting a small start on page 2.  I made a few very small changes.  The chart called for stitching the tea in DMC 801 [coffee brown].  Heresy!  Vile heresy!  I stitched the tea in a very dark coral instead.  And since I like a little glisten in my dragon wings, I added some Krenik blending filament [832] to the 369 that was used to fill the wing.

P.S.: To make the cucumber water, I slice one whole cucumber in very thin slices using my kitchen mandolin and place it in a large pitcher with 12 cups of water and 4 cups of ice cubes.  I let the pitcher sit in the refrigerator for a few hours and, voila, cucumber infused water.  I serve it in tall glasses over chipped ice, sometimes adding a sprig of thyme.  It's a great way to detox the body and is especially good for the complexion.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Dragon Tea Party

I said my posting would be erratic this month.  And I really meant just that.  But First Communion and Confirmation have been celebrated.  The Grade 1-6 program concluded last Thursday, the 8th grade program concluded with Confirmation on Saturday and the 7th grade program will conclude on Wednesday, May 28th. So things should settle down soon into my summer routine of inventory, re-ordering and planning the 2014-15 program.  I start working the normal 9-5 schedule on May 29.  It will be a real pleasure not working crazy evening hours every other day.  Indeed, working a normal 9-5 schedule is very nearly a vacation in and of itself.  I get to take the last week of July and the first three weeks of August as a bona fide vacation.  Something to anticipate with delight.

During my free evenings and my time off, I have plans for renovating the small hall bedroom as a computer room/office for my husband as a birthday gift.  Now that he is retired, he has been volunteering as an archivist at the local historical society and an office would be an asset.   So far he has written an article for the society's journal on a local Civil War officer's service, served as part of a panel on our county's Civil War participation in an interview on a local radio station, and served as a moderator when the society hosted the Civil War Round Table's visit to the current exhibit on Lincoln and the region's Civil War regiments.  Currently, he is hard at work transcribing the diary of a county society matron in the years immediately preceding the Great Depression.  The lady is quite a character, the county's own version of Auntie Mame, and he brings home stories of her antics each week   I am very proud of his accomplishments and think he deserves a home office.  Besides, it will get the computer out of the master bedroom.

About stitching:
While I may not have been posting; I have been stitching.  I have made some pretty good progress on Dragon Dreams' A Dragon Tea Party, which I started on May 12.  I realize this is a little cartoonish and not in my usual style ... but it does combine two of my favorite themes, dragons and tea.  I have stitched a few of Jennifer Aiken-Smith's more realistic dragons, if I may use that term for a fantastical creature ... most recently, Stormbringer.  And I have her Dragon of the Winter Moon and Dragon of the Summer Sky in my stash.  These are a bit more to my taste and I look forward to working them into my rotation soon.  However, for the present, I am having fun with the tea party and it is certainly an easy stitch.  This is another piece that I am stitching on Silkweaver's 28ct Golden Promise linen.  Again, a change from my preferred 36 and 40 ct linens but oh so relaxing and easy on the eyes.  No magnifier lamp needed!  I have a fairly sizable stash of 28 ct linens remaining from the early days of my Silkweaver Fabric-of-the-month subscription back when I was still stitching quite a bit on 28ct.  I do have some charts that call for 28ct and will be moving them into the rotation until I deplete my supply of  that size linen.

And a little about gardening:
I have been experimenting with the square foot garden techniques of super rich soil [plenty of compost] combined with patio gardening.  In one of my large waist high planters I have planted eggplant, peppers, cucumbers and basil.

In two very large pots I have planted two different strains of tomato plants.   Here is one of the pots.

My chives have come back strong from last year.  You can see them here beside my one surviving mini Christmas tree and the second variety of tomato plants. 

I have added nutmeg scented thyme and Italian parsley pots to my collection of herbs.    I will probably add a few more herbs, perhaps tosemary and a lemon scented basil

And last, but not least, is a shot of my Van Houten Spirea in full bloom.  The pity is that the blooms only last a week or so but they are lovely while they last.  I plan on using my second waist high planter to start a salad garden of lettuce, radishes and carrots from seed but I need to pick up another few bags of organic soil to bring the soil level up to where I want it.  I really need to work on my front planter boxas well.  I want to plant a cutting flower garden there so that I can have vases filled with flowers all summer long.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Few More Giveaways

I had planned to take my Mom out to an early dinner to celebrate Mother's Day but she wasn't feeling so well and we cancelled our reservations.  Basically, that left most of the day free for stitching  with my only commitment being the 9:30am Mass and the May Crowning.  Quite a lot of stitching got done Sunday with this result..

And I just can't seem to resist new starts.  Once I finished The Pirate's Creed, I kitted up and started Dragon Dreams' A Dragon Tea Party, instead of getting back to The English Band Sampler.  I have every intention of spending two days this week on the sampler but I am really loving all the new stuff I have been doing in recent weeks.  Hence the new start.  I'll show a photo as soon as I have made enough progress to warrant one.

I am in the process of de-cluttering my stash.  Part of that process consists of giving away charts that I have stitched and will not stitch again.  There are only two or three designers whose charts I collect and even fewer charts that I stitch over and over again.  Mostly the do-overs are small ornament charts that make excellent gifts or exchange pieces.

So the end result is that most of the finishes you read about in this blog will soon be followed by a giveaway of that chart.  This week, I will be offering the following charts to my readers;

Elizabeth's Needlework Designs' A is for Autumn.  See the May 5 post for a photo of this sampler finish.

Sue Hillis' The Pirate's Creed.  Note: Since I have used the charm in my own finish, this will be a chart only giveaway.  I expect the charm can be ordered from any shop that carries Sue Hillis charts or from the designer herself.  See above for a photo of my finish.

Homespun Elegance's Owls Night Out.  Note: this is from The Halloween Year series but stands alone as a lovely little Halloween ornament.  See the May 7 post for a photo of this finish.

As with all my giveaways, I ask people to pay it forward by passing the chart to another stitcher once the winner has stitched the piece.  I know I can't enforce that provision but I like to think the honor system works.  To win one of the above charts, leave a comment stating which one you want and why.  If clicking on your user name won't bring me to a profile with your current e-mail address, please leave an e-mail address in the comment itself.  If I can't reach you, I can't send you your chart.  I will choose a winner on Sunday.  Good luck to all who enter.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Back to The English Band Sampler

Band 6 to date
I picked this sampler up again yesterday after a long hiatus.  And, much as I have enjoyed it in the past, it's becoming something of a duty stitch: something I am determined to finish simply because my A-type personality cannot tolerate loose ends and unfulfilled commitments.  Matters are made somewhat worse by the fact that I am not enjoying the specialty stitches, a simple eyelet and a satin stitch, I am currently working on in an effort to finish Band 6.  These stitches are  complicated by the fact that half the legs of each stitch need to be started by slipping the needle beneath the sides of completed cross stitches.  The instructions indicated the cross stitches needed to be stitched first but if I had it to do over [God forbid], I would  stitch the eyelets first.  There are 20 eyelets surrounding each blue square and 24 satin stitches within each square.  It takes me the better part of two hours to stitch them.  So far I have stitched the specialty stitches for three squares, leaving five more to do.

Close up of completed squares

Since I stitch between one and two hours a day, finishing up the squares should take anywhere from three to five days.  That will leave a little over half the month to start and finish Band 7 and go back to Band 3 and decide whether I am going to stitch my own name and date or something else entirely. The goal this month is to finish the entire sampler, but que sera, sera.  When I consider that I started this pieces in August of 2012, I am ashamed to admit that I have not finished it yet.

 And, of course, I wish to meet the other May goals of resuming work on Piper's Christmas stocking and getting some ornament and pillow finishing done.  Oh, the joys of an A-type personality!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Erratic, As Predicted

It's here!  May is a season of sacraments, First Communion and Confirmation, and registration and final exams and progress reports.  So please excuse me if I post a little less frequently, respond to comments more tersely and get to the post office less often.

Here is a photo of a finish of Homespun Elegance's Owl's Night Out.  This was a really quick little stitch, just three days.  I am a little confused about one of the motifs.  Usually when I can't tell what something is on the chart, stitching it reveals the answer.  But this time I still can't tell what that gold double cross on the left is.  The skeleton key on the right is obvious enough but the double cross???
And, after several months of avoidance, I am back to The English Band Sampler.  All I managed was to finish the eyelet stitches on one of the blue squares on Band 6.  Today, I hope to do a bit more of this fiddly work.  The goal this month is to finish the entire sampler this month.  Well, it's still early in the month, so I have a shot at this goal.

I survived the two First Communion rehearsals; I am better with the older children.  Gently correcting the same little boy in the front pew [Anthony, please don't sit cross legged in the pew; Anthony, please don't play with kneelers; Anthony, you need to keep facing the altar .... Anthony .... Anthony] tends to wear me down.  Judging by the killer looks Anthony was giving me, I am betting he was none too pleased with me either.  On Saturday, I am sure Anthony will be fine and even if he isn't, what was it Jesus said?  "Let the little children come unto Me."  Sometimes, we DREs forget that First Communion is a liturgy to which all are welcome and fall into the trap of thinking of it as performance and a video op.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Random Thoughts on a Monday

About My Stitching: 

This weekend I got to finish a piece started to fill in  an empty space on the linen I used for my Pineberry Lane pin pillows, A is for Autumn from Elizabeth Designs.  I used the recommended DMC, and GAST fibers with only two substitutions to keep this a "stitch from stash" project.   I didn't have the CC Barrel Cactus but I did have a lovely Catherine Jordan over dyed cotton in a medium olive to a light olive to a golden olive colorway left over from a CATS class that she gave and I didn't have the charted purple for the Rhodes stitched grapes, so I have substituted GAST Hyacinth.

I also worked on my May goals and accomplished a few of them.  I got my monthly Town Square ornament stitched.  This month, it was The Toy Store.  I believe I have mentioned that a number of these charts are outline only affairs resembling nothing so much as a child's coloring book.  I don't care for that look and whenever I stitch one, I modify the chart to suit my preference for solidly stitched designs.  I used the recommended GAST and WDW but added GAST Pineapple Sherbert to fill in the facade of the building.  I had to change the roof line a bit as well as the windows and doors.  Instead of simply outlining the white picket fence, I stitched in a sort of modified bargello in order to get the pointed tops on the pickets.  All in all, it was an interesting exercise in re-making the chart to my liking.

Then, I moved on to my designated new start for May, Homespun Elegance's Owl's Night Out.  Again, I was able to kit this up with only one substitution, CC Poblano Peppers for CC Guacamole, to keep this a "stitch from stash" project.  So far this year, the only stitching purchases I have had to make have been two skeins of DMC.  I am feeling so very frugal.  This is what all the earlier stash building was for: now that my husband is retired and our income is reduced, I can still enjoy my stitching.  This piece is another I am stitching on the Silkweaver Golden Promise 28ct linen.
About my Giveaway:  The winner is Pam from Iowa.  I couldn't resist her explanation that she liked the way the people are charted in primitives.  I shall contact her by e-mail later today.

About My Gardening:  Rain, rain, go away I can't garden in mud and muck.

About the Weather:  I am sick of the fluctuations between 40 degree days and  70 degree days.  I thought Spring had finally arrived three weeks ago when I sighted my first motorcyclist, which is the real harbinger of Spring 'round these parts.  Oddly enough, I saw my first robin three days after the first biker.  In any case, I was expecting days where the weather advanced at a dignified pace from 40 to 50 to 60 to 70 until Summer brought the real heat.  Instead, we are alternately shivering and sweating through Spring.  But mostly I am sneezing uncomfortably through Spring.  I have the distinct impression that 2014, which started with a vile winter, will continue to disappoint throughout the remaining seasons.  I am dreading Summer, which at the best of times is a torturous mix of high humidity and higher temps in the NY metro area.  If the current trend of foul conditions continues, Summer will probably be twice as insufferable this year.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Assessing April and Setting May Goals

APRIL GOALS: Happily I got considerably more accomplished in April than I did in March.

Current BAP:  Continue to work on Piper's Stocking.  No.
UFO/Class Project:  Finish Bands 6 & 7 of The English Band Sampler.  No.
Town Square SAL: Finished The Bakery and The Shoe Shrine and The Flower Shop, thereby catching up to the annual goal of one Town Square  ornament a month.
New Start: An Easter Egg project on the pastel  orange sherbet fabric.  Finished 4/19/14.
And maybe a few sewing finishes.  Didn't get to these.
 Off Goal Stitching:  Finished Pineberry Lane's Autumn on Marigold Lane, By the Bay Needle Arts 2010 Easter Bunny and  Pineberry Lane's Tansy, Yarrow and Rue sampler as well as the three pin pillows included in the chart pack.

MAY GOALS: I am going to keep the goals list fairly brief this month since a lot is happening in the parish in May: First Communions, Confirmation, May Crowning, Final Exams, Progress Reports, Inventory and Ordering for next year, etc.  I will try to be reasonable and not bite off more than I can chew.  However, in the interest of maintaining a certain freshness and variety in my stitching, I will allow myself a new start.

Current BAP: Continue to work on Piper's Stocking.
UFO/Class Project: Finish up The English Band Sampler.
Town Square SAL: Stitch The Toy Shop.
New Start: Homespun Elegance's Owls' Night Out.
Sewing Finishes: Try to get three or four projects completed.