Sunday, September 30, 2007

Nibbling Around the Edges

Although I spent over three hours stitching, since most of it was just around the edges, it is hard to tell what was added. There is a little snow added to the second bush. Some white framing was stitched between the windows. I thought I might get one of the pots done, but I needed to do the trunks and the shading around them first. The bottom of the design is full of single color stitches, so it will take a while. Then the entire design is surrounded by two or three rows of white stitches. I guess I will be doing most of the white last.

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Driving to and from San Diego was uneventful. The convention was small, but we did see some of our friends. We now have two days before we leave for Maui again. By next week, the old house in Maui will be SOLD. We thought the inspection only uncovered minor issues, but apparently the house inspector was out to scare the new buyers. On Tuesday we got a demand letter to repair 36 different defects. Many of them we had no intention on fixing (adding screens to windows that had never had screens, fixing a leak we could not find) and some of them we knew could not be fixed before escrow closed. For a "no contingencies" offer, this was a lot of contingencies! We offered the money to fix the issues, but could make no promises to fix anything before the close of escrow. After much whining, they accepted the offer. Assuming the movers actually arrive on Thursday and move the few pieces of large furniture, we can have the house cleaned and turn over the keys. It will be a great relief to stop eating on the plastic Costco table and use our real dining room table in our new house.

Friday, September 28, 2007

One Tree (and Half a Window)

Little by little, progress gets made. I didn't stitch much on the flights from Maui, but I did some in the Los Angeles United Red Carpet club waiting for the flight to Las Vegas. I stitched some more waiting for my car to be serviced yesterday. There was a lovely woman doctor there who greatly admired my work, even though she had no idea what I was doing (or how I was doing it). I tried to explain it to her, but she seemed skeptical that any average human being could do it. See? Stitchers are special.

We are about to drive to San Diego for a convention this weekend. I don't know what the internet connection will be like in that older hotel, so I might not have another post until Monday. I hope everyone has a productive weekend.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Window and Two Bushes

Well, I didn't finish all the cross stitching this weekend, but I did finish a lot and I enjoyed it a lot. I know that Michael Powell designs have delicious loopy backstitching, but I really like any design that looks good even without the backstitching. And this pattern is a great example. I really love the colors and the placement of the design elements.

All the blended threads seem a little intimidating when you see them in the threads list, but once you start stitching you see exactly why they are there. The blended stitches make a transition from one color to another. So there is a transition blended stitch between the light green and the dark green in the bushes and a blended white and light blue between the window and the snow. I was going to return to Flower Fairy after this Stitch-A-Thon weekend ended, but now I think I am just going to keep going on this. Three pots, two windows, and one tree and I am done.

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In good news the home inspection passed with only minor defects, so we have started moving out the small decorative items. We signed the escrow documents today and by October 9 we will have one less house! Hooray! Unfortunately we can't stay until this is done, because we have to be in San Diego this weekend. So we fly to the mainland on Wednesday, drive to San Diego from Las Vegas on Friday (back on Sunday) and fly back to Maui on the 3rd.

In other sad news, Sid Vicious went into renal failure this week. I hoped to make it back in time to say goodbye, but the vet called this morning and said that she was not eating or drinking. I could only do the humane action and asked them to put her to sleep. This is not a great surprise, but the reason I stopped breeding Abyssinians in the first place. At least she had ten protected years.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Some Extra Stitching

Since I can't stitch any faster, all I can do is sneak in some extra stitching to make projects move along. I wasn't going to stitch on this project yesterday, but I did have a little time, so I decided to try and get a little extra stitching in. At first I was going to try to finish the windows, but they are the only parts of the design left that have a wide area stitched in the same threads. Since I won't be finishing this today, I decided to save those areas for Wednesday when I will be on a plane and need something easy to stitch.

Instead I have started stitching the bushes which have a lot of blended threads. It's actually coming along quite well, though I am still having trouble with the needles. I will have to buy a couple of packs of tapestry needles to put in my travel case. I do have a few spares, but not enough for this project. I even tried the needle included in the kit, but it is HUGE. The eye is so big that the threads just fall out. Do kit manufacturers just put in any old needles they have lying around? I rarely like using the ones they include for "free". Today I should have several hours to spend stitching, so there should be plenty of progress this evening.

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The Maui Pineapple Festival was a very low key, local event that started at 9 am. Hawaiians are early risers, so by the time we got there at noon, most of the food was sold out. The food was local plates (teri beef, smoked turkey, kalua pork) sold by non-profit groups for fund raising. I did buy some hand made mango chutney and my husband got a pineapple/coconut drink in a pineapple. None for me as I am allergic to coconut.

We actually spent most of the day looking for more furniture for the cottage that we are going to sell fully furnished. We have a small space for a desk and found two of them that we quite liked, but in both cases ran into the typical problem on Maui. Yes, they have a sample on the showroom floor, but there are none in stock and ordering one could take from two to six months. We have been pretty lucky finding most of the things we need, but it looks like it is time for mail order. Though again, many of the companies that will gladly ship you furniture on the mainland do not ship to Hawaii (or Alaska). Time for internet searching!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Breaking the Rules...

Even when I spend lots of time stitching, my needles do not smoke. I am just too careful and deliberate. I am bound to stitch slowly. This is what I stitched yesterday; a very nice start, but nowhere near half the design. I should be able to finish the other two windows tomorrow, but I will still have a lot of fiddly bits at the bottom with dozen of color changes in each row.

Rules? What rules? Well, I never stitch white threads until the end, except this white was right in the middle and was some of the only large areas of the same color in this design. I use one needle and rethread as necessary, except there are 21 different colors of thread (and nine blended colors) in this design some of them with only a stitch or two in a particular place. I loaded up four needles to start and am now using seven. I always use tapestry needles, except I couldn't find any tapestry needles in the limited selection of the only hobby store on Maui, Ben Franklin. So I bought what I thought was the closest quilting needle, #10 Betweens. They are nice and short, but they are also sharp and have a cruel, small eye. I have already shredded a few strands in that eye. Threading them is a pain and I have pricked my fingers a few times, though never drawn blood. At least the kit came with evenweave fabric. Most of the Michael Powell kits are on Aida, which I always replace.

Still, I do like stitching this design. The colors are lovely and the fabric is easy to stitch. I will probably not stitch any more today, as we are about to head out to the Maui Pineapple Festival, but I will take up needles again tomorrow and see how much I can accomplish.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Whiter Shade of Pale

I've done quite a bit on the central gown, which is all in shades of white and cream. I finally had to go back to the green leaves, which I quite love, because my eyes were getting crossed doing all that white. I did finish the flower stalk and I have stitched all the thread for two of the dozen plus colors in this design. It feels like real progress to have stitched all of a color, especially colors that have a lot of crosses to stitch. I have made definitive progress in the last two days, so I am allowing myself to start another project for this weekend's Stitch-A-Thon.

I am going to start and try to finish Michael Powell's Mini Christmas Window 1, at least the cross stitching part. It's a pretty small design (5" x 5"), so I might get it done. James has a shoot tomorrow, so I will start then and stitch again on Sunday. On Saturday we are going to the Maui Pineapple Festival. Last Saturday we went to the Taste of Lahaina -- music and food booths. I had a dessert so good I just had to have TWO. Imagine a margarita glass. Now put a small scoop of the best homemade vanilla ice cream that you have ever tasted in the bottom. Next put in a golden yellow cake that is a bit crunchy on the edges and dense and rich on the inside. Pour over it a tequila pineapple sauce, mini chunks of fresh pineapple, a good handful of macadamia nuts, and just a dab of rich whipped cream. I am hungry just thinking about it. It was perfect. I think I have to go eat some plain fresh pineapple now. There is some in the refrigerator that I cut up yesterday. Good, but not quite as good as the pineapples that we "rescued" from an abandoned pineapple field.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Stitching Again.

I finally got some concentrated stitching time yesterday. I thought I was stitching for hours and hours, but probably not really. Every so often I would jump up and check the computer to see how the Emmy Awards were going. My favorite television blog was having live online blogging during the West Coast feed of the show. Very funny comments. My predictions were totally wrong, except for the fact that Ryan Seacrest as host would be horrible. Sorry I was right. Now to comment on the fashions. A friend of mine in Australia always has an LJ post about the Best and Worst. We don't always agree, but we do have fun with it.

I have almost finished the stalk of flowers on the right hand side. I split the chart into two pieces (2/3s on top and 1/3 of the bottom) to fit enlarged on two sheets of paper. Once I do a dozen more stitches on the flower stalk, I will have finished 2/3rds of the cross stitching except for the face and hands. I am leaving them for later. There are over a dozen different white, off white and cream threads in this design. I am trying to finish all the stitching of the three whites/creams predominately used in the flowers (and a bit in the dress) before I start a different set of whites/creams used for the face and hands. I really don't mind stitching all these similar colors as the finished effect is so much like painting or water colors.

I originally started this for the April/May colors for Project Spectrum. Overall, though I enjoyed the challenge of thinking of projects in different color schemes, I will not be joining Project Spectrum next year. Two months is simply too short a time for stitching projects of any complexity. I also was disappointed by the members who could not tell red from pink and offered items not even close to the colors chosen for a particular month.

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No sun and sand here in Maui. We came for two projects, checking the finished landscaping and finishing furnishing the cottage so we can put it on the market and sell it. The landscaping is beautiful and almost, almost finished. Just a few things to adjust and it's done, as much as landscaping is ever done. I always say that after three years you will learn what is Quick (and overgrown) and what is Dead (and needs replacing). The cottage will have to be put on hold though as we finally got two offers on our old house which has been on the market for 18 months. It is such a quick close that we have tons to do before we leave next week. AND we will have to turn right around and come back in October to move the furniture out. I'll know if we can do a Happy Dance or not by next week when the home inspection is done and the buyers remove all the contingencies. Until then its just in escrow, which it was in June until the buyer flaked. At least now we have a backup offer.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Stash? Not Really.

Once I found out that the JCS Ornament issue was available, I had to get one before I flew off to Maui. I knew I wouldn't be able to find an issue there and I wasn't sure that any would be left when I got back. Since we were in Menlo Park, California, for lunch, I decided to check the local bookstore (Kepler's) and the local needlework shop.

The Local Needlework Shop, Old World Designs, had no magazines at all, but plenty of books, threads (some I had never heard of and some, Glorianna, that I had heard of, but not seen), and canvases. They particularly had a lot of purse canvases. I came very, very close to buying one, but I remembered my promise to reduce my stash before buying more and was good. I will definitely be back when I can actually buy something (or if I am looking for an exotic thread). They also have lots of classes and stitch alongs. I wish I lived closer to this shop.

I found a copy (actually many copies) of the magazine at my favorite needlework store, The Status Thimble in Burlingame. They had a lot of gorgeous Halloween canvases displayed, but again I was good and resisted. I have brought two WiPs with me (Flower Fairy cross stitch and Black & Red Box needlepoint) and two new cross stitch kits (Michael Powell and a Bent Creek Sheep). I might start a new kit only if I make significant progress on my WiPs first. I wonder if I can finish Flower Fairy in the next two weeks. I stitched her a small bit before we left Nevada, but was too busy in San Francisco to work on any stitching. Maybe I will get a small bit done on the plane.

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What I actually did last night was great fun. For several years I have been a big fan of Tim Goodman, television critic of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper. When he started a blog, I started commenting on it regularly. Tim throws a "hootenanny" in early September each year to preview the upcoming television season. This was the first year I could go and I will definitely be back next year! Each year he gets a lot of schwag (promotional material) from the television production companies. He gives some of it away at the hootenanny. There were geegaws from Family Guy, Simpsons, 24, and other television shows both known and forgotten. I got a DVD set of the first season of The Dresden Files (a paranormal mystery series from the SciFi Channel). But mostly we were there to watch the new shows. Tim showed Aliens in American (funny, but not my demographic), Reaper (by Kevin Smith, definitely a hit with all the audience. I am looking forward to more episodes), Samantha Who? (painfully bad, even though I like Christina Applegate), and Pushing Daisies (a highly stylized series fron Bryan Fuller about a man who can revive the dead. Beautiful to look at, but full of plot and character holes.) He had more, but most of them so bad that he didn't want to see them again. This is not a stellar television season. We watched television on a huge theater screen, got stuff, ate pizza, and drank beer. A marvelous night. Now I'm off to the airport for our flight to Maui.

Monday, September 10, 2007

No More Stash

I may have been traveling, but that hasn't stopped me from shopping. When I got back to Nevada, I had these two kits (threads and beads, but no fabric) waiting for me. This Mirabilia is actually quite small, so maybe I have a chance stitching this SAP (Small A** Project) before I tackle one of her larger projects. I should have some fabric in my stash that should work well with this. Possibly some some opalescent fabric from Silkweaver. Can't have too much sparkles.



I also got this pattern to hang in Hawaii. Raise the Roof has a series of cute washing line pictures, but this was the one for me. The fabric for this is still to come.

But in going through my stash I came to a disheartening conclusion. I have way, WAY too much stash and not nearly enough time. Sigh. I don't think I am going on an actual Finish X Before Buying More diet, but I do have to stop buying charts. If I can hold out until the end of the year (with maybe one LNS tour in Boston this December), I will feel better about myself and my stash. So if I want to buy more, I better get stitching.

This shouldn't count against fabric and thread stash though. :-) I could not resist samples of the new Weeks Dye Works fabric. I got Scuppernog, Aztec Red, Sky, and Gunmetal (that is a dark gray, not a navy or black). I am most interested in using the Aztec red. I really don't know if I have a chart appropriate for it, but it is so different from the usual colors of evenweave that I just want to find something that would look good stitched on it. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

I also was curious about Vickie Clayton silk threads, so last month I ordered Threads of the Month #18 and a Detritus Bag (unlabeled threads and silk ribbon). I am not sure what to do with the ribbon, but using it for ornaments or flatfolds should be easy. When I saw the bright orange in the Detritus Bag, I knew how to restart the Teeny, Tiny Pumpkins chart. Since I will have to substitute all the thread, why not use silk?

So I went through Vickie's colors and ordered all the ones that were orange or seemed compatible with the Pumpkins chart. And since I had an order going, I added the Thread of the Month #19. Does this mean another order this month to pick up #20. Sure it does. I hope I can assuage my stash buying with threads and fabrics and lay off the charts for a while.


Sunday, September 9, 2007

Lighthouse Finished? Finished!

I thought I had finished this a half hour ago. I took it off the Q-Snaps and was ready to take a picture when I noticed that I still had not stitched the Z. Ah, ha. That was easy to fix and now it is DONE. No, I did not finish it in Japan. I didn't even finish it in San Francisco. Frankly, we did so much walking in Japan that I spent every evening soaking in the tub to relieve my weary feet. Tubs are not a good place for needlework. I can't say they were even very kind to my books, but books can be replaced. So the number of the books on Library Thing has grown, but my stitching has not. This sampler is quite small. I think I might finish it as a flat fold, but not any time soon. We leave Wednesday for San Francisco and then Friday for Maui. At least in Maui I always get a lot of stitching done.

Jeanne in Just String had mentioned last week that Wal*Mart was closing out their DMC threads. I was in Japan and didn't know if I would get to a store before they were all gone. But yesterday we had a little time and I asked my husband if we could go on a "wild frog" chase. We never shop at Wal*Mart, but I would make an exception for this. The first store we visited was obviously picked over. If you wanted 100 skeins of 3747 they had that, but not much else. I bought 15 skeins of what was left. My husband then suggested that there were a few more stores "nearby" and that we should try them also. I'm game. The next store had nothing. Not even a stupid spinner rack where the thread would have been. I guess they had already removed it. But there was one more store to try, so we drove there.

Bingo! Jackpot! Although some of the obvious colors where long gone (White, Ecru, 315, most of the "christmasy" reds and greens), there were still over a third of the colors left. I picked up 122 skeins, mostly very low numbers (under 300), very high numbers (over 3000) and all the oranges they had, since my husband mentioned that I had a LOT of pumpkin charts (and I do). I have them organized by number, but I still need to put them in their bags and update the database. There is a Wal*Mart on Maui near the airport and my husband wants me to check it on Friday. I should try to concentrate on colors that I am actually missing rather than picking one that "look nice".

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Stitching Blogger's Question of the Week

The SBQ for this week:
Would you ever stitch one of your BAPs a second time? (This does not include starting over because of mistakes, bad fabric, etc., rather stitching something from the first stitch for a second time.)
Well, seeing that I haven't really finished any BAPs, I don't think I would stitch them a second time. :-) The biggest project that I have started is Victorian Wedding Remembrance. I won't be able to finish it until I find all the pieces of my stand. And that won't happen any time soon. I suppose Pineapple Fish is also a BAP. At least I have spent years working on it. I did a lot on it in the beginning of the year, but not much lately. I would much rather start a new BAP, like a Wentzler or Miribilia, than go back to another BAP at this time. Ah, starting is so easy, finishing is hard.

Thoughts on Visiting Japan

Don't go in the middle of summer of if at all possible. It was incredibly hot and humid the entire time we were there. I sweated gallons. Don't expect any English menus. Even plastic food can be problematical as you can't really tell if that breaded thing is animal, vegetable or mineral. Do take public transportation. There are Japan Rail passes you can buy before you go and Tokyo Metro passes you can buy there. All the stations have names in English lettering. They are incredibly easy to use. All the streets, hotels, and stores are very clean and very small. It may be hard to find something there if you need it, especially clothing and shoes in Western sizes. Not many of the Japanese speak English, but they are all very polite and honest. I had a good time, but I am very glad to be home.

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U is for Underground

The London Underground was the first foreign public transportation that I ever attempted. I grew up partly around Chicago and went to Northwestern University in Evanston, so I was used to using public transportation, but there is something about relying on a strange transportation system that can be unnerving the first time you use it. When I first went to London, I studied the Underground maps and planned my excursions from museum to museum. During later trips, I knew my way around well enough to get a Photocard to use with a multi-day Travelcard. My experience in London suited me well in Paris. I used Paris Viste passes and traveled all around the city. By the time we went to Japan, the internet provided me with lots of transportation information. I could now learn more about their travel systems before I even left the States. We got a prepaid, four day flexipass for Japan Rail East. I printed out the Japan Rail East route maps and the Tokyo Metro Subway route maps. We used them every day. I like these public transportation systems and yet I would never use public transportation in the United States. I am too used to my car being able to transport me whenever and where ever I like. My preference is always to drive somewhere, but in places that a car is not practical or safe (like Paris!), I am glad that they have such a wonderful public transportation system.


Sunday, September 2, 2007

Stitching...Finally

Yes, I have been working on this. Sometimes only a dozens stitches in a day, but when I had some time, I took my needle in hand and stitched. I just have a bit of ocean, about a third of the rocks, the border and the letter "Z" to finish. I probably should be finished before I leave Japan because my major convention job is now over.

I was Stage Manager for the Hugo Ceremony. The Hugos are the most prestigious award for science fiction writing and art. They are voted on by the members of the current Worldcon and eagerly awaited by most of the SF writing community. As Stage Manager I hired the House Manager (in charge of ushers and programs), hired the Hugo escorts who carry the Hugos on stage, and made sure the envelopes and awards were in the hands of the right people at the right time. It was a lot of fun, especially since I got to meet George Takei who played Mr. Sulu on Star Trek and plays Hiro's father on Heroes. He is a charming gentleman who speaks at least three languages fluently. Here are some photos from the ceremony. Now my husband is packing up the art show. The convention ends tomorrow and on Wednesday we head back to San Francisco. I have really enjoyed seeing a lot of my friends here. Next year the Worldcon will be in Denver, then Montreal in 2009, then most likely Melbourne, Australia in 2010.

I had hoped to get further in the alphabet on the A to Z of Me during August, but it is appropriate to mention the next two letter here.

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S is for Science Fiction

Science fiction short stories and novels are my passion. Yes, I read mysteries and police procedurals and nonfiction, but it all started with science fiction, from Heinlein to Asimov to Arthur C. Clarke. When I look at my LibraryThing listing of the books I have read since April, 30 of the books have been science fiction or fantasy out of 47 books I have read. I would have an even higher percentage if some of my favorite authors had finished a book this year. By the end of the year I will probably have read another 20 or 30 science fiction books plus all the issues of the three major magazines; Asimov's, F & SF, and Analog.

Science fiction has also lead to my major hobby, running science fiction conventions. From our first convention in 1982 to the current Worldcon, I have helped run these volunteer organized events. Whether is was just sitting at a door or handing out stickers for a bid party, I am always more comfortable working (and I have met some extraordinary people this way!) There are a lot of would be writers at any SF convention, but I am happy to have writers as friends and to read whatever they write. Currently I love helping with the Worldcon Hugo ceremonies and running Programming at any convention.

T is for Travel

For longer than we have been running conventions, we have been travelers. James and I planned our first trip as a freighter cruise to North Africa. Unfortunately, a severe drought in the area made us rethink those plans, but I have been to every continent except Antarctica. In fact, both James and I are working on joining the Traveler's Century Club, for people who have visited at least 100 countries. I'd have to check again to make sure, but I think we have more than 60 countries visited so far. Our cruise in 2005 gave us Turkey, Asiatic Turkey, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, and Italy. James has been to Liechtenstein and Macau; I have been to South Africa, Zimbabwe, the Philippines and Brazil. We are thinking about taking a Caribbean cruise next year and want to cruise from Ecuador to Argentina in 2009.