Saturday, October 9, 2010

Stitching Blogger's Question for September

Now that it is October, I thought it was well past the time to answer a question. But I think I will skip the October question about birth order and answer this one.
Is there anything that you do while you are stitching that is kind of weird or unusual? A quirky habit maybe? Or anything that you do that makes you think, Hey…I wonder if anyone else does this?

At first the only thing I could think of was that I always have a drink by my side. It's the desert, people. We need to carry water when we go to the grocery store, even in the winter. 9% humidity is no joking matter. I know most of you probably are yards away from the nearest edible. But I am not talking about greasy nachos here or melting chocolate (those both of those are great in their place). I just need something to drink while stitching, usually Coke, but sometimes iced tea. But then I took a look at this picture and saw a lot of habits that I don't ever think about. First, I always make a copy of the chart. Sometimes I increase the size to see the stitches better or copy two pages on one page. Then I always use a yellow highlighter to mark the parts I have stitched. Probably not that unusual, but it is what I do. I always have my iPhone or iPod by my side for podcasts and audio books. I stitch without my glasses, so watching movies or television is not possible.

The other things I noticed have to do with how I organize my threads. I don't put my threads on bobbins, since they are in Floss*A*Way plastic bags (for DMC) or on rings for everything else. But for DMC threads I do wind my extra thread around the part of the DMC label that does not have the number on it. And I face all my threads towards me so that I can read the labels without picking them up. I also organize the threads on the table in groups of threads that are stitched together. OK, that's probably not very quirky, but those are some of the things that I do.

For those of you looking carefully you can see that I am working on the Headless Dragon here. Yes, I have stitched more of him, but for those of you waiting for a head, you will probably be waiting a long time. I am stitching the pattern clockwise, so the part I am working on now are his rear feet. And after this picture was taken I cleared him away so that I could work on two Fair and Square exchanges. They have both been received, so I can tell you about them in my next post.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Travel, No Stitching

If you are visiting Melbourne, Australia, there isn't a better hotel to stay in than The Langham. It is on the South Bank of the Yarra River connected to a huge restaurant and shopping mall. Since the weather was always cold and sometimes rainy, we appreciated not having to walk far to get amusement and sustenance. Not to mention that the service was superb (arranging a hire car left for us Friday night when usually there are no rentals that start on Saturday). Although the river itself is rather industrial and muddy, there are a bazillion restaurants situated a pleasant walk away, not to mention the museum and shopping areas on the other side of the river.

It also helps to have a room on the corner with stunning views down the river and into the Central Business District (CBD). And we certainly appreciated a nice room after a three grueling flights (from Las Vegas to Los Angeles to Sydney to Melbourne) and long and bitter fight with customs in Sydney.

Why they need to check your hand luggage again, when you had gone through security in the US, I don't know. But check it they did and decided that not only were they going to confiscate both pair of small scissors, but ALL of my needles. Since this was plainly ludicrous, I decided to stand my ground and demand an explanation. I spent 15 minutes jamming the blunt scissors into my palm before they gave up and let me keep them. I still lost 15 - 20 packages of John James needles as they only let me keep three packages, grumbling all the while that I could hurt someone with them, although my husband pointed out that his legal ball point pen was more dangerous. Somehow this depressed me enough that I never took out my stitching again during the entire trip.

Although Melbourne is a lovely city, we have been here before, so appreciated having a car to see some of the sites in the neighboring areas. On Saturday we toured a couple of wineries in the Yarra Valley to the northeast and had a terrific lunch at Mandala. On Sunday we headed west to travel the Great Ocean Road. It is similar to driving Highway One in California; small towns, steep cliffs, and hairpin turns. All a little more exciting because you are driving on the other side of the road. At one pull off this cheeky little Fairy Wren decided he loved our car and hopped from rear view mirror to door to windshield until we drove away. We did not see any kangaroos are koalas on this trip, but we did see (and hear) dozens of exotic birds.

My husband was in photographer's heaven as there were wonderful rock formations and beautiful cliffs to shoot. The picture of the lighthouse and me was taken by my husband, though I do have similar (not as good) pictures myself. We didn't drive the entire Road, but we did get as far as Cape Otway and headed down the potholed track to the lighthouse. There is a dairy farm on this peninsula with dozens of different breeds of cows. When they say Cattle Crossing, they really mean it. I was proud of myself for walking to the lighthouse and even climbed the stairs (slowly). It was almost closing time and the wind was whipping around furiously. Many, many ships ran aground here, even with the lighthouse as the shoals and rip currents are very dangerous here.

After hours of No Service, my phone rang when I was at the top of the lighthouse. It was strange to talk to a friend in Melbourne when we were miles away from any civilization. It took us hours to drive back to Melbourne and we were tired enough to just sleep most of Monday. Tuesday was gallery day. Previously we had bought a ton of lovely pottery in Melbourne, but the shop that carried it is now out of business. Instead, we found an amazing glass shop with some of the best glass artists in Australia. They shipped us four pieces that we will feature in our new house. But all tourism came to an end on Wednesday when we had to leave the lovely Langham and move about a mile and a half away to the Hilton South Wharf for the convention itself.

The hotel had a good view and was directly connected to the convention center, but because of the faltering economy, the planned restaurants were not built, so there were very few places to eat within walking distance. Still it was nice not to have wear a coat and gloves to get to the convention center. The Hugo Ceremony that I came to run was on Sunday and barely anything was in place. I spent a lot of time wrangling the tech crew, organizing and editing the slides and corralling the presenters and acceptors. Still the ceremony went off with hardly a hitch and some of the awards went to truly surprising candidates. By then I was so tired that I was glad to just have successfully navigated it all. I don't have any pictures from backstage, but there is one here of me holding the Hugo for Best Semiprozine (I know, we have odd categories) for my friend Cheryl Morgan, the redhead. I'm wearing the white jacket that sparkles.

After that it was saying our goodbyes, packing up (and wondering where we were going to put all our goodies), and heading to the airport. The plane left Melbourne for Sydney Tuesday morning (only one cursory security check in Melbourne) and landed in Los Angeles on Tuesday morning. We were home in Las Vegas by 2 pm and slept for the next two days.

Meanwhile the contractors had been busy laying the foundations for the new house while we were gone. We have a meeting with the window guys and the HVAC guys tomorrow. I start chemo infusions again on Tuesday and James leaves for Hawaii on Saturday. I know I will get some stitching done in the next couple of weeks, but I might not get to show it to you for a while. I have signed up for two Fair & Square rounds and have everything ready to stitch in the next week or two. I am excited about this since this gives me a chance to be really creative. I hope your summer trips were also pleasant and that you are all looking forward to the autumn weather to come.

Friday, August 6, 2010

One Quarter Finished

Well, almost. I was going to move the Q-snaps so that I could start on the lower right quadrant, but there is still a lot of backstitching to do on the upper right quadrant. Backstitch now or later? Sigh, I think the proper answer is backstitch now, then move the Q-snaps. The backstitching is complex enough that there is a entire separate page just for the backstitching. It is not over the entire picture, but there is a lot on the wings and body. I'll get back to cross stitching next week.

Other than stitching and sleeping, I am mostly working on the house. Last week we had a half dozen meetings with pool guys, plumbers, electricians, window and door guys, and the glass artist who is doing our front door and master bedroom shower. It's amazing how interconnected all these systems are. The plumbers need to know about the ice maker, the electricians need to know about the tankless hot water heaters, and the pool guys need to know where the gas lines can be. I am glad we have a general contractor as I would hate to co-ordinate and get bids for all this by myself. No pictures yet as they are just working on the foundation. Maybe I can post a picture when they finish the rough framing next month. Meanwhile, I wish you all swift stitches and beautiful threads.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Border to Border

Once I had moved the Q-snaps, I decided to go ahead and finish the upper right hand corner border. Of course, I couldn't just leave the threads as they were, but had to add some bling by putting Rainbow Galley Petite Treasure Braid Gold in the upper inner trefoil. It doesn't look like much bling in the picture, but there is a subtle sheen that I like a lot. I've been very schizophrenic about stitching. Some days I have spent hours moving along with this project. Then there are days that I ignore it completely to play Farmville or Godfinger and watch the new Starz series The Pillars of the Earth. Right now I have started filling in the blues, purples, and maroons of the background. This is not a cute dragon, but is actually rather mean looking, but fitting for his Celtic heritage.

Other than stitching, my main project is organizing the Hugo presentation for Aussiecon IV in Melbourne, Australia. We will be leaving for there in less than a month. Hooray! I had my first round of infusion chemotherapy last week. It went fairly well though I was nervous about sleeping with the infusion machine. It wasn't too bad. Just like a sad puppy that pulls on his leash a bit and whines softly every few minutes. Actually it sounds more like a camera shutter clicking. This week is all about the new house: the pool tomorrow and doors and windows on Wednesday. Much of the interior cabinetry is chosen and so is much of the plumbing fixtures. We still need to settle on flooring and countertops. So until the next time: I wish you swift stitches and beautiful threads.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Headless Beast

You can get a lot of stitching done when you are in San Francisco with no refrigerator and no television. No refrigerator, no cooking. We did have a refrigerator, but it lost its freon AGAIN. So it is no more than a big white box now. I would have even more of this done if I hadn't gotten involved with several iPad games. But I did move the Q-snaps to give me room to stitch the wing at the top right hand corner. Which means that if I continue around in a clockwise manner, I will finish the head last. I couldn't resist stitching a bit of the border to get over stitching all the blues and greens. Now I do love blues and greens, but a steady diet of any color will make you long for colors of a different value.

On the health front, my month of travel and recovery is almost over. On Wednesday I had minor surgery to put in an influsion port (a plastic valve that will eventually sit invisibly under the skin and allow access to a tube in my vein. It is safer than putting chemo directly into a vein in your arm.) It was very odd to have surgery while being totally awake. I have taken my Intro to Chemo class (required half hour video that they subjected me to at 8 in the morning). The first of nine infusions will start on Tuesday. I should be able to stitch (and type) for a while, but eventually my hand motor skills may degrade. I just hope the first three infusions go smoothly. Then I will have a break while we travel to Australia and finish the last six infusions after we get back. I hope everyone has a happy and productive weekend. I'm planning to do a lot this weekend.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

By a Neck

Wow! I certainly did a lot of stitching in one day. The dragon himself is starting to take shape here, including his spiky parts. I didn't finish off the top of his wing because I was coming too close to the edge of the Q-Snaps. This pattern is just a little too big for the 8" Q-Snaps, so the wing could not be finished before I moved the fabric to expose more of the top right. There are actually lots of other colors in this design; purples and reds and blues, but they are mostly in the background, so I am stitching up most of the dragon before starting the background.

On Wednesday we left for San Francisco which has been a festival of food. Not just favorite restaurants like LuLu's and Chef's Chu's (where I got a lovely autographed cookbook from Chef Chu himself), but also favorite foods from Whole Foods (like their wonderful banana cream pie). I wish all Whole Foods had the same bakery recipes, as the desserts from the local Nevada ones are not near as good as the ones in San Francisco. And the piece de resistance was our visit to the Saturday farmer's market yesterday. I ate wonderful Mexican food and bought cheese and olive oil and jams and APRICOTS. Oh, my ghod, the Blenheim apricots from Frog Hollow are wonderful. And so are the HoneySnow white peaches. But today we head off for Nevada where I will have a port put in my chest on Wednesday for chemotherapy.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Wing and A ...

back and a leg? This is what I stitched during Westercon in Pasadena, a traveling science fiction convention over Fourth of July weekend. Next year it is in San Jose, California, then Seattle, Washington. I love stitching in public as usually some one has something nice to say. I will also remember this stitching as it was done during a talk by Larry Niven and Dr. Jerry Pournelle on the science in science fiction and during a concert by Seanan McGuire. I especially enjoyed her songs, Counting Crows and My Story Is Not Done. Besides songs, Seanan tells a great story. I love her recent book, Feed (written as Mira Grant). She's up for a Campbell award (best new writer) at Worldcon in Melbourne this September and I hope she wins. The convention was very nice for me as I saw tons of old friends I had not seen in months. But I also got tired more often than I would have liked. I was very happy to be home again and just collapsed all day Monday. Well, sort of collapsed. I actually sat in my stitching chair for hours and listened to podcasts while stitching. I'll show my progress in my next post.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

This Could Be the Start of Something Small

Yes, this is a dragon wing. In fact the wing from Peter Underhill's Mythical Beasts series, a British chart that I bought in Spokane, Washington, several years ago. I also have the Griffin pattern from the same company, Heritage Stitchcraft. I thought about switching out some of the DMC for metallics or overdyes, but there are a lot of colors in this pattern, so I think I will stick to the charted far. Some of this was stitched while flying and more of it was stitched in Lexington, Kentucky, while my husband was packing up things from his mother's estate. There was so much there we could have loaded two cars, but we were cautious and just took about a half a van full. None of this was stitched on our 2,000 mile road trip. After driving for 11 - 12 hours a day, all I did when we stopped was jump into a bath and fall into bed. The trip through Tulsa and Albuquerque was very nice. We ate a lot of great bar-b-que and New Mexican food. But our favorite ceramics shop in Albuquerque is no longer there. Finding good ceramics is getting harder and harder. I don't really want to take up pottery myself, but maybe I will have to.

When we got back I met with Anna for the first time In Real Life. She is just as delightful as her blog. If you aren't reading her blog, you really should. Like many people who have lived in California, but now live somewhere else, she was craving an In-N-Out burger and we were happy to oblige. They do make awesome burgers.

Now we are in the last throws of packing for a science fiction convention in Pasadena. Driving for only four hours should be easy. And there is more good food to look forward there, including Pie and Burger which has wonderful pies. But the real reason I am so stoked to be there is to see all of my SF friends who I missed at the last couple of conventions. I should have plenty of time to add lots of stitches to this dragon.

Friday, June 25, 2010

More Sheep

I bet you thought I was talking about Bent Creek Sheep! Well, I wish I was stitching one of them, but when I went to find a kit to take on our road trip, I couldn't find one, though I know I have at least two left. I said that I would stitch something from the odd Portuguese cross stitch magazine, but that pattern is being stitched on 36 count over two. A little tiny for trying to stitch on an airplane. Instead I have started a different dragon. I was going to start Teresa Wentzler's Celestial Dragon this year, but I am intimidated by the incredible progress that Dani has made on hers. Instead I have chosen a smaller dragon to work on. I will post a picture as soon as I have more than 906 (DMC Green) stitched! It's on 26 count fabric, but is only a little over 7" x 7" square.

The cuties in the picture above are from Colin's Creatures who has the best animals I have seen. they are not too small and substantially heavy. The first creature to the left is a Nubian goat. I fell in love with these animals at the Lane County Fair in Eugene, Oregon. They are very friendly and make great goat cheese. The family grouping in the front are Cotswolds, who I fell in love with during a drive in one May on the back roads of England. There were lambs everywhere. The super curly one is a Devon found in the north of England and New Zealand. I love how their coats are naturally curly. The next horned one is a New Zealand breed called a Drysdale. We saw lots of these when we lived in New Zealand. The last brown sheep is a German Pomeranian, one of the monthly specials that Colin runs. I couldn't been more happy with my little tribe and now my husband has some idea what to get me on Christmas and birthdays. These animals were purchased with my mother-in-law in mind. Each year she gave us $100 to spend on something "we wouldn't buy ourselves". I always did and boxed it up for her to see. Although she is no longer alive to contribute the money, still I did this in her memory.

Right now we are in Lexington, Kentucky, gathering together the last of her things that we want to take back to Nevada. Tomorrow we will leave extra early and drive for three days (about 10 hours a day). We need to get back by Monday evening so that I can meet Anna on Tuesday. She is in Las Vegas to visit her parents. Hooray. I love meeting stitching bloggers In Real Life.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Book Meme

I was challenged to answer these questions by a friend from Sweden. You can do it yourself, too.

1 – The book you are reading at the moment.
First, Ares Express by Ian McDonald. Normally I love McDonald's writing, but somehow, even though I started it last week, I can't seem to pick it up again. Then, Twelve Mile Limit by Randy Wayne White, a battered copy from the library book sale. Who doesn't like a little Florida mystery series? Then The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson, a nonfiction humor book about the American Midwest. My husband picked it up at the library book sale, but I started reading it.

2 – Next book you will read or want to read.
I have a bunch coming from Amazon on Tuesday, but I can't remember them all. I need to stock up for our three weeks of traveling. I do know I downloaded three books for the road trip; Songs of Dying Earth, a compilation of short stories in honor of Jack Vance, Neverwhere, written and read by Neil Gaiman who is a marvelous reader, and The Map That Changed the World (nonfiction).

3 – Your favorite book.
This is a cruel question, leaving hundreds of books out in the cold, so I will pick Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Child, Bertholle, and Beck. One of the first cookbooks I ever bought. Every recipe comes out perfectly every time, but they can be maddeningly complex.

4 – Your most hated book.
Absurdistan: A Novel by Gary Shteyngart. There is nothing worse than an archly hip novel about a pathetic loser that is supposed to be humorous but Is Not. Second place, The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, but this could be a number of books written by non-science fiction writers using science fiction tropes and getting them wrong every single time. Dan Brown comes to mind.

5 – A book you could read again and again.
I haven't read it in a while, but for a time in my teens and early twenties I read Julian by Gore Vidal over and over again.

6 – A book you have been able to read only once (whether you liked it or not).
I loved Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra, but I would have to be stuck with only that book on a deserted island to read it again. It's 916 pages!

7 – A book that reminds you of someone.
I tend to read a lot of books in the science fiction/fantasy genre, but I have never met a werewolf, wizard or vampire. Or even a space ship captain. Most people I know are good and kind hearted, but dull. This is a good thing. I've met some exciting people in my time and they are dangerous.

8 – A book that reminds you of somewhere.
I love books about places I have been. Mystery writers tend to do that well, so I could choose any book by Julie Smith (New Orleans), Margaret Maron (North Carolina), Dana Stabenow (Alaska), or Marcia Muller (San Francisco).

9 – First book you ever read.
The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. My mother started reading it to me, but couldn't read it fast enough to suit me, so I learned to read so I could do it by myself. I was four.

10 – A book by your favorite writer.
George R. R. Martin, both personally and professionally. You could start with Game of Thrones (soon to be an HBO mini series), but I warn you, the series is not finished. It needs three more books!

11 – A book you loved the first time you read it but you can’t stand now.
Gateway by Fredrick Pohl. What a cowardly, whiny protagonist! How did I ever get through it the first time? Same with Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein.

12 – A book you have been recommended by a friend or acquaintance.
I recommend books to other people way more than they recommend them to us. My husband has started me reading some graphic novels, the one I like best so far is Y: The Last Man, beautiful and exciting.

13 – A book that makes you laugh.
I grew up with a book of cartoons by Charles Addams. Dark, but funny. James Thurber is also laugh out loud funny. On drinking a wine from a neighbor's backyard he exclaims, "It doesn't travel well, does it?"

14 – A book from your childhood.
Anything by Arthur Ransome, Swallows and Amazons, etc. Although I read (and own) all the Oz books, I also own most of the Ransome books in first edition. It helped to have a grandfather who worked for Macmillan Books.

15 – The fourth book counting from the left in your shelf.
Which shelf on which of forty or more bookshelves? Well, it's not going to be the top shelf in the bedroom, since I need a ladder to get up there, let's go with the fourth shelf down. And the answer is...Earth by David Brin, signed, first edition.

16 – The ninth book counting from the right in your shelf.
I'm going back to the cookbooks. After all there are 700 of them. The Rituals of Dinner by Margaret Visser. You can only have so many books with recipes. Right now I collect more books about the history of food, eating, and culture.

17 – Close your eyes and pick up a random book from your shelf.
I'm going with the mystery shelves. By a Spider's Thread by Laura Lippman. I could also use this for question number 8. I love how Lippman evokes Baltimore and makes you love every stop light and cracked sidewalk.

18 – The book with the prettiest cover you own.
I'm sure there are prettier covers somewhere in the house, but right now I love Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi. Pictures do not do it justice, but the shimmery copper is lovely. It helps that I am a sucker for copper.

19 – A book you have always wanted to read.
I really can't answer this one, because if I want to read a book, I do. My husband might count Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch since it has been sitting in my small To Be Read pile for years.

20 – The best book of all the compulsory readings you had to do at school.
Dickens. All of it. I took a course in Victorian Literature at university and started with The Pickwick Papers and found it hard going. Half way through I found his voice and never looked back. I think I read six books by Dickens in that quarter.

21 – The worst book of all the compulsory readings you had to do at school.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. One of the very few books that I Did Not Finish. I might even like it now, but I am not going to chance it.

22 – The book in your shelf with the highest number of pages.
I thought it would be Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra, which took me a month to read, but it has a wimpy 916 pages. The winner is Under The Dome by Stephen King at 1074 pages, which only took me a weekend to read.

23 – The book in your shelf with the smallest number of pages.
Do graphic novels count? Do comic books? I have a couple of photography books that have only 10 or so prints tipped in.

24 – A book no one would think you’ve read.
The Bible and they would be correct.

25 – A book which main character defines you.
Have Spacesuit, Will Travel by Robert Heinlein. One of the protagonists is female, a real shocker in the male dominated science fiction field in the '50s.

26 – A book you’d read to your kids.
Oz books, Ransome books and YA science fiction by Heinlein.

27 – A book which main character fits your “ideal”.
Ideal what? Friend, lover, person to call on when you need someone killed? I have read plenty of books with characters I enjoy, but most interesting characters are flawed enough that they are dangerous to be around.

28 – Thank God they made a film from this book!
I think books make terrible movies. They are too long and complex. But short stories and novellas are the perfect length for a movie. I'd choose AI from Brian Aldiss' short story "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long" or A Boy and His Dog by Harlan Ellison.

29 – Why on Earth did they have to make a film from this book?
Almost anything by Jane Austen or Dickens with the exception of Great Expectations, one of his shorter books made great by some of the most fantastic acting ever.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Stitching Blogger's Question

"Tell us about something that you have stitched or plan to stitch for any father in your life. Maybe it’s for your father, your father-in-law, your children’s father, your grandfather, your godfather, or someone who was or still is an important father-figure in your life. Why did you choose this particular piece of stitching? Tell us the story behind it."

Originally I wasn't going to answer this question, but my first needlepoint that I designed myself as a teenager was for my father. My father was born on July 4th, so for the longest time I thought all the fireworks were for him. I designed a needlepoint American flag, all in wool in tent stitch. As I recall it was rather large (over 12 inches high and over 18 inches long in 14 or 18 count canvas) and took me several months to stitch. The stripes were red and white, but instead of stars, I put his initials, CEP, in gold Kreinik in the blue field. When I gave it to him he was less than impressed, which is probably why I hesitate to stitch for others. Maybe I should have stitched a Confederate flag to match his favorite lighter, which also played Dixie when opened. I never stitched anything for my lovely father-in-law because his wife was a much better stitcher than I was at the time.

"Often times we identify our love of needlework and our skills with our mothers or grandmothers or other women. It’s understandable because often they were are first teachers or role models. Now let’s think about our stitching life as it relates to our dads. Is there anything about our approach to stitching that we can recognize as traits of our fathers? For instance, does your dad (or any other important man in your life) have an approach to one of his interests that you can observe and think, “Hey….if I substitute the word “needlework” for “fly fishing”, we’d be pretty darn similar!” So tell us about it."

I have inherited my father's genetics; thin straight hair, good teeth, and fair coloring. We are both introverted, but spent most of our working life traveling. Other than that, I really can't say much about him. I haven't seen him in over 30 years, even when I went to see my mother in Florida, he made sure that I wasn't around when he was visiting.

On a more productive note, I am almost, almost finished with Angel Cat. I have finished all the picky details and just have the background and the border to finish. I should have it done this week. Then I have mostly kitted up (need to iron the fabric) a strange pattern from one of the Portuguese cross stitch magazines I bought in Lisbon. It will fit in well with my other kitchen cross stitches.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

It's A Fish

I've been very schizophrenic about stitching lately. Some days I will sit down for hours merrily stitching away. Then other days I ignore my stitching chair altogether. Yesterday I even started going through cross stitch magazines looking for a small project to start. I'm supposed to be working on UFOs, this year but a new start here or there can't hurt. This project is very close to being done. I just have the lower right quadrant to finish, but it has a lot of picky background stitches and I just can't get the motivation to do it. I am glad that I bought another skein of Gloriana Perle Granny Smith (the main background color) as this shows the last stitches of the two skeins that I thought would cover all the background. Maybe it would have if I was a more frugal stitcher. But every since I began needlepoint, I was taught to be sure and cover the back as densely as the front. That is especially true for working with wools that might get some wear, but it really is a good idea for most canvas work. The canvas won't hide a skimpy thread like a linen might.

On the health front, the fun part is over. Although my chemo oncologist says that the Xeloda pills I am taking are not "serious" chemotherapy, I seem to be having several of the side effects that the pills can cause, including nausea and diarrhea. The good news is that my radiation oncologist has just shortened my radiation sessions from 30 to 28. If the machine doesn't break down, my last session could be next Thursday! Hooray! No more chemo or radiation for a month. Of course after that comes the serious infusion chemotherapy, but in the meantime I can travel for the first time in three months (visiting an oncologist in Pasadena does not count as traveling).

First we are flying to Lexington, Kentucky, to drive home some of the larger items in my mother-in-law's estate. The question remains do we drive back through Denver (better scenery) or Albuquerque (wonderful food)? Then we are going to my first science fiction convention in almost a year. I missed the last three conventions I usually go to, so I am excited to be able see many of my friends. And possibly I can sneak a small trip to San Francisco in there, too. I really miss the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market. I hope apricots are still in season when I get there. Although treatment for cancer is Not Fun, I still have great oncologists and support staff and am grateful for the help I am getting.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

More Than Halfway

Once I picked up Angel Cat again, I really went to town. I have been stitching it pretty steadily this week. So more than half of the background is now stitched including the borders. The entire process of stitching the piece (and switching from cross stitch to needlepoint) has made me think a lot about the their differences. Way back in the misty depths of time I started stitching needlepoint. I can't even remember there being much available in cross stitch patterns, though there were some stamped cross stitch pillows available. There certainly wasn't anything available in counted linen. When I started cross stitch much later I was thrilled that I didn't have to stitch the whole darn background. I know I have some needlepoint UFOs with miles of background left to do and all of that background charted for tent stitch. The cross stitch linens, especially the hand dyed ones, were just so beautiful, I didn't think I would ever go back to needlepoint. But over time needlepoint canvases began to be sold in colors other than white or ecru. Needlepoint patterns started to leave some of the canvas open. Backgrounds were now in hundreds of different stitch patterns, so tent stitch was not your only option. And the variety of needlepoint threads beyond wool exploded. But cross stitch patterns were also expanding with stitches beyond the simple cross and threads beyond DMC.

Here is a closeup of the Petite Very Velvet that I wrote about in my last post. It demonstrates some of the qualities I think that differentiate needlepoint from cross stitch. Most cross stitch patterns are pretty rigidly defined. There might be a choice of threads in some patterns, but usually the colors are the same, just the composition of the thread changes. The overall cross stitch design does not change. The only decisions are sometimes the gauge of the linen or whether to stitch small motifs as one large piece or separately. Although there are needlepoint stitch guides (even with thread recommendations), most painted canvases leave the threads and the stitches up to the stitcher. It takes a lot of confidence to choose the threads and colors for a canvas among the thousands available. And that included the confidence to change your decisions in midstitch. Originally this border was going to be stitched in the red Caron Snow thread that I used for the heart. The gray was a gorgeous Gloriana silk called Cobblestone. But once I started stitching the ribbon for the fish in Petite Very Velvet, I decided that the border would look better in this thread, too. Petite Very Velvet also has better coverage than a stranded thread would in a satin stitch. I also needed the courage to rip out parts of the design (like the aqua rayon thread in the fish's head) and replace it with a thread that would work better (Neon Rays ribbon). Overall my color choices for this design are much more muted than the "hot" colors shown in the original canvas. I know I will go back to simple cross stitch pattern, especially those with interesting variegated threads, but for right now I am more drawn to the creativity of modern needlepoint.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


I actually finished this on Sunday. But on Monday when I tried to take a photograph the sky was full of low, dark clouds. Anywhere else would have had torrential rains, but here it was just windy and cool. The last stitching bits were rather boring as there are two different colors of green in the bottom border, but it is hard to see any difference between the two of them. Still it is lovely to have five of the six Mill Hill kits finished. I need to finish at least one more UFO before I start the last kit, I'm Jammin'. I have only two finishes this year and both are Mill Hill kits.

I have been working on Angel Cat. In fact I should have a picture to show in the next day or two. I am using a satin stitch with Petite Very Velvet for the border and it looks fantastic. I don't know if the luscious fuzziness of the thread will show up very well in a photograph.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Stitching Blogger's Question for May

No, I haven't started Hawaiian Mandala back up again, but I wanted to use this picture to illustrate the answer to the May Stitching Blogger's Question.

"Suppose we say that there are two types of stitchers.
There are those who enjoy the “process” of stitching. They stitch for stitching’s sake and if something gets finished, so much the better, but it’s not necessarily the end goal. Primarily, it’s the application of needle and thread to cloth that makes them happiest.
Then there are those who are “project” stitchers. They move steadily through their projects, certainly enjoying their stitching time, but finding their greatest joy in the completed stitching.
If you had to pick one to describe yourself, which type of stitcher would you be? I imagine that we could all say that we fall somewhere in between, but really think hard about this and try to pick just one. And once you have decided whether you’re a Process or Project stitcher, tell us if your recognize that approach in other parts of your life."

There is no question, but I am a Process Stitcher.  I love the specialty stitches (even the difficult Jessicas seen as red-orange flowers at the bottom of this picture) and the colors of this pattern.  The real question is whether I stitch so that I can listen to podcasts or listen to podcasts to keep my mind occupied while I stitch?  There are two weekly podcasts (MacBreak Weekly and This Week in Tech) and two Monday through Friday podcasts (Marketplace and Buzz Out Loud) that I listen to regularly and several other odd podcasts that I used to listen to.  But with my stitching hiatus I am woefully behind listening -- I'm only now listening to podcasts broadcast in early March!  It sort of gives listening a historical flavor.  My husband says I should skip the last two months and just start up again, but I keep telling myself that I have so much stitching to catch up with that eventually I will run out of podcasts to listen to.  But the real reason that I know I am a process stitcher is that have a drawer full of stitched pieces with very, very few finishes.  About the only things I have finished are those things that I have given away.  Even the pieces where I have definite finish in mind aren't framed much less hung on a wall.  Someday Warm Water Wash will hang in the laundry room in Maui, but not someday soon.

As far as Process or Projects in my life, I am definitely a Project Person.  I really enjoy seeing a tidy room, a drawer full of organized papers and a bookshelf in alphabetical order.  But the actual process of said projects does not fill my heart with joy.   Neither does laundry or ironing, which I am going to tackle today.  About the only Process that I enjoy more than the end result is cooking.  When I was less tired, I loved the process of researching recipes, gathering ingredients, following the instructions, and tasting as I went along.  For the most part I didn't gobble up all the finished product, but was happy if other people did.  Now I feel successful if I make a piece of toast and eat it.  LOL.

On the health front, I am doing well.  My bloodwork on Monday (after only a few days of radiation and chemo) came back with good values.  I will know even more this Monday after a full week of radiation and chemo.  I am even driving myself back and forth to radiation while James is on Maui dealing with a legal issue with a supposedly illegal pedestal that holds up the electrical meters for four houses at the edge of our property.  Maui Electric Company demanded it be seven feet tall when the house was built, but the county now says that all "walls" within 25 feet of the property line can only be a maximum of four feet.  If we lower the pedestal it will make it difficult to read the meters and a flash flood could destroy the meters altogether.  Bureaucrats!  James will be back tomorrow morning, so I better get busy processing the clutter around here.

Friday, May 7, 2010

It's A Pie

I've had a hard time trying to get back to stitching this piece.  It might be because of all the beads or it might be the confetti nature of all the stitching (there are two different kinds of red beads).  Or maybe it is because I am not stitching much at all.  I thought about going back to Angel Cat, but in the end, I think I will finish this.  Then there is only one Mill Hill kit left to have all six stitched.  Once they are all done, I can have them all framed at once in compatible frames.  Although we have started construction on the new house, these should all be done well before there is a wall to hang them on.

I do have a more serious problem though.  My beloved mother-in-law passed away two weeks ago.  My husband flew back in time to say goodbye, though I almost had to kick him out.  He wasn't sure that I was healthy enough to be on my own, but I managed just fine.  Unfortunately my doctor did not think I was healthy enough to fly, so I couldn't go with him.  He stayed to help his sister with the estate and to attend the funeral and burial.  I am glad that he went and also glad that he is home again before my chemo and radiation started.  But I have been stitching Tranquilty (The Shells) specifically for my mother-in-law.  I look at it in my To Do pile and don't know if I will pick it up again.  Have any of you started a project but not finished it for someone who is no longer here?  I hate to abandon it, but it also makes me sad to look at it.  My husband did bring back several stitched items that I had given my mother-in-law over the years and some items she had stitched.  None of his family would really appreciate them the way my excellent needlepointing mother-in-law did.  I have plenty of other projects to work on, so I will just let Tranquilty (The Shells) sit for a while.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

More Pie, More Beads

First I want to thank all the commenters and readers for their kind thoughts.  They must have worked, since I am feeling better than I have in six months.  I am just about back to normal as far as flexibility (you have no idea how hard simply sitting up can be with dozens of staples in your abdomen).  But I still have a bit to go in the strength department and get tired too easily.  I even survived a car trip to southern California last Monday to meet with an oncologist from USC Norris Cancer Center.  She was very encouraging, claiming that my cancer was not as dire as I previously had been told.  She also said that I should have chemo and radiation in Las Vegas and stay close to home.  Tomorrow I have an appointment with a local oncologist and should be starting chemo early in May.  I will probably have chemo for six months (with a break at the end of August and the beginning of September to go to Australia).  I will know a lot more after tomorrow's doctor's appointment.  But on to stitching!

It may not be much, but I did finish all of the gray in the pie plate and started the green band under the pie.  I was stitching in my favorite stitching chair rather than at the dining room table as I often do when beading, but only lost one bead to the chair cushion.  I still am not stitching every day, but I did stitch some yesterday and started to fill in all the red on the right side of the pie.  I am going to finish this before I go on to other projects.  I checked my list of 2010 Goals -- oh, my, I was rather ambitious.  I doubt I will get half of these projects finished, but I hope to start up again on one or two UFOs.  I really want to get a few UFOs finished before starting on a new project.  Some of these UFOs are so old that I am sure they will feel like a new project.

Friday, April 9, 2010

This Is IT.

This is where I stopped stitching on March 10.  For some time now I have been having digestive problems, but that week it came to a sharp (and unpleasant) pain, so I made an appointment to see a doctor.  On Friday, after a few blood tests she confirmed that I was dehydrated, anemic and running a raging infection.  To find out what was going on, I went into the hospital for a CT scan . . . and didn't leave for six days.  During that time they filled me up with blood transfusions and IV antibiotics.  They also continued scanning and testing, but the results were inconclusive.  Unlike the television medical shows where the doctors love to dive right in to exploratory surgery, no one wanted to open me up unless they knew exactly what they would find.  Eventually they scheduled surgery with two surgeons (general and ob/gyn) for Tuesday, March 23.  I went home for the weekend and came back Tuesday morning. 

The surgery went well, but they did find colorectal cancer.  It was not the cancer that was making me ill, but the fact that it perforated my bowel which resulted in peritonitis (infection).  After another six days in the hospital with more IV antibiotics and TPN (nutrition from a tube) I was released; wobbly, groggy, and with painful staples that made my abdomen look like something attacked by an axe murderer.  I would never have made it through without the constant care of my beloved husband, who certainly went beyond the traditional marriage vows of love and cherish.  Two and a half weeks after surgery, I am walking around and starting to resume some of my family duties, especially tech support.  I installed a new color printer/scanner and fixed the wonky DSL.  Now I just have to setup the new computer I ordered before all this happened.

I thought that all this hospital time would make for plenty of stitching, but when you have IVs in both arms/hands attached to a seven foot tall silver pole with four drip monitors, holding the needle, Q-snap, and chart was a little beyond me.  I did stitch one thread of gray on the pie plate for Easy As Pie, but that was it.  Mostly I watched bad television or slept.  I couldn't even concentrate on reading.  I am starting to THINK about stitching.  Maybe not today, but maybe tomorrow.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Turning a Corner

This is where I stopped stitching last Monday.  Although there isn't a stitch in the very bottom left hand corner, I've stitched almost enough to move the Q-Snaps again to stitch the right hand side.  Although I am not enjoying this as much as I did last December, I have made this the only stitching I am working on, so each time I sit down to stitch, a little more gets added.  I've actually stitched a bunch more water at the bottom and finished the backstitching on the large shell on the left hand center.

Other than some stitching, I have mostly been reading; sometimes a book a day. In the evenings we are catching up on NCIS. Right now we are in the middle of Season 3. We had one meeting with our contractors, but still no start date for the house. When we do get started, it could take as long as 18 months. Maybe that is why I am so unmotivated right now. It seems that nothing has happened for a long time, though I know that things are getting done, even though the progress seems minimal. I should have another picture of my progress this week. Next weekend my husband will be in San Francisco, so there will probably be some concentrated stitching days ahead.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

More Than Halfway

Finally. I have started back on Tranquility (The Shells).  I remember how involved I was when I was stitching this in December.  I simply couldn't put it down.  But now it's pretty hard to pick it up.  Maybe it's all the backstitching I had to do so that I could rotate the cloth in the Q-Snaps to reach the very bottom of the pattern.  Maybe it is because so much of the shells that are left are confetti stitching (with an immense amount of quarter stitches.  How in the heck did the designers ever think that this could be stitched on Aida?)  Maybe it is because I am moving from the very easy to see 18 count needlepoint on Angel Cat to all this 28 count quarter stitches.  At least there are no beads!  But slowly I am moving back into the rhythm of the piece and it is getting easier to decide where to stitch next.  Now that I have finished all the backstitching on the top of the pattern, I can get back to stitching long rows of the same color in the border when I want to tear my hair out over the confetti stitching on the shells themselves.

Being in Maui has been very relaxing.  No timetable.  No meetings.  No decisions other than where we want to go to eat.  That will change on Thursday when we get back to Nevada.  (At least I hope it will change and we will be ready to break ground and start building).  So I am going to enjoy these last few days here and try to spend some time in the sun.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Confetti Beading

This is the fifth in Debbie Mumm's Kitchen Collection from Mill Hill, Easy As Pie. HA!  If I had started with this kit rather than the ones I have already done, I might not have ever finished any of them.  There are six different colors of beads (two reds).  Although it will look like a lovely pie when it is done, stitching the almost random beads and stitches is daunting.  I am trying to stitch up the first four colors of beads so that I will have only stitching (not beading) left on the pie.  Then I can work on stitching only on our flight back to the mainland next Wednesday.  I should be working on Tranquility (The Shells), but I am not.  I hope this is not turning into a UFO.

The broken things around the house are now fixed: new cable box, new modem, spa fixed.  Though at 60 degrees outside (and windy) last night, a soak in the hot tub was not recommended.  The winds should die down over the weekend, but there may be some rain.  We really don't mind rain while we are in Hawaii.  Green is always better than brown.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Although my favorite LNS, The Status Thimble, does not carry Gloriana Princess Perle, Edgar's favorite LNS, Needle in a Haystack in Alameda, does carry it and had two skeins of #053, Granny Apple Green.  I will probably need only one more skein, but better to be be safe than sorry.  There might be a very slight different in the new skeins (on the left) than the old (on the right), but with such a busy background, I don't think anyone will notice.  I managed to avoid the hundreds of appealing needlepoint canvases and the thousands of great cross stitch charts, but I did go for some different threads to finish Angel Cat.  First, although I stitched the head of the fish in DMC Rayon, I hated the lumpy way it turned out (even with a laying tool), so I am going to rip it out and replace it with Neon Rays.  Then for the border, which I had considered satin stitching in Caron's Snow like the heart, it was suggested that Petite Very Velvet would be a better choice.  So I got Petite Very Velvet in red and gray for the border.  And even better than that, they had some Dovo black scissors, so now I have new scissors to replace the ones confiscated by Canada TSA in August.  It was a wonderful stop and I am sure we will be back.  Especially since my husband and I pay cash for most things and track our cash with Where's George.  Someone from Alameda hit (entered) almost all the bills we spend there.  So even my husband wants to go back!  :-)

The flight to Maui was on time and uneventful.  Uneventful even for stitching unless you want to see three pale yellow crosses that are the start of Easy As Pie.  But although the weather is glorious here, inanimate objects are really giving us a hard time.  First, the new modem from Clearwire is overheating, so we will have to return it tomorrow when the local store is open.  We can have internet for 30 minutes or so, then I have to turn it off and let it cool down.  At least the Time Warner Oceanic cable store was open today.  First the television had no guide, then trying to reset it left the box dark and blank.  Off to the cable store to replace it.  Now we have cable, though since our projector remote died, we have to get up on a ladder and turn on the projector manually.  Of course our home theater installer moved and who knows when we will be able to get another remote.  The only other home theater installer on Maui has never returned our phone calls.  It's Maui.  If it's not on island, it might as well not exist.  And our hot tub, which only works every fifth time is once again emptying the water instead of heating it up when we turn it on.  It's lovely to sit in the hot tub and watch the stars here, but not tonight.  All of this is to say that no stitching was done today and maybe just a little tomorrow depending on how long it takes to replace the modem.  I hope those who had long weekend had a wonderful one.

Friday, February 12, 2010


I suppose that this piece is about halfway done. But more importantly, I have used half of the two skeins of Gloriana Princess Perle Granny Smith Green that I am using for the background. Although the fish does take up a lot of the background on the right side, I think I will run our of this thread before I finish the background. So this means a thread hunt.  I'd like to go to my favorite needlework store, The Status Thimble, in Burlingame, but I don't think they carry Glorianna threads.  I can call them in the morning.  Needle in a Haystack in Alameda carries the these threads, but I don't know if they have this color in stock.  I can call them, too.  It's just easier to drive to Burlingame from the City than it is to drive across the Bay Bridge to Alameda.  And Burlingame has better restaurants and an Apple store.  I seem to have left my earphones in Nevada, so I'd like to get a new pair before we fly to Hawaii on Sunday.  Not much chance of getting threads or good iPhone earphones in Maui.  I'll probably stitch a couple more hours on this tonight, but tomorrow I need to start the fifth Kitchen Collection piece so that I can stitch it more on the long plane flight over the Pacific Ocean.  Once I get to Maui, it's Tranquility (The Shells) all the way until that piece is done.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Heads and Tails

and arms and the bottom left background are done. That leaves a halo, a wing, a fish and most of the background to go.  I finished up the last part of the face while watching Northwestern (my alma mater) beat Indiana in basketball.  Now Northwestern is great school, but it's not much known for athletics.  If they were in a league they should play the University of Chicago, MIT, and Princeton.  So when they are on a roll (every ten years or so), I will cheer them on.  They even went to the Rose Bowl in 1996.  Once every 50 years is about their average.  After watching the University of Kentucky play basketball this year (we do not talk about last year), Northwestern looks like a high school basketball team.  I'm glad they won, but I have no illusions about them all of a sudden reaching the Sweet Sixteen (or even winning one game) in the NCAA tournament.

One of the delights of needlepoint, as opposed to cross stitch, is the immense number of different threads that one can use. I have been using this canvas to experiment with a lot of different colors, textures, thicknesses and reflections.  When I bought threads for this project there were so many different colors that I assumed that I would use the same thread for all the small pieces of color.  I especially planned to use the Caron Snow in Red for ALL of the red, including the ribbon and the border.  But seeing how my eye is drawn to the shiny red heart, I rethought the use of Snow for the ribbon and even for the border.  For the ribbon I am using RG Petite Very Velvet, which I love.  That is as long as you cut the pieces short, are not put off by the fact that it does shed, and that the velvet will wear down to the nylon core at the needle's eye.  The soft and fuzzy effect may be hard to see in a picture, but it is very obvious in Real Life.

On the other hand, I am using three different blacks in this project.  RG Tweedie 18 (100% wool) for the cat's outline, Gloriana silk for the wings outline and the interior details on the face, and RG Neon Rays for the cat's nose and the fish.  There are also two matte black beads for the eyes.  Frankly, even in Real Life, it would be hard to tell the difference.  The Neon Rays is not as shiny in black as it is in pink (the paws) and maroon (bottom of the heart and tail).  I will be using RG Neon Rays for most of the rest of the fish.  I couldn't find a turquoise, so I am using DMC Rayon for the part around the fish eye.  Probably the biggest difference, though, is the fact that I muted many of the colors drawn on the canvas -- soft silk pink for the cheeks and ears, softer shades of browns for the stripes.  The only change I would make so far is the use of RG Splendor Ecru for the light parts of the cat's paws and face.  I would rather have used a wool like the rest of the cat, but I couldn't find a wool that was darker than white, but not tan.  The Splendor is just the tiniest bit shiny instead of the fuzzy texture of the wool on the rest of the cat.  Overall, I am greatly pleased.  Now I just have to get cracking on the background.  Have a good week everyone.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Do You Ever Feel Guilty

about a project you promised to stitch, but didn't?  I felt guilty about Angel Cat.  I brought her all the way to southern California last weekend and didn't add a single stitch.  Admittedly we drove for over eight hours (over four hours there and back), went to two meetings, and did a hotel tour.  But really, couldn't I have snuck in a few stitches instead of surfing the net and finishing a book?  OK, I finished the book by reading it in the bathtub -- not the best environment for stitching.  But I was feeling guilty, so I spent the last couple of days stitching poor Angel Cat, mostly yesterday.

While stitching, I realized two things. First, this is going to take me a lot longer to finish than I thought it would. The cat was relatively easy to stitch; lots of blocks of similar colors and easy to stitch wool thread. The background is all Gloriana Princess Perle. Lots of confetti stitching and the thread is harder to pull when there is a lot of thread on the back of the canvas. Second, even though I bought two skeins of Granny Smith perle for the medium green of the background, I am going to run out of thread. I guess I wasn't thinking about how much 10 yards of perle would cover. I am so used to using stranded cotton or silk that I forgot that perle isn't separable. Ten yard is just ten yards.  At least it is a variable thread, so even if I can't match the dye lot exactly, I hope other skeins will still come close.

For all the kind people who left comments on my blogoversary post, THANK YOU!  I've added some new blogs to my Google Reader.  I am feeling better over the past two days, but I have a bunch of things that I need to catch up with.  Should I put Angel Cat away for a while and bring back Tranquility (The Shells) as I promised myself I would do?  Or will I just continue with Angel Cat and wait until I have plenty of stitching time in Maui starting the 14th for Tranquility (The Shells)(I think the cat is going to stay in rotation until we leave.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Yes, It's Been Three Years

And I am quite pleased that I have kept up this blog and my stitching.  Sorry, there is no giveaway, just my sincere gratitude to anyone who reads this blog and gives me such positive comments that I stitch even more furiously to get projects done.  I have learned so much from other bloggers that I feel quite blessed to have started this internet endeavor. 

I should have a little stitching progress to show tomorrow, but the past two days have been spent mostly in bed, shot down by some sort of stomach flu.  I'm going to sit down in my stitching chair tonight and forget everything but stitching.  I couldn't have done it without all of you kind readers.  Thank you.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Is It Stash...

if you already have patterns and are just buying the fabric and threads?  ;-)  I've been looking all over for this 32 count Belfast in Thundercloud for the new Prairie Moon patterns Crypt Club and Merry Cryptmas.  I finally ordered it from Stitchin' Bits and Bobs.  I know they can take a while to fulfill an order, but it does get here eventually in good shape.  The actual fabric is a bit more gray and less blue than the photograph, but lots of the photos I've seen of these projects make the fabric look blue.  Even though I now have both of these projects kitted up, I don't intend to stitch them right away.  I have too many WiPs as it is and they will take first priority.  But it certainly is nice to have these to look forward to.  I guess I just am not drawn to any tiny projects.  :-)  Everything I have is medium sized or massive!

We had our first meeting since the building permit was granted with our contractors this morning. Everything seems to be moving along. They are lining up subcontractors and should be ready to start the retaining walls on February 25 when we get back from Hawaii. Meanwhile we are going to settle down tonight and watch my latest purchase -- the first six years of NCIS. Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

First Finish for 2010 (and A New Start)

Yes, I finished Lil' Cupcake on Tuesday night. Yesterday was so rainy, I had to take this picture using my Ott light.  This makes four of the six Mill Hill Kitchen Collection designs finished.  I will probably have the other two finished by the end of the year.  I'll will look for more Mill Hill kits as I do like beading.  It gives such dimension and sparkle to these projects.

I mentioned a new start, but it's not what you might have expected. After eight months in building permit hell (and an ultimatum to the new contractors), we now have all our building permits to start our new house. I had certainly given up thinking about the project.  I will have to get back my enthusiasm because it really is going to happen. We have our next meeting with the contractors tomorrow morning and we will know more then about when we actually break ground.  It will take about three months to build the retaining walls before we can start on the actual house itself.  The entire project will probably take 13 - 15 months, though I can always hope that it is finished sooner.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

It's A Cupcake

This is what I finished stitching on the ship. It turns out that the pebbled surface of the card tables work just fine for keeping beads from falling off the table, even when the ship is rocking quite a bit. We had heavy swells from Cabo to Los Angeles as we sailed through the storms that were leaving inches of rain all over the Southwest.  I'm not affected by pitching and yawing, so I was fine.  Actually I have most of this project done.  There are just a few backstitches to do.  Therefore a happy dance is in the future, probably tomorrow.  Then I will return to Tranquility (The Shells), which certainly has a lot more to stitch than just some backstitching.  We are going to make a short trip to Los Angeles this weekend for two meetings.  I think I will take Angel Cat along with me.  There should be some mindless background stitches I can do during the first board of directors meeting.  The second meeting is a hotel walkthrough for a convention this summer.  I am doing the programming and need to see what the spaces look like.

This is a picture of the double helix staircases on the Seabourn Odyssey. All the Seabourn ships have these lovely staircases (and elevators).  This is looking down from the ninth deck (The Spa) to the fourth deck (The Restaurant).  Our cabin was on the sixth deck, so very convenient to stairs and all the other decks.  Carolyn McNeal suggested that I might miss the ship once I had gotten home.  Well, actually, no.  We took just the minimal amount of clothes, so I was quite tired of wearing the same things over and over.  Not to mention that there is much more space in our house than in our cabin, no matter how well appointed.  It was a nice trip, but I am really glad to be home where I can spread out and not have to pack up my needlework after every session.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Back to Cross Stitch

It's been fun working on Angel Cat, but it's also fun to move on to another project.  While the seas were calm I started back on Lil' Cupcake, the fourth Mill Hill Kitchen Design from Debbie Mumm.  I must have been particularly motivated to stitch so much of the white frosting as stitching in white is my least favorite stitching.  This was my progress as of Monday. Now I have both the chocolate and vanilla frosting done and most of the cupcake holder.  This design is much smaller than the toaster or the mixer, so they make it up in a deeper band of random green and white at the bottom.  That's going to take me a while.

Monday was my favorite day on the cruise.  We stopped at Cabo San Lucas.  The weather was perfect, sunny with a gentle breeze.  The Sea of Cortez was smooth as glass.  We got up and got on a snorkeling boat to see the fish at Santa Maria Bay.  I even had my special mask with the lens inserts for my prescription, so I could see the fish.  While we were motoring to the snorkeling spot we saw several whales (and their babies), some as close as 15 yards.  The water was a bit chilly for me (who likes my bathwater lobster boiling temperature), but I got used to it pretty quickly.  There were a lot of fish I recognized from Hawaii and some that were quite different.  Lots of people (passengers and crew) remarked how much they liked Cabo and were looking to come back again.

Now we are back on the Pacific Ocean headed for Los Angeles and the seas are full of giant swells.  No real white caps, but you can feel the motion of the ocean.  Our suitcases are laid out on the bed and have to be outside our door tonight by 11 pm.  It's been a restful cruise, but I will be glad to be home.  Even though I can get tasty food 24/7 on the boat, it's always the small things I miss, like potato chips and Mexican food.  The cooks are all Europeans, so the Weinerschnitzel is delicious as is the Saltimbocca, but don't ask for peanut butter and jelly.  Though I would gladly take our cabin stewardess home with me.  Fresh towels twice a day (and fresh sheets on the bed) are truly heavenly.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Wing and A ... Leg?

Well, that's what I have been stitching over the past few days.  There is also a good part of the tail done and I have started on the green background.  The dark green swirls are Glorianna Perle Silk in Forest.  It's quite variegated.  The dark bits are almost black, but overall I love the colors.  I was going to stitch the fish in the same Glorianna Perle Silks of the background colors with the ribbon in Fiesta Snow as the heart is, but when Cyn asked about how I was going to stitch the fish, all of a sudden I realized that I'd much rather have a slightly shiny fish and a fuzzy ribbon.  I know I have some red RG Very Velvet at home, but I don't know if it will fit in 18 count or whether I need to get some Very Velvet Petite.  I think I have some RG Neon Rays (the same slightly shiny ribbon used on the paw pads)  that will work for the fish.  But it will be quite a while before I get to the fish.  Although I brought Tranquility (The Shells), it is really too large and complex to stitch on the ship.  When we get home, that will get my full least for a while.

When the ship was in port in Guatemala, I took out Lil' Cupcake and started on the beading. It was OK to stitch it in the comfy chairs and low tables of the library, but now that we are gently rolling on the Sea of Cortez on our way to Los Cabos, I tried out the Card Room.  The chairs weren't very comfy, but the textured leather table is perfect for keeping the beads from rolling around and the height is just right for setting out all the threads and scissors for an easy reach.  I'll go back there and stitch after this post (assuming the bridge players haven't taken all the tables.)   We are going snorkeling in Cabo tomorrow, but then there are two days at sea before we land in Los Angeles on Thursday.  It might be Angel Cat all the way home if the heavy seas off the coast of California continue.  Overall our weather has been almost perfect.  Sunshine and a few puffy clouds, but not too hot.  Yesterday in Acapulco was the only day we have had any rain.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

An Arm And A Leg

 The left arm and leg are done. I am quite happy with the colors and textures that I chose for this cat, even though they do not exactly match the colors painted on the canvas. In several spots I went for a softer shade (especially the bright pink paws).  This is actually my stitching done by Sunday.  I have since started on the other leg and the left wing.  Since I spent more time concentrating on the color of the thread rather than the weight, I am happy to find that the pearl silks I chose actually fit on 18 count mesh.  I'd like to start on some of the green background, but want to finish the brown (which I changed to brown gray) shading around the cat first before starting the green.  I've been pretty careful to stitch from an empty hole to a filled one in most cases.

This is a picture of our ship, Seabourn Odyssey, docked in Cartagena, Columbia. It's a pretty big boat, but only carries 450 passengers. The previous Seabourn ships we have sailed on only carry 210 passengers with about as many crew as passengers. I can't say that bigger is better. On the smaller ships the crew knows your name and preferences in about a day. There might not be a coffee bar with a gigantic espresso machine, but the food was much better. Still there is everything from caviar to lobster to steak at every meal. The alcohol is endless, the staterooms are large with a tub and a shower in the bathroom.  Still there are no comfy chairs with good lighting to stitch.  Even the upper bar area where I stitched on other ships is glassed with dark, dark glass here.  I haven't stitched near as much as I thought I would, but on the other hand I have been getting plenty of sleep and reading. Tomorrow we land in Guatemala, then two ports in Mexico and finally Los Angeles.

Grrr. I hate this new version of Blogger. I can't seem to get the second pictures and text to line up next to each other no matter what I do. Maybe it is time to check out another blogging platform. OK, modified the HTML to make it work, but I really shouldn't have to do this.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Why I Don't Stitch More

Because I read 125 books in 2009.  OK, there are plenty of times that I can't stitch -- when the airplane I am in is taking off or landing, when I am eating or when I am taking a bath.  (I love to read for a couple of minutes in a warm bath before I go to bed.)  But I also listened to 6 audiobooks this year while I was stitching, so books and stitching are not completely incompatible.

Of the 125 books I read, 106 were fiction and 19 were nonfiction.  I thought I read more nonfiction this year, but many of these books were dense (and several are still WiPs).  Of the 106 Fiction books I read; 43 were science fiction, 30 were mysteries, 21 were fantasy, 12 were graphic novels, 11 were anthologies, 7 were Advanced Reading Copies, 6 were audiobooks, and 4 were thrillers.  This doesn't add up to 106 as there are several overlapping categories  One of my favorite books was John Birmingham's Without Warning, a post apocalyptic, military, political novel.  I'm not a fan of military science fiction in general, but there is something about John Birmingham's pedal to the medal writing style and sociological insights that just resonates with me.  I also enjoyed George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones read by Roy Dotrice.  Although I had read this book when it first was published, listening to it was another entertaining experience.  My favorite anthology was Cyberabad Days by Ian MacDonald, a group of short stories of a future India that add up to a better story than most novels.  My favorite mysteries were the Kate Shugak novels of a native Alaskan woman who is a private eye in the Bush by Dana Stabenow.  The interlocking family stories are even better than the convoluted mysteries.  My favorite graphic novels were Y: The Last Man, which had both a great story and beautiful illustrations.   My favorite nonfiction book was How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer.  Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell got more press, but it was a confused and illogical attempt to talk about decision making compared to the infinitely better How We Decide.

The worst books I read last year?  In nonfiction, Finding Oz: How L. Frank Baum Discovered the Great American Story by Evan I. Schwartz.  I learned to read using the Oz books when I was only four.  To say they are close to my heart is faint praise.  So I was excited to learn more about the author and how these books came to be.  Instead of a reasoned biography, this book is a apologetic, revisionist history about how L. Frank Baum couldn't have possibly hated American Indians.  There isn't much about how the stories came to be or much history about what happened after the first book was published.  I was truly disappointed.  In fiction, it's a tie between The Copper Bracelet, a collaborative novel started by Jeffery Deaver and We Are Now Beginning Our Descent, a contemporary novel of a journalist in Afghanistan, by James Meek.  Collaborative novels are a bad idea.  Each chapter changes the tone and emphasis of the story.  In this book, I assumed that each author tried to kill off an important character so that the following authors would have a harder time continuing the story.  Only Lisa Scottoline's chapter was written with any skill or grace.  We Are Now Beginning Our Descent is a book at reminds me why I don't read much contemporary fiction.  The narrator is a whiny, over privileged hack whose life is falling apart because he is a jerk.  Overall, nothing much happens.  Unfortunately, I find this description is true of most modern novels.  I guess I just like Dickens and other authors who actually have a plot and characters I can care about.

This will probably be my last post for a while.  Today I am starting to lay out my clothes and stitching that I will taking on the cruise.  We leave for the boat late Monday night.  Although internet access is available on the boat, I don't don't know how much I am willing to pay for it, though there should be a lot of stitching (and a lot of reading) while I am sailing.  May January treat you well and may you enjoy your friends, family, and stitching.