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.