Sunday, January 31, 2016

January's Last Day

Although Winter is long from over, it certainly feels like it is today.  After several weeks of bitter cold with on-and-off snow, today is a warm and breezy 60 degrees F. Nice enough to trim down some dead branches from the pine trees and free up some grape vines.  I am filling the birdfeeders, refreshing the suet blocks and heated water bowls...all those lovely little outdoor projects that I dread when it's below freezing.  I know the wildlife appreciate my effort.  A few new "visitor" cats have been spotted around the neighborhood. I just can't bring myself to label them as stray or feral.  The are visiting me and I will show them the kindness and hospitality they deserve.  These two striped boys have been down at the neighbors house recently


  I know I've seen these same cats (or similar ones) around my yard too.  The black and white boy who's been named Oreo has allowed me to pet him!  I know the little girl across the street cares for him and feeds him.  So do several other neighbors.  He lives in the barn that used to belong to the former owners of my house.  When the land was all divided up in the 1970s the barn is now part of the across-the-street neighbors property.  Oreo still makes his weekly visit to my house for a little petting but I refrain from giving him treats or food. Not to be cruel, but to encourage him to NOT cross the street.

On the stitching/crafting/sewing there has been limited action.  I am very into felt crafts lately, especially little sweets in the Japanese style.  Not that the sweets themselves are necessarily all Japanese, but it seems that most of the good books and patterns published on this topic are from Japan. I made this cake from a papier mache bax for my mother's 81st Birthday.  It is covered with little Andes mint candies, her favorite flavor.

My sewing addiction involves fashion doll clothes based on the outfits seen on "Downton Abbey"  As the show progresses through it's final season circa 1925/26, my style favorites still linger in the very early 20s.  Here is a collection that Lady Mary or Lady Edith might wear.

My lovely cats continue to be my loyal companions.  We miss our walks outside in the field, but everyone has found an indoor occupation to keep them busy  Simon has inherited a little play mat from the neighbor cat, Houdini.
 It makes a crunchy sound and has feathers attached to the corners.  Mel has discovered that the space heater under the sink has added benefits besides keeping the pipes from freezing.
The last two weekends have been totally taken up by gymnastics competitions of marathon proportion.  Looking forward to the next two weekends of peaceful pursuits and enjoying the paycheck well-earned from the past weeks. Many good results for my girls this season on all levels.
I've prematurely invested a bit of my money in a stash of sock yarn.  Knit Picks "Stroll" sock yarn was 20% off for the entire month of January.  I bought quite a bit and started my first more complex sock.  Most of my socks are of the "vanilla" variety...which I have learned in the vocabulary of trendy sock knitters means PLAIN!  So I upgraded myself to a basic basket weave pattern of knit 4, purl 4 for 4 rows and then the reverse for the next 4 rows.  I am pretty pleased with my results in this Hawthorne yarn called "Nob Hill".
Looking forward to catching up on all the PBS shows I've missed. Of course I can never get enough "Downton Abbey" and watch the re-runs over and over.  The new Civil War drama  "Mercy Street" is pretty good too.  PBS has been running last season of "Mr. Selfridge" so I hope this is leading towards a Season 4 very soon.

Happy February!



Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Shout-Out To My Home Girls!

The Gymnastics World Championships have just finished up, so my head is filled with ideas for new cross-stitch designs.  I'm also thinking forward toward the Rio Olympics and who will make up the USA Team. 
So I give a shout-out to these two lovely and talented ladies from my home state of New Jersey.  Now NJ is not known for producing world class gymnasts, but Jazmyn Foberg and Lauren Hernandez are both from MG Elite Gymnastics in Monmouth County.  Both have won numerous national and international medals,  Recently they have been taking turns winning competitions  all over the world.  They were just a bit too young to make this year's Worlds Team, but next year......
So here's to you Jazzy and Laurie.  You've done the Garden State proud!!


Friday, October 16, 2015

The Magic of Ordinary Days

There is certainly nothing ordinary about being at home every day, enjoying the sunshine and stitching and the company of my kitties. The evenings at home are especially nice, since almost all of mine are spent at gymnastics training.
There is no gymnastics practice this week.  The gym space is being relocated to a huge, revamped downstairs area (formerly indoor soccer arena).  All the equipment, mats, etc., were uprooted, cleaned and replaced in the new area.  To say it was a bit crazy is to put it mildly.  To say  that my boss can make a gigantic  "cluster f*ck" out of nearly any project she takes on is purely a statement of fact.  Yes, this could have gone way more smoothly then it has so far.  It also could have gone on without  unemploying six coaches for an entire week!
But what has become a financial hardship has been an emotional blessing.  If only I could sustain a living from this land, house and sewing machine.  As much as I love coaching gymnastics, I do so thoroughly enjoy being at home.
I've found a walnut tree (along with our numerous hickory trees) and dyed some fabric.
On another walk in our over-grown field I found what I think is Hops!  yes, it was green like the Internet photo(top) and is now the dried up version in the bottom photo.

There are also some grapes.  I have used the grape vines to make wreaths and frames, but this year we actually have some tiny fruits on the vines.  I have not taken the leap and tasted any yet.  They matured to a dark purple, but are only the size of peas.

Along with numerous indoor cleaning projects, I have been done some tidying of the barn and shed and some overall "winterizing"  The first frost is predicted for tonight and all the succulent and tropical plants are safely indoors.  Kitty Coal enjoys the cement casting form that Joe tossed out behind the shed.  Ok, Joe's idea of "cleaning" is a little different from mine....usually involving a large bonfire!

And finally, as a 51 year-old woman I flopped down in the golden grass and watched the clouds float buy.  I am sure this sense of peacefulness will vanish on Monday when things go back to the old ordinary.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Autumn Collection

Trying to spend a little less time on the computer and/phone, wandering around the Internet.  Although there are so many beautiful photos/ideas/patterns/recipes out there, I've found Facebook to be kind of depressing and even Pinterest is a bit mean-spirited lately.  It's far nicer to lurk around my favorite blogs and leave some nice comments.  It also makes me a bit jealous to see such nicely arranged and written blogs.  The photos and layouts are so enjoyable and professionally done.
I have managed to figure out how to change fonts and colors, but my photo arrangements are so dull.
To break the monotony in my stitching live I have signed on to another Stitch-a Long (SAL).  Yes, it does originate on Facebook of all places,  but it is a very nice stitchers group page.  No stalkers, gossips or haters.  The design is Kathy Barrick's "And Heaven and Nature Sing".  The kindness and generosity I have found there is amazing.  I signed up for the SAL only to discover that finances would not allow me to buy the chart or fabric to start the project and contribute to the group.  Then two lovely stitchers stepped up and gifted me the chart and fabric!!  Well, there goes my Evil Facebook theory.  Yes, there are some wonderful people out there.  My husband says it's good Karma returning to me.
About two months ago I received a rather strange letter.  I don't get much hand-written "snail mail" these days so the sight of the envelope intrigued me.  So did the return address.  This was not someone I knew and below the name was a long series of numbers  My husband said that the letter was from a prisoner.  This lady ( who I shall not name to protect her privacy) was requesting some cross-stitch patterns of certain themes...Autumn/Thanksgiving and Saint Olga of Kiev, She had enclosed $5 in cash. I let the letter sit for a few days, wondering who this person was and how she got my address. I must admit I was a bit suspicious and yes, judgmental of this mystery writer.
After a week or so of thinking and rethinking this issue, I went to Pinterest and some other websites, searched through my stash of charts and magazines and collected about 20 charts/designs.  I packed them up and mailed them to this person.
Since then I have received three more letters, each with a request for cross-stitch charts of various themes and odd amounts of cash (some of it from foreign countries!) to cover the cost of postage.  Each time I've done my searching and mailing, knowing someone on the other end was enjoying what I sent. So if this is some sort of "Good Karma" thing, then so be it.

The lovely Mel is enjoying the Good Karma of my lap on a cool Autumn day.  She pretty much ignores me all Summer long and then seeks me out as the weather changes.

The year-round Owl Tree was spruced up with a few new finds at Hobby Lobby.  I guess the whole owl thing has gone "viral" (oh yuck, hate that word) because there are quite a few new ornaments out this year.

Now I need to think about the outdoor décor.  It's about time to get some pumpkins and corn stalks to put around the vintage farm machine in our yard.  The weather is spectacular, even if my hands are a bit cold.  Enjoy whatever you have planned for the weekend and here's wishing you some Good Karma!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Oh My, That Dress!!

I love fashion!  This, my friends, should never be misinterpreted to mean that  I am at all fashionable.  My personal style could best be described as "Has-Been Over Weight Sporty Spice".  Interspersed with various attempts, on more formal occasions, to recreate Princess Diana's wardrobe from the early 80s
 I do have a great eye for fashion.  I can create outfits and pick out marvelous stuff for myself, only marred by the fact that I can neither afford nor fit into anything that slightly resembles modern day chic,
So I look to the past and to those with the "ideal figure", my fashion dolls.  Here is a selection of ideas/inspirations from various time periods.  My range of favorites begins around 1845 and goes until about 1925.  For some reason fashions before or after those dates has little appeal to me, the exception being the early 1810s and 1940s.






I submit for your review my list of


1.  Downton Abbey
2.  The Foresyte Saga
3. Lark Rise to Candleford
4.  Upstairs//Downstairs
5.  Howard's End
6.  Duchess of Duke Street
7.  Mr. Selfridge
8.  The Paradise
9.  House of Elliot
10.  An Ideal Husband
11.  Age of Innocence
12.  Enchanted April
13.  Out of Africa
14.  Sommersby
15.  Gone With The Wind
16.  Anna Karenina
17.  Anne of Green Gables
18.  The Piano
19.  Dr. Zhivago
20.  Little Women

I have only listed those that I have actually watched from beginning to end.  They are roughly in order of most favorite,/most detailed and accurate costumes.  This is all my personal opinion of course, and I would love to hear comments and suggestions from readers.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

First Day of Autumn

And so it comes, the First Day of Autumn.  Although the temperatures are still moderately warm, I see the leaves changing colors.  I dream of pumpkins, gourds, corn stalks, chestnuts, and all things orange, rust and copper.
This past weekend was the Midwest Wool Festival.  I was able to get there this year, as last year was my mother's back injury and I was away in New Jersey.  I had budgeted a little bit of money to spend on some wonderful yarns, dyes and fibers.
I am still obsessed with making socks and I found this amazing red, white and blue blend to add to my stash.  The sock knitting has now taken over from the previous few weeks of doll clothes-stitching.  the cross-stitch?  Well, that has fallen by the wayside entirely.  I go in fits and starts with the crafting......bouncing from one style to another.  Last month is was all about quilting, a craft I had set aside last year.  Suddenly I was trolling the stores for grey and yellow print cottons for a new quilt ( not that there aren't at least FIVE unfinished quilting projects up in the attic room waiting for my attention). Then the quilting bug flew away and I was hot and heavy into doll clothes for the 18" dolls.  I made over a dozen new Fall/Winter outfits, then that mojo faded.
Bring on the Wool Festival and the knitting frenzy!  I finished a pair of socks for my Uncle Raymond while I was visiting my parents.  Then the brown pair in the collage below.....Etsy Marigold Jen "Orion".  The other half-finished pair in Jawoll "Color Aktion" in a nice ombre of rust, burgundy and plum.

Then come the days when I do NOTHING AT ALL.  Just sit in front of the TV mindlessly watching.  Maybe a sign of old-age, or perhaps ADD!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Going Home Again

Another trip to my mom and dad's house is gauged upon how much I can accomplish, and also how much I can get my mom to accomplish. Luckily she still finds some joy in knitting and crocheting. This time around I was also able to repair her sewing machine. This is quite a feat for me since even though I am creative, things to do with machines and fixing machines are not my strong point..

Such a joy to see my wonderful friend Pepper again. She has adjusted to their house so well. It took her almost 4 days to even notice I was there.

She is very attached to my dad now.  She follows him everywhere and does her selection of "tricks" for him.

My dad, at 84, is aging gracefully (in spite of this pose as a homeless man on the living room couch!).  My mother. at 80, has aged too rapidly in the past few years.  She has not been too severely affected by the progression of Parkinsons Disease, but more so by the side effects of the numerous medications she takes.  I think she could probably cut some of the meds in half and totally eliminate many of them.  Luckily the doctors seem to have finally come around to my "expert view" of medicine and cut down her blood regulating drugs.  This has improved things a bit.  I did notice some improvements in mood and energy level.  These high notes where interspersed with the now "usual" outbursts of anger and sadness all multiplied by 1,000!! 

The main accomplishment of this trip was to get my mother to go outside. She hasn't been outside for nearly a year, since her back injury last September.

Is it bad to say that I was a little bit happy to get back on the plane a week later and head home?

All in all things went well and I think I will be able to stay at my house and my job for a while longer.  I know I can be useful to them, but I wish I could just bring them more joy....