Wednesday, January 30, 2008

There's No Place Like Home

Those words certainly ring true with me today. After a rather "busy" day at work yesterday I am glad to be writing from home, even though it is very cold in here. For those of you who talked me through yesterdays little catastrophe, I thank you for your patience and kindness. I think I made a mountain out of a mole hill and needed to let the air out of my own hot air balloon a little bit. Last night was dedicated to stitching and I got a bit more done on the Jerusalem Sampler. All of the alphabet (or alephbet in Hebrew) is complete, so I may make it through with the bit of DMC 3807 I have left. The village surrounding the alphabet is filled with amazing colors. It seems I am re-threading the needle every two or three minutes with a new and brighter color then the previous one. A bit time consuming, but also uses up the DMCs I already have with no need to buy a whole new skein. I can't wait to put on the glittery gold and silver roofs that are on some of the houses. I am pretty sure who is going to get this gift. A dear friend, Becky, at the gym who has been my assistant with my junior group for several months. Her daughter, Callie, is one of the top girls in the group. I have always been fascinated by the Jewish faith ( in fact all religions, cultures, languages intrigue me) and Becky belongs to an interesting church, "Jewish Believers in Christ". Her dream is to travel to Israel some day so I think she will appreciate the meaning behind this gift. She is also expecting a baby some time in July. Our final class with this little junior group is in May. There is a large celebration performance of all the groups at the end of May and I would like to have the gift ready for her by then.
Some incredible wind last night, so I didn't get much sleep. I spent most of the night listening to things being blow around our yard and trying to guess what they were. Our front glass door was blow open and it hinges were bent, so it spent the entire night flapping in the breeze....although the "breeze" got up to 60 miles per hour at times. We have had some very high winds this year and it seems rather odd. The temperature dropped over 40 degrees last night and we are back to the 20'sF rather then the "Springlike" 40sF of Sunday and Monday. There is some nasty snow/rain/ice mix predicted for tomorrow night. So glad there is no competition to travel to this weekend. I am dedicating it to stitching.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

.......and even calmer

Several post, numerous edits, a few additions, many deletions and one giant nervous breakdown later and I am back! Full force, no new blog, just the same old-same old with a little more forethought and tact. Thank you all for putting up with the ADD/OCD ramblings of earlier today. I think the problem is solved. I will stick to stitching, cats, doll clothes, general gymnastics stuff and a bit of the domestic life here at Strout Homestead. I'll save all the ranting, raving and overall angst for the private e-mails and letters to you poor unfortunates who are my closest friends. Now I need a break from the computer and time to stitch. This 21st Century stuff is really kicking my butt.

A Bit of Calm

This week started out as a stressful one, as I continued to dwell upon my loss of hours/$$$ and my Level 5 group. But I think I will let things take their natural course. I let the stress melt away and had the girls enjoy themselves a bit in trying new skills and making up some new routines. All of my groups are at the Compulsory Levels where they must do prescribed routines that are all alike at each level. Last night we "cut loose" a bit and I took a few photos as well. The last photo is of this weeks doll quilt. I hope to sell it tonight at the gym.
Rainy but not nearly so cold today. I wish it was snow instead though. Then I would be spared the Homeschoolers and only have my cute little group at 4pm. Still, it is an early night for me...home by 6pm instead of the usual 9pm. Maybe I can get in a few stitches on some of those UFOs.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The UFO Files

After 13 hours at a gymnastics competition yesterday my head is absolutely pounding today. I think it is a mix of the cold I am getting and the fact that these competitions filled with 90+ sniffling, sneezing and coughing little girls are a virtual "germ factory"! My Level 4 group took a beating. A well deserved one at that, since they were getting rather spoiled at always winning First Place. The top two girls were out sick and we were missing two others as well. I think it is good that they come off of their little ego trip for a while and get down to some serious work at trainings. Having to endure the marathon day and still plaster that pleasant little smile on my face was no easy feat. I played up the cold/illness thing to account for my lack of chatting and laughing. The coaches are usually a pretty tight-knit group of friends, but the boss has really pitted us against one another in a competition of our own for her good favor and enough work hours to support ourselves. It is rather late in the afternoon already and I still haven't managed to accomplish much at all today. I am just too tired. So instead of stitching, I broke out the numerous little bags filled with UFOs to give you a glimpse of things to come.

These first two(above) are Donna Vermillion Giampi designs....."Lemons, Limes & More" beautiful citrus fruits. This is going to be a pillow for my aunt who lives in Miami and has all of these trees in her garden. The second is "Angel Cats" that are made on clear 14 count plastic canvas. They are going to be made up as a wreath with miniature gold instruments and white and gold ribbon.

This guy is a seahorse, with the faint hints of a star fish in the background, that is going to be a pillow for my aunt and uncle that live at the New Jersey seaside. They host our family reunion (my dad's family) every August.

A lovely French sampler from a book of Barbara Ana's. She is such a good friend and also an amazing designer of cross-stitch patterns. She even has her own website and sells at the Creative Poppy website too.

Then there is Barrick Samplers "One Stag a Leaping" that I am making for my dad. I remember exactly when I started this. I had taken a bunch of kids from my old gym to a skating rink and sat on the sidelines stitching this while they 1999!

Cute little bird house designs that are going to be framed with vine wreaths, just like the picture in the magazine.

A freebie, from an Italian website, of planets. I just loved this hand-dyed fabric that I got from Barbara Ana. I have no idea if these are real planets or just an artistic interpretation. And lastly, a gymnastics photo from practice last Wednesday. This is the Level 5 girl, Brooke.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Yikes, 3807!

Am I dyslexic or just color blind!! Those of you who read about the "blue" scarf in a previous post will vote for color blind. The DMC I am searching for to work on my Jerusalem Sampler is 3807 and not 3708. This is just a small glimpse of the total backwardness that this whole week is coming too. I am freezing cold during the day and then burning up at night. I have a terrible soar throat which is always the first sign of a bad cold coming on for me. I keep starting new projects with no apparent direction or theme in mind.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Wishful thinking

Lately it has been a lot more thinking and a lot less doing! Today it will be a lot more pictures and a lot less writing. Some of the items on my wish list: "Duck" by Marjolein Bastin, "Taste of the Mediterranean" by Susan Inget, "Coffee Sampler""Porch Cats" by Debbie Hron, "The Stitcher II" and "Patriotic Landscape" both by Sandra Sullivan. All these I found in the latest Keepsake Needlearts catalog .

The next group of photos is of my junior group yesterday. These 6 and 7 year olds really show great potential.

Finally, the Jerusalem Sampler and an ornament finish. Keeping with an inspiring resolution I read on another blog, I am going to try to finish one Christmas ornie per month. I'm not too sure I like this one. I have also attached a photo of the original here. Because of my incredible knack to screw things up on linen fabric, I made the outside border one set of blocks too small. So I had to delete a reindeer and "invent" my way through the rest of the design. Joe say he looks like Scooby-Doo with antlers and I tend to agree.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


No, it's not some mystery code or reference to March 7th. It is part of my quest to stick with at least one of my New Years' resolutions. Remember that terrible one about not buying any new cross-stitch supplies? Well, I am trying so hard to keep up with it that I am requesting a favor. Anyone out there have a spare DMC #3708? I am starting a new project (no, I have still not finished the 5 or 6 other UFOs that are hanging around) and it calls for a large amount of DMC 3708. It is called "Jerusalem Sampler". I'm at work now on the wonderful hi-speed computer, but I am away from my collection of photos, so I can't share one of it right now. It is a rather modern and stylish take on a Hebrew alphabet framed by a stylistic rendition of the city of Jerusalem. All the colors are bold and bright. The entire alphabet and part of the framing is done in 3708 . I have about half a skein left and I know this will not make it through the whole project. I will gladly trade for something out of my stash. My long term goal is to make alphabet samplers in as many languages as I can. I have several designs for Russian/Cyrillic samplers, this Hebrew one, one in Chinese and even Sign Language! I am fascinated by languages, although I do not have much of a gift for learning them.
On the theme of New Years' resolutions...I have managed to stick with my goal and lose 2 pounds per week until I achieve my ideal(fantasy!?) weight. I feel as if I have cursed myself just by putting that down in print here, but I am rather proud I have gotten this far. I am loyal to my treadmill twice a week at the gym.....just got off of it a few minutes ago. I am also trying to be very careful about what I eat..................well, rather how much I eat. I really love fruits, veggies and whole grains, so that is not a problem. I just love everything too much!
Now I must tear myself away from this wonderful fast computer and get to work. This is my junior group today. I hope to take some pictures of them as they are the "chosen ones" that are expected to move up to the Team in May. Still lots of work to do as most are only 6 and 7 years old.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Arctic Blast

Well, that's what all the TV weather people are saying. All day long I've heard that phrase uttered over and over. It is also rather obvious if you step one foot out the door...or in the case of our house, two or three feet away from the wood-burning stove we use for heat. I won't be playing on the computer very long tonight. This room is located at least 10 feet from the stove and there is only a narrow doorway that lets the heat flow from the living room into this room. Promise to show a floor plan someday. The kitchen is totally off limits since the high temperature in there today was 53F! The little space heater strategically placed under the kitchen sink will (hopefully) keep the pipes from freezing. Outside it is currently 12F with the expected low of 3F. Ok, ok, I'm getting to sound too much like the TV now. We all know it's cold; now move on to something else.
In my case the "something else" was quilting . A sudden change of gears for me. For a while I have had a lovely book on making wooden furniture for the 18" playdolls that I make the clothing for. I am no woodworker, and Joe refuses to touch the stuff. On Thursday evening I gave the book to a co-worker who's father does lovely woodworking. Now we are plotting to sell our wares together next year at the various craft bazaar from September through December. I entered four such sales this past year, one each month, and did fairly well with my doll clothes, cross-stitch ornaments, wreaths and beautiful knitwear made my by mother. Now I will be adding hand-crafted doll furniture to my collection. As for the quilt, it is a doll-sized one. I have made quite a few full-sized quilts over the years but this hobby has fallen by the wayside in favor of doll clothes and cross-stitch in recent years. It was nice to get back to it and search through the bins of fabrics in the freezing cold attic room and this is what I came up with. This was started early Friday morning, with a break to go to work last night at the gym. Then I worked on it most of the day today. Here it hangs, displayed on a beautiful old dish cabinet that was my grandmothers. Right after these photos were snapped it slipped from under the jar of black soy beans and promptly fell into the cats' water bowl. Luckily no damage was done.

Sticking well to my Harmien-inspired New Years' resolution (it was you Harmien, wasn't it?) of not buying any new "stash" items for six months. I am even giving stuff away! I went through some magazines today and decided to give away the ones I know I will not use at all. Or if there is only one chart I like in the entire magazine, I scan it and save it and then give it away. The lucky recipient this time is my friend Larisa in Russia. She has next to nothing when it comes to even the most basic necessities of life, much less cross-stitch items. Watch your mailboxes my friends, there may be some mystery items heading your way in the near future. I do have several envelopes filled with various items to various friends, but "Winter Poverty" and the outrageous postal rates are preventing me from mailing anything else in the near future.

I will close tonight with a photo of the neighbors cat, "Twinsy". A very odd name, given to him by his young owners because he was chosen from a litter where there was another kitten who was his twin. Twinsy has been my neighbor for over 12 years. He is really lovely and I have tried over and over to approach him, to pet him, even to just photograph him. But nothing. Not so much as a look in my general direction. Then this past August he came running across the street and started rubbing on my legs and purring. He has been at our house 90% of the time ever since.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Back to cross-stitching

Now that I have purged myself of the anger over my non-existent doll clothes sale I feel free to cross-stitch again. I am still working on the large eagle project, but it is more daunting then first anticipated. There is so much black and then subtle shades of black and the pattern is in black and white and very tiny. It is very difficult to keep track of where I am in the pattern. I must admit I am more used to the primitive designs such as Prairie Schooler...............or the WONDERFUL charts by Black Bird Designs like the ones I received from Nicole today. Thank you so much Nicole and also for the lovely Thimbleberries fabrics. I take a hint from Harmien, Barbara and Annemarie my blog inspirations, and show a photo of the lovely package I received today. Now to find time to do all the new stitching designs and ideas that fill my head tonight.
Yesterday I went to my little local library and discovered a treasure-trove of cross-stitch books that I had over looked in the past. As I browse the shelves my eye is always caught by the word "cross-stitch" on the spine of the book. Well this series had no such word and I thought they were simply Christmas decorating and craft books. It is a series my Leisure Arts Publications called " Christmas Remembered". Apparently there are quite a few more out there then what I found as I have here at home with me (books number 4, 20, 21 and 22). I am dieing to find all the others! Looks like it might mean a trip to Amazon on-line to use up a gift card I got for Christmas. I was able to scan and save my favorites from these books and I share with you my "stitching future": I think these would make lovely sets...a wreath and some ornaments or a stocking and some give as gifts next year. Or maybe ten years from now at this rate. I am over stimulated!!

Now on to a bit of gymnastics. I had a wonderful time at the gym last night. Here are some shots of my Level 6 group. I have had most of these girls since they were 3 or 4 years old. I haven't worked with them in a while, but I am now back with them while their usual coach is away in China. It is such a joy to work with them again! This group took First Place in the teams competition last weekend for the first time this season and I am so proud.
Now I wait out my painfully slow dial-up connection while these photos come up and then off to do some stitching. Of what exactly, I do not know.

A quick note of personal bragging.....I think I got the links thing to work.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Spring is here?

Maybe it's only January 7th, but it feels like Springtime. It is not even Noon and already it is 61F/16.1C. It is very windy and the ground is wet, but otherwise it is great to sit outside and to let the cats play outside. Here is my dear old Alix on the patio table this morning. She kept me up most of the night because she begged to go outside at Midnight. I don't usually let her outside at night because she is so old. I worried about her every minute until 3:30 am when she decided she was ready to come in. I think I worry too much about her. A cat wants to be a cat, not hounded and followed around like some feeble hospital patient. I do see her getting slower and a bit unsteady on her feet, but what can I expect of a 16 year old cat.
Last night I unchained myself from the sewing machine and worked on this glittery pink (yes, this is a late-in-the -day edit for any of those who have already read this. Of course this is pink and not blue) scarf. I love this yarn...Yarn Bee "Gilt Eyelash". It is usually $6.99 a ball, but last week I got some on sale for $.99!! I sold quite a few scarves at the last craft sale on December 8th and I hope people are still interested in them at the sale this coming Saturday.
Well, the long break is over and it's back to the gym tonight. I have a headache already just thinking about it. The girls will be frantic as we have our home competition right away this Saturday with only one week of preparation. The boss will be frantic too, trying to organize the whole thing after everyone has been out of the gym since December 14th. I'll hide out in my safe little corner by the Balance Beams and hope I don't hear my name bellowed from across the room.
Another late note.......a photo of the "dwelling place". A bit dull this time of year and in desperate need of a paint job and new roof.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Out with the Christmas tree....In with the exercise bike.

Finally took the tree down today. The living room looks so naked. The offending jar of candy is gone too. Not in the way I should have let it go, but through devouring the last few M&Ms and then putting the empty jar away. Now they are gone and on to exercising. My major form of exercise today was cleaning out our attic room. It is actually the other bedroom upstairs, but it is unheated and unfinished, so it is our attic/storage heap. Our house was built in 1823, so there are some odd rooms that really have no use, like this one. It has become the giant dump pile of all sorts of odd things...........seasonal decorations, clothing that doesn't fit, bin after bin of fabrics and craft supplies and tons of little gifties that I just have no use for. Sammy, our oldest black cat, has a 4pm appointment with the Vet to get a shot for his itchy skin condition. It really doesn't effect his health other then to aggravate him terribly. So he gets a quick Cortizone shot and his skin stays clear for about 3 months. Right now he is just chewing and scratching all the time and I can see it is driving him crazy. He is the only cat I have ever known that purrs when the Vet gives him his shot. He knows in a matter of hours he will feel so much better and he is grateful for that. Back to the cleaning rampage. The Vet is located a few miles from the Goodwill charity shop drop off station. There used to be a great Goodwill store there where I would find nice wool skirts to make into doll coats and the occasional pair of jeans for myself. I so rarely get to wear "real clothes" that it is a dreadful waste of money for me to go to The Gap or Old Navy and spend $40+ on a pair of jeans. $3.00 is about my limit and they are already soft and broken in and nobody really cares what size they are. The car is fully packed with box after box, bag after bag of items going to be dropped off at Goodwill in about an hour. I feel I have purged myself of some of my excess "weight" in a manner of speaking. I am moving forward. Now on to the cross-stitch bins and some clearing out there. None of that will go to the charity shop, but rather to some lucky stitchers I know. Here is a look at my variegated/overdyed floss selection. Overkill at it's worst!! AKA greedious maximus. I love all these threads but could never finish using them all in 12 lifetimes of stitching.A new fashion doll outfit. I crocheted the little halter top out of some wonderful fuzzy, sparkly yarn. Talk about an OVERSTOCK. Any knitters or crocheters out there in need of any yarn? I have all types, styles, colors. Some are new, some I have used a bit of. Let me know if you want any.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


January 3rd. Yuck! This is that awful, boring, cold, dull time of year. I really must take the Christmas tree down, but I just can't bring myself to plunge the living room into darkness. I suppose there are good things about this time of year. Renewal, resolutions. So here I go. Yes, I am officially fat! So my first resolution is to diet. No, not very original as it is my resolution every year at this time. Maybe I shouldn't call it a diet, but go with the more trendy "life-style change". Maybe I should just keep my hand out of the candy jar.......or go so far as to eliminate the jar entirely. That is really the only way I can do it. With my odd genetic mix of pre-destined chubbiness and inherit cheapness, I just can't throw all the bad foods away. That would be a terrible waste of money. So in my own twisted little reality I feel I should eat it all and then just not buy any more of that. There is about a quarter of a jar left of M&Ms on the kitchen counter. Do I throw them away, thereby breaking the multi-generational rule of "waste not want not" and "money doesn't grow on trees"? Or do I ditch them and break the cycle of fatness? On this pleasant note I attach a little poem from my friend Kim:

'Twas after Christmas , and all through the house,
Nothing would fit me, not even a blouse.
The cookies I'd nibbled, the eggnog I'd taste,
At the holiday parties had gone to my waist.
When I got on the scales there arose such a number!
When I walked to the store (less a walk than a lumber).
I'd remember the marvellous meals I'd prepared,
The gravies and sauces and beef nicely reared,
The wine and the rum balls, the bread and the cheese,
And the way I'd never said, "No thank you, please.
As I dressed myself in my husband's old shirt,
And prepared once again to do battle with dirt.
I said to myself, as I only can,
"You can't spend a winter disguised as a man!"
So--away with the last of the sour cream dip,
Get rid of the fruit cake, every cracker and chip.
Every last bit of food that I like must be banished,
Till all the additional ounces have vanished.
I won't have a cookie--not even a lick.
I'll want only to chew on a long celery stick.
I won't have hot biscuits, or corn bread, or pie,
I'll munch on a carrot and quietly cry.
I'm hungry, I'm lonesome, and life is a bore.
But isn't that what January is for?
Unable to giggle, no longer a riot
Happy New Year to all and to all a good diet!

And a cross-stitch finish, finally. A cute set of bright-colored chickens. A be-lated Christmas gift to my friend Melissa