Monday, April 28, 2008


Yes, I'm aware that "Taa-Daa" is usually reserved for the finish of an item, but in this case it's for a start! I finally drew a pattern and started a gymnast cross-stitch. I haven't done one in nearly a year. With the work situation being as it is I haven't been too inspired by gymnastics lately. With Alix getting older and her health deteriorating I needed to get in touch with the old things that bring joy to my life. Alix, of course, is A-Number One. Joe and I spent a lot of time working out in the yard this weekend too. He was actually able to mow the back field and it ended up being...well, grass. As odd as that sounds, grass is a welcome improvement over the years and years of waste-high bramble interspersed with poison ivy as big a shrubs. Last Fall we had the entire back field tilled in the hopes of leasing it out to a local farmer to plant soybeans or corn (the only two choices here). That plan seems to have fallen by the wayside and instead we have now expanded the yard to three times it's size. It is certainly no golf-course , but we are now able to walk without a stick to knock back the offending weeds. Tuesday may end up being a garden disaster though, as a late frost is predicted. I have set the stitching aside for this morning to go and dig out the old sheets in preparation for covering the flower beds tomorrow night.
As for the new stitching. Here she is.....Alina Kozich of Ukraine. This photo actually shows all the beginning stages of the design process. There is the original photo, the drawn-up chart and then the very beginnings of the stitching. A bit more got done late last night, as I was up until after midnight. Not a usual event for me but Alix had some trouble with her leg again around 9pm. Just a little stumble, like Wednesday, and then she was upright again and on to her normal cat-like things. So I am running on about 3 hours of sleep right now, since I lay awake for hours alternating between petting her and crying over the inevitable future. I am trying very hard today to not let sadness overwhelm me and ruin the day and the time I have together with Alix and all the other pets.
Taa-Daa is also for my milestone post #50! Never thought I would last that long, or that this computer would cooperate. Well, I will let it get a little rest while I go off to stitch some more. Alix is positively sick of me taking pictures of her, so I end with a pet snap of Bud. Back up to full-throttle, here with her floppy Frisbee!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tip-Toe Through The Tulips

A beautiful Spring day....60 degrees F and bright sun. Just a bit of rain early this morning, even though large thunder storms were predicted. I had anticipated a total wash-out of a Saturday and had planned to stitch. Instead I am outside most of the time and just come in to share these new photos.
Finished two 'Quaker Animals' from Workbasket. No photos of them though because they are for the Quaker Inspired exchange. I just love these designs. Of course I only need to finish one for the exchange, but I am hooked on their cuteness and can't stop. I may stitch all of them!
Pet snap of the day is Coal "helping" me set up the birdbath.

Friday, April 25, 2008

5 Questions

Shamelessly stolen from Barbara's blog:

Who taught you to stitch, and were there any special circumstances or memories surrounding this? I really don't think I had a cross-stitch teacher. I was always interested in history and I love the "Little House On The Prairie books. Maybe I picked it up from there, I'm not sure. I learned to sew from my mother and grandmother. My Italian grandparents (my father's parents) met in a garment factory in New Jersey in the early 1900's when they first came to the U.S. Later they had their own tailors/dressmakers shop. I would make doll clothes of the lovely scraps of silk and satin. We would make the long journey from the suburbs back to "the city" , which was Newark, to visit them on Sundays. By this time both my grandparents had retired and my grandfather had suffered a stroke. Although his talented hands could no longer work well and he had trouble speaking, he would inspect all me sewing work of the week and give me tips on what I needed to alter or improve. My first cross-stitch project was a stamped kit on green linen of the Girl Scout Motto. It still hangs at my parent's house. I laugh over the huge awkward stitches now.

What’s your favorite thing to stitch?(A project, a kind of stitching, etc.) I love primitive designs, like Prairie Schooler. I also like samplers, realistic animals and designs with other languages/alphabets or scenes of foreign countries. I love making my gymnasts designs from scratch, although I haven't done one of those in a while. Right now I am obsessed with all things Quaker.

Why do you stitch?I stitch to relax, but also to be useful. My husband is a carpenter and can see the tangible results of his work. As a gymnastics coach the "results" of my work are rather vague. My success comes through the success of the gymnasts, and not really for me personally. Stitching gives me a chance to see that I’ve actually accomplished something. I love all things, dance, art and being able to design my own charts of gymnasts gives me a special feeling.

When is your special stitching time? Usually during the day. My husband works during the day and I go to work in the evening. I am alone all day with my beloved pets and I stitch rather then watch TV or get trapped on this computer!

Where is your special stitching place? (An accompanying picture would be great!) First of all, no photo. It is an embarrassing mess over there, and I don't want to share that with the world. I stitch in the livingroom in my favorite chair. The light is not all that good, but on sunny days it is very comfortable there. In the Winter there is no other choice but the livingroom because the wood-stove is there and that is our only source of heat. My second favorite spot is a new place I've found at the gym. There is a large atrium area near the snack bar (now isn't that convenient!!) that has huge skylights. The natural light is wonderful to stitch with. It makes all other spots , even my comfortable chair, seem dull and dark.

On a different note...........Alix is doing well. Completely normal cat behaviour. Now if only I could be more normal. Thanks so much for all the wonderful and caring comments and e-mails I have gotten.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Grateful For The Little Things

I am grateful today for the companionship of my longtime friend, Alix. She has been with us nearly 16 years and is getting pretty old and feeble. We had quite a scare with her about 6 months ago. She had been getting kind of thin, but this is not unusual in an older pet. The Vet told us it was because her kidneys were just not functioning as well as they did when she was younger. This gave her a nauseous feeling and turned her off to her food, even though she was hungry. In late October 2007 Alix had some sort of "attack". She was sleeping on my sewing table around 9pm and suddenly fell from the table and thrashed about on the floor. This had never happened before and we thought she was having a stroke. After less then a minute she sat up and shook herself a bit and then ran upstairs to hide under the bed. I coaxed her out and for the rest of the evening she acted quite normal and did not seem at all impaired. She had another attack at about 2am and since then, thank God, there have been no other attacks. The Vet called it an REM Seizure. When Alix went into a deep mode of sleep her old heart slowed down too much and the seizure was an automatic way of her body "shocking itself" back to life. Of course this terrified me, especially when the Vet said one of these seizure would probably cause Alix's death in the future. Once I had a chance to digest it all I figured this was better then getting hit by a car or attacked by another animal. Alix has had a long and wonderful life with us. She came to our house on July 4th 1992 and has traveled with us to Florida, New Jersey and then back to Ohio.
Today Alix stumbled and fell down our steps. At first I thought is was another seizure. The anxiety in the moments when these things happen is overwhelming for me. Then when I had a chance to calm down and think about it I am sure it was more of a muscle issue rather then neurological. Her right back leg seemed to buckle (I was walking right next to her) and she stumble down two or three stairs, then fell on the living room floor. In her usual dignified manner, she righted herself, shook out her stiff leg a bit and has been fine ever since. She jumps up on the bed, goes up and down the stairs, and does all the normal cat things she always does. I, on the other hand, am an emotional wreck. Those of you with pets (especially older or ill pets) will understand this. I try very hard not to follow Alix around and hound her and bother her. I did this for days following her seizures in October until Joe said "Let the cat be a cat". She lays here on the spare bed in our computer room watching me right now. Wondering what whacky, over-emotional dribble I am coming up with. Hoping I won't pester her anymore today or try to snap another photo of her. Oh I just can't help it....I have to reach over and pet her!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Red Wings and Red Buds

Very often I miss the hustle and bustle of living in metropolitan New York. But there are two things I could never find there and that I treasure about living in rural Ohio.....The Red Wing Blackbird and the Redbud tree. Both are native to the Eastern section of the US, but I seem to only see these two wonders of Nature in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. As I am not gifted enough to photograph them myself I have found these lovely photos on Google Images. Prairie Schooler "Birds and Berries" also has a wonderful rendition of the Redwing Blackbird.

Not quite Spring-like warm, but nice enough to work outside both yesterday and today. The red cabbages (I'm on a 'red' kick this weekend!), Cippolini onions and leeks all went into the newly tilled garden. I worked a bit to clear off the flower beds and planted some zinnia and sunflower seeds. It seems most of my perennials have survived the Winter so I won't be buying much new. Not that I can afford anything new right now. Waiting for the "Economic Stimulus" check to arrive from the government. A nice idea, but I am not going to stimulate the economy with mine, just pay back previous economic damage. Hopefully Joe will be back to full-time work soon, now that the weather is getting better.

Bud is doing well. The big plastic collar came of last Wednesday and all 16 staples came out as well. He is totally loving his freedom.
Not much stitching going on. Lots of ideas flowing through the vacant spaces in my head, but I just can't seem to settle on a new project. Only three little stitchy finishes. A red, white and blue doll quilt in the Churn Dash pattern, a pastel patch doll quilt, leftover from scraps from a quilt I am making for my niece, and a small Blue Delft Tile theme from the Reader's Digest "Big Book of Cross-Stitch". Read about this book on Staci's Blog and just had to buy it. I know I must make a decision about the up-coming Quaker Animals exchange a Quaker Inspired. It is my first exchange and I want to get it right. I finally caught up with most of my usual blog-reading and I discovered the "On-line Needlework Show". Wow, there is tons of new stuff out there. I found a new (well, new to me) designer from Germany, Wiehenburg Designs. They have some great Quaker-themed charts. I also love this little beauty from Carriage House Samplings called "Frederick". I just adore animals with 'human' names! I am also obsessed with all things Ackworth these days. That series of books/charts are amazing, but incredibly expensive. I had my local library do a regional search for "The Schoolgirl Samplers of Ackworth" ( $101 at Amazon!!!). Does anyone out there have any of these books? If so, where did you get them? I got a postcard in the mail yesterday saying that the library couldn't find a copy in the area to loan to me.

Back outside for a few more hours. I know tomorrow it is back to the gym for another hectic week. For now it's fun to watch Coal enjoy the catnip.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Small World

The "big world" seems to be getting the best of me lately. My neck pain that was bad in December has returned at almost 100% of what it was back then. The constant headaches, blurred vision, and that horrible cracking sound in my neck. I haven't written anything here in over a week and I've really been slacking off on keeping up with other people's blogs My e-mails go unanswered; my postal letters...well, that's just a mess too. I feel like escaping from the 21st Century and just stitching or gardening or cooking. Anything far away form the computer or TV or gymnastics. Just having a case of the "blaaaaas" I guess. So I escape from the big world for a while and share with you my small world..... my dollhouse collection. I first got interested in miniatures in 1975 when my uncle's cool new girlfriend shared her collection with me. I was 11 at the time and just that fact that an adult that I knew had a 'girlfriend' was an amazing thing for me. Laurie was so nice, not really like an adult at all, even though she had 5 kids. Her middle son was my very first 'boyfriend'. The fact that we never kissed or even held hands for that matter has never diminished this relationship in my mind. I will always consider John my first boyfriend. The fact that we both now have partners named Joe also gives an interesting twist to the whole thing...but I digress. Dollhouses! Laurie had two of them. One was a full-sized country-style house and the other a general store. Soon after, in 1976 my mother built a huge dollhouse from scratch. My dad says it cost more then their real house and is better furnished! I was hooked immediately. I have always loved dolls and this hobby allowed me to create entire new worlds; each house having it's own little family, it's own style, it's own history. The first house my mother built was a large Victorian-style house. Then she built a Colonial Williamsburg house, a general store and finally a dressmaker's shop. I have inherited the Williamsburg house and the dressmaker's shop. The other two are still in residence at my parent's house being enjoyed by my niece. Two year's ago I got back into this hobby in full force. Joe found an old hand-made dollhouse at a yard sale for $25. I expanded it with four additional rooms and it is nearly complete. This is a rather expensive hobby, so the building has ceased for a while until things get better financially. I do want to share some photos of it though.

This is a pineapple tower in the Williamsburg house. I made this of polymer clay. Pineapple on top, then apples and lemons with pomegranates and Osage apples on the bottom. This is a traditional colonial-style table display.The dining room of the large Victorian house WIP. The white cat is eyeing the dessert display.

Well, that's all the neck and eyes can tolerate of the computer for today. I hope to be catching up on some of your blogs this weekend.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Halfway Through

At the mid-point of a week that I am really not enjoying too much. I am 'subbing' again tonight at the gym for the coach who is supposed to have the Level 5 group. She has already ditched me with the Level 4 group and now I can see she wants out of the 5s also. What a shame the boss chose her as the "reliable one" to take my job at Level 5. I am not the only one who sees this mistake, but since the boss won't admit it it's like it never really happened. What is that expression about "If a tree falls in a forest and there is no one around, does it actually make a noise?". If the boss does not admit her mistake then it wasn't really wrong. Anyway, those extra hours combined with the two annoying meetings mentioned in my previous post will certainly not skyrocket me to millionaire status, but the little bit of extra money will help.
Thanks to everyone for their kind thoughts about our dog, Bud. He is doing much better and had the drain removed from the largest wound this morning. The staples come out next Wednesday. So he is still a "cone-head" for another week, with that big plastic collar on. We took him for a walk last night and his energy seemed 100% to me.

Finished stitching on "Olde Burial Ground" from Village of Hawk Run Hollow last night. Not the most cheerful of designs but it is perfect for the person who is going to get the finished product. It is going to be made into a photo album cover for my neighbor. I am going to fill the album with sepia-tone photos of old tombstones from the local pioneer cemeteries. Some date back to the 1700s. Now I need to figure out how I am going to make the album. A store-bought one won't do, as I want a square album nearly the exact size of the finished design. I also want the pages to have a very antique look to them. Well, that is a project for another day. Now I must get started on my first exchange item, "Quaker Animals" from The Workbasket. This is part of an exchange at Quaker Inspired blog. I really am kind of nervous about this project because it is my first exchange. I see such lovely work out there on the 10-15 blogs that I read regularly. All the finishes are so nice and everything arrives on time. I have until some time in June. No firm date has been set yet and I do not know who my exchange partner is either. A big thank-you goes out to the wonderful Edgar for helping me get started on this exchange. The kindness and generosity of the many stitchers I have met on-line never ceases to amaze me!

I am also thinking about new gymnast designs. For those of you who don't already know, I design my own charts of gymnasts. Yes, a very tiny special interest group with that topic! I don't market them in any way because they are simply my own drawings donedirectly on to 20 grid graph paper. No symbols of any kind, and all the notations as to color choice, shading, etc., are made in Russian. A total mess to anyone else who tries to decipher them. You can view the finished works at my gallery on Cyberstitchers. Look under 'Jennifer/OH' in the gallery search section. The European Championships just finished up on Sunday so I have a whole new batch of inspiration to work with. Here is the new Junior European Champion, Tatiana Nabieva of Russia. This lovely photo is from Volker Minkus' website. I work from photos as the basis for my designs to choose interesting poses and colorful leotards. Here are a few of my favorites that will someday become cross-stitch works.

Pet snap of the day is Elliot in his new favorite napping spot...a pile of flannel fabrics.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Wacky Weekend

After being sick with a cold all week, I had hoped to have a very peaceful weekend just sitting around sewing or starting some seeds in the mini greenhouse kits. Well, it was not to be. Joe takes Bud for a daily walk in the fields behind our house. He never keeps Bud on a leash and sometimes he runs off after the occasional rabbit or deer. Well, Saturday was no different. Bud usually ends up down the street at our neighbor's house, tracking mud on their finished deck and lounging on their patio furniture. Again, Bud followed his predetermined route and Joe went to get him after about an hour. But this time Bud was very slow to get up out of the lounge chair and he had a big gash on his back right leg. Bud gets caught up sometimes in left-over fencing pieces, sticks,vines, etc. He's blind in one eye and doesn't navigate some of the smaller outdoor hazards very well, especially when in the heated pursuit of wildlife. Joe noticed that this wasn't an ordinary reaction to a cut on the leg. Bud was shaking and not wanting to walk home. He laid down in the street several times to rest. We took him to the local Vet right away. She was kind enough to take us in without an appointment and shortly before closing time. She said she would check Bud out and call us in about an hour. Within moments of getting back to the house the phone was ringing and the Vet said she had found numerous cuts all over Buds' back legs, rump and belly. She suspected he had been attacked by a coyote! We've heard coyotes around here at night and I have actually seen one in our back field searching for food. Bud must have come up on one (or several) while they were sleeping and they chased him down and attacked him. The final result was 16 staples and a small drain tube for the wounds, $376 on the credit card and a large cone-like collar. The drain comes out on Wednesday and the staples come out next week. As painful as it was for me to charge that large an amount on the credit card I would do anything for my animals. I would never charge that much medical care for myself!
So Saturday went by in a blur, with little else done except watching Bud to make sure he rested and stayed comfortable.We had the first cook-out of the season up at another neighbor's house last night. Just a random put-together of whatever everyone had on hand. I made a cinnamon cake and some chili-cheese dip with chips. There was also a nice selection of grocery store fruits and veg and well all discussed how we couldn't wait until all of that was coming from our own gardens. We even made plans to have a "community garden" in one of the vacant lots in order to get more space for squashes, pumpkins and melons. I was such in a gardening mood that I even managed to shell the remaining black soy beans that had been sitting around in a basket all Winter. I just love these. They are a great low-carb alternative to regular beans without giving up on the flavor and texture. I planted two little apple trees that arrived in the mail on Friday. They are columnar apple trees, meaning they have no outward branches and grow rather like one tall stick with the apples coming directly from the stem. They only get about 5 feet tall, so they are perfect along our driveway where they will pollinate with the crab apple tree that is already there. I have Golden Delicious and Red variety apples. I also bought 6 'Bluecrop' blueberry bushes at WalMart on Friday. They are more like blueberry twigs right now. I have never had much success with blueberries so I thought $3.75 per plant wasn't too big an investment for and experimental crop.

Very little stitching got done on Saturday, but I did make a little progress on "Olde Burial Ground". If the weather holds out for the rest of the afternoon I may be able to finish it before I have to go to the gym. Here is the frame-up of "Heart and Hand" a very nice antique-looking frame from Hobby Lobby. It is a nice rust color to match the threads and has some "worm holes" manufactured right in.

I simply dread this week at the gym. I am subbing again for the Level 5s on Wednesday and I have two pointless in the middle of the day on Friday, leaving 4 hours to mill around until my actual work shift starts. The other is smack in the middle of Sunday afternoon, my boss claiming this is the only time she can get everyone to attend. I am going to try to convert these inconveniences into an opportunity to get on the cardio machines on two days that I usually would not. Too much time watching FitTV and all the "buff brides" and "national fitness challenge" participants. Since "Cardio-Bud"(you've all heard of the Disney dog "Air-Bud" who played basketball?) is out of commission for a while, I need alternatives to keep me moving. I really want to slim down before the warm weather catches up with me and everyone else is wearing shorts while I hide in my big thick sweat-pants.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Two Little Finishes

Before the photos I must take a moment to send my good thoughts out to Barbara in Holland. She's been having a rough time of it lately. My prayers are with you dear friend. I hope everything works out for the best very soon.
With more rain today and a the good old-fashioned common cold finally getting to me, I spent a little quiet time finishing off a few projects. Joe and I made our way over to Hobby Lobby this morning. Not his favorite place to go but I didn't feel like traveling by myself. Not that I am all that seriously ill, just needed the comfort of some company. Got frames for both "R Is For Rabbit" and "Heart and Hand" of those later. I also found a package of 100 small colored eyelets for $2.39. The 40% off coupon went to those so they came out to be the bargain of the day. The dark lavender colored eyelet goes perfectly with A Mon Ami Pierre's little motif of a swan. The second finish is Workbasket's freebie "Quaker Hedgehog" done up in a very non-traditional style. He's stitched on hand-dyed purple 16 count Aida with Carrie's Creations "Crazy Dreams" over-dyed floss. He stitched up very quickly yesterday afternoon on my break at work ( about 1 hour 15 minutes). He was going to be another floss ring tag, but instead I found this cute little papier-mache box at Hobby Lobby. I still need to paint the base of the box. It is hard to see in this photo but the rim of the box is trimmed with yellow ribbon to hid the turning of the stitched piece.

Here are the pet photos of the day. I don't know if Twinsy here qualifies as our pet, since he is the neighbor's cat. He sat right there staring into the camera as his owner stood in her driveway waiting for him. He totally ignored her and followed me onto the porch for a snack. The next photo is of little Mocha, the very shy cat. She has found a new 'home' in Bud's new and improved dog house...the one we got from Joe's mom and dad. It still sits in front of the barn waiting to be fully cleaned out and repositioned over in Bud's run area. For now Mocha has claimed it as her own. There was a better photo showing the whole dog house with Mocha peeking her head out of the door, but the computer 'ate" that photo.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Rings, rings and more rings!

No photos today. The batteries are dead in the digital camera. I don't know why I didn't buy any today in my frantic trip to Wal Mart. I get an hour break between teaching classes on Tuesday so I ran over to Wal Mart to get a new electric can opener. Oddly enough I came away with quite a bit more then a can opener. I bought a new little vacuum..OK, actually it is my only vacuum. I had been using the huge shop-vac to clean the two small carpets we have in the house. That was getting to be a heavy and messy job. The shop-vac tends to blow all the surrounding dust (and ash from the wood stove) all over the place. The carpet comes up clean but the rest of the place is a disaster area. My husband jokes that we now get HDTV...I simply wipe off the screen with a wet towel and taadaa..........HDTV! I also bought a new food processor. The one I've had for nearly 20 years is on it's way out. I love to make pesto and salsa out of my vegetable crops in the Summer so the poor old thing does get quite a workout. The last time I used it was a few weeks ago to make some humus. It started out at full speed and then got slower and slower until it smelled like burning rubber and then it quit.
I my whirlwind tour of Wal Mart I got the above mentioned household items, some dog food, cat food, a package of pork chops and, surprise-surprise, floss rings! I was shocked to find them in the office supply isle. Not just the plain silver ones, but the multi-colored ones that I had just bought on eBay. So it proves once again the my greed will get me nowhere. If I had just waited it out and searched a bit closer to home I could have found more rings then I would ever use in a lifetime. I got two packages of silver 1 inch rings at $.97 each and one set of eight (2 each of red, yellow, blue, green) rings for $.99. I paid the $.99 on eBay for the colored set and then $2.56 shipping on top of that. Lesson learned.
Time to settle in to some stitching. The temperature is dropping and I hope my tulips will survive. I feel a sore throat coming on too.