Thursday, September 22, 2011


Like many of you, my annual Christmas Ornament Issue from Just Cross-Stitch magazine has arrived.  I am interested to read all of your critiques and recommendations.  I admire those who are able to give a critique of a particular chart, pattern or magazine.  I am one of those over-emotional, highly sensitive people that does not take criticism well.  Therefore, I do not hand it out much toward others.  To me, everything is lovely in it's own way, although I have picked a few favorites.  Many an "x"has been made in the past few days, but there are a few other interests that have come along as well.
Color of any sort has always fascinated me.  Natural dying has become a "fad" lately.  How our great-grandmother's would laugh over this.  It is a marvel to me how so many things done of necessity have now become "hobbies" to present day crafters.  Ah, I even hesitate to use the word "craft" as there seems to be an ongoing battle of Art v. Craft.  I personally see no difference between the two.  Though many will disagree with this assessment, again it refers back to my fear of insulting anyone or hurting any one's feelings.  Much as the oil painter considers himself an artist, I am sure the person who makes toilet paper cozies out of plastic canvas considers them art as well.  So be it.
Off the soap-box and on to the dying.  Here is my attempt at a "recipe from a wonderful book new to our local library:  Harvesting Color.  This is a batch of tickseed from the field behind my house.  I dyed a scrap piece of 28ct linen.  I didn't get a very intense orange, but I didn't use a mordant agent.  I'm still perfecting my techniques and terminology.  I've seen alum mordant in little bottle on Etsy, so I may try that next time.

Two other new books from the local library.  Not much success with either of these new ventures.  I do so want to make my own cheese.  The consumption of cheese in this household is astronomical, so it can only be of benefit to make my own.  Again a lack of skill, terminology and supplies held me back.

On to the ornaments!  I do lean toward certain designs/designers in my selections for cross-stitch.  I'm a huge Prairie Schooler fan, but this year's ornament did nothing for me.  I tend to go on the visual impression first and then when I look up the chart I am surprised to find the name of the designer is one I usually pick anyway!
Jolly by Miss Crescent's Crown was the first one done.  The colors immediately caught my eye as something that would be perfect for my 13 year old niece.  I also have an ample supply of lime green fuzzy yarn to use as trim.

 Next up was Tanya's (The Sampler Girl) lovely design Good Tidings To You.  I know Christmas ornaments are all about Santa's and snowmen, which I do like, but I just love animals in Christmas designs.  Now one would expect a deer or some forest birds, but this rabbit is just so cute and a bit unexpected

 Here is a lovely Christmas fox (again a break from snowmen and Santa Clauses).  He is from a very old Cross-Stitch and Country Crafts magazine.  I made him as a frame piece for my mothers years ago.  She tore him out of the frame over my August visit and requested him as an ornament instead.  She said he just doesn't get enough exposure sitting in that frame.

 I added a little sterling silver pine cone charm on one of the pine branches.
 Next ornament is Fresh Fallen Snow by Little House Needleworks.  It has seen been fully stitched.  All the ornament finishes now sit around waiting to be stitched to their backings and properly completed.
It's so nice to have a little needle in my hand again.  The socks have been set aside for a bit, although not to far out of reach.  They will be my travelling companions today as I set off for Indianapolis for the Region 5 Gymnastics Congress. A geek-fest extraordinaire of all things gymnastics.  But mostly an anxiety-fest for me as I have to leave my pets behind again.  Joe will care for them of course, but the worry never ceases for me when I travel.  Well, I must 'see and be seen' in order to get good judging assignments this competitive season.  Time to be a big girl for a few days. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Heading Toward Autumn-Looking Back at Summer

A look back at my trip to New Jersey.
As usual, my anxiety and panic built up in the days before I left.  A delay of 4 hours at the Dayton Airport didn't help matters at all.  Arriving in Newark, I always marvel at the beautiful colors and designs on the planes at the International Terminal.  Deep inside I have this yearning to travel the World.  If I can ever overcome my crippling fear of leaving my animals behind someday I may be on one of these planes.
I made it to my parent's house during the "big build-up" to Hurricane Irene.  My father has total command of the TV ( some things never change) and between the Yankees and Mets we were tuned into Fox News or The Weather Channel and it was all about Irene.  I know hurricanes are a serious matter but really!  The over-kill coverage was nauseating.

Sunny sign of Irene.  My dad and I headed for our usual Summertime haunt....the Community Pool.  My family has had a membership to the local pool club since 1965.

And here is King Neptune himself, my dad.  At 80 years old he still swims laps nearly everyday, all Summer long.  Not sure if it's purely for the exercise or the fact that he absolutely must get his monies-worth out of any investment.

As Saturday night approached, so did Irene.  The TV coverage intensified and we spent our final hours supplementing the apocalyptic food supply at my parent's house.  As long as the hand-crank can opener worked we were in no danger of starving to death.  My brother and his family came over for dinner.  Here my brother Jeff and Dylan build a house-of-cards.
My mother focuses on the Fox News coverage..............

My niece Julia makes some all-important phone calls.....

The dogs, sensing impending doom, gather around my dad for comfort.

The first big gust of wind rattled the house and shook this plate of brownies that had been set to cool in top of the washing machine.

Nigh time hurricanes are always a scary thing.  Luckily, we were not hit as hard as predicted.  So many in Northern New Jersey had power outages and flooding.  We just lost a few large limbs off the giant Oak trees in the back yard.

 The day after the storm the winds were worse then ever.  By mid afternoon on Sunday this big chunk of Maple tree fell across the wires right across the street from our house.  Still, the power stayed on.

I had heard the incredible screeching sound and the cracking of the limb.  Oddly enough I thought it had fallen on the roof of our house....I mean my house because I had mistaken the metal sound for the sound of my own metal roof.  Actually it was the sound of this pipe that encases the wires ripping from the side of my parent's house.  It usually stands upright behind the gutter.  The limb falling on the wire had pulled everything along it's path, including the pole on the corner which tilted at a dangerous angle.

But we came through it all unharmed and the next night was spent at my brother's house for the annual "Taco Night"  This is always followed by a puzzle or board game.  This year it was a game that's new to me, but now one of my favorites:  "Apples To Apples".  My mother even joined in and I haven;t heard her laugh so much in years.

Sibling rivals!

A descriptive card for each of us.

My brother's Mel had to check out my cat-smelling purse.

A slaughtered peanut butter pie

Thanks for a great time!  I miss you Mommy and Daddy.  See you at Christmas

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Of The Day

For some reason in the past few years Labor Day has become one of my favorite holidays.  Not so much in the past.  Do you know I still wake up occassionally at this time of year with nightmares of going back to school?  My school days were not that incredibly terrible or anything too dramatic, but it seemed that every year around Labor Day I would begin to organize myself for the upcoming school year.  New notebooks, pencils, pens etc.  Everything quite compulsively put in it's proper place.  Somewhere around mid-October it would all fall apart and I would be desperately disorganized and confused.  This combined with the usual "mean girls" treatment  at school haunts me to this day.  After all these years (decades!) the dreams are quite vivid:  the missing homework assignment, the outfit that just wasn't the height of style for that year, the "bad hair" day, the non-existent boyfriend..............
All that side, the daytime hours of this time of year are quite pleasant.  I seem to be getting a lot accomplished in the way of stitching and crafting.  I've been able to tune-out the outside world for a bit and comfort myself with familiar handicrafts.  Knitting socks is still tops on my list of relaxing pastimes.  While visiting my parents last week I discovered a lovely new yarn and some new colors of an old favorite.  This new start is Kroy Sock Ragg Shades "Grey Brown Marl".  Not a name I would have picked for it.  I would call it "Sock Monkey Blend".

Laboring on Banana-Walnut-Chocolate Chip brownies.

Laboring at laundry. 

Past labor.  Last weeks finish.  Kroy Sock "Clover Colors"

Another labor from my week at Mom and Dad's.  New Red Heart Yarn Stardust in purple.  This line of yarn has metallic thread in it, but is amazingly soft and easy to work with.

Today it's overcast and rather cool.  58 degrees F with a pretty good breeze going.  Hence the laundry trying inside.  Last week the clothes dried in about a minute on the line.

Do to the somewhat cloudy skies, Coal and Carmella need a bit of relaxation.  Seems to me they needed relaxation from the heat too.  Cats will be cats!
 A new labor...American Girl cheerleader outfits.  Not my favorite thing to make.  I think that reverts back to that whole "means girls" thing from my school days.  This is my version of the local school district, Little Miami.  This is a special order fro my friend Samantha.  She used to coach gymnastics with me.  Now the traitor coaches a cheer squad.  OK, a bit harsh.  It's her daughter's cheer squad and there's the potential of at least 20 orders coming from this prototype, so I really shouldn't be trashing the cheer thing.

At Christmas it was the blizzard and this visit to my hometown was Hurricane Irene.  We all held up pretty well and I was glad I could be there to help my parents with the clean up.  Some very large oak limbs came down, but overall we fared a lot better then most in Northern New Jersey.  The town of Paterson was especially hard-hit.  This is the city where my Irish great-grandparents settled when they first came to this country in the 1890s.  My grandfather used to take us to see the Great Falls on the Passaic River.  Last week on CNN they looked more like Niagara Falls!  My heart goes out to all the people on the east coast who lost property and priceless family mementos to the hurricane.