Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A Good Day to Have a Good Day


Hi, stitching friends!

I have recently fallen in love with the music (and especially the lyrics) of Kacey Musgraves. Her song "Late to the Party" is one of my favorites. "I'm never late to the party if I'm late to the party with you."

I am definitely late to the party. I promise... I have NOT dropped off the face of the earth! No excuses. Since my last post, one week became one month...two months...and then nearly three months....

But here I am! Thanks for hanging in there and not giving up on me.

Today was a good day to have a good day. I have been a homebody lately, which, truly, is who I am. But today I felt like getting out and enjoying some retail therapy.

Here's how my day went.

8:45 a.m.: Got up and ate a bowl of cereal while watching The Price is Right. I freakin' love this show, and have since I was little. Do you?

10:00 a.m.: Cross stitched a little bit, working on "Peace House" by La-D-Da.
10:30ish a.m.: Dyed some linen from my stash using Priscilla and Chelsea's tutorial for coffee-tea-dyed linen. I wasn't using these pieces of linen because I didn't like the original colors. They were either blah or just a little too plain. I thought, If this doesn't work, I'm not in love with this fabric, anyway, so what have I got to lose? Well, let me tell you, I love the result!

The photo above shows my dyed pieces drying in the sun outside. After they were dry, I ironed them and put them back in their packages so I would remember what count they are. (I took good notes beforehand to help myself keep this straight.) I can't wait to use these! If you would like to give this a shot, you can't go wrong. Their tutorial is wonderful.

1:00 p.m.: Went to Barnes & Noble to pick up the 2018 Halloween and Christmas-ornament issues of Just CrossStitch magazine. I found the Halloween issue right away, but they didn't yet have the Christmas-ornament issue! Drats! So I was sitting on a nearby bench flipping through a few stitching magazines when an employee holding a stack of magazines said, "These just came in if you're interested."

The lady sitting next to me scoffed and said, "Uh, no thanks."

I looked up and what did I see, but the new Christmas-ornament issue. "Yes! I'll take one, please! That's what I came here for!" I said.

"Well, you waited just long enough," he said, and handed me my issue. I don't know if you've seen it yet, but there are some darling ornaments in it. I already have plans to stitch "Joy" by Livia Rovaris. (It's on the cover.)

When I paid for my magazines, they gave me a coupon for $2 off a drink in the café, and I haven't had Starbucks in sooooo long. When I was working full time, the Starbucks on my way to work was a fairly regular stop for me. My husband says he has no idea how they have managed to stay in business since I stopped working.

1:45 p.m.: I needed a skein of DMC floss, so I stopped in at Michael's. For just that one thing. Honestly.

Sixty-five dollars later, I left the store with a full cart.

3:00 p.m.: I had some very sad-looking bananas to use up, so I made some banana bread. My go-to recipe lately is King Arthur Flour's Whole-Grain Banana Bread. You can find the recipe here. It's very good and very healthy as far as banana bread goes. No wonder they named it their 2018 Recipe of the Year!

4:00 p.m.: Time to start dinner. I had some leftover deli chicken in the fridge, so I made one of our favorite soups: Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup. Another thing about fall... I love, love, love soup, and fall's chilly nights are perfect soup nights. What is your favorite soup?
I found this recipe on Allrecipes.com originally, but I have modified it, so I will share my version of the recipe with you. It's so good.... so creamy and wonderful and soul-satisfying.

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Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
4 cups deli chicken, cut into bite-size pieces or shredded
1 package quick-cooking long grain and wild rice mix (we like Uncle Ben's or Rice-a-Roni)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter
2 cups milk
frozen mixed vegetables

In a large pot over medium heat, combine chicken broth, water and chicken. Bring just to boiling, then stir in rice, reserving the seasoning packet. Cover pot and remove from heat.

In a small bowl, combine salt, pepper and flour. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in contents of seasoning packet until mixture is bubbly. Reduce heat to medium-low, then stir in flour mixture by tablespoons to form a roux. Whisk in milk, a little at a time, until fully incorporated and smooth. Cook and stir until thickened, 5-10 minutes.

Stir white sauce into broth-rice-chicken mixture in pot. Add frozen vegetables. Cook over medium heat until heated through and rice is tender, about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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6:00 p.m.: My husband and I watched The Greatest Showman, which I had seen before and he had not. When I saw it the first time, my friend Jacquie took me. She had seen it six times already (!!!), but wanted to see it again. If you have not seen it, the music is wonderful.

8:00 p.m.: We baked some ready-to-bake, gooey Rhodes cinnamon rolls for dessert. We don't usually do dessert, but dang, they just sounded like a good idea. And they were....sooo good.

9:00 p.m.: I started taking pictures and composing this blog entry. Finally getting to share my day with you is the perfect end to a perfect day.

And now to the stitching!

I have been working on a lot of projects lately, but I have two I want to show you today. Both are little Halloween pillows.
The first is "Brew Haha!" by Plum Street Samplers. It's a freebie, and you can find it here. I stitched it over one on 25-count mushroom lugana, substituting overdyed threads for some of the called-for DMC threads (I used the called-for DMC 3021, ecru, 3863 and 3826, but substituted Gingersnap, Pumpkin Harvest, Endive, Gold Leaf and Brandied Pears for the rest).

I sewed it into a very simple little pillow, topping it with a natural bow and a little pumpkin charm. I love this little guy! He looks like I do when I have my caffeine for the day! As I was stitching the pumpkin body of the little fella, I stitched in a circular pattern so the variegations in the thread would go round and round, rather than in stripes across his body.
The second is "Owl-O-Ween" by Barbara Ana Designs. I bought this pattern online at Creative Poppy Patterns. I stitched it over one on 25-count vintage country mocha lugana. Isn't he cute? (He looks like he has had some caffeine, too!) I love the bright colors. I do not love the spiders (yuck!), but they are perfect for Halloween, and I have to admit, I like their beady red eyes. Creepy!
I finished Owl-O-Ween using Staci's beaded edge tutorial that Carol over at Stitching Dreams shared a while ago, and I added some sparkly black-velvet ribbon for a hanger. It was a lot of fun (although time-consuming), and I plan to use this edge-finishing technique a lot in the future. For one thing, it was all hand sewing, and I feel more in control of my finish this way. My sewing machine is a 1960s hand-me-down Singer Fashion Mate from my mother-in-law, and I am a little afraid of it, to be honest. My mom taught me some very basic stitches when I was young and wanted to make simple clothes for my Barbies, so for me, hand-stitching just feels more natural. I'm an odd duck, I know.

As always, friends, thank you for stopping by. I appreciate you so much!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Hello Summer!

Hi, stitching friends!

Oh, lord, don't even get me started on how long it has been since I wrote a post. I procrastinated for a few weeks, and then my former employer reached out to me to see if I would do some at-home typesetting for them during their busy season. I agreed, and a few weeks went by with nothing, then BAM. One day I suddenly had almost more work than I could handle. Being a workaholic at heart, I told them they could send me even more if they had it (glutton for punishment). And they did. So I am taking a break from stitching, framing and typing to finally sit down and write to you.

First, and definitely not late yet, is June Cottage, by Country Cottage Needleworks. Like the others in the series, I stitched this on 32-count lambswool linen with the called-for threads. (Except for the green... somehow I managed to forget to order that one, so I substituted DMC.) I have to say, I am anxious to finish stitching this series. It is getting a bit repetitive!
I changed the two little ladybugs on the vine and the tree. I added little antennae to them. It didn't make sense to me that the flying ladybugs would have them and the walking ones wouldn't.
I started the series last October so I have July, August and September to go. I'm almost done!

Can I be honest with you? Summer is not my favorite season. I don't like to be hot and sweaty. I love fall, with the cool days and cold nights when a pot of stew warms our bellies and makes us feel good. My husband and son have gotten to the point where spring actually makes them feel depressed! For them, it's because that's when the days of ignoring the outside are over, and it's time to water, weed and mow. My husband has the added joy (misery) of getting water systems running and cattle ready to turn out on his mom's ranch in central Idaho.

On a positive note, I do love cooking outside and camping, so I will focus on that and stop complaining.
Yesterday, I put the final touches on "Simply Summer" by The Drawn Thread. I cannot tell you how much I love, love, love this pattern. From the one-over-one ladybug to the satin-stitched bees and bee skep, this was a joy to stitch. (OK... honestly, the bees weren't all that much fun to stitch, but look how cute!!!) If you click on the picture, it should open up a larger version that better shows the details. I stitched them on 32-count Wren by Picture This Plus with the called-for threads. I just adore this fabric, from the mottling to the weight and feel of it. I'm going to try to find more of it. The bee skep is stitched with TGA's "Brandy," and I think it's one of my favorite overdyed colors.
Isn't the bee skep pretty?
Beautiful bees!
This morning, while Thomas was in his math class at summer school, I finally framed "Love" by Bent Creek. I stitched this last fall, but it has been sitting in my "to-be-finished" pile. (I know you have one of those, too!) I substituted cross stitches for the plethora of French knots in the big heart at the top (life is too short...) and used the called-for overdyed threads and buttons. I don't recall the name of the linen I used, but I'm fairly sure it's 32-count. I found this sweet frame at Michael's.

I realized recently that I should change the title of my blog from "Live to Stitch" to "Live to Sit." When I first started staying home, I was a flurry of energy, going from room to room, decluttering and cleaning. Then came the June and July from hell last year, when I got really sick, started really nasty chemo, and lost my way. It dawned on me recently that I have been sitting on the couch most of the day, which really is not a good thing. So my new goal is to start tackling my "to-be-finished" pile. When I frame, I spend a good deal of time standing, so that's a good start, I think. I'm not running marathons, but it's a lot better than sitting all day.
I stitched "To every thing there is a season" sometime last year or maybe even the year before, and it has been buried in my to-do pile ever since. The pattern came from a back issue of For the Love of Cross Stitch magazine, I think, but I don't recall the designer or the actual name of the pattern. If you know it, feel free to mention it in a comment.

My mom bought me a great selection of thrift-store frames. This frame was a pretty gold, but it was a cheap plastic and was coated in 20 years' worth of the previous owner's cigarette smoke and grease. After a good cleaning, I painted it with a couple of coats of white chalk paint. I mounted the cross stitch on foam core, attached some cording (not my best work, but *sigh*... don't get me started) and mounted that on fabric-covered Davey board. A natural-twine bow and a paper flower in the corner covered up a less-than-perfect frame corner. Do you like it? I'm thinking of giving it as a Christmas present.
My brother in Colorado has been going through some very difficult challenges lately. I worry about him a lot. For his birthday in April, I asked him if there was anything I could send him to make life a little easier. "Just something you made," he said. He is so sweet. My mom and I pitched in and sent him some gas cards so he wouldn't have to worry about that, and I have been working on a project for him ever since. Reaching back into my to-be-finished pile, I found this stitch by D. Morgan that I had done 20 years ago (holy moly!) in 1998. It came from a back issue of For the Love of Cross Stitch magazine, but I don't recall the date. It just seemed perfect for him.
I mounted it on foam core, added some handmade cording, and mounted it on a simple wood box I bought at Michael's. To finish the box, I sanded it (and sanded it and sanded it!), then painted it with gray chalk paint. Then I sanded it some more and painted one side at a time with Elmer's glue. When the glue was tacky, I painted white chalk paint over it. As the glue dried, it shrank, revealing the gray paint underneath and giving the box an aged look.
I love how this turned out! My brother has been building a tiny house, so I thought this little box would work better for him than something he'd have to find wall space for.
A couple of weekends ago, we went with our good friends Rob and Kristin to their family cabin in Crouch, Idaho. Rob loves to explore, so he piled us in his pickup and took us to Placerville, Idaho, a ghost town. I'd never been there before, so it was a great adventure! Placerville has a population of 53, but in its hay day in 1863, the population was 5,000! A fire in 1899 nearly destroyed the entire town. Several buildings were rebuilt, but 10 months later another fire burned many of those as well.

One of two volunteer-run museums in Placerville.

The coolest part of Placerville, in my opinion, was Pioneer Cemetery on a hill above town.
The cemetery is a hodgepodge of some of the most unique and beautiful headstones I've ever seen and newer headstones - as new as June 2018.
Many of the residents buried here came from Ireland and Scotland.
We saw far too many graves of children. Life in Placerville in the late Nineteenth Century must have been very hard on families.
Heartbreaking.
These crosses that were made to look like wood were stunning.

That's it for now, dear friends. I hope to post again soon and share with you some things that have gone neglected far too long!

I'm so lucky to have met you.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

May Flowers

Happy May, stitching friends!

I have several projects in the works right now, including some fall projects. What is it with me and the seasons? When it's winter I want to work on spring projects, when it's spring I want to work on fall projects.

The design bug has bitten me HARD. I have been working on a series of little seasonal houses, but they are still not quite where I want them to be. Just when I think I have them nailed, an "Aha!" moment comes to me when I'm driving or in the shower, and back to the drawing board I go.

Here's a sneak peek....
I sketch something out on graph paper, go to my floss collection to pick out potential colors, then stitch it up, changing my sketch as I go. Sometimes when I'm finished, I think, "Meh," I argue with my internal critic, and I start over. And sometimes I gush with joy, and I think, "YES!!" Then I chart it online on Stitch Fiddle, export a PDF, fine-tune that in Photoshop, then create a pattern with instructions and a key in InDesign. It's a lot more work than I ever imagined! But fun every step of the way. I'm looking into design software for my Mac, but I haven't committed to anything yet. Do you have a recommendation?

Oh, on the stupid cancer front, I have good news! My latest scans showed some improvement (improvement! yes!) and showed that some of the bone lesions in my longer bones have actually gotten smaller. I didn't think that was even possible, to be honest. And my tumor marker, a measure of a protein that cancer cells emit, was actually in the normal range! How about them apples?

Remember the Country Cottage Needleworks monthly cottage series I've been working on? I have been using the same glossy black frame for each month, swapping out the framed piece to save money. I decided I really don't like the black frame. I adore the frames the models are displayed in, the ones by the Family Tree Framing Co., but I haven't been able to locate one. So.... I thought, "Why not make my own?"
I started by sanding down the black frame to remove the finish and to give the paint a gritty surface to cling to. I think the black frame already looks better sanded, don't you? I purchased the little ornate wood onlay from Fullretrovegas on Etsy. (I measured my frame a couple of times to make sure the onlay would fit without being overwhelming.) Because the onlay shipped from China, it took a few weeks to arrive, but it was well worth the wait. So pretty! I bought a base grey chalk paint, white chalk paint and some clear wax from Michael's, and some Elmer's wood glue.
First I painted the frame and onlay in my base grey and let them dry several hours. Next, I followed this tutorial on YouTube that showed how to distress with glue. I painted the frame with a thin layer of Elmer's glue, let it dry a little bit until tacky but not wet, then painted the white chalk paint over it. As it dried further, the glue shrank, revealing my grey base coat through little fissures and cracks. Once the white chalk paint was dry, I glued the onlay to the top of the frame. Once that was dry and secure, I brushed a layer of clear wax over everything, let it dry, then buffed it. The result?
Ta da! How do you like it?

I finished framing Country Cottage Needleworks' May cottage today (better late than never!), and I am just so, so happy with my "new" frame. The antiquey cracks aren't very big, but that's how I wanted them. If you want deep, big, dramatic cracks, just paint on a thicker layer of glue. By the way, aren't the colors in this month's cottage sweet? I just love the pop of that green ("Frog Legs" by Classic Colorworks) and the bird, the bees and the birdhouse. They make my heart happy.

Before I got back into cross stitching, my passion was cardmaking. I haven't been doing much of that lately, but in the spirit of spring flowers, I got in the mood to do a little watercoloring. Bear in mind, I am NOT a painter. I like to play around with watercolors, though. I love their unpredictability. I never know what I'm going to get when I put brush to paper.

I stamped some flowers and leaves on watercolor paper with clear ink, then heat-embossed them with white embossing powder. Then I put on some paint and waited for the results...
They're messy and wonderful!
Next I cut them out (in the papercrafting world, they call this "fussy cutting"!). I try not to stress about the cutting part. They don't have to be perfect to be pretty.
I saw a YouTube video of someone painting leaves, and she used blue. It never would have occurred to me to use blue to paint leaves. But when the blue and green flow together, don't they create a delightful palette? So unexpected.

So now I have flowers and leaves to embellish cards or make magnets or do whatever else comes to mind. I made a card for my brother...
A little luminescent gem in the middle of the flower gives it just a little bling.

Wishing YOU a day filled with happiness and a very wonderful Mother's Day. I just returned last night from spending several days with my mom. She had surgery on her ear canal (I won't go into gory detail). She has lost almost all hearing in that ear, and this surgery will hopefully restore some of it. Fingers crossed!

Happy stitching!