Saturday, December 31, 2011

Theme-a-licious 2012 BEGINS!

Jardin January

The holidays were a little stressful...let's relax in a nice garden. Work on any piece with flowers or gardens.

Welcome to the first Theme-a-licious 2012 post!! I'm extremely excited, especially since we have this way shiny header graphic provided by Michael. I helped with the icons. =) If you visit the Theme-a-licious page, it will explain how to get this nifty banner on your posts. If you just grab it from here and upload it to Blogger, the animation will NOT work. There is also a non-Nathan version for those of you who are not fans. (WHAT?? =) That's OK, more Nathan for the rest of us. ;) I'd appreciate it if you link the banner either to the Theme-a-licious page or to this post (preferably this post, so it will be easy for people to use the Mr. Linky to visit others).

Anyway, next month this post will be filled with lots of pictures of all the stunning progress I'll make, as well as plans for Fangirl February. But I'm getting ahead of myself!

Here's what's on my list for Jardin January:
  • Shakespeare's Garden
  • Convents Herbal Garden
  • Sanctuary
  • Rose Red Hat
OK, so that last one doesn't technically have a flower on it, but it's named after one, so that's good enough for me. ;) Mine's going to be more of a silver rose, actually. I took the easy way out this month and just picked the projects on my WIPocalypse list that were gardens. =)

As for timing, I'll probably work on one of the stitchy gardens a week, then pick a favorite for the last week. I'll work on the hat throughout the month. I lost my favorite grey hat and it's getting cold! =( That is, as soon as I finish knitting a sweater for a certain tiny girl!

So join in the fun! Post about your plans...what are you working on? Do you have any goals you want to meet? Are you Themeing just on weekends, or the whole month? When you link your post below, please use the URL to your post rather than your blog, if you would. And please put a link back here in your post so people can easily find other Theme-a-licious participants! Thanks and let me know if you have any questions or problems. Did I mention I'm excited?? =)

Friday, December 30, 2011

And to All a Good Night

Click now for JiffNotes

Look what I got for Christmas!
This crappy picture was taken with our point-and-shoot camera, and I did practically nothing to arrange it or frame it. I'm going to have to up my game for this baby! It's a Sony NEX-3C and it's like a DSLR, but it does not have a mirror (the "R" is for "reflex"...aaaand, now I have Duran Duran in my head). It's such a new concept there's not really a nifty acronym for it. Sony calls it a "compact interchangeable lens digital camera". I call it a DSLM.

So usually on Christmas Eve, Michael and I, my parents and my oldest sister and her family go to a church service together, then we go back to my parents' house for a Christmas Eve buffet. The church they wanted to go to this year was much closer to me, so I offered to host the buffet. I didn't know whether it would make things easier for my mom or if she would feel like I was trying to take something away from her, but she was happy to give the job to me! So we cleaned up a little.
Here's the full stitched ornament garland. I don't know what I'm going to do next year; they don't even all fit on here now. I have a few sprinkled around elsewhere.

We went to the service at Church of the Apostles, and while it was a nice service, the first 30 minutes gave me musical whiplash! We went from a Michael W. Smith jig to frenetic jazz to full-out gospel to country to O Holy Night sung by a high tenor! We only got to sing one hymn as a congregation until the very end of the service. They made up for it then. The message was excellent, though.

Aside from a little traffic snafu that caused our guests to wait for us while we tried to get home, everything else went great. My nephew the former sous chef cut the oh-so-yummy-but-oh-so-hard-to-cut peppermint bars and plated all the Christmas cookies:
Clockwise from the center top along the outside edge, White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Brownies, Blueberry Almond Bars, Pumpkin Spice Buttons, Peppermint Cream Bars, Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread (on edge), and Buried Cherries. I also made one more cookie which you'll see later. =)

I didn't get a shot of the spread, which included French Onion dip, cheese and crackers, hummus, hammie sammies, green beans with toasted almonds, and my mom's strawberry salad (congealed). But I had to get a picture of my sister's amazing rosemary Parmesan pull-apart bread. YUM!
Oh, yeah, my sister brought pumpkin eclair cake, too! NOM!

Ah, here's that other cookie atop some white chai tea. =)
This is a Dutch Stroopwafel, which is two pizzelles sandwiching some caramel. Setting it on your hot tea (or coffee) melts the caramel just enough so it's soft. It's also great for dipping...mmmmmm....

The next morning we all gathered at my parents' house for opening presents, eating and playing games. From this point on pictures were taken with the new camera! =) Here I am playing with its color filters during a game of cards.

Messing around with soft focus. This is a temari I made for my mom years ago!

The next day Michael's parents came over. I still need to read the whole manual on my camera, but I couldn't resist running around taking more shots. This is one of the stitched ornaments that moved to the tree because it was "in theme" (white and gold). =)

Closeups of ornaments on the garland. These were some of my oldest sister's favorites. I'm so excited because next year we are going to exchange ornaments!
She says she already knows what she's stitching me! I can't wait to see what it is.

One more color filter shot. Michael's parents brought this lovely poinsettia when they came over.
They took us to see Odysseo, the new Cavalia show. It was fantastic!

Random cool Christmas things:
1) I was totally behind Santa in traffic on GA400. I pulled up behind a pickup truck, and the license plate was "HOHOHO". "NO WAY!" I shouted, and eased around to his left. Sure enough, Santa was driving!!
2) A nice lady at Target gave me two quarters to go down 400 with...I was totally out of cash and trying to get the checkout lady to charge me fifty cents extra and give me some quarters. Thank you Christmas angel!
3) Alongside 400 there are small pine trees, and each year someone decorates one of them. Well, at least the bottom few branches are covered in tinsel, shiny garland and baubles which always look like they were thrown on hastily. This has led us to believe that the GDOT does not do this, but it's some guerrilla Christmas spirit going on. This year we were headed home late, and we spotted a guy doing it! Sure enough, he was just throwing decorations in the general direction of the tree. We're now sure it's on the down-low, because his car headlights were off. Believe me, you don't want to be on the side of 400 in the dark with your headlights off unless you're in stealth mode. Now that we're sure it's "just some guy," we love the tradition even more.

Hmmm...those were all related to 400, weren't they? That almost makes up for the TWO TIMES I have had to get out of the car at the toll plaza...once to go back and put ANOTHER quarter in because the machine said one was "invalid," and once because I could hear one quarter just spinning somewhere in the machine. A nice whack on the side made the quarter drop from wherever it was. Good thing, too...that was one of the angel's quarters and I literally had 8 pennies on me.

Hope your Christmas was great!

Hopefully the picture quality around here will improve!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Reports of Dasher's Demise...

Click now for JiffNotes

...have been greatly exaggerated.
He just didn't get all his bling on before Christmas. I'm going to try really hard to finish him before the new year, but there are a lotttttttttt of beeeeeeeads.... I bet I only have 1/4 of them on in this shot. I'm probably up to 1/3 now!

Pre-Christmas was very busy, then we spent Christmas Day with my parents and Boxing Day with Michael's parents--not that they celebrate Boxing Day in any way, shape, or just sounds fancier than "the day after Christmas". It was fun; pictures and such are coming. I kinda threw an impromptu Christmas Eve buffet, too.

Then, Tuesday the 27th...I had to go back to work. I say "had to" was more like "chose to". I took off the whole week before so I'd have time to bake cookies, deliver them, wrap, take our niece to the Aquarium, and generally make the festivity happen. But I must admit that I thought I'd have at least a day or two to totally video games, stitch, knit, maybe even finish some ornaments! (I actually have a "pile" now. I always scoffed at people who had a "pile".) Anyway, I ended the year with 2.5 days of vacation and 3 days of work. It's always so quiet and I get so much done (with so little to do), and I thought I'd get to do a long lunch at the Mall shopping crazy sales. Not so much...I actually have a lot to do, and I didn't even see the Mall. I did have lunch with my parents, which was nice, since in all the hubbub at Christmas it's hard to find time to really talk.

But boy oh boy do I just want to stay in my pajamas all day!

Taking a whole week off before meant that I actually did get to make scarves for my sister and mom for Christmas. It was a super-crazy plan, trying to make them the week before, but once I saw how EASY and QUICK the crochet version of the Berroco Lacey scarf was...I thought, why not???
They are a bit "bright" in this picture. They're kinda like the "potato chip" scarves but WAY fluffier. =) Why are there three? Well, I had to make myself one, didn't I? You know, to make sure it was good? Like when you have to sample at least three cookies from a batch to make sure they're fit for public consumption. (Just me? OK.) Really, though, when my sister's pink came, it was a lot darker than I thought it would be and I wasn't sure she would like it. So I made mine as well (middle) and would have given her mine and taken hers (left). Lo and behold, she showed up on Christmas morning wearing a top that was THE EXACT COLOR of her scarf! A Christmas miracle! Mom was wearing her red one at lunch on Tuesday and said she'd already had lots of compliments on it. My mom and sister are very knitworthy. =)

Here's an in-progress picture of Mom's scarf so you can see how the yarn comes. And I don't really crochet, but the knitting directions are like, "lift the next four stitches, one by one, over the first stitch on the right needle," whereas the crochet are "pull the loop through the next four loops". Yeah, I'll do that!
The first one took me a while because I was trying to figure out what was going on and how to pull through those loops. But the 2nd and 3rd took less than two TV shows (1.5 hours?), and that was while paying attention to Nikita. =)

I hope to do a pre-Theme-a-licious post with graphics for you all, but if I don't get around to it, or the hubby is late with the shiny graphics ("shiny," get it? I'm still hoping for Nathan!) the first post will be on the 31st. Many of you have already blogged about what's on your list (some for the whole year!), so you can just link in that post. Otherwise, share what you're working on for Jardin January! Here's a small graphic that I made that you can put on your sidebar or use in forum signatures. Sorry it's not a "blinkie" but those make my eyes cross. ;) It's also on the Theme-a-licious page.

I want to be in school again so I get the long Christmas vacation!!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Advent has arrived; the final square is turned!
Hope your day is truly blessed.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Not a TUSAL was stirring...

(What's a TUSAL?)

Well, the Nativity scene is on the top of the china cabinet where I normally take the TUSAL picture! Hope you have a blessed Christmas Eve!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Almost Done

Click now for JiffNotes

The cookies are baked!

Somehow, I achieved a world record of having all the gifts wrapped on the 22nd!! That's, like, TWO WHOLE DAYS EARLY.

Unfortunately, Dasher didn't make it again this year. Oh, well, I have other deer to keep me company.

And lots of ornaments...some I've done, but a bunch that I've received in exchanges.

Everyone who visits us comments on them and gets to hear where they all came from. =)

I finished scarves for my Mom and sister, but I won't post a picture...yet...on the TEENSY OFFHAND CHANCE one of them will read my blog in the next 48 hours.

Now there's just a little baking and cleaning left!

I would be totally done...if it weren't for Swampy. Or taking my niece to the Aquarium today to see the dolphins. =)

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Geekend That Was, 12/18

Click now for JiffNotes

So this post was going to be filled with awesome live-action images of the cool stuff I did this weekend, but I forgot my camera every time we left the house! So instead, here's a picture of part of my sister's decorations last Christmas for tea (since you will remember IMichael forgot to take any this year!)

Friday night we went to see Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (most awkwardly punctuated title, ever) in real IMAX (as opposed to the retro-fitted regular movie theater screens now calling themselves IMAX). WOW. It was fantastic...or should I say, "incredible," since it was directed by Brad Bird (who directed The Incredibles, as well as Ratatouille and The Iron Giant). You could absolutely tell what was going on in the action scenes (no close-cropped, hyperactive editing) and Tom Cruise failed to annoy me. =) I feel like the trailer was incredibly cheesy; the movie is not. Also, I completely missed the switches from IMAX to regular format during the film (only part of it was filmed in the large-format IMAX). Go see it in IMAX!

Saturday it was all about the cookies. I did not get as much done as I intended; my original plan (before Mission: Impossible intervened) was to have the cookie list and shopping list done on Friday. I did try to work on the list in the car as we drove to the IMAX theater (it's about 45 minutes away), but lack of protein tanked my efforts. So Saturday I made the list and sent Michael off to grocery shop while I attempted to clean up and wrap his presents. I got exactly two teeny stocking stuffers done before the dulcet tones of the garage door opening caused me to throw everything back into bags. Too much cleaning!! I managed to mix one dough and make one batch of Peppermint Cream Bars...
...the surprise break-out cookie from last year, to take to one of my favorite annual parties, Cookies & Carols, hosted by The Roses. It's just what it sounds like...tons of Christmas cookies and singing every Christmas carol from "Angels We Have Heard on High" to "I'm Getting Nuttin' for Christmas". (Geek alert: One of the attendees brought his ukulele to play the fastest ever versions I've heard of "Santa Baby" and "Frosty the Snowman". The ukulele was signed by Jonathan Coulton!!! Who played a bit of "Still Alive" on it!!!!!1!!one!!! I got to touch it. =)

Sunday after church and errands to buy remaining cookie ingredients, all I had time to do was put up my Advent calendar post before it was time to get ready to go to one of my favorite Christmas concerts/performances: Carol Sing! One of my coworkers invited me...two years ago? Three?? After the first year, I said, "Just try and stop me from showing up every year!" His church has not one but TWO hand bell choirs, and they do a concert...but the audience is the choir. Sit and listen to gorgeous bells and organ and sing Christmas carols as loud as I want for an hour?? YES, PLEASE!!! That's about as perfect as I can imagine. He plays the bass bells, and it's so fun to watch him and his co-bass-player manage their table of giant bells! Also, afterwards they have a vast table of Christmas cookies in the fellowship hall, and if you're quick, you can get a Buckeye (they go fast)!

So, yeah...cookies for dinner two nights in a row. I expect Eating Well to show up any day to interview me for tips on how they can emulate my healthy lifestyle.

It's all about the cookies. And the carols.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Click now for JiffNotes

Today I am participating in Jo's advent calendar. I'm actually assigned to the 19th, but I'm posting a little early so perhaps those in Australia can read it when it's still the 19th for them!

"Advent" means "arrival," so I am sharing Snowflake Nativity by Chatelaine (with modifications by me). I started stitching it when it was just "Christmas Mystery"! I have since done other mysteries, but this is the only one I kept up with until...the naked baby happened (yeah, I'll wait while you go look). I tried really hard to like it (well, maybe not that hard), but I just couldn't do it. So I waited to see what the rest of the piece was going to look like, let it hibernate for a few months, then finally decided to use some of the remaining motifs and a couple from a Just Nan pattern and make my own top for the piece. I am always tempted to sign up for mysteries, but this one kind of cured me and convinced me I needed to wait until I saw an entire pattern.

Jo asked us to share a Christmas tradition as well as a stitchy picture. One of my favorite Christmas traditions is going to a Christmas Eve service with my family, especially when I get to sit next to my oldest sister. She and I both have sung all our lives, and she has a beautiful, very high soprano, while I am a slightly lower soprano. She does the most beautiful harmonies (or descants) above the melody, and we blend very well since we're sisters. We like a service with a nice, loud organ so that we can sing as loud as we want! =) Afterwards, we go back to my parents' for a nice snacky buffet supper of hammy sammies (ham and some kind of magic sauce on rolls that my mom makes), chips and dip (gotta have French onion dip!), and Christmas cookies. I suppose there are some vegetables in there somewhere, but I couldn't tell you what. Let the healthy holiday eating begin!!!

My three sisters are all a lot older than me (12 - 17 years), so I was a little like an only child sometimes. But my mom always made every holiday so special for me. She was a great Santa, and was only disappointed when I "figured out" it was her doing the gifting. My next question after she told me that, yes, she was Santa, was, "Are you the Easter bunny?" "Yes," she said, "I'm the Easter bunny, too." Then I asked, "Are you also the Tooth Fairy?" My mom told me later that I had ruined all her fun at once. =)

I'll leave you with the Advent calendar my mom made me when I was see, we have a fine tradition of handcrafts in my family! =) I can't remember how old I was, but I do know that the last few days, she was working just ahead of me on the squares, and the last few were not sewn to their backings, although the fronts were done!

Shhhh...don't tell my husband I turned the 19th over early to get this picture! I've been making him guess what each square is every day! ;)

Merry and Blessed Christmas to all! Come back in a couple days to see more stitchy Christmas decorations!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Geekend That Was, 12/11 (A Day Late, but Not a Dollar Short)

Click now for JiffNotes

This week has already gotten away from me. Our big accomplishment for the weekend was getting the tree (we always have a fresh tree), putting it up, lighting it, garlanding it, and putting on approximately 9,236 ornaments, of which Michael did 3.
But he did hang the stockings.

And two wreaths.

And some garland.

And put up the Nativity scene.

And the Christmas card holder.

And a nutcracker.

(This was the list he was yelling in the background while I was talking to his mom on the phone. Like, "OMIGOSH I did all that AND I PUT OUT A NUTCRACKER." Note: The nutcracker is only 18" tall, not the 5-6 feet you might assume from the importance imparted to it.)

I'll have more Christmassy pictures later. By the way, have you been visiting Jo's for the online advent calendar? You really should, even if you're not into stitchy stuff, because everyone is sharing their favorite traditions. Some of the bloggers "across the pond" are sharing some really cool stuff. I'm due to contribute on the 19th!

We took a "break" Sunday morning to go see my niece's church Christmas play, entitled, "DUDE, You Hear What I Hear?" It was a heartwarming tale of a young girl trapped in a department store overnight who uses the opportunity to share the true story of Christmas with the mannequins that have come to life (obviously). I can't make this stuff up, folks!

There may have also been some Lego Star Wars III (The Clone Wars).

And last night we went to a party where our White Elephant was a case of cellulite treatment cream. Festive.

Seriously, though, the bag the cream was in was really cute, and it came with chocolate. It was either that or the Captain America mask.

JiffNotes FAIL: Most unhelpful JiffNotes, EVER.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Attic Stash and Other Eye Candy

Click now for JiffNotes

My camnesia from the Chocolat weekend extended even to forgetting to take a good picture of the model, although I did get a couple of extreme closeups to help my poor brain try and figure out what people who can actually sew would make of the excellent directions. Like this one:
Sew a fine seam, indeed. I sure won't be taking that kind of photo of *my* Chocolat.

To make up for the lack of Chocolat pictures, I thought I'd share a few pictures of some of Jackie's other class pieces that she had on display. This is Ebony and Ivory, which is gorgeous but looks terrifying to sew together.
This next shot has more of the Ebony and Ivory accessories pictured, but you may not be able to tear your eyes away from THE PANSIES IN FRONT.

Do you see the needle keep peeking out on the left side corner?



So, I want to take that class, a little, maybe.

Anyway! I did purchase a good bit. The first day, it seemed like I was going to be so restrained.
Not so much. You can click on this picture to revel in my excess in higher def. Actually, a lot of this was either for things I already had or fits in the "general stitching tools" category, like the Bohin needles (have you TRIED these needles? So smooth), the mat boards, and the scissors (because of course I have NO scissors already). Well, OK, not the squirrel and Waterlilies I picked out for him. How could I resist? But the Crescent Colors are for Mirabilia's letter "H", and the fabric is for a Milady's Needle pattern I have and that Rovaris pattern there (SQUIRREL!) that Teresa gave me. I actually already had the Belle Soie for the Rovaris pattern, but I bought another skein at The Attic because the color was at least 186% more awesome than the skein I had.

Then I went totally crazy and picked out Dinky Dyes and Gloriana silk for Cirque des Cercles.
I love every one I've seen stitched on black, but in lieu of that amount of crazy, I decided I also liked the multicolored ones. So I picked these floss colors, helped by Annette, and then we started in on the fabric. I kept saying, "Darker. Darker!" And finally someone pulled out this beautiful fabric (I can't remember if it was Annette or Teresa!) So what do you think? How crazy am I?? I'm thinking there are enough floral motifs in here to qualify for Jardin January... =)

Already looking for the next class...because, you know, I have no stash to work on...

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Real Treet

Click now for JiffNotes

Earlier this Fall when gracie asked if anyone wanted to do an ornament exchange with her, I jumped at the chance! Her ornament to me arrived on Saturday. Just take a look at the cool tin that encased the ornament:
Love the card!

But the real goodies were inside.
Chocolate, lovely flosses, some cute holiday tissues, and the pièce de résistance, the lovely Christmas Tree ornament! It's finished so cute with the rick-rack, and I adore the angel tree topper.

What amused me was that this was what I sent to gracie...
Yup, a Christmas tree. Great minds...and great stitchers...clearly think alike. =)

Hand-stitched ornaments are the best ornaments!!

The Geekend That Was, 12/4

Click now for JiffNotes

Last Friday was...

No, I don't play the tuba. I stumbled upon this event one year (it's apparently always the first Friday in December) at CNN Center, and have tried to get back to it each year (with not very much success). This year, Michael picked me up for a quick lunch and Tuba Christmas at Underground.
The weather was absolutely beautiful, and nothing beats listening to Christmas carols played with booming bassy precision by about 100 tuba, sousaphone and euphonium players aging from 7 to 73. I highly recommend going to a concert (it's free, even!) if there's one in your area.

Saturday I helped my sister serve tea. Michael and I usually go as "paying customers," but my sister needed some help since my mom, who usually helps, was going to see my niece's dance recital. It was actually really fun, although a little hectic, since her previous tea booking (a single party of 26) left about 45 later than she had planned! We had less than an hour to reset; that included breaking down three large tables and setting up six smaller ones in their place...not to mention water glasses, tea cups, plates, flatware, tea pots with warmers, cream, sugar, clotted cream, lemon curd, spirited peach butter, menus, welcome signs...!!

Although I handed Michael the camera, he did not manage to take One. Single. Picture. Well, he was entertaining his parents, so I guess he has an excuse. Of course, I did not discover this until the last "course" was served, so *I* took this picture...
Caramel Chocolate Nut Tartlets (want to move in to one of these and take up residence), Cranberry Noels (cookies), Victorian Bakewell Tart, Cinnamon Pumpkin Bread with Cranberry Cheese (OMIGOSH YUM), and Mocha Cream Puffs.

I did get to taste everything afterwards. =) Serving went pretty well; I can't imagine taking care of more than three tables, though!! And two of mine were people I knew, so they were very forgiving. That's right...two! In addition to Michael and his parents, Rocky and Maria were at another table, much to my surprise and delight! I'd been wanting them to experience tea at my sister's for a while.

Sunday we made a start at unearthing Christmas decorations and went to see Hugo in 3D, which was EXCELLENT. If you have any interest whatsoever in early film, go see it. It's worth it even just for the opening tracking shot, which was so amazing and I still am not sure how ILM* did it.

*Industrial Lights and Magic, of course!

Old Geek-outs