Friday, December 31, 2010

Crazy Challenge

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So there's this thing going around a lot of the stitching blogs, this Challenge for 2011. It has no official name that I know of, but it's earned the title "Crazy Challenge". Why? Well, because you're supposed to start one project a day for the first 15 days of January. Sure, that's fun, so far...a little wacky, but not "crazy". But then--then, my friends--comes the Crazy-with-a-Capital-C-part: You have to finish them all...IN THE SAME YEAR. Now, this is not how I operate. My spouse has a gorgeous stocking that I stitched:
It took me 10 years. TEN. YEARS. I'm not sure I've ever finished something the same year it was started that wasn't an ornament.

Anyway. So, obviously, any "challenge" makes me want to take part. However, I managed to talk myself down on this one, because it's too crazy...EVEN FOR ME. And that's saying something, as I once took eleven (11) needlework classes in a four-day period. I did hear a modified version that seemed a little less insane...start one project every weekend in January and finish them that's only five (5). If I don't pick too many large projects (i.e., LOTS OF ORNAMENTS), I could probably do it. But since that seems a little TOO sane, I'm going to round out the number to eleven (you know, for 2011) by picking six projects already in progress to finish as well. Ah, there we go...a "normal" level of crazy.

Here are the five projects I'll be starting:
  • Sapphire Star by Laura J. Perin
  • Random Thoughts by Drawn Thread
  • The Darling of the World by Lauren Sauer (ornament)
  • Eight-Pointed Star by Emie Bishop (ornament)
  • Lapland Santa by Mill Hill (ornament)
And those I want to finish:
  • Dasher by Mirabilia
  • Shakespeare's Garden by La Broderie
  • Squirrel Fob by Heart's Content
  • Keep a Secret by Just Nan
  • Mystery II (now Convent's Herbal Garden) by Chatelaine
  • Bumblebee Stumpwork by Liz Turner Diehl

Of course, somewhere in there I'm going to do some knitting, and beading, and....


Happy New Year, everybody!

Whole lotta crafting goin' on.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Book Review: Secret Adversary

The Secret AdversaryThe Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A delightful romp through post-war London, this book features two young people (Tommy and Tuppence) forced to live "below their means" who decide to form an adventurers' club--for hire, of course. A series of coincidences leads them into employ as secret agents (of the "if you or any of your team are caught, we will disavow any knowledge of you" variety). Can good British stoicism and practicality carry the day? Or will a man without a face prove more than a match for their wits?

There are portions of the plot that may make you say, "No way!" However, the characterizations are so much fun, you should just ignore that voice and go along for the ride. I giggled out loud several times during the exchanges, and nothing amuses me more than an "energetic" American as described by a British author.

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Book Review: For the Win

For The WinFor The Win by Cory Doctorow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really, really enjoyed this book. It starts out as a "slice of life" of three different people living their everyday lives...of course, those people are either gold farmers in MMOs or somehow involved with gold farmers. At the beginning of each chapter is a mini-review of a bookstore that the author has visited (or spent substantial time in), from tiny niche comic book stores all the way up to It's clear from these chapter intros that the author not only loves to write, but loves to read, and can't live without books. His enthusiasm is infectious; I want to visit every one of these stores. It's also clear that he loves to teach; he inserts explanations of economic concepts that are very clearly explained...he almost sneaks them in so that you don't know you're learning until it's "too late". Let me say here--if you'd ever told me that I'd be writing a positive review about a book that included lessons on economics, I'd have laughed in your face.

His characterizations are wonderful, and the book is very easy to read. Its tone gradually increases in seriousness until the end. There are only two reasons this book gets four stars rather than five: One, it was shockingly poorly edited. Granted, it was a free copy he posted to his website, but the errors were gross--a character's name wrong for part of a conversation, pronouns switching from "he" to "she", words left out of sentences, "and" instead of "an", etc. The second criticism is more serious. The book reads like a dramatized non-fiction account of the state of the world, but unfortunately this leaves the author unable to bring about the life-changing conclusion you come to hope for as you read. He's painted himself into a corner; the world doesn't work the way it would if there's really a "win", and so the ending is a bit neutered. A few loose ends left dangling, one character disposed of unnecessarily and easily avoidably--but the book is so wonderful to read, don't miss it because of those small flaws.

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

State of the Geek

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I had a crazy thought last week. It was, "Hey, since I've been neglecting my blog lately, what better way to jump-start it than to participate in NaBloPoMo!" I even figured out how to post to my blog via email! Well, it's the third, and clearly I've already failed (twice).

The first failure was set up on the 1st, when I realized, at 11:36PM, "Hey, it's the first of November! I was supposed to post today," while I was in the process of baking and freezing for my upcoming Harry Potter Extravaganza ("party" no longer quite covers the spectacle, which last movie release involved chopping, stewing and coloring about four dozen "potion ingredients" and figuring out the logistics of stuffing 20 people into a 400 sq. ft. living room to eat a sit-down dinner). "I could totally do it. It'd only take like 5 minutes. 10 tops."

"Screw that," I thought, "I'm playing Halo."

Last night, the thought didn't even enter my mind as I lay insensible on the sofa, my brain feeling like mush, and watched two episodes of Castle (which made me feel much, much better).

Why am I so tired?? It's the common scenario of personal stress plus work stress. And in my case, plus lack of sleep due to train noise. In July we went on our big yearly trip, to Europe, for 18 days. It was glorious! And someday I'll actually put up pictures! In August, I got a sinus infection...that wiped out two solid weeks. In September, we went to Orlando for Michael's birthday to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios (ditto pictures!)...and I got another sinus infection. Two more weeks, gone. When I'm sick, literally nothing happens. There's no grocery shopping, no laundry, no nothing. There's cleaning, because I finally broke down and got a maid service (also glorious), but nothing else. The doc-in-a-box I started going to--because they actually believe me when I say I'm sick and give me antibiotics instead of just sneering at me like my "real" doc--told me I couldn't come back if I got another sinus infection in the next 5 months, because that would make 4 in a year.

October passed in a haze of work stress, with party-planning stress quickly ramping up (the EXPECTATIONS for this party, I tell you...). Work is stressful because I'm doing something I've never done before, and I won't get trained until after it has to be done, and there are so many moving pieces, and.... It's been a long time since I've had to do something where I'm so totally out of my element, and I don't have nice, specific requirements. (HA. I never have nice, specific requirements.) Anyway, most days, my mental state can be summed up in one word: PANIC.

On the geeky front, I've been playing Halo: Reach, tweeting, and loving the heck out of my Kindle (I may have to ask for a commission from Amazon, based on all the people who've bought one due to my vocal lovefests.)

On the fiber front, I've been knitting at stitching somewhat at random, although I do have a small happy dance I need to share at some point. Most recently I knit on a Cookie A sock and stitched on a Mirabilia reindeer (for which I changed ALL the colors, because, well...otherwise it would have been TOO EASY.)

I will continue to freak out (PANIC) and hopefully share some thoughts here more frequently!

I've been busy, stressed and sick...just like everyone else I know!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

TUSAL and a Half

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I found all kinds of dates for when the New Moon is this month, ranging from Sunday to today, so of course I picked the latest one on which to post. =)

Included are bits from Shakespeare's Garden, Lady Scarlett's Secret Garden, and the Astrid shawl...a bunch from the Astrid shawl, since I recently found errata and had to dump five small knitted circles. It was one of those moments of clarity, where I was knitting along and thought, "This is so hard! Should it be this hard??!? Also, why are the directions having me cast on 24 stitches, then start on round 9, when round 10 purportedly decreases the stitch 24??" Yeah, guess what: errata told me to start on round 11 (when we're already at 24). I've re-knit them now, but dumped circles plus tails from replaced circles equals a lot of orts in the shot glass.

This is actually two months' worth of orts, since I was in Europe on the last TUSAL day. Well, really, a month and a half, since not much stitching was done on the 18-day vacation, except...OH WAIT A MINUTE. I forgot to put the ill-fated socks in the ort glass. Here ya go:
These socks (Kristi from Sock Innovations by Cookie A) were the only thing I took with me on the trip (besides the Kindle). I had the ribbing and set-ups rows done, so I only took the leg chart with me. Unfortunately, halfway to Germany, I realized that although I bought both these skeins at the same time, and they claimed to be from the same dye lot, they were really different colors (I know it's hard to tell from the picture, but TRUST ME). I think I knew this when I started the socks, but I kept making all kinds of excuses for the yarn:
  • Oh, no, it's just the light right now. They'll look the same in sunlight
  • Well, it's kettle-dyed yarn, so the outside of this skein looks lighter, but it'll even up later
  • Sure, this sock looks lighter, but on two different feet, you won't be able to tell
  • Really, any minute the lighter skein's going to bust out with its darker bits
and so on, until I realized that I'd always have to stand with my feet about a yard apart if I wanted to wear the socks and not look like a freak I was wearing socks from two different pairs. I was so mad that when Michael was trying to pack, I said, "I'll give you some extra room RIGHT NOW!" and grabbed the hotel key and sawed the socks loose from their skeins and TOSSED THE SKEINS. I kept the sock bits because I had this idea that IF I could find a yarn store in this weensy German town and IF they had sock yarn, even though this was a really complex pattern with two set-up rows past the cuffs, and all I had was the chart for the leg, I'd be able to figure it out by looking really hard at the sock bits and possibly unknitting them (hence the left one partially disintegrated into the weensy ball of yarn).

Thanks to my Kindle, I was able to find a blogger who'd been in this tiny German town and transcribed the addresses of the two (!) yarn stores therein. Only one of them was open, but that was enough for me to get a couple gorgeous grey-blue skeins of Regia Silk. I actually did pretty well figuring out the set-up rows...until I got home and frogged both socks because I decided that the new color would look better as Bex (same book) instead. That's another picture for another post.

OH! And let me say right here: Socks two at a time? I'm a HUGE fan. Imagine if I'd knit an entire incredibly complex Kristi before discovering I'd never have a matching one??? I guess my niece would have had a VERY fancy sock puppet.

What...? Europe? We've actually started to go through the 2,000 pictures we took in Europe, so there's hope you'll see them this year!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

TUSAL the first

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Yeah, so that whole queuing up posts thing didn't really work, did it? Well, at least you got one!

I've done a few SALs in my stitching career...that's Stitch A-Long if you don't know...some of them I kept up with, some I didn't...some I was the only one that finished! I've avoided them recently so that I wouldn't hold anyone else up...and because I've had a bad case of Can't Be Bothered lately. But I finally found one I think I can handle. It's the TUSAL started by Dragon My Needle. TUSAL stands for "Totally Useless Stitch A-Long". You collect your orts (thread scraps) in the same clear container, post a picture each month on the day of the new moon, and empty it into a larger container that holds the year's worth.'s my first TUSAL picture:
I picked this shot glass (purportedly purloined from Air Force One by my hubby's grandfather when he was the navigator back in the day) because I knew my monthly output would be very small. In fact, there's only so much this month because I had a disastrous yarn adventure (that's be the light blue) that I'll have to post about soon. The brown is from an amigurumi squirrel I'm making (lots of pieces; lots of yarn ends). The only other thing in there...the burgundy from a bird that I finally finished.
And the only reason you can even see the orts is because it was a kit, and I dumped the leftovers when I finished. I was so scared I'd run out of thread, all the actual orts are less than 2 inches long!

Next month I'll show the bigger container where I'm dumping each month's shot glassful.

The detritus of crafting looks better under the Presidential seal....

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tea, Glorious Tea!

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Just before Mother's Day, my sister hosted a wonderful cream tea. I've been to tea at her place three times before...once, I forgot to take pictures, and the other two times, well...I just never got around to posting. I promise you that you have never been to a tea like the one my sister puts on.

First of all, the interior of her home is practically a Victorian wonderland.
In another post I'll have to show you pictures of her ceiling, which is papered with William Morris prints in her own custom layout. These lanterns greet you when you enter her front door.
Here's a closeup of the mantel you can see through the doorway.Back in the front hall, a forsythia branch on the way into the parlor......and more forsythia on the stairway to your left.And we haven't even gotten to the placesettings yet!!My sister tailors each table to its occupants; she at least finds out what your favorite color is, or what your favorite flower is, or your favorite memory, so that you feel special...
The china, teacups, tablecloths and glasses are different, creating little separate oases for each set of guests.
This was our table for two. I love the ruby colors!You can see our personalized "Welcome" card on the table. Check out my gorgeous teacup, and the menu, if you can make it out...
The first course is traditionally scones. Today, we had two kinds: Cinnamon Chip and Strawberry Lavender.
I douse mine with a generous helping of clotted cream (my sister is always experimenting, and this tea's recipe was OUTSTANDING!). The pretty yellow dollop is lemon curd, and the pink? Yeah, it's homemade violet jelly. That my sister made. With violets from her garden!! Can you believe it?? It was so yummy...sweet and very subtly flowery; not "perfumey" at all. And there's no artificial color in it. Apparently, it's more lavender until you add the lemon juice, then it turns that lovely shade of pink.

The next course was soup. I had the Potato Celery Root...
...Michael had the Old-Fashioned Chilled Strawberry. We had to run out early, so we didn't get to hang out afterward to try the Chilled Springtime Sweet Pea.
Here I am, about to happily devour my soup. Look at all the cute little ruby-colored dishes! Our ruby goblets hold sparkling black cherry water. Yum!
Next is the savory course.
Here we have (clockwise) a Cheese Calla Lily, Cornbread Cup with Sherried Chicken Salad, Roasted Lamb on Toast with English Mint Relish, and Chervil-dill Egg Salad. Hope you saved room for dessert...
Aren't these the cutest? These Chocolate Cakelets would melt in your mouth. If you've ever had Eclair Cake, you get the idea...but Eclair Cake never looked so elegant. But you still haven't seen anything yet.
Behold, the Hummingbird Cupcake, Madeleine, Frozen Black Cherry Cream, and Bakewell Tart! And yes, my sister made the crystallized pineapple topper for the Hummingbird Cupcake herself.

Every meal should finish with an after-dinner mint. Here's my sister's version:
A wee scoop of peppermint ice cream coated in pink mint chocolate. The purse cookies were our favors to take home.

One of the guests asked me if she could be an adopted sister. Can you blame her??

Nobody does afternoon tea like my sister. Nobody.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Quick Update

I have all these sets of pictures queued to share with you...a fabulous tea, more garden pictures, and some actual crafting (with geeky analysis). But work's been a complete bear the past two weeks. Today, I actually feel like I've had some sleep! I'm going to try and knock out some posts today and spread out the posting dates over the next week or so!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Beautiful Sunshiny Awards!

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I received two wonderful awards from Holly! =)

The rules for the Beautiful Blogger award are
* Accept the award Thank you! Thankyouverymuch!
* Thank the person who gave you the award Done! But thanks again, Holly!!
* Add a link to the person who gave you the award see above...ok, ok, click here: Holly's Stitching & Stuff
* Put the award on your blog Check!
* Write 10 things about yourself others might not know

1) When I was in the fifth grade, I was on the TV game show "Family Feud", hosted by Richard Dawson. My family wasn't playing; I was a "cute kid from the audience". That's another story for another post. =)
2) I do not know how to ride a bike. We lived down a huge hill, back a gravel road from a highway when I was old enough to learn. I'm trying to learn now!
3) My husband and I met when we were cast together in a musical at Georgia Tech.
4) I was accepted to MIT for Electrical Engineering, but I thought I'd freeze to death if I went. My dad has still not forgiven me for not going.
5) I won a piano composition contest in high school.
6) For a while right after I got married, I contracted in Orlando although we were living here in Atlanta. I'd fly out every Tuesday morning and back in Friday night. One week I thought: "The moderate resorts at Disney World are totally within my hotel allowance! I'm staying at Disney!!" It sounded like a good idea at the time, but leaving in the morning knowing I was going to work while every other person around me was going to have fun all day was too much for me.
7) I detest any deli meat that is labeled "oven roasted".
8) Someday I hope to live in a house with a pool. It's been my dream since I can remember.
9) I'd love to have a pet cat, bunny and squirrel, but I'm afraid the hubby would be violently allergic to all of them. I'm also afraid at least two of them would chew our wood furniture to shreds.
10) I was a cheerleader in high school. I was also the only cheerleader the Band would tolerate. They'd even let me march out of the stadium with them.

* Pass the award on to 10 other bloggers
Oh, my, this will be hard. I am afraid that I am so behind on reading blogs, my awards would be totally random. I reserve the right to hand out this award throughout the year as I catch up and see fit! =)

The Sunshine Award is awarded to bloggers whose positivity and creativity inspire others in the blogging world. The rules for the Sunshine award are:
* Put the logo on your blog or within your post
* Pass the award to 12 bloggers
* Link the nominees within your post
* Let them know they received this award by commenting on their blog
* Share the love and link to the person from whom you received the award
Hey, same goes here...I may pass out this award later!

How do you like the new header graphic Michael made for me?? =D

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Tiptoe through the Treetops

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Last Thursday night, we were able to attend the Member Preview of the new Canopy Walk at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. The unique structure allows you to walk through the treetops.
The walkway is wide, with benches every so often so you can sit and drink in the quiet, calm atmosphere.
Most of the walkway is "hanging", so as not to disturb the trees. We got to talk to one of the consultants that helped protect the tree roots (as well as the trees themselves). They were constantly making the contractors move drainage and electrical lines, dig more shallow holes for new plantings, and go under tree roots rather than over (or through!) so that the old trees--most are around 80 years old--would survive construction. The support system for the walk is amazing.
They chose really great colors for the walk, so that it begins to disappear into the forest itself, and you think about it less and less.
But the Canopy Walk was not the only new feature of the Gardens that we got to explore that night. There is also a new Edible Garden, complete with a swanky outdoor kitchen.
They were serving a spicy, chunky gazpacho that was out of this world! I'm not usually a fan of gazpacho, but this stuff was great. One of the herb gardens there is grown vertically and watered with a drip system.
We have been getting art installations in the gardens for the past couple years. Currently, we have blown glass fruit adorning the beds of "real" food.

And until the real water lilies are fully in bloom...
...we have glass ones instead.

All kinds of things were in bloom around the rest of the Garden...

The delphinium were my favorites.
This is only one of the varieties they had...but it was the one that photographed with the truest colors. The kids had plenty to do with jumpropes and hula hoops in the field in front of the greenhouses.

We ended our evening at the Cascade Gardens, just off the Canopy Walk. This is sure to be a popular spot for receptions.

If you're ever in Atlanta, don't miss the Botanical Gardens. And be sure to visit the Day Orchid Center. I'll have to post some pictures from Orchid Daze soon!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

March Madness: Final Week

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The final week of March saw me working on what is probably the hubby's favorite WIP, Teresa Wentzler's Peacock Tapestry:If you can find those few leaves I've got done, you'll see how very far I have to go. Honestly, I may have spent more time trying to track down the purple pencil lead I was using to highlight the pattern than stitching! I love this piece; one of my favorite parts is the sassy partridge at the bottom left corner who has been one-upped by the peacock in his own tree.

The next day was stitch group, and I picked a pretty stress-free project. I had started on Berroco's Firenze scarf, but I really hated the way the base of the scarf was looking. Even though most of it would be covered with flowers, it looked icky to me. So, I decided to try a knitted lace net pattern rather than a crocheted one.It still needs a lot of work; the yarn requirements for the flowers was WAY off, I think, so I'm going to end up having to do some serious modifications, or throw in some more colorways. There's a lot of work to be done, but at least I feel good knowing I have a plan of action that I'll be happy with.

From extreme color to whitework, the next day brought a Linda Driskell class piece, Old Hedebo Heart Sampler.This was another class with prework; that bottom heart you see was finished in class. The top heart was cut in class, but just barely started. This night, I finished the first trip and got about half of the bottom one done.It was extremely relaxing! Once again I wonder just how long it would take to finish the piece....

Two peacocks in one week! I was really happy to see Just Nan's Keep a Little Secret come out of the pile, because I had actually drawn it earlier in the month, but not been able to start it. It was a birthday order that had not arrived the first time I drew it.It doesn't look like I got much done, but it feels like I did! =)

It was drawing near to the end of the month, but I was getting t-i-r-e-d! Not tired of the projects...I was feeling a big sense of regret that so many in the bowl had not been picked (I started with twice as many as I'd need, so I knew that was going to happen, but still...) I was tired because I had stitched more in one month than I normally do. If I get home from work tired, I may not do anything. But this month I'd pushed myself a little more...partly due to excitement! The penultimate project was Chatelaine's Sapphire, which had been languishing because I'd run out of gold braid. I'd finally ordered some, but it had been lying around for a while waiting for me to get motivated.Sooooo close. I really thought I might finish it, but I couldn't summon the energy to finish the beads. I did finish it in April, but that's another post for another day. =)

The final project was Dogwood Stitchery, yet another class project that hasn't seen the light of day since the class. You can tell how tired I was because by the time I figured out where I wanted to stitch on the thing, I only managed two words.This was actually stitched on March 30th. I drew for March 31st, but it was another one with no obvious starting point, so I ended up just staring at it for the night.

Hope you enjoyed the madness along with me!

The draw-a-project-a-day madness of March has come to an end. But what should I stitch on now?

Old Geek-outs