Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday Feast #187

Appetizer: Name a color you find soothing.
I find most shades of blue, except electric blue, to be soothing.

Soup: Using 20 or less words, describe your first driving experience.
Scary, stressful, and possible scarred for life

Salad: What material is your favorite item of clothing made out of?

Main Course: Who is a great singer or musician who, if they were to come to your town for a concert, you would spend the night outside waiting for tickets to see?
Hands down, Tom Petty. Not only is he my most favorite artist ever, most of his audience appreciates music and is there for the show, not to put on a show themselves. One of the things I found most disappointing about going to a Dave Matthews Show was that so many people in the audience knew 3-4 songs they screamed along with, and then just talked and carried on for the songs they didn't know. Most annoying!

Dessert: What is the most frequent letter of the alphabet in your whole name (first, middle, maiden, last, etc.)?

The Online Needlework Show

If you haven't checked it out yet, head over to the Online Needlework Show. Hurry though, because the show closes Monday, April 21 (sometime around 12 am EDT)

Not all the familiar designers are showing their work. There's quite a few over there that I wasn't familiar with, but I'm very glad I'm checking things out and getting to see "new to me" designers.

A few items that went on my wish list:

Notorious Knight by Arelate Studio
For my nephew, who IS a small but notorious knight.
He hasn't tried to ride a chicken yet though....

Home By The Sea by Designs from Pamela

A Virtuous Huswif by Cherished Stitches

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Happy Anniversary

Count the Stars
Dimension Gold Petite Kit
(modified from the original)
Today is our fourth wedding anniversary and the weather is much like it was for our wedding day - gorgeous and sunny, and even a little on the warm side. The funny thing is we were married the week after Easter, and this year, it seems like Easter was AGES ago!

This is the piece that DH and I stitched together for our wedding. Whenever I make something for a wedding, new house, or new baby, I try to personalize it as best as I can for the recipient and our own piece was no exception. We were fairly new stitchers at the time, so we were lucky to find a kit that only required a little modification. We used stars as a theme for the wedding, partially because we are huge Dallas Cowboys fans. I would have liked more silver in the piece, since our wedding colors were navy blue and silver, but I couldn't figure out how to work in a silver or white sun, so I left it the original colors, and we framed it in navy and silver.

You'll have to excuse what looks like some wonky trim there - I took this picture before we got it straightened out and properly framed.I should take a picture of the framed piece - it looks quite nice! Also, the original piece had the phrase "Look towards Heaven and count the stars", but we changed it to what you see now. If you don't recognize it, it's a line from a poem by ee cummings that has very special meaning to us.

silently if,out of not knowable
night’s utmost nothing,wanders a little guess
(only which is this world)more of my life does
not leap than with the mystery your smile

sings or if(spiraling as luminous
they climb oblivionvoices who are dreams,
less into heaven certainly earth swims
than each my deeper death becomes your kiss

losing through you what seemed myself;i find
selves unimaginably mine;beyond
sorrow’s own joys and hoping’s very fears

yours is the light by which my spirit’s born:
yours is the darkness of my soul’s return
–you are my sun,my moon,and all my stars

My DH is a scientist, but developed a great appreciation and fondness for ee cummings. If you're not familiar with the poet, he's actually quite romantic and several of his poems made it into notes and cards from my DH while we were dating. I knew we had to include something from this poem in our wedding, and changing the wording on the piece was perfect.
We also used a line from another poem on our wedding invites: one's not half two. It's two are halves of one. So there you have it. Happy Anniversary to us!
Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Stitching Meme

I saw this on Stitch Bitch a few days ago...
  1. How do you hold your fabric? Unless a project is very small, I have trouble stitching "in hand" and prefer to use scroll frames.

  2. Floss licker? Yep, ever since childhood when my grandmother instilled some basic sewing skills. I occasionally experiment with a threader, but find it much more conveniet to just lick the floss.

  3. How do you thread your needle? Trim the end if necessary, lick the floss, and thread it through. Easy peasy.

  4. What needle do you like best? I'm not too picky about brand, though I won't turn my nose up at a nicer (more expensive) needle. I prefer size 28s as I usually stitch on linen, evenweave or high count aida.

  5. Are you a needle loser? Having stepped on a needle (or pin) or two, I am SUPER careful about keeping track of my needles. I use a magnetic "Needle Nest" to store them and that seems to work out for me. I also like sticking threaded needles right in the bobbin

  6. What fabric do you prefer to stitch on? Evenweave. I'm a big fan of Lambswool Jobelean. I'd be hard pressed to ever want to stitch on 14 ct. Aida again.

  7. Bobbins or floss bags? Ahhh, here is a bone of contention in my stitching world. I prefer bobbins and all of my DMCs are on bobbins. HOWEVER, my DH is also a stitcher and does not like the kinks bobbins put into the threads; he prefers working off the whole skein and keeping floss in snack size ziploc bags (way cheaper that the same thing labeled as a floss bag). So we have 2 sets of DMC - one on bobbins and one in skeins. It's just easier that way. And I try to keep a lid on specialty threads, so they're usually only purchased for specific projects and kept with the projects.

  8. Are you a scissors collector? Sometimes I'd think I'd like to be, but I can't afford it. I'd rather spend the money on new materials or projects. I have a few pair of scissors, but I try to keep pretty good track of them, even though none of them are particulary fancy.

  9. Do you do your own framing, and if so, do you lace or pin? I have done my own framing, unless I can talk my DH into doing it for me. He's far more patient than I am. And I cheat - I use the sticky mounting board. (Hey, it's acid free)

  10. Are you a floss floozy? I am a sucker for pretty colors

  11. Silk? I like it as much as anything else, though I can't really see what the big deal is. Maybe I haven't stitched enough with it?

  12. Railroader? Sometimes, but only on the top leg.

  13. Are you a pattern or designer snob? Not really. I don't even know what this question means. If I like something or find a pattern suitable for an occasion, I'll stitch it. I don't care who designed it.

  14. Do you get antsy when you give someone a stitched gift? Not really - I try to make the gift as appropriate to the recipient as possible.

  15. Have you reached S.A.B.L.E.? I don't think so, unless you start counting all the freebies I have saved. Then maybe I have. But really, what does it matter? It doesn't cost anything to feed them, as my father would say.

  16. Do you wash your projects? Most of them that I stitch with DMC floss, I'll wash. I hesitate to wash ones with overdyeds because I do not rinse them before I start stitching. I'm just extra careful to be clean with these projects.
Monday, April 14, 2008

My Unbirthday gift from Barbara

This is the Unbirthday Gift that sweet Barbara sent my way:

And this is the cool backing fabric she used for it:

I don't know if Barbara realized it at the time, but I am a huge reader and I adore bookmarks. So once again, THANK YOU!!!! I absolutely love it.

So much to catch up on!

I've been slacking in the reading and blogging departments because of the househunting. I nearly have all the real estate listings in 2 Pennsylvania counties memories - our real estate agent is amazed that I know so much about the inventory! I think it comes from my job in pharmaceuticals, having to know where each piece (of hundreds!) of promotional material is in the system at all times. I have pretty good recall for things like that.

Anyway, to give myself a break from searching and stressing, I did a little stitching, and I FINISHED a Blue Crab! First up, though, is my progress on Carriage House Sampling's Acorns and Threads. I went from this:

To this:

This is the smaller of the 2 patterns included, and I'm stitching over 2 on 40 ct. fabric. I'm using GAST Dark Chocolate and Apple Cider for this one. I am loving how it's coming out, and it's a very relaxing pattern to stitch. Seeing the progress happen so quickly is gratifying, and it's especially nice the longer our house hunt drags on.

And now for Blue Crab, which I finished the other night:

Blue Crab by Judy Greer Carmean
Chart purchased at Sea Needles, Bethany Beach, DE
Stitched on 28 ct. Lamsbwool Jobelean with DMC Threads

This is what a real blue crab looks like:

I think mine turned out pretty good! I can't wait to get him framed and hung up.

In case you were wondering, I do in fact have a fondness for crabs, both eating them and the crab motif. Also, my husband and my best friend are astrological Cancers and are represented by the crab, so crabs remind me of them as well.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

During Saturday's house hunting adventure, DH and I stopped by a local farmers' market to check out the produce and ended up coming home with a large bag of red peppers. In our house, that means Roasted Red Pepper Soup is on the way. DH roasted them up for me on Sunday afternoon, and then I took over and made my soup.

I love this stuff. I first had it at a brew pub that has long since closed, but after the first time I tried it, I knew I had to make it myself. The chef would not part with the recipe, though he did tell me that Boursin cheese was an ingredient. (As it turns out, the Boursin is the key ingredient, after the peppers themselves). I set to work testing a variety of recipes and ended up with my current version, which I will post in just a minute. I knew I wanted a roasted red pepper soup with a creamy texture and nothing in the soup but peppers, onions and cheese. No tomatoes, no pasta, no croutons, no crab, nothing.

Granted, red peppers are expensive, especially when they're not in season. Our grocery store usually charges around $3.99 a lb for them, though I've seen them as cheap as $.99 a lb in the summer. Usually, though, we hit up the farmers' markets and buy a huge bag or basket of them. Roasting the peppers can be a lot of work, but DH doesn't seem to mind it. I've never used jarred roasted red peppers for this - I'm not sure I'd want to. If you do use the jarred peppers, make sure they're packed in water, as there is dairy in this recipe. (There was an incident in my past involving peppers packed in a vinegar solution and a cream sauce. It wasn't good). The ingredients are simple, and the soup comes together quickly

Cream of Red Pepper Soup
This recipe doubles or triples easily, but use your judgment on increasing the butter / olive oil

1 to 2 tbsp. butter or olive oil
2 cups chopped onion (I like sweet onions)
2 large cloves garlic, minced (or more to taste)
1 tsp. Salt (or to taste)
freshly-ground black pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. ground cumin, optional
5 medium red bell peppers, roasted and chopped
1 tbsp. unbleached white flour
1/2 cups stock or water
2 1/2 cups milk (low fat okay), room temperature or warmer
Boursin Cheese for garnish

Melt butter or heat oil in soup pot or Dutch oven. Add onions and garlic; cook slowly with salt, pepper and cumin. After about 5-8 minutes (when onions are clear and soft), add bell peppers. Stir and cover. Cook over low heat 10-15 minutes, stirring intermittently. Gradually sprinkle in flour. Cook, stirring, another 5 minutes. Add stock or water, stir, cover and cook 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat. Puree in food processor or blender, bit by bit, with milk. You can also use an immersible stick blender for this part. Put the pureed soup in a soup pot or double boiler. (Optional: you may strain the soup to get a smoother texture.) Heat very gently. Serve topped with sour cream and minced herbs, if desired. Makes 4-6 servings.

I've made this soup so many times that the recipe is a very basic guideline for me. Feel free to play around with it to your tastes, but here are some suggestions and changes that I've worked out along the way. I always use at least 5 POUNDS of peppers, which about triples the recipe, but only double the onions and cumin. I wash, quarter and core the peppers, then flatten them out with the palm of my hand on a foil covered baking sheet, and roast them in the oven. (A little cooking spray on the foil is very helpful). Once the skins are burned black, I put the peppers in ice water and the skin comes right off. Then I chop the peppers and add them to the cooked onions.

I use a combination of beef and chicken stock (bouillon), using a little more chicken than beef. I tried using cream instead of milk - too greasy. But whole milk works well, as does the low fat or skim if necessary. I usually use 2% as that's what we buy. You may want to add more or less liquid depending on the amount of onions and peppers you use. Absolutely strain the soup - makes for a much nicer texture. The Boursin really adds to the soup. I drop about a teaspoon-sized chunk into the soup bowls, pour the hot soup on top and garnish with a few more crumbles. The cheese will melt and stir into the soup.
Friday, April 4, 2008

Friday Feast #185 & #186

From Friday's Feast: A Buffet for Your Brain

Appetizer: Invent a new flower; give it a name and describe it.
I'm not a big fan of these "invent this" or "name that" kinds of questions. As for flowers, I'm perfectly happy with the ones that already exist.

Soup: Name someone whom you think has a wonderful voice.
When I was in college, I worked for a pizza place, and I got hit on at least 2x a week just because of my phone voice. Over the years, I've gotten many compliments because of my pleasant phone voice.

Salad: On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being highest, how clean do you keep your car?
I'm right around a 9 or a 10. I hate a messy car, but inevitably right after I vacuum it, we get the urge to head down to the beach, so there's usually sand in my car somewhere. But my glove compartment is very well organized, as is the compartment between the seats. I also keep a plastic bag in the car for trash.

Main Course: How do you feel about poetry?
I majored in English in college, so I can appreciate it, and I even like some of it. I tend to prefer the Romantic period poets, but I do love ee cummings; he has special meaning for my husband and me. The angsty poetry I wrote when I was a teen still has the power to make me cringe.

Dessert: What was the last person/place/thing you took a picture of?
The last person I took a picture of would have to be my niece or nephew at Christmas time. I'm a big fan of candid shots and I try to be as unobtrusive as possible when I have the camera in hand. The pictures I take when people don't know I'm taking them are usually the best. The last picture I took period would have to be of my Blue Crab WIP. I'm hoping to take some more pictures today.


Appetizer: What does the color dark green make you think of?
Spinach, and dark leafy green vegetables. And thread. Dark green thread.

Soup: How many cousins do you have?
I have five first cousins on my side of the family, but am not in contact with them. My husband has 2 first cousins, both of whom we usually see at family occasions and holidays, but I am particularly close to his one cousin. She's 10 years younger than me, but she's like a little sister to me and we've always had a pretty close bond.

Salad: On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being highest, how honest are you?
I feel like I've answered this question before, but I'm probably about a 7 or 8. I have a terrible poker face, so I usually stick to telling the truth, but I am not above a white lie to avoid hurting someone's feelings unnecessarily.

Main Course: Name something that is truly free.
I don't think anything is truly free - there's always a cost somewhere.

Dessert: Using the letters in the word SPRING, write a sentence.
Yeah, not a big fan of these kinds of questions, so I will decline to answer.
Thursday, April 3, 2008

SBQ, Thank You

I'm a poet, and I don't even know it. (I crack me up). Actually, I could use a good laugh now and then, just to deal with this house hunting. I want to say thank you to those who have offered advice, support and hugs. It means more to me than I can adequately express and I really appreciate the time taken to leave a comment or send me an email. Hopefully we'll have good news soon.

I did get a lovely "unbirthday" gift from Barbara yesterday - the coolest bookmark I own. Unfortunately, the weather today was cloudy and dim, so I didn't take a picture yet, but rest assured it's a lovely piece, one that I will treasure. It's also the very first piece I've ever received from another stitcher. (And if for some strange reason you don't know who Barbara is, do head over to a blog and "meet" her. She's just wonderful!) I will try to take a photo tomorrow - just wait until you see it!

And now for this week's SBQ (yes, I know I just did one yesterday...)

04/03/08: What items do you consider essential to your needlework that you keep in your stitching bag? (Submitted by Terri)

I usually use a plastic box with a snap on lid to keep my stitching in, unless we're traveling, and thanks to Nicole, I purchased a sweet Vera Bradley Little Travel Case. I haven't tried it out yet (we haven't traveled lately), but Nicole just loves hers and I'm sure I'll love it too. They're discontinuing the style, so if you're interested, pick one up soon. Mine is in Nantucket Navy (my favorite!) from eBay, but the Vera Bradley site is offering them at almost 1/2 price.

Most of the time, I keep my tools in a small, plastic lined cosmetic bag. I'm still without a decent scissor sheath, so I don't want any renegade scissors poking holes in my fabric or my fancy new stitching bag. Obviously scissors and needles are the most important tools a stitcher has, and despite LOADS of temptation from you guys, I have yet to succumb to Gingher scissors. (I confess to checking them out online and maybe possibly looking for them while I was out this afternoon, but I resisted!) My scissors are pretty boring - I use a pair from a set of scissors I bought at Garden Ridge a while back. They get the job done, but I will probably end up treating myself to a nicer pair sometime in the future. Say, oh, I don't know.... these that dear Janet brought to my attention.

They're called Scissoroos and they have a KANGAROO on the scissors! I adore kangaroos - I've been fascinated by all things Australian for as long as I can remember, and I actually collect kangaroos. I have probably about 2 dozen stuffed ones, not to mention a few pieces of kangaroo jewelry, some figurines, etc. I even have a kangaroo coffee mug.

Anyway, I also have a Needle Nest I found in the quilting section to hold my needles. The white part is magnetic and the lid snaps closed. Very handy, and I will occasionally use it to park threaded needles if I am working with color changes.

I usually buy regular old size 28 needles I use to stitch pretty much everything. I did pick up some fancy John James needles here and there, but usually I just use the DMC ones you can buy at Michael's. I have a few other needles of different sizes, but I like the 28s the best.

I do have a needle question though - my DH, who is also a stitcher, has on more than one occasion broken a needle. Literally snapped a needle in half while stitching. This has never happened to me and I thought it was strange that he actually broke a needle while stitching, but perhaps it happens more than I realize? Have you ever had a needle break on you while you were stitching?

Other essentials in my tool kit include:

  • a leather thimble - I don't use it that often, but it's nice to have. I do have to keep it hidden from our cat who has a distinct fondness for leather (we keep our leather shoes and shoes with laces on the steps down to our front door - where he can't get to them). The leather is nice because it's adjustable - if it's too small, you can snip the thread that holds it together and use a bigger piece.

  • Thread Heaven - I didn't think it was necessary to have, but I've found it makes hand-dyed threads so much easier to work with! DH even likes it on regular DMC threads.

  • A seam ripper, for when the dreaded frog pays a visit. I find it's easier to work with one of these if I have to take out a large section. Rather than trying to unstitch or use my scissors to cut out the stitches, I use the seam ripper and it works out much better.

  • Tweezers - yep, regular good old slant tip tweezers that you can buy at any Target, Wal-Mart, etc., in the health and beauty aisle for a couple bucks. These are enormously useful in conjunction with the seam ripper for getting threads out of my fabric as well as picking out the occasional cat hair or two. I also keep a pair or two of tweezers in my beading box as they're quite useful there too.

  • Scroll frames - I like stitching on these. Stitching in hand causes my hand to ache and I can't do it for very long. If something is just too small to get on a scroll frame, I use a plastic embroidery hoop. I find I stitch better when I have consistent tension in my fabric.

  • Fray Check / Pinking Shears - I use a combination of fray check and pinking shears to keep the edges of my fabric from unraveling. For sturdier fabrics, I find pinking shears to work just fine, but for more delicate fabrics like linens, fray check works better

  • Pencils - colored and regular - I always keep a pencil and eraser with my stitching for making notes and marking charts if necessary. Pencil erases easier thank ink! I like to use a mechanical pencil with a retractable lead so there's less chance of a rogue pencil marking up fabric or stitching projects. I find colored pencils useful on hard to read charts - I color in each symbol with a different color and it makes the chart easier to read. I've also used highlighters for this purpose.

  • Ruler / Measuring tape - I have a 12 inch plastic ruler that lives in my stitching box and gets used for absolutely nothing else, so I don't have to worry about anything transferring to my fabric from the ruler. I also have a retractable measuring tape. I'm obsessive about measuring two, three, six times before cutting.

  • Finally, I like to have some baby wipes around for wiping my hands if I can't get to a sink (I have a few individually wrapped ones I keep in my stitching bag. And I need to restock, but I like to keep Shout wipes handy in case there are any accidents. I'm usually very careful with my stitching, but better safe than sorry!
    Wednesday, April 2, 2008

    SBQ: Downloads

    3/26/08: When you stitch a pattern that you have downloaded do you print out the pattern or do you stitch directly from your computer screen?

    When I first read this question, I thought, "How can anyone possibly stitch from a screen?" I was sure the answer would be that they couldn't, so imagine my surprise when I discovered some of you are capable of doing just that! More power to you - I'd probably make myself blind and/or stab my screen with scissors at some point! LOL

    I absolutely must have a print out of any chart I stitch. Our computer is in our guest room upstairs, and I prefer to stitch with the TV on. We don't have a TV upstairs or a computer downstairs, hence the need to print things out. Also, I spend a lot of time staring at a computer screen during the day - I'm not so sure I want to continue looking at it while I'm stitching. And I like to keep my stitching portable, and a printed chart lends itself to that much better than a desktop computer.

    In other news, I am making some progress on my crab - he now has the rest of his legs at least partially completed, so he's a least a little in balance. He's the only thing I've been stitching on - yes, my ornaments for my SALs have fallen a bit by the wayside. (Extra shameful for me, considering I administed the 2 ornament SALs.) I really do need to get back to at least one set of the Bride's Tree ornaments, seeing as how the wedding they're for is coming up in August.

    I haven't been stitching (or blogging) as much as I normally would because we're in the process of house hunting, and I am so frustrated with it I could just cry. DH and I have a set budget that we're not flexible on. We've both read too many stories of people getting in over their heads and we don't want to put ourselves in that position, even if it means we don't get everything we want. We had what we thought were pretty solid ideas about what we wanted, but looking at houses, considering our budget, etc., has forced us to change some of those ideas, and unfortunately, DH and I have gone down slightly different paths. He wants a bigger house with more space and an opportunity to fix it up, something we can "grow into". I'd love that, but I don't think it's practical for us right now, especially since we want to have a child. I'd rather a more finished house with a great yard and a good neighborhood, even if it is smaller. Really I just don't know what we're going to do.