Monday, December 12, 2011

What's been keeping me busy...

You mean besides Pinterest? Technically this does involve Pinterest since I found the ideas on there. This idea has been re-pinned hundreds of times, and it's one of the first craft projects from the site that I did - a Wedding Invitation Ornament:

The idea is to cut up a wedding invitation into strips and put them inside a clear glass ornament. As you twist and turn the ornament, you can see glimpses of the wording. As soon as I saw the idea, I knew I'd be making one for my cousin and her new husband.

Luckily, I helped the bride with the invitations, so I had the files on my computer and didn't have to cut up the actual invitation itself. I printed out a copy and set to work cutting up the strips but I wasn't all that thrilled with the results. The size of the font varies, which adds visual interest, but doesn't lend itself to being cut up into neat, equally sized strips and it was difficult to gauge spacing between some of the smaller lines. It was bothering me that there were skinny little strips and much thicker strips. After several attempts, I decided to re-format the invitation itself into equally sized strips, which looked MUCH better inside the ornament (and let's not discuss the fact that I bought two sizes of ball shaped round ornaments, and two sizes of flattened round ornaments because I am a nut job and none of them are actually glass because they don't seem to sell individual glass ornaments but I have come to terms with the fact they are acrylic, mmmmkay?)

Once I got the strips coiled and stashed inside the ornament (a chopstick and a pair of long tweezers came in handy for this), I finished off the ornament with a sheer white ribbon from the actual invitation (they were pocket invites tied with the ribbon) and two smaller black ribbons to tie on their initials. The original ornament had a seashell charm as a nod to the theme of the wedding, and I liked the idea of the charm, but there was no "theme" to the wedding. I did, however, honor the black and white color scheme. I love, love, love how it turned out and I think my cousin and her husband will love it as well.

But that's not the only ornament I've finished up. In addition to the stitchy ornaments, I've been working with some buttons I've inherited from my husband's grandmother. She passed away this past January, just after her 99th birthday. My MIL generously gave me a very large jar and several bags of buttons that Grandma had collected over the years. I've had a lifelong fascination with buttons, stemming from the hours I spent playing with my own grandmother's buttons (both my grandmother and my husband's grandmother were accomplished seamstresses and had massive collections of buttons, fabric and notions).

I had some ideas for button monograms, but I wanted to see what else I could do with them, especially with shank buttons that would not lend themselves to being glued onto paper and framed. This is what I came up with:

These are just a few of the ornaments I created from Grandma's collection. (There are at least a dozen more ornaments I finished since taking this photo, and I've tried several other techniques which I will share soon.) Of course, most of the buttons were not sorted, so I spent several hours with my two year old, "playing buttons" (which means I spent several more hours while he slept re-sorting all the ones he had jumbled together). Most of them are strung on pipe cleaners, which worked out very well to not only shape the ornaments, but the fuzzy stuff on them helps hold the buttons in place better. For those that kept spinning around on their shanks, a little hot glue on the back helped hold them in place. I raided my own stash for the ribbons and have gotten VERY good at tying neat little bows.

I should also mention that I don't really have a dedicated craft space in our house yet, so I tend to work a lot in our dining room. (We generally eat in the kitchen, so I don't have to worry about cleaning up my projects for every meal.) All of these ornaments were made sitting at a dining room table we inherited from Grandma, so I spent a lot of time thinking about her as I was making them. She was quite crafty and clever herself and loved to crochet and sew. I loved her dearly, and these ornaments are a wonderful reminder of her.

This is a closeup of one of the ornaments we're keeping for our tree. It's hanging next to one of the dozens of hand-crocheted snowflakes that adorn our tree, every single one of them made by Grandma. And this one below is another closeup:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Another Fair & Square Exchange... and I FINISHED something!

I have been stitching, and I'm on a bit of a finishing kick. I have several ornaments I wanted to make sure were completely finished and ready to hang. It's a goal I made for myself when I realized that the ornament I stitched for my son *last* Christmas has yet to be completed (I have to add on some JABC buttons) and finished as an ornament. I plan on getting that one done (and up on the blog as well as the tree) by the end of the year. Please do not ask me about his 2011 ornament. I will probably get to that sometime this July.

But I have been keeping up with my Fair & Square Exchanges. They're small, manageable projects that motivate me to stitch and I was determined to get this one done and out the door well before the deadline. At least I accomplished THAT goal.

I was paired up with my friend Marie P again, which was wonderful. I stitched for Marie last year, and was thrilled that we were partnered up again. But this time, instead of heading off to Texas, her squares made their way to her new home in Vermont (now there's a change of scenery for sure!). We chose to do squares of with a Christmas theme, and I wanted to honor Marie's new home. This fit the bill for sure, and is from Little House Needleworks, one of Marie's favorite designers. I also wanted to make sure I stitched something Marie didn't already have, so I picked it from the 2011 JCS Ornament Issue.

Fresh Fallen Snow by Little House Needleworks
2011 JCS Ornament Issue
Stitched over 2 on 32 ct. WDW Cocoa
with WDW Seaweed and Light Khaki

And these are the squares that Marie sent to me:

The design is Christmas Lighthouse by Of Generations Past and I have been admiring this design at my LNS the last few times I've been in, but couldn't bring myself to buy it because I have *so much stuff* to stitch already. I'm absolutely thrilled Marie stitched it for me, and I have another surprise - it's finished into a ornament and hanging on our tree! I was in the middle of finishing up some ornaments to be given as gifts this year (which you'll see in upcoming posts) and these squares went right into the pile. Luckily, the shape lent itself to a very easy finish and it was done in no time (and I genuinely appreciate the signature squares, not only for the personalization, but for the fact I do not have to hunt down backing fabric.)

It's in good company - we probably have two dozen lighthouses (and adding more every year) on our tree. I try to collect an ornament for every lighthouse we visit, as well as ones that are non-specific. Once again, great thanks to Marie!
Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fair & Square Exchange

I have been stitching. Really I have! (Yes, I know I start out most of my bi-monthly posts with this claim). Sometimes I do put down the laptop and tear myself off Pinterest and pick up a needle and thread. Staying involved in the Fair and Square Exchange is a good way to get motivated to stitch.

My latest partner in Round # 26 was Milly D ( Milly and her husband Patrick celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary in July, so that gave me the inspiration for these squares. In her list of likes, Milly listed hearts and folksy designs, and also mentioned that her favorite color was red. Once I picked the heart, I thought it would make a lovely ornament, so I asked Milly if she'd mind if I did a slightly non-traditional signature square. Typically, the signature square includes the stitcher's name or initials, their location and the date. Since I was stitching it in honor of their anniversary, I wanted to do something a little different. I didn't tell Milly exactly what I wanted to do, but she gave me the go ahead to change it up.

The design is also slightly larger than the F&S guidelines, so I stitched it over 1 on 32 ct. Antique White, which brought the size in line and ended up being perfect for an ornament. And did I mention I continued the love theme by choosing Crescent Color's Cupid for the thread? If it's at all possible, I like to tie in the name of the thread with the piece I'm stitching. It's a little "secret" thing for me, and it helps narrow down color choices (something I can struggle with when presented with SO MANY great thread colors!).

The chart is a freebie I've had for a while, but it is available here:, along with dozens of other beautiful charts.

And these are the beautiful squares I received from Milly in return. Milly chose JBW Designs A Very Merry Autumn to stitch for me - a wise choice. Autumn is my favorite season. I love all the beautiful fall colors, and always look forward to the end of summer heat.

Milly's stitching is lovely, and I will be finishing this up as a no sew cube to put on display in our living room. For as much as I love the fall season, we don't have much in the way of seasonal decor and this will be a most welcome addition. I have to hit up the craft stores before all the fall goodies are gone, as I'm thinking an orange / brown / red plaid ribbon would be perfect for this piece.
Thursday, September 15, 2011

20+ Crafting Apps for your Phone

One of the advantages to reading a ton of crafting blogs is finding articles like these.

The apps range from family crafts to drawing to craft show finders to apps for helping with knitting and quilting. There's an app for keeping track of your fabric stash, as well as ones by CraftGawker, Etsy and Pinterest (which happens to be one of my very favorite websites).

And yes, I will be back shortly with some stitching. i finished up a wedding piece I need to frame, and am currently working on my Fair and Square exchange.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My gift from the bride

I love it when a gift is given with care and thoughtfulness, and my gift from the bride this past weekend really hit the nail on the head. She and I are close, and we emailed quite a bit about everyone else's gift - she wanted to make sure that she picked something that would be meaningful to each of her bridesmaids, and she did just that. She put together a scrapbook of old photos, letters, ticket stubs, etc., for her maid of honor. For another, she made a lamp filled with shells from their trips to the beach, and for another, she bought a boxed set of a movie adaptation of a favorite childhood book.

For my gift, she tracked down my online wishlist (she never asked for it directly, so she's a pretty smart cookie) and picked several stitching pieces that I really wanted, but never managed to purchase for myself. I love that two of the charts she picked are for ornaments - I am ridiculously sentimental when it comes to Christmas ornaments, and every ornament on our tree has special meaning to us. Now when I stitch these up, they will forever remind me of Kerri and Mark's wedding.

She chose
She also included a package of bobbins that I use for winding threads, and some Thread Heaven. I was so touched that she'd take the time to track down my list and find items that would have special meaning to me. All she really knows about stitching is that I do it - she's not a stitcher herself.

Of course, now this probably means I should a) put down the computer and do a little stitching, and b) finish up the piece I stitched in honor of my cousin's wedding!

Monday, August 22, 2011

What I did this weekend...

This past weekend, my beautiful cousin Kerri was married in our hometown, and I was deeply honored to be part of her day as a bridesmaid. When I first started dating her cousin (who is now my husband), she was just a little girl, only 10 years old and this weekend, she was a lovely bride.

I will never forget the first time I met her and the rest of the extended family. It was at a family dinner, and as she and her parents were getting ready to leave, she walked up to me, gave me a HUGE hug and said, "When you marry my cousin, I am going to be a bridesmaid." At that point, I wasn't even thinking marriage, but I said, "You got it!" and hugged her back. I guess she was pretty perceptive, because even though it took 12 years, she walked down the aisle as a bridesmaid on the day I married her cousin.

When she got engaged herself, she called me at almost midnight, soon after it happened. I had no idea why she was calling so late, and I thought something had happened. When she yelled, "I AM GETTING MARRIED!" into the phone, I was so incredibly happy for her and just thrilled when she asked me to be a bridesmaid. Soon thereafter, I was able to call her and tell her about a little project WE were working on for her wedding - but had to wait a few weeks to let her know if it would be a ring bearer or a flower girl. More happy screaming and tears followed, as did the ringbearer.

I am not much for sharing photos of myself because I *do not* take a good picture. I just don't. But when I saw this posted by a very good friend of mine, I was so thrilled. It's such a beautiful picture and it's definitely going up on our Family wall. This is outside the church, just after the ceremony, and yes, this is the ring bearer in question. He's not quite two yet, so it was a little touch and go to get him to cooperate, but I have to say I was more than a little choked up when I saw him. My little baby isn't a baby, but he's the absolute light of my life (along with his dad).

The wedding was just perfect, the weather was awesome, and we were able to welcome Nick's favorite cousin to the family (Nick just adores Kerri's new husband). My wish for them is a long and happy marriage filled with love and togetherness. There will be good days and bad, but together, they can do anything.
Thursday, July 21, 2011

My first commissioned piece

Blackbird Designs - I Thee Wed
stitched on 32 ct. Mushroom Lugana
with recommended threads

My beloved cousin Kerri was the maid of honor in her friend's wedding, and asked me if I would stitch something for her to give as a gift. After a few emails back and forth about what her friend might like, I sent her a few suggestions and this was the one she picked. She liked how it tied into the wedding colors of pink and green and thought it would look beautiful in her friend's house.

So this is the very first piece I stitched on commission, for just the price of materials and not my time. (I didn't mind doing it - stitching is my sanity as I am sure you can all relate to). All in all, not a bad gift for about $50, and yes, I had my husband frame it.

Once again, I must highly recommend American Frame. Beautiful frames, pre-cut acid free mounting board, and free shipping when you spend more than $50 (if you frame several pieces, it's not hard to get to $50). Plus they will send you up to five samples of frames and/or mat board before you even order.

We tried something new this time with spacers. Normally, I frame without glass or acrylic, but my cousin asked if we could put something over the stitching to keep it cleaner. Since we were framing without a mat, I did a little reading on the site and found the spacers. They come in long sticks that are easy to cut and fit into the frame, and worked like a charm to provide an air space between the acrylic (most online places will not sell and ship glass) and the stitching itself. Now that we know how well it works, I'll definitely be doing it again for a few pieces I plan on hanging in our kitchen. They won't be right near the sink or stove, but I'd like to give them that extra layer of protection anyway.

I do have several other pieces awaiting the framing process, so hopefully I'll be able to show them soon.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Yes, I am stitching....

Not as much as I would like to be, but I blame that on a wireless connection, a laptop, and a renewed obsession with cooking. My Facebook friends get regular links to recipes I've found, and I am currently wading through over 1000 posts in my food blog collection. (I might have a small problem with a recipe addiction...)

I do have a few pieces I am working on, and a small pile of things waiting to be framed by my husband. Two of them are wedding pieces, and I should have a post by the end of the week about a third wedding piece, the first one I've done "on commission" that was gifted to a bride and groom back in May. One of the two remaining wedding pieces is for someone near and dear to my heart - my beautiful cousin Kerri, who is getting married in August. I also have two birth pieces I need to get cracking on, and my ever present assortment of ornaments.

I am managing to keep up with some of the crafting blogs I read, and this is another FANTASTIC project that would totally work for some customized finishes for needlework. I know I've spent hours looking for buttons and embellishments, and this idea is absolutely genius.

Customized buttons made from Shrinky Dink plastic. Genius, I tells ya. Genius. Check out the tutorial on Scissors.Paper.Wok.
Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fancy Schmancy Scissors

Check out these super cute scissors I spotted on Mod Podge Rocks! (one of my favorite crafting blogs). I don't know how well the idea would work out for embroidery / stitching scissors, but you could certainly gussy up a pair of regular fabric scissors.

(The original how-to is posted on Crap I've Made, another favorite crafting blog)
Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Eye(let) see you.....

Yeah, so I'm not even going to make excuses about not blogging. I've noticed I have a tendency to wait until I *finish* finish something before I blog about it, and I actually do have a few pieces that have been stitched, but not finished completely, that I want to blog about, including the one that I gave you a sneak peak of a while back. In fact, I have to start harassing my husband to get cracking on three pieces to be framed. They're all ready to go - frames, foam core and everything.

But back to the stitching and my latest Fair & Square exchange.

These are the squares I received in the most recent Fair & Square Exchange from my partner, Shelley P. (Shelley has a blog but it's currently inactive). You know I love anything with a nautical theme, and these squares are perfect for me. I'm going to finish them up as a no-sew cube for our living room. I think they'll be a perfect complement to the squares I received from Marie P, which I also finished up as a no-sew cube.

Rhodes Butterfly Biscornu by Kincavel Krosses
Stitched on 32 ct. Antique white with DMC flosses

And this is what I stitched for Shelley. Her profile indicated that she liked spring color palettes, so I selected this pattern because I really wanted to stitch the Rhodes Butterflies. I like stitching Rhodes stitches with rayon / satin threads - I think that little extra sheen really adds something to the specialty stitch.

I also enjoyed doing the eyelet stitches again, after having done them on the Shamrocks piece I posted about previously. They make a nice contrast with the raised centers of the Rhodes squares.

I'm not sure how Shelley plans on finishing the squares, but I did design the signature square to accommodate a biscornu finish.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Fair and Square Exchange

Are you interested in joining the Fair and Square Exchange? The moderator, Jill, is currently accepting applications. Head on over to the blog to check it out and make your application:
Friday, March 25, 2011

In honor of St. Patrick's Day

Stitched on 28 ct. Antique White
Crescent Colors Erin Go Emerald and Four Leaf Clover, GAST Pine
Mill Hill Petite Glass Beads in Bottle Green (45270) and Ice (42010)
Charm included with Chart

I've had this chart in kitted up and in my stash for over a year now, maybe two. I fell in love with them when I saw them, but somehow never got around to stitching them. I decided I was going to stitch something Irish in honor of St. Patrick's Day this year, and I did finish up this one before the holiday. Yay me! I'm currently working on what I dubbed the companion piece, A Celtic Challenge, also by The Sweetheart Tree. It will definitely be done before NEXT St. Patrick's Day.

Conveniently, this is also an excellent answer to Lee's Stitching Bloggers Question of the Month:
Do you have a favorite Irish or Celtic stitched piece? If you don't, what about a piece that represents your heritage? Or maybe a family tree style sampler? Think about it, then tell us the story of your piece and show us your photos, if you have them.
As I've mentioned, I'm 1/2 Irish and may have had an agenda in mind when Lee and I were discussing the SBQ via email. I have several Celtic pieces in my stash, but this is one of the first I've actually finished. The big one that's sitting in my stash is Butternut Road's Celtic Banner. I have the fabric and the specialty threads for it, but have yet to kit up the rest of it. I need to get on that - it was a birthday gift two years ago from my in-laws and there's not a stitch in it....

But back to the piece I DID finish - this is me being all artsy with my macro setting:

Ohhhhhh.... Ahhhh..... I am so fancy. I do like this picture because you can see the silvery color of the Ice beads. The original design called for white beads, but I thought I'd gussy it up a little and go with a silvery color, pick up on the silver of the charm in the middle.

And while I was being all rebellious with the bead changes, I decided to get super crazy and change the COLORS of the floss too. The original design called for DMC threads, but that didn't fit in with my plan to be super clever and use threads with names that coordinated with the Celtic / Irish theme (yeah, sometimes I REALLY overthink things) , hence the Erin Go Emerald and Four Leaf Clover. The Pine has no specific meaning, it just looked really nice with the other two greens.

If you are wondering about my conversion, I used the Emerald for DMC 500, the Pine for DMC 501 and the Clover for DMC 503, or basically how they lined up from light to dark in both color palettes.

Overall, I LOVE how it came out, and am excited to finish up Celtic Challenge. This piece was a super easy stitch, but I noticed on the Celtic Challenge chart that there are some tricky areas where you really have to pay attention to where you're stitching (and stitch some parts over 1 so things line up). That one will take me a little longer to finish, but the plan is to finish finish both pieces as little pillows for our guest room. I don't want to go all "theme-y" with it, but the walls are currently painted green and I have black and white bedding in there, so I want to display some of my Irish pieces (I have a couple framed Irish themed prints / sayings). Once I finish these up as pillows, I think they'll be perfect for hanging off the closet doorknobs - dress them up a little. But until then, it's back to the FUFO drawer for this piece.
Monday, March 21, 2011

I've got sunshine on a cloudy day...

Or rather, my lovely mother in law does.

My Sunshine by La D Da
Stitched over 2 on 32 ct. Lakeside Vintage Light Examplar
with Crescent Colors Black Coffee, Manor Red, Queen Bee and Pewter

Last year, I saw this design floating around the blogosphere and knew immediately that it was something we had to do for my mother-in-law. I remember my grandfather singing this song for me when I was very young, but it's a song my husband's mom sings to her three grandchildren all the time. This was perfect for her, and my husband stitched it for her for a Christmas gift. (Yes, I am just now getting around to posting a photo)

My job was to figure out how to frame it. Sometimes when I see a pattern, I have an instant vision of how to display it and this was one of those instances. I lucked out - stitched on 32 ct. fabric, this design fits perfectly into a pre-made 8x10 frame. However, finding an 8x10 frame with two matching smaller frames that we liked *and* that worked with the design proved to be a challenge. I hunted through several stores to find something that worked - not an easy task when your constant companion is an active 13 month old boy! He's a good kid, but he only has so much patience, and there's only so much room in the picture frame aisle. You need eyes in the back of your head to keep on a curious little one so he's not grabbing things off the shelf!

But we did manage to stumble across a frame at Bed Bath & Beyond, and lo and behold, there were matching 4x6 frames as well. Not only did they work with the design, but they were perfect for my ILs house. Score!

I ordered up prints of our son and his two cousins. The original plan was to do four total smaller frames - one for each of the three grandchildren and an extra one for any additional grandchild, but the 8x10 frame ended up looking much better with just the two frames, so we decided to put our son on one side and my BIL's children on the other. If any additional grandchildren enter the picture, it's easy enough to change out the photos.

The gift was a HUGE hit with my in-laws, especially my MIL, who cried. (good tears, not bad ones) She was so touched that we found a pattern for the song, and she absolutely loved the framing idea. The set now hangs at the top of their stairs so they can see it every day.
Friday, March 18, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!

I'm a day late, but I was busy celebrating yesterday. St. Patrick's Day is my most favorite day of the year - I think it even outweighs Christmas, though I'm never one to pass up a Christmas cookie (or seven...). In addition to being exactly 1/2 Irish, I think I love St. Patrick's Day because it's not all wrapped up in preparations and pressure. My husband's family is mostly German and Polish, which means we don't have any family holiday obligations like we do most other major holidays (yes, St. Patrick's Day is a major holiday for me!), so we get to have our out little celebration. And it's a welcome break from the winter.

And did I mention the food? I love corned beef. Love it, even though it's more Irish-American than Irish-Irish. I read somewhere that most people in Ireland have never even eaten corned beef - beef is quite expensive over there, and the corned beef is something much more Irish American. Who cares though? I love the stuff and so does my husband. He never had it until we started dating, and I am pretty sure corned beef played a large part in why he married me. :-)

I went a little crazy this year and tried a new recipe from Steamy Kitchen for Corned Beef with Guinness. (BTW, this is NOT my photo). After discovering that Pennsylvania does not sell beer in six packs at distributors, and being unwilling to shell out $35 for a case of Guinness, I was able to convince my husband to stop at Wegman's on his way home, one of the few grocery stores that sells beer in smaller quantities. (And in fact, restrict just how many ounces can be purchased at one time. PA has the screwiest liquor laws, I swear.) But anyway, after getting over the fact that we no longer live in Delaware and have access to a Total Wine on every corner where I can get any damn beer I please, I ended up with the beer I needed for the recipe.

The verdict? It was good. Very good and quite possibly the most tender corned beef I have ever cooked. I started it in the crockpot because I did not have a large enough casserole dish or a dutch oven (shocking, I know, for someone who cooks as much as I do) to do it in the oven. Naturally, I had to head over to Bed Bath to see what they had - uhhh, nothing. Their in store selection is very poor in the way of dutch ovens. Luckily, the TJ Maxx next door had a plain white ceramic casserole with a lid, oven safe to 500 degrees. SCORE! (The $15 price tag didn't hurt, considering it was sitting on the shelf next to a Le Creuset that cost 10x that. At TJ Maxx. Seriously?)

So while the corned beef was good, it was not THE BEST I HAVE EVER HAD, and let's face it, I make some damned fine corned beef. I thought it was slightly salty, even though I rinsed it very, very well. And the Guinness flavor somewhat overrode the corned beef flavor that I love. So it looks like it will be back to the "boiling the bejesus out of it" method of cooking which involves a water change (I think that alleviates the saltiness problem). But we just didn't have the "what the hell happened here?" experience where we look down and discover we've inhaled most, if not all, of the corned beef. (That really has happened)

I would also like to mention at this point that I glaze my corned beef after boiling with a paste of mustard and brown sugar, which is then broiled for a few moments until brown and bubbly. This year, I went with a spicy whole grain mustard that I purchased intentionally for this project, instead of grabbing whatever mustard is in the refrigerator. I pronounce it to be DELICIOUS and a practice that will continue. I incorporated a splash of vinegar which gave it some zip, but wasn't entirely necessary.

I did find redemption in dessert. Normally I make a lemon meringue pie for St. Patrick's Day. I don't know why, I just do. We've had lemon meringue pie for every single St. Patrick's Day that I can remember. This year, I felt like changing it up, and gave my husband a choice of a Guinness Chocolate Cheesecake or Gooey Bread Pudding - The Irish Way. My husband loves bread pudding and will usually order it if it's on the menu. I will order a chocolate cheesecake or any kind of chocolate dessert (except cake - most chocolate cake is too dry). Naturally, he picked the bread pudding and because I love him, I made it.

HOLY COW!!! You should go out and make it, but I warn you - start with a small portion (seriously - like 1/2 cup. You can go back for more), and watch out for that sauce. It is one of the most sinfully good things I have ever eaten. In my whole life. The bread pudding was amazing, and I do not generally care for bread pudding. Did I mention you should make it? Oh yes you should.

I used chocolate chips that I ground up a bit in the food processor. I mixed the chips with the bread and left them in a buttered casserole (not sprayed) overnight on the counter because I like to live dangerously. I also made and refrigerated the sauce last night. If you have a container that locks, I suggest using it because you will be sampling the sauce with your fingers. This cannot be helped. This morning, I mixed up the egg mixture, but I added 2 more eggs and some extra milk, based on some of the reviews that I read (the recipe is also on I used a mixture of light and dark brown sugar because the recipe didn't specify what kind of sugar, and I added just a tiny bit of cinnamon (maybe 1/8th of a teaspoon because I can't help myself and must mess with recipes).

My oh my oh my. Oh my. And oh yes, that Guinness Chocolate Cheesecake WILL be making an appearance at some point.

But wait.... there's more.

Since my husband a) doesn't much care for Valentine's Day as he is convinced it is a made up Hallmark holiday and b) had to spend 3 days, including Valentine's Day, in NJ for a work conference, we decided that we would celebrate St. Patrick's Day instead. Yay. Presents for me!!! (I did pack him up a lovely goodie bag of snacks for his hotel and made him a nice steak dinner before he left, so he didn't get completely out of Valentine's Day.) Behold...

A new Vera Bradly On the Go bag in Twirly Bird Navy, my Irish version of flowers- an oxalis plant and a shamrock plant, my Guinness beer, and not one, but two perfumes - Sinner and Saint by Kat Von D. I've already been subjected to shaming by several friends for liking Kat Von D's perfume, but let me just state for the record that I don't care one way or the other about Kat Von D - whatever floats your boat, but I'm not a fan. I wouldn't have even picked them up to smell had I not been intrigued by the Sinner and Saint names. Smelling them was my downfall - I couldn't get them out of my head, and my lovely husband obliged me buy purchasing not one, but both! Let me tell you - that Sinner is some sexy stuff... Ahem. This is most definitely a tradition we plan on continuing. It worked out quite well.

And as your reward for reaching the near end of this very long, ridiculously self centered post, I give you the cutest leprechaun ever...

I took some photos last week to send out some St. Patrick's Day cards to friends who celebrate and to Nick's Grandma and Poppy, and his Great Grandma. Nothin cuter than a little boy in a sweater and jeans. Unless it's a cutie patootie "sniffing" some flowers.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!
Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A little something for my husband

Stitchinspiration Celtic Quickies
Stitched over 1 on 18 ct. Ivory Aida Fabric
with DMC 823
Finished with seed beads in Jet

My husband has a habit of sticking his needles in the arm of the couch while he's stitching. It drives me nuts. He says it's because he doesn't have anywhere to put them - the little fob I stitched for his scissors is too small and he doesn't like the typical tomato pincushion.

I have a little biscornu I stitched from from some freebies on The Floss Box website which works great for my needles, so my husband asked if I'd make one for him. I told him I'd stitch the designs if he put the piece together for me (he's the finisher of all my biscornus). He agreed, and I showed him several patterns I had in mind for him. He picked two by Stitchinspiration.

<-- Celtic Quickies - Spinner

At first glance, they look the same, but if you look at the middle of the piece, you can see that they are a different design. The original design calls for the knots to be stitched in color, then outlined, but I really liked the blackwork look of just stitching the outlines. Luckily, so did my husband, which made this a much easier project to stitch up. I was very careful not to cross over any open areas with thread so you couldn't see it through the fabric, and as a result, the reverse of each side looks almost identical to the front. (And once again, I forgot to take pictures before he started stitching it together.

As you can see in this picture, it's a good sized biscornu - that's my hand in the photo, and let's just say I'm no petite flower (I'm 5'10"). Also, we're not planning on pulling the middle together with a button or anything - we both like the way it looks now, and it's more functional as a pin cushion this way.

I have a few pieces of Aida floating around in my stash drawer and wanted to do something with them. Most of my work is done on linen and evenweave now, but I picked the Aida because it's a little sturdier, and less expensive for something my husband will be regularly sticking with needles. It was kind of strange stitching on Aida - I don't do it often and it took a little getting used to the rougher fabric. But one of the other pieces I'm working on now is on 40 ct., so it was a nice break for my eyes!

So once I got the pieces stitched up, I turned them over to my husband for finishing, and once again, he did a great job with it, especially with the beaded edge.

I use regular craft store seed beads and so far, it's worked out fine. Sometimes it take a little picking through the pile of beads and discarding any that are oddly shaped, but it still looks nice to me. (Note that every other stitch is beaded. Beading on every stitch can look crowded)

If you've never finished a biscornu before, they're not hard to do. My husband has followed this tutorial for the ones he's finished for me, and it works out very well.
Monday, February 28, 2011

Good friends

I swear, I know the nicest people. Last week, we got a lovely package from my friend Dianne (Dianne Rambling On). Dianne's a jack of all trades when it comes to crafting and has done some lovely collage pieces, one of which she gifted to us.

Why yes, that IS a lighthouse! (And I do wish I was there!)

Dianne made this pretty little piece which is now on display in our living room. I love how the design is layered and textured - the "sand" in the lower corner is actually teeny tiny little gold beads. Very cool!

Dianne also gifted us with this piece for Nick, appropriately named Nickademus, Raise the Roof Design's contribution to the 2010 JCS Ornament issue. Dianne and I were chatting and she said she had stitched this piece up. When I mentioned it was on my list to stitch for Nick, she asked if she could finish it as an ornament for him.

Now, I am a sucker for anything sentimental, so of course I said yes! I love when something has a meaning or a story or something behind it, and in years to come when we hang our ornaments on the tree, this one will always bring Dianne to mind. I'd like to teach my son about sharing his talents with other people, and also, how things don't always have to be sleek and shiny and mass produced to be special and valuable, how things that are made and given from the heart have great value.

I see kids with their video games and their computers and their cellphones and their toys that light up and blink and do all kinds of things and I wonder how much of an appreciation they have for things that don't need batteries or a power cord. I wonder how many kids would appreciate the time and effort it took someone to make something like this for them, and I want my kid to be the one that says, "Thanks! That was really cool that you would do that for me." And sometimes I worry that I'm going to be that weirdo mom that *isn't* constantly chasing after the newest, shiniest toy or that my kid is going to be that weirdo kid, the one that can entertain himself for hours with a pile of blocks or crayons or other simple toys. And then I think maybe I don't really care if we are those "weirdos".

I'm sorry. I didn't mean to get off on a tangent about these things, but sometimes I think we can all use a reminder that happiness doesn't always come from a box on a store shelf.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Sneak Peek at my first finish of 2011

This was my first finish of 2011, done back in early January. Yes, I stitched most of it in late 2010, but I finished the final 1/3 of it or so this year. It's a gift for a friend and I have a frame on order, so I don't want to show the whole thing, but here's a little peek!

I won't reveal the designer just yet...

This piece is a gift for a friend and there's a little story behind it. When I offered to stitched something for her, I could almost SEE her nose wrinkle up right through the phone. After a bit of a pause on her end, I laughed and said I'd send her a few links of what I had in mind. I picked a couple Quaker pieces and several other things and emailed them to her. About 20 minutes after I sent her the first email, she emailed me back and had two or three designs picked out, this being one of them. There were several subsequent emails with links to other designs she liked.

In all, we settled on three different ones - this one, one for her wedding piece and another for her birthday. She even said she had no idea there were so many cool, interesting pieces out there. Her concept of cross stitch was more of a "country goose wearing a blue bow and bonnet" idea. Now, that may float someone else's boat, but definitely not hers. I was happy to show her that's not all there was to it.

Do I think she'll ever take up stitching herself? No. But at least she has a greater appreciation for needlework in general.
Friday, February 25, 2011

Dreaming of Tuscany

Dreaming of Tuscany by Dimensions
Stitched on 18 ct. Aida with included threads
Finished 2005 - Framed 2011

This is another of my husband's pieces, again from back when we first started stitched and stitched primarily kits. Neither of us are Italian or have any Italian heritage, and while I've been to Italy, I haven't been to Tuscany. Still, we both really like this piece. We both love a good bottle of wine, so that counts, right? (And I love Northern Italian food)

I framed this one as well, but used a black wooden frame with an open back (small metal clips hold the artwork in place). Since there's more room in the frame, I was able to use the glass also with the mat board and the needlework, and not have to worry about squeezing in a backing board. When we're ready to hang this one, my husband uses double stick framing tape and brown framing paper to seal off the back of the piece. (The framing tape and paper are available at any quality art supply store).

I wanted to be able to cover this one with glass because I plan on hanging it in our kitchen. We have a small section of wall between our basement door and the doorway to the dining room that this will be perfect in.

But I'm also holding off on hanging it up until my husband finishes the piece he's currently stitching on: Tuscan Greeting by Dimensions, seen here

When I was preparing to write this post, I went looking for a link to the first piece. I like to include a link whenever possible because I've had people email me asking where they can find the piece for themselves. And I know I always appreciate a link on someone else's blog when I see a chart I really like. It's nice to know where to be able to find it. Anyway, when I went looking for the link, I saw this piece in the "You May Also Like" section and decided, yes, I really do like that one. The next time I was in a craft store, I picked it up (it is available at chain stores like Michael's and AC Moore), and now my husband is working on this piece. We already have a large enough unfinished pile, but I already have the frame and mat for this one ready to go. As soon as it's done, we'll get it framed and both pieces up on the wall.

I've made a small dent in our FUFO drawer, but there's still several other pieces I'd like to get finished and framed our our walls. The problem is that I like to have an overall plan in mind before I start framing, so I can make sure the pieces I want to hang together look like they belong together. They don't have to be matchy-matchy, but I do like them to coordinate. I've learned to be a little more patient with things and hold off until we've decided what we want to do. Yes, sometimes I get a little antsy and would like to display more of our work, but in the end, it ends up being worth it to plan ahead.
Thursday, February 17, 2011

Another gift for a not so far away friend

Let's take a break from lighthouses for a moment, shall we? Oh, I know! Back to the ornaments. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!

Prairie Schooler Prairie Birds (Book 24) - Cardinals
Stitched 1 over 1 on 32 ct. mystery fabric
with recommended DMC threads

I stitched and finished this little ornament for my lovely friend, Dianne (Dianne Rambling On). I met Dianne when I started blogging and she has been a great friend to me both online and in person. We chat and share links on Facebook, email regularly, and have even met up in person in Ocean City, MD, over the summer. Jeff, Nick and I had a very nice lunch with Dianne, her husband and son, and Dianne and I had even MORE fun browsing in Salty Yarns on the Boardwalk.

Dianne is a wonderful combination of mom / big sister / favorite aunt and we can talk about so many things. She's also a mom, though her son is considerably older than mine (by 20 some years!). She's been a good resource for parenting advice and I am constantly inspired by her creativity and touched by her generosity.

When I admired a goldfinch piece from this Prairie Schooler book, Dianne generously loaned me her copy so I could stitch one up for my husband, who happens to really like goldfinches. I haven't quite managed to stitch his up, but I did stitch this piece for Dianne. Dianne is a nature lover and posts many pictures of her beautiful gardens. I know she appreciate the beauty of the bright colored cardinals in the barren winter as much as she loves the colorful spring and summer flowers, so I thought this piece would be perfect for her.

I stitched it a few months ago when I was on an over 1 stitching kit, and I just love how it turned out. It's really much prettier and more delicate in person, and for some reason, my finishing looks a little lumpier in the photo than it does in real life. But overall, I was pleased with how it came out.

Little did I know when I was stitching it that Dianne had already stitched and finished this piece for herself! (You can see it near the middle of the tree here.) But Dianne assured me that she loved it and thought it was cool that she had two, since mine is much smaller than hers. I like to think that I did a good job picking something she'd like!
Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I know how this looks...

Safe Passage by Bucilla
Stitched on 14 ct. Aida with included threads

I know what you're thinking.

These people are nuts. How much lighthouse stuff can two people possibly collect?

Would you believe me if I said, "Not that much, actually?" Or at least it's not blindingly obvious the second you walk in our door.

Sure, if you poke around long enough or dig through the stash under the guest bed, or visit us at Christmas and happen to notice that a good 30% of our ornaments are lighthouses or of a nautical theme, you might come to the conclusion that we have a *interest* in lighthouses (to be polite about it). But I've worked hard at not covering every available surface with lighthouse stuff, and we limit ourselves to things we're really in love with, which cuts down on the impulse purchases. Just because something is a lighthouse, has a lighthouse on it or is somewhat reminiscent of a lighthouse doesn't mean we need to own it. (We won't talk about the camera bag that I HAD TO HAVE because it was covered in lighthouses. Or the fact that it wasn't actually a camera bag, but rather a canvas purse. And yes, I did retire it in favor of an actual plain black padded camera bag).

For the most part, our displays of lighthouses are restrained and spread out around the house. Except in Little Dude's room, where there's a concentration of photos of lighthouses from around the world. Nevermind that. He LIKES them. And he's going to like this piece too, because that's where it's going. Yeah, that's right. It's another lighthouse on our walls. (also, he's not even two years old, so it's not like he gets a say in how his room is decorated)

It's also another of my husband's earlier pieces that I dug out and framed - easy pickins as the 5x7 standard size is a quick one to do up. You may be noticing a trend in black frames - I am, too. I hope I don't find it necessary to scale that back, and I hope I still love how it looks years from now because we have a LOT of black frames in our house. Eh, black is always in style.
Sunday, February 13, 2011

Another piece escapes the FUFO drawer!

A little while ago, I mentioned a drawer full of finished unfinished pieces / objects - FUFOs, as I've heard them called and it got me thinking about actually DOING something with them. Yes, many things I've stitched have been finished and given as gifts, but there are still many more languishing in a drawer in our guest room.

Some of those pieces were stitched by my husband. Technically, I'm not allowed to discuss his stitching, but I am going to ignore that "rule" because I'm quite proud of him. While most stitchers I know are women, there is a handful of men that stitch and my husband happens to be one of them. He does amazing work, and has patience for things I don't, such as massive projects. I might have even said before that he was the one that started us stitching as a way to curb our nighttime snacking habits. He figured we should do something to occupy our hands that wasn't conducive to snacking as well, and stitching fit the bill. We were living in an apartment at the time, and stitching didn't take up a whole lot of room. We started out with pre-packaged kits from places like AC Moore and Michaels, then discovered our LNS, The Strawberry Sampler, where we graduated to charts, overdyed threads, linens and evenweaves.

Since my husband will NEVER start a blog of his own, I'd like to showcase a few of his pieces on my blog. This is one of the first pieces he stitched, and here's a shocker for you - it's a lighthouse!

Nautical Light by Creative Accents (Dimensions)
Stitched on 14 ct. Aida with included threads
Finished 2002 - Framed 2011

The project was in a kit in a standard 5x7 size, making it quite easy to frame with an 8x10 frame and 5x7 mat. This one will be going on display on our living room bookshelves.

I should have taken a picture of the back of the piece, but didn't. I will say it's amazing how far we've both come with technique, especially carrying threads over the back of the fabric. See the whale and the ship off the stitched coastline? Mr. Sweet Pea used one long thread to stitch all of them, carrying the thread across the back. Yikes! We'd never do that now, especially on linen or evenweave. Fortunately, the thread did not show through the Aida fabric, so I let it go.

I did, however, restitch the outlining on the lighthouse. Originally, the outlining on the lighthouse was done with long, somewhat loose threads (Even on the package photo, the outlining is done like this and at the time, we didn't know any better.) But when I went to pull it out for framing, those long threads drove me NUTS and I had to pull them out and restitch the backstitching over single threads. It looks so much nicer, I think.

I should also confess at this point that we were not as careful with the fabrics as we are now. In fact, there might have been some *gasp* masking tape residue on the edges of the piece as we used regular old masking tape to prevent fraying. (I'll give you a minute to pick yourself up off the floor). And before you call the stitching police on me, we're much better now. Most pieces we stitch now are on custom cut pieces of fabric from my new LNS (is it still new after 2 years?) Just Crossstitch in Lederach, where Carolyn serges the edges. On fabric I cut myself, I use a fabric fray check and pinking sheers which works out fine.

But back to atoning for my previous sins. On one hand, the fabric under where the masking tape had been was clean. On the other, that stripe of clean, bright fabric around the edge made me realize how dirty the rest of the fabric was, even though I had washed the piece in cold water and Ivory dish soap before putting it away. I wanted to make sure the piece was as clean as possible before I framed it, but I had concerns about the red dye running. After a bit of google searching, however, I found that many stitchers agreed OxiClean was safe enough to use on stitching and could remove most stains, so off to the grocery store I went for a tub of OxiClean.

Lucky for me, it worked just fine, and I had no bleeding of the red dye. (YAY!) I was quite nervous but it all turned out in the end. The stains were gone and the piece looked much better.

I have a few more pieces from my husband that I will be posting in the future, and I'm hoping to rescue even more FUFOs from the drawer.
Sunday, January 30, 2011

A gift for a far away friend

Quaker Fragments Stocking by Blackbird Designs (March Leaflet)
Stitched two over two on R&R Reproductions 30 ct. Alabaster
with Crescent Colors Ruby Slippers and WDW Monkey Grass

Would you believe I had this piece stitched and waiting to be finished since, oh.... AUGUST? Yep. August. I knew I was going to stitch and finish this piece for my friend Michele, but I didn't think it would take me so long to do the actual finish finishing. Naturally, I had to be difficult and not follow the finishing instructions in the leaflet. Oh no. I had to do thing *my* way. And by my way, I mean pleading with my husband who is far more patient and diligent than I am to trace out the cardboard and assemble the stocking for me. I did get him to trace the cardboard and cut it out, but I was on my own for lacing the stocking onto the cardboard.

A little tugging, a little clipping, and a little cursing, and it was done. Just barely done, but done before Christmas. Which is not to say it arrived before Christmas, but I did mail it out before Christmas - perhaps about a week or so before the big day. Two weeks after Christmas, I still hadn't heard anything about it from Michele, so I decided to forgo a surprise and ask her if she had received any envelopes from me. She had, in fact, not. I was devastated. Everything else I had mailed on the same day had made it to its destination, and I was psyching myself up to stitch and finish this piece again. I was not looking forward to lacing the stocking onto cardboard again, but the actual stitching of the piece was fun. Luckily for me, Michele emailed me a few days later to let me know she had received the envelope and was just thrilled with the ornament and the additional tokens I had sent her.

You see, Michele is a major Seattle Seahawks fan, and I am a Cowboys fan, so we give each other good natured ribbing throughout football season. I sent her my interpretation of her beloved Seahawk's colors in overdyed floss, something I imagine would either frighten or amuse the big burly football players. You can see the colors here on her blog.

And there's a story behind the colors I selected for the stocking itself. Michele loves the color red, so I knew I was going to work that in there, but I didn't want to do two shades of red. I pulled a few shades of red that caught my eye from the overdyed racks in my LNS, but when I saw the name Ruby Slippers, I knew that was the color I was going to use. Michele is a big Wizard of Oz fan as well, so how could I not? As for the green, I picked a green to coordinate with the red, not by color name. It did, however, work out perfectly for me as my chosen color is Monkey Grass, or as I like to call it, Flying Monkeys. Yeah. I'm cool like that.
Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hold it!! There are MORE Lighthouses!

Linda's not the only one that knows me well. Another dear friend of mine, Michele from Just Another Stitching Blog, thought of me when she was out shopping and picked up these two charts for me. I think the Gulf Coast lighthouse chart may still be available, if hard to find, but I am almost positive Secluded Shores is out of print, making the charts that much more appreciated.

Do you see the little blue thing below the charts? It's the loveliest little scissor fob. With a LIGHTHOUSE!!! Take a closer look - it's beautiful, and in my favorite color blue, though I am convinced Michele slipped a little Seahawk green in there on purpose. LOL

The larger oval shaped beads are especially pretty and appropriate as they're a frosted finish that looks very much like sea glass, another one of my favorite things. As lighthouse enthusiasts, we visit a lot of beaches and I make it a point to scour them for pieces of sea glass. I can, and have, spent hours combing beaches looking for glass and have amassed a collection I keep on display in our living room. I love that the beads on this fob are so reminiscent of the glass I find out the beach.

And because I want to be all fancy like with the macro settings on my camera, check out the awesome lighthouse on the end of the fob:

And while I also thanked Michele privately when I received the package, I just wanted to give her generosity and thoughtfulness a public shout out.
Friday, January 28, 2011

Lighthouses, lighthouses, lighthouses

It's pretty obvious I like lighthouses - visiting them, taking pictures of them, stitching them. The whole thing started with my husband's family's annual trips to the Outer Banks while he was growing up. Every year, his family vacationed in Buxton, NC, home of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse. And every year, he and his family would visit the lighthouse and climb it if it was open. When we started dating, I went on vacation with the family, and visited the lighthouse myself.

Later, shortly before we were married, we were looking for something to do one weekend when my then boyfriend suggested a visit to the Absecon Lighthouse in NJ. No reason - just something to do on a weekend. So off we went to visit (and climb!) Absecon, which is next door to Atlantic City's casinos. We have little interest in casinos, but that weekend jaunt led us to pick up a Lighthouse Passport. Basically, the passport is a small booklet for collecting stamps at participating sites in the program - mostly lighthouses, but a few lifesaving stations and museums participate as well. When you fill up a passport with 60 stamps, you send it off to the Lighthouse Society and they send you a patch (and your booklet).

This started a project for my husband and I, and we began to look for opportunities to visit various lighthouses. We structured our honeymoon around a return trip to Hatteras to revisit our old friend, and several other lighthouses in the area. We did a spur of the moment long weekend over 4th of July one year, starting in upstate New York and worked our way along the Great Lakes through Niagara and down to Presque Isle. And we also participated in multiple lighthouse challenges in New Jersey, Maryland and New York. If you are interested in lighthouses and live within driving distance of any of these challenges, I highly recommend checking them out. We always have a good time and it's a great way to spend a weekend:

You can also check out The Lighthouse Hunters, who have information on additional challenges in Maine, Florida and Canada.

Soooo........... what is the point of all my yammering about lighthouses? In early December, I was the recipient of a large envelope stuffed to bursting with the amazing array of charts you see here, all of them lighthouse themed.

My wonderful friend Linda at Taxing Stitches gifted me with these charts. I was absolutely overwhelmed as I opened the envelope and started pulling out chart after chart after chart of lighthouses. Linda had been going through her stash and said she immediately thought of me when she started pulling these out. She knew I had an interest in lighthouses, and remembered that both my husband and I stitch. He's stitched several lighthouses, and I know he was eyeing up a few charts in this collection as well. I am looking forward to picking a few of these charts and stitching on them over the summer (I have a few spring weddings I am stitching larger pieces for).

I am a terrible slacker for waiting so long to thank her publicly (though I did thank her profusely in private). Once again, THANK YOU, Linda! Your generosity has overwhelmed me and touched my heart.