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.