23 January 2017

Oh, the weather outside is frightful...

We haven't seen the sun here since... I don't remember. Middle of last week, I think. It's been cold and rainy. Today, it's cold and rainy and windy, and may be sleety and/or snowy later tonight. Nasty. Not a fit day for man or beast out there, so I'm inside playing with my stash and thinking about stitching.

First things first. These lovely threads arrived from Robin in Virginia! How's that for a way to brighten up a cold, gray day? Thank you, Robin!

More mail! A ginormous piece of 32 ct. Vintage Country Mocha for the Joyful World series, a couple skeins of Wildflowers (trying to decide on a purple for the Twelve Days of Christmas project), and an adorable polymer clay needle minder from Down Sunshine Lane.

By the way, please forgive the super bright lighting. I had to use my Ott Lite, as it appears we will never see the sun again, and if I ever wanted to take photographs for my blog again, I had to resort to artificial light. Anyway, yes, I'm starting Joyful World. I wanted to stitch it last year as it was being released, but I had too much other stuff going on. I still have too much other stuff going on, but, well, you know. 

And here's something really special. I've decided to have my blog printed into a book. The first year arrived today and I couldn't be more thrilled with the result! With all the time, effort, photographs, information, etc. I have poured into my blog, I couldn't help but be paranoid that one day I would wake up and it would be gone, due to some crazy glitch or hacking or something. I know you can back them up online, but for this old-fashioned girl, there's nothing like holding a hard copy. Besides, it's pretty special to be able to flip through a beautiful book of your own needlework. 

The service I used was blog2print. I only created a book for the first year, partly because of the expense (there weren't any current coupons), but mostly because I wanted to see how a book turned out before I took the plunge and did my whole blog. I am extremely pleased with the result, and I've already created books for 2014, 2015, and 2016. It's expensive, but they do have good discount offers on their Facebook page fairly often, which I used this time. I can't stop looking at it, and to me, that's well worth the expense. 

So besides looking at my new book 40 times, I'll be putting a few stitches in on LHN's Season's Greetings...

...and Sleeping Fox. Remember him? He went into hibernation while I worked on Christmas stuff, but he's awake now. Wait... never mind.

That's what I'm doing on this blustery, cold, wet, nasty day. Really good stitching weather!

18 January 2017

Bluebonnet Joy... and a surprise!

Until this past weekend, I hadn't picked up a needle since New Year's Eve. As I mentioned in this post, I'm currently working on my annual household purge, with my sewing room as this week's focus. My craft closet has become a death trap, but yesterday I managed to excavate to the surface of the temporary table I set up in there to accommodate my Christmas creativity.

I also managed to achieve my first finish of the year! This is Bluebonnet Joy by Redbird Designs, stitched on 28 ct. Valor by Picture This Plus. I flipped the red swirly bits and the white letters for white swirly bits and red letters (GAST Buckeye Scarlet), and added a few beads. I used GAST Grape Leaves for the lighter shade of green in the leaves, as it was friendlier to the Valor.

In other news, this adorable set of four charts arrived from the UK. I have a terrible weakness for Highland Cows and could offer no resistance to these. They're from Goldleaf Needlework.

And one more thing... surprise! I bet y'all figured I'd completely abandoned this project. Nope. If you need to catch up on what this one is all about, just click the WIP picture on the right sidebar and you will be taken to all of my posts about this project. I was flying through it until I reached "the people days" and decided to go my own way, which meant designing my own blocks, which meant more time than I had right at that moment. So I put it aside. I had hoped to have it finished by this past Christmas, but no. Over the weekend, I picked it back up again, and have been fiddling with it off an on. I only have the tenth and twelfth days left, so it shouldn't be too much longer. Unless I decide to rearrange day nine...

So that's a little of what's been going on around here. Today, I tackle my craft closet. If I don't return in a reasonable amount of time, send the dogs to dig me out, and make sure they're carrying cookies.

10 January 2017

09 January 2017

You guys... tiny bakeware!

I rarely talk about food here, and only share recipes during my annual Christmas Open House. The main reason is that I'm not really wild about cooking. What I am wild about is baking, but I pretty much never bake. Why? Because 1) Mr. Wonderful is in the military and has to remain trim; 2) we're both in our 40's and can't eat whatever we want anymore; and 3) baking recipes are notoriously hard to scale down to just two or a few servings. 

Now generally speaking, I am a food-as-fuel kinda person. I am most definitely not a "foodie." I am not a gourmet, or a food snob. I like old-fashioned plain cooking that fills me up and gets me down the road. I am amused by plates of tiny food that look like sculpture and are artfully drizzled with stuff and garnished with weeds. But baked goods... there you have me. This sign hangs in my kitchen:

I have a sweet tooth, but not the kind that compels me to devour an entire package of cookies by myself. I get this trait from my Granny, my dad's mother. She was small and thin and ate like a bird but she always needed "just a taste" of something sweet after a meal. That's me. Just a taste. It doesn't make sense to bake a full-sized cake or three dozen cookies when all you want is a taste. Therefore, no baking. Sad.

Sometime last year, I ran across a copy of America's Test Kitchen magazine, Baking for Two. I bought it and a whole new world opened up before me (I may have heard angels singing). It was full of scaled down recipes for everything, from tiny 6" cakes to even tinier and more adorable 5" loaves of quick bread. The articles that accompany the recipes explain the trials and errors of scaling down baking recipes, with explanations of why it's not as simple as merely cutting all the ingredients in half. Fascinating. To make a long story short, I made a list of the tiny bakeware I needed and Santa delivered.

I threw the peppermint sticks in there for scale. These are tiny. I was beyond excited. While I was making my Christmas list of tiny bakeware, I ran across this book and added it to my wish list. Santa brought it, too. I suspect Santa is looking forward to this new way of baking.

This book looks fantastic. I say "looks" because I haven't been able to try any recipes yet. Mr. Wonderful has a PT test this month, and I promised I wouldn't plunge into a baking frenzy until after he got past it. Soon. (By the way, the author has a website: Dessert for Two. Prepare yourselves.)

I know y'all are thinking about the danger here, and yes, I've already considered it. The danger is, of course, that because I'm only baking a couple of servings of something, I'll feel more comfortable baking all the time. Perhaps. But I think that after a baking drought of years (only baking at Christmas), even baking only once a week will seem like a huge amount. I'm just glad I've found a way to bring something back into my life that I enjoy. 

The baking starts soon. Stay tuned!

05 January 2017

Gifts from Afghanistan

Since we all love fabrics and fibers, I thought I would share a gift I received yesterday. One of Mr. Wonderful's close friends is currently deployed to Afghanistan, and he just sent me this gorgeous Cashmere shawl. He sent Mr. Wonderful a really cool "man scarf" too. I guess he really liked his Christmas box, because... feast your eyes on this!

While I'm at it, here are the shawls Mr. Wonderful sent me from Afghanistan. The pictures don't do any of these shawls justice. They're quite large. I've photographed them hanging over my shower rod, so you're only seeing half the shawl. That gives you an idea of how large they are. They are also unbelievably soft, and actually shimmer. Just gorgeous.

When Mr. Wonderful was deployed, he asked me if I wanted anything, and I gave my standard answer: textiles. Whenever someone travels and asks what I'd like, I always want local textiles. I didn't specify what kind, and he chose these two beautiful shawls on his own. (One of the many reasons he is Mr. Wonderful.) I was so surprised and delighted to receive another one from his buddy. Now that I have three, I have a "collection" of Afghan shawls and I will be too fabulous for words. 

03 January 2017

NESSA Update and Thoughts on Letting Go of Stuff

Happy 2017, everyone--hope the holidays were wonderful for you and you got lots of time to stitch. I didn't get nearly as much stitching done as I had hoped I would, but I did catch up on Pam Kellogg's Never Ending Sampler SAL (link on the right sidebar). 

Bands 1-12

As I mentioned in my first post about this SAL, I'm stitching it as a journal in which I've given each band a meaning, so this is December. If you'd like to see close-ups of the other bands and get color information, just click the Never Ending Sampler label.

Band 9/Christmas Ornaments: Cardinal, Emerald, Ethiopia, Blueberry, Daffodil, Copper, Moss
Band 10/Snow Angels: Arctic Frost
Band 11/New Year's Eve Fireworks: Deep Sunset
Band 12/Starry Night: Indigo, Snow White

Today I'm putting away Christmas decorations. As much as I love Christmas, once New Year's Day has come and gone, I'm ready to put everything away and move on. January is when I start my annual household purge... every closet, drawer, cupboard, etc. gets cleaned out and organized. Since I do this purge every year (in varying degrees of intensity), it's never very overwhelming, but it is still a big job. Being military, we can never be sure exactly when we're going to move, so it's important to stay ready. We are hoping, hoping, to move this year. We have been stationed in our current location for 7 1/2 years... and we're so ready to go. When (if?) the time comes, perhaps I'll treat y'all to a thrilling blow-by-blow account of how I prepare for a move. I've got it down to a science... I even have a moving "planner." How 'bout that? 

The first rule is: Don't wait until you know you're moving to have a big clean-out. Moving is stressful enough without adding the stress of trying to clean things out and make decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of. Those are decisions that should be made on a random Tuesday, not when the movers are due to show up in two days.

Even if you're not moving, a yearly clean-out is a good idea. If we're not careful, we will gradually become "owned by our stuff." Letting go of things may be hard at first, but it gets easier with practice, and it feels good. We've all had the experience of finally attacking that closet/drawer/space that's been driving us nuts for a while, getting it all cleaned out and organized, and then just pausing as we walk by to admire our hard work. It's a relief to be back in charge of our stuff, instead of the other way around.

I'm not a minimalist, and I don't advocate parting with things you love or use regularly just because, but I do think we often invest too much emotion in our possessions. When cleaning out, it's helpful to ask yourself questions about an item instead of just feeling something about that item. When I'm cleaning out, I ask myself these questions:

Do I need this?
How long has it been since I've used this (or even seen it)?
Do I want to pack this up and move it across the country?
When I arrive at my new home, do I want to unpack this thing and find a place for it?

The last two questions are usually the killers. Even if there's an emotional tug from an item, when I think about having to unpack it and find a place for it, that emotional tug fades. Now of course, there are items that I would never get rid of no matter how many times I had to move them, things that may not be at all useful, but that I love. The key is: don't love everything. Keep the bar high. One of my favorite quotations on this subject is this:

If you keep everything, you honor nothing.

I think of this quotation often when I'm cleaning out things. If everything is too special to get rid of, then nothing is really that special. I had an experience years ago that imprinted itself very strongly on my mind. We were stationed in California, and a controlled burn got out of control, jumped a road, and began burning near our home. The firefighting helicopters were ferrying water from the ocean right over our house to dump on the fire. We could see the flames from our back windows. Mr. Wonderful was at school with our only vehicle. There I was. What to do? I assumed that if the firefighters thought the houses were in danger, some sort of evacuation would take place. What would I grab? Our kitty Shadow, my treasured Bible, and my purse... just what I could carry. Once I had decided that, I went into the kitchen and baked cookies. 

Obviously, that's an extreme example, but that experience has stayed with me. It taught me something very important about stuff: it's just stuff. I have a similar feeling every time I see the moving van leave with all our worldly possessions. You hear horror stories about moving vans catching fire, shipments being lost, etc. Every time I watch the van leave, I think, "Well, there it goes..." And... that's all. You just let go. If something happens to all of it, something happens to all of it.

When all is said and done, the only things that really matter are the things that breathe.