Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Our New Home

Just kidding--this is a picture of The Breakers, the Vanderbilt's summer home in Newport, RI. My husband and I had always wanted to see the mansions in Newport and earlier this summer we realized that the stars would align so that could happen. We would have one child on the West Coast, one serving as a counselor at an overnight camp and a third in France. So we made arrangements and headed north. We covered eight of the properties owned by the Newport Preservation Society and saw The Breakers twice. (We purchased a membership to the society which was cheaper than individual tickets or the packages that were being offered). The kids definitely would have been in mutiny mode after the second mansion, but we couldn't get enough! The audio tours are great and we had wonderful guides for tours at some of the smaller houses. And the buildings--what wonderful architecture and sumptious, over-the-top decorating. Yes, it was conspicuous consumption, a phrase coined by Mark Twain when he talked about The Breakers, but these houses are examples of an age that we will probably never see again. Go if you get the chance.
Life here at our much more humble abode goes on. The third child is back from France with lots of information about her trip. Must be a girl thing since both the boys have had the benefit of foreign travel (a 5-week study trip in China and a 25-day trip to Germany), but details of those trips were released only during intense questioning sessions. I got some stitching done on the long ride to and from RI and will share the results in an upcoming post. I've pretty much abandoned my rotation for the time being and spent some time on the Keep Me sampler last night. I'm off to work on it some more.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The 25-Project Challenge

The infamous Striped Bass (see below) finished off my 25-project challenge. I went off my rotation to finish it because I wanted a new project to take on an upcoming road trip and because I wanted to accomplish one of the things on my 101 Things in 1000 Days list. The challenge is an idea from Cherylann who wanted to reduce the number of projects in her stash. The challenge is whatever you want it to be. Mine was not to buy new charts although I could purchase threads and other supplies to complete designs I already have. And I made an exception to the challenge to be able to buy a limited edition design and the JCS ornament issue. I also included classes in my exception. I completed a 10-project challenge at the end of 2007 and started a 25-project challenge. I made it to 8 projects--twice!!--before I caved and bought a new chart. I started again in July, 2008 and finished just the other day. Which is why I only bought this when I stopped at the LNS on the way home from my Sampler Guild meeting a few weeks ago. I fell in love with using petite needles when I got one in my Elizabeth Bechtel kit last year, and it seems I never have enough of them. The threads are for the Keep Me Sampler, just in case I run out, and you know that we stitchers can never have enough project bags! Of course, I looked at several great charts, but they're all on my wish list for now, and I'm glad I stuck with my challenge!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

3 Squares a Day

If you've looked at my sidebar, you might have noticed that I have a problem with startitis that has led to 34 current WIPs. Which is why I couldn't leave well enough alone when I finished the canvas fish and had to start Postcard from Paradise (Blue Ribbon Designs)even before I put the last stitch in the Striped Bass.
If I do three squares a day and one strand of the dividing lines, I'll have this done in mid-July.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

1/5 Full or 4/5 Empty?

Several years ago, there were a number of post on the bulletin boards I frequent about doing 101 things in 1000 days (http://www.dayzeroproject.com/). I made my list and my 1000 days are up today. I accomplished 21 things from the list, including completing a 10-project challenge and a 25-project challenge. Sadly, my goal of calling my mother weekly was also finished as she passed away from complications of Alzheimer's about nine months after I started my list.

And although I thought I had completed the goal of teaching my second son how to do laundry before he went away to college, I found that I had to revisit it when I mentioned something over semester break about washing his sheets and towels. His response was "You have to wash towels? I thought since they were wet after my shower I didn't have to wash them". Eeewww! (And just how did he think those fresh towels got in the linen closet when he used them for the entire 18 years he lived at home???)

Even though I only reached a few of my goals, I think 20% is better than nothing. Tomorrow, I'll start on a new list and update my progress monthly. You can take a look here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Reeling It In

Here's a picture of my latest finish, a Julie Pischke canvas that I refer to as the Striped Bass. It's done all in basketweave with a darning cotton for the blue background, Caron Waterlilies for the outside of the fish, ribbon floss for the white and a blue metallic. Even though it doesn't look quite like the model I saw in Julie's shop,
I think my son will like it when it's made into a pillow.
This project has been a work in progress since August, 2005 when we went to Key West after dropping my oldest son off for his sophomore year at the University of Miami. We had two great days at the beach, enjoyed a sunset cruise and ate key lime pie. I got to spend a very happy hour in Julie Pischke's shop although I didn't know then that the helpful shop owner was also the designer of the pieces I bought.
We had heard that a hurricane was coming, but it was expected to hit in Fort Lauderdale, about 200 miles to the north of us. On the last day of our Key West vacation, I awoke around 6:00 and saw rain coming down in sheets. My husband got up a little later and wanted to get on the road. The storm had worsened since I woke up and we made the decision to stay put. A good thing because when I called the hotel in Miami to cancel our reservation for that evening, they told me they didn't have electricity. Around noon we lost electricity in our hotel which meant that the only way to get to the lobby was on stairs that were located on the outside of the building. My husband had the presence of mind to prop our door open when we went out since of course the electronic lock didn't work. Our room had windows on both the courtyard and the street sides so we got some relief from the heat occasionally. I spent the afternoon stitching on the striped bass and watching the palm trees being whipped around in the courtyard. My husband and I were up about every hour during the night as we needed to get out early in the morning to catch our flight out of Miami. We managed to get up on time and get our other two children into the car. As we drove north, water was coming up over the sea wall and we thought we were in for a rough trip. But 20 minutes up the road, the roads were dry and a gas station was open. The rest of the trip was fine until we got closer to Miami and palm trees were down along the sides of the road. We were waved through toll booths. When we got to the hotel we would have stayed in, the street next to it had minor flooding and the traffic lights were out. Still, we made it to the UM campus and were able to rouse our son out of bed to say goodbye before heading to the airport. A huge tree near his dorm had been uprooted. I had taken a picture of our three kids standing next to it just a few days before. We couldn't find another gas station open and dropped off our rental car with less than a full tank, but we made our flight on time. That was Katrina when it was still a Category I storm and we watched in horror as it gained momentum and caused so much destruction on the other side of the Gulf a few days later. So this project reminded me to be thankful for our blessings and to be helpful to those who lost so much.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

It's the little things

About 6 months ago, the remote key for my van stopped working. I tried replacing the battery and nothing happened. Ditto for the spare remote. I put off doing anything about it until I had to take the van in for inspection and routine maintenance this week. I had it in my mind that fixing the remote would be expensive so I "suffered" through months of having to unlock the driver's door and then hitting the unlock button to get the rest of the van's doors open--so 1990. Not to mention that I felt unsafe in parking lots at night while I stood around trying to get the key in the lock. Well, my old road dog thinks she just came from the factory after an oil change, new rear tires, a new pollen filter (who knew that cars even had one of those??) and a new brake light (again, I didn't even know if wasn't working). All of this required an overnight stay at the dealer's because one part wasn't available and produced a bill not unlike that of an overnight hospital stay. The remote added a whole $13.23 to the total and let me tell you it was worth every penny when I was able to open up the back of the van to put groceries in without having to use the key.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Summer Reading

I mentioned in a previous post that I don't buy books anymore--well, not many books and certainly not very often. This is why. It's about half the books that are stored in a closet in my sunroom. They were moved there three years ago when we remodeled our master bath and I had to take books out from under my bed and nightstand. They're causing the shelves to sag slightly. And I'm not even showing you the books that have crept back under my bed and my nightstand, nor the ones that are piled on top of the TV in my bedroom. (We rarely watch the TV but it makes a great bookshelf.) So I'm making a commitment to read at least 10 of these books while I'm off for the summer. That's one book a week. Now if I could just keep from checking the latest bestseller out of the library.

Friday, June 12, 2009


Today was the last day of school for me and for my daughter. She survived the junior year of high school--her first, our last. It's hard to believe that my little girl is now a senior.
The last day of school has had a lot of variations over the years. There have been the years when I was copying a report that needed to be sent out that day as the principal was locking up her office and looking pointedly at her watch. Other years, I've finished all my work the day before, and enjoyed a morning of saying goodbye to the students who are moving on to the next school. This year, I was working up until the last minute because I took the time to really clean out my room. It was time. I started in my current position 17 years ago and today I threw out some things that my predecessor had left. I took a short break to join the rest of the staff as we waved goodbye to the buses. I'm not ashamed to admit that's one of the best moments of the school year! Then it was off to the staff luncheon to catch up with colleagues and wish everyone a great summer. It was a good year, but I'm glad it's over.
And now on to summer. Housework has been non-existent the past six weeks as I spent many hours writing reports and attending my daughter's school activities in the evenings and on the weekends. So I have lots of plans to put the house right again and get some routine maintenance done. And plans to read, stitch and make quilts. Plans to take my daughter on college tours and to some of our favorite shops. Plans to catch up on my sleep. Plans to lose 20 pounds. Plans to work two mornings a week in summer school.
But for tonight, I have no plans except to enjoy the wonderful feeling of school being out for summer.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Race to the Finish

Which one of these will be the 25th finish in my 25-project challenge?

Striped Bass-Julie Pischke canvas
Lights of Advent ornament (JCS ornament issue)

The Striped Bass (my name for it) has been a project for long-distance trips in the car for awhile now. I find the metallics tricky to work with in the car, so it's now getting a strand a day at home.
The ornament is my car project. I stitch on it while I wait for my daughter to make her appearance for the trip to the high school (she is not a morning person), before I go into work in the morning because I refuse to enter the building before 7:30, and while I'm waiting to pick my daughter up from one of her many activities. School's done on Friday, though.
Which one will be finished first? Your guess is as good as mine!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Worst Books

In the Thursday Next novels by Jasper Fforde (Lost in a Good Book, The Eyre Affair), there is a character, Gran, who can't die until she has read the ten worst books of all time. Well, I may have found one to add to the list. On a recent foray into a bookstore (where I went for the sole purpose of scouting out the latest mysteries and novels to put on my summer reading list), I spotted a promising volume, The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil. I put in a request for it through my local library since I do. not. buy. books. anymore. The book arrived in no time at all and I settled in to read it. Twenty pages in, I wasn't impressed by the two women who are best friends, or by the two boys who belonged to one of the women., or the plot. I rarely abandon a book, but my patience ran out around page 80. Although not before the new owner of the yard shop had knitted fish for the window display--I kid you not. At least there wasn't a pattern in the back of this book for the fish.

While I'm reviewing books, I'll admit that I didn't like The Friday Night Knitting Club either because of its trite plot and at times, inept writing. I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority on this one since every other person I've met who has read it loved the book.

We'll do best books later, but for now, what are your nominees for the Worst Book Ever?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Frogs Are Gone!

The rain has left southeastern PA and taken the frogs with it. Maybe now I can make some real progress on Petit Sampling Etui. I frogged the line of over-one alphabet that begins with 'N' and got most of it re-stitched. Would have done more stitching, but the prom festivities and the late nights during the previous week caught up with me so I fell asleep with the needle in my hand. I'll have three more days on this before my rotation changes, so I'm planning to get this box done.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Fun Time Was Had By All

Tonight is the senior prom and we hosted the pre-prom picture session for seven couples (and their entourages of parents, granparents and siblings). It was a successful event. All the girls looked lovely and the boys were handsome. The picture taking went well even though the soaking rain we got all day in southeastern PA meant we had to have it indoors instead of on our deck. And then the limo arrived--a stretch Hummer. Now, normally I don't approve of such extravagance, but the prom location is 45 minutes away from our house and I'm glad none of the kids are driving in this rain. My husband was so busy helping the girls stay dry under golf umbrellas on the way to the limo while I was checking to be sure that everyone had their evening bags and flowers (I know--I'm such a Mom) that we didn't get a picture of it. There were plenty of other parents documenting every moment, though!
I was happy that I took the entire day off to make this event happen. I was in the grocery store before 7:30 shopping for the event and had the house cleaned by 11:00. I picked my daughter up at school at 12:30 after running a couple of errands and we had a leisurely lunch followed by a session at the hair stylist. Then it was time for food prep and helping my daughter with dressing before everyone arrived. The kitchen's cleaned up and I'm going to spend the rest of the evening with a nice glass of wine and stitching on Jane Longstreth.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Plague

I have always been amused by story of the plague of frogs sent to Egypt to punish the Pharoah for not releasing the Israelites. I'm not amused by having them take up residence near my Petit Sampling Etui . Especially when I'm stitching over one. Especially when I have to take out an entire row of alphabet. Especially when I've already "reverse stitched" another section of this chart. No, I am not at all amused.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

It Works For Me

I've tried many times to do a rotation. I've tried stitching 10 hours on a project. I've tried having a focus piece to stitch on every other slot in the rotation. I've tried rotating projects weekly. Nothing seemed to be right for me and I just went back to being a one-at-time stitcher. That was great until I started the SAL for Petit Sampling Etui with my sampler guild. I found that I was stitching on it all the time, trying to keep up with the SAL. And I really wanted to be working on some of my other projects, too. As I was stitching one night, I thought about the method I use to keep myself motivated during difficult parts of stitching or on boring borders. I stitch three needles full of one color, two of the next and one of a third. Then back to the first color. Why couldn't I do that with my projects?

And thus, a rotation was born. I chose four projects and rotate them, stitching four days on one, three on the next, two on the next and one on the last. When I'm through the rotation, the "four day" project goes to the bottom of the list and the "three day" one moves into the four spot, and so on. This way I end up giving about equal time to every project and I get a little variety. It's also made me think about mini-goals for each piece. If I know I have only one night to stitch on it, I might choose to stitch the border with few color changes rather than the flowers. I've been doing this for about six weeks, and finally, it's a rotation that works for me.

The projects? Well, you've seen Petit Sampling Etui and Not For Us Alone. Here are some recent pictures of my other two:

Keep Me Sampler by Moira Blackburn (I love the colors!)

Jane Longstreth from the Vassar Sampler Collection This is a reproduction of a sampler from Chester County, PA, close to where I live.