Friday, December 31, 2010

Noel Letters are Finished! Welcome Gus!

Today I finished beading the letters in Noel. It took two full tubes of beads and just a few from a third tube to complete the letters. I spent a week of dedicated beading on the letters. The beading lends so much texture and dimension to the canvas - well worth a week's work.

Ruth has lots of fun planned for the bottom red border and I'll get started on that tonight or tomorrow depending on how interesting I find the Chick-Fil-A Bowl tonight.  Would love to see South Carolina win - apologies to fans of FSU! I hate to see SEC college football come to an end for the year.

This morning I dealt with the not-so-fun part of Christmas - the dismantling of the Christmas decorations. Andrew was home for a short 24 hours earlier this week and he helped me put away the decorations that had to go to the attic. What's left to do now is find a place downstairs for all of this:

Basically I end up finding places here and there to store these things until next year and hope that I remember where I put them when Christmas rolls around again.

My new friend, Sarcoph A Gus, arrived late yesterday afternoon via the big brown truck. He will be magnificent - the majority of the outer sarcophagus is beaded! I thought three tubes of beads for the Noel canvas was a lot but Gus has it beat. There are 12 colors of beads for this canvas.

As you can see Sarcoph A Gus is on the stretchers and the stitch guide is ready for the notebook. I gathered all the required threads together last night from the previous characters' kits. I haven't quite decided where to start - bottom border or the mummy himself. Amy and Kelly have worked their magic again with this canvas.

Have you see the January newsletter from Amy's? It's always so fun to read and there is so much great information inside. I loved the "article" on our next character, Dev L Mann. Did you know he'll be wearing an asbestos pant suit? Too funny! I enjoyed seeing Caron's 4 finished Halloweenies. She finished hers as easel-back stand-ups. Good job, Caron! Jill gave us a great "how to" tutorial on finishing
a personalized tote bag. Amy has added another Melissa Shirley banner to her Home Study series for next year. Another decision to make - stitch the Thanksgiving banner or the Christmas banner, or stitch both?

Not too many hours left until we say goodbye to 2010. Stitch-wise, I don't think I have ever finished so many projects as I have this year. The Halloweenies have been challenging and lots of fun and just the right size project for me. These characters pretty much pushed all other projects to the sidelines. While I hate to see the Halloweenies come to an end, it will be nice to pick up some stitching that has been put aside for the last year.

I have a standing rib roast in the oven tonight for my New Year's Eve dinner - it smells so good! My plans for the evening include football, more football, and lots of stitching. I hope whatever you have planned is festive and safe.

Thank you for supporting my blogging these last six months! I look forward to more blogging this coming year and would love to think that maybe I will actually get to meet some of you in person this year!

See you in 2011!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

My holidays started out like this on Thursday as I prepared to drive to Jacksonville for Christmas:

The back seat was similarly packed as was the front passenger seat. I had a pleasantly uneventful drive to Jacksonville. I had my iPod with me and listened to podcasts of interviews with authors such as Jeffrey Archer, Ken Follett, Daniel Silva, Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman), and Pat Conroy. I didn't know until recently that Barnes & Noble has such an extensive list of author interviews available for download on iTunes - and they are all free!

We had a lovely day yesterday - lots of gifts and great food! We feasted on standing rib roast, squash casserole, broccoli rice casserole, and the best mashed potatoes that Anna made with sour cream, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and chives. Anna's mom made a beautiful apple pie and we also had a sinfully good peppermint bark cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory.

I have to tell you about my special gift from Andrew and Anna. I don't think I have ever been reduced to tears over a Christmas gift before, but I have now. Andrew gave me a large, very light gift to unwrap. He had dropped hints on Christmas Eve about having to assemble my gift so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. What I didn't expect upon opening the gift was to find a gift certificate for Rent Amy for a Day! Can you believe it?  Do they know me or what? I get to spend a whole day with Amy! I can't imagine a more wonderful, thoughtful gift. Andrew and Anna are even talking about taking the road trip with me to Memphis whenever we work out the schedule with Amy. Details to follow....

I have had some time to sit and stitch on Noel this weekend so I've made some progress on the beading.

The third and final lesson in the Mystery Class arrived just as I was leaving on Thursday. There were all kinds of fun things in the package - green jingle bells and cute buttons that will be added to the bottom border. I appreciate the designer of Noel, Beth Gantz, dropping by to comment on the blog last week. Beth and Ruth are make for a talented combo!

While I've been in Jacksonville, I have actually missed some snow in Augusta! I think it could probably be described as a dusting - but snow, nonetheless. I hope all my stitching friends along the east coast have all the food and drink they need and don't have to leave the house for the next couple of days. Sounds like you're going to be hit with a big storm! Be careful!

Hope you all had the best of Christmases with your families and friends.  I know I did!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Little Christmas Stitching

This week I put away the Haunted House (apologies to my fellow Halloweenie stitchers) in favor of working on my Noel canvas which is one of Ruth Schmuff's current mystery classes. You should see what she has planned for the bottom section in red. She gave a clue (at least for the Jingle canvas) in her email blast that arrived today. It involves jingle bells. I just don't know if the Noel canvas will have the same embellishments.

I finished the background of blackwork last night and am now ready to start on the letters. You see those three tubes of beads in the lower right of the canvas? That's what I have in my stitching future - at least until Sarcoph A. Gus arrives. Thank goodness for Pay Per View as movies kept me going through the work on the background. I finally watched Sex and the City 2 - all two and half hours of it. I had read disappointing reviews of it but thought that it couldn't really be that bad. I was wrong. It's that bad. Any movie that has you wondering how much longer until it's over is not one you will be singing the praises of. It's ironic that in this movie about women, I liked the men (Mr. Big and Aiden) more than I liked the girls. Glad I didn't waste more than $4.99 on this movie.

The second movie I watched was the Disney version of A Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey. Gosh, I hope parents didn't take their little children to see this - it was scary! Well done, but scary.

And then I watched Love Actually. I love that movie and watch it throughout the year even when it's not Christmas. I love the actors, the music, the scenery - everything about it.

I may not post again until after Christmas, so let me take this opportunity to wish you all the merriest of Christmases. I will be with Andrew and Anna and hope that you, too, will be with the people you love most. Hope Santa brings you everything you wished for!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Food Network Overload

This weekend I've watched Giada in Aspen, Ina in London, Sandra in her white winter wonderland, how candy canes are made, how honey-baked hams are glazed, how Sara Lee makes 4.5 million pumpkin pies a year, not to mention Aarti's vanilla and black pepper pork loin. I think I gained ten pounds just watching tv! So you would think I could have made sugar cookies and icing from scratch this afternoon. But, no, Betty Crocker was my go-to girl for the cookie mix and the icing. On a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being absolutely delicious), I would give Betty's sugar cookie mix a 2.

The icing tastes like birthday cake icing from the bakery. My problem with the icing is that it doesn't harden. So, I have several plates full of cookies with soft, gooey icing which, if covered with foil or wrap, will be ruined. How many cookies can I eat this evening?  The other cookies on the plate in the photo are cheese straws. I made those on Saturday.

I wish I had some needlepoint to show you but there has been so little progress made on any of my projects that it wasn't even worth a picture. It would pretty much look like whatever I showed you last week. My second lesson for the Noel mystery project arrived this week. All of the letters will be beaded. Lots of beading - 3 tubes worth - but from what I see of the finished 2nd lesson, it will be well worth the extra work. As for the Haunted House, it's been too cold to work (at least that's my excuse). I have finished the balustrade on the left side of the house and can now start the wall area below it.

As I am writing this at about 6:30 PM EST, our outside temperature is right at 32 degrees. At 2:30 this afternoon it was 54 degrees. It was already windy today but now that the cold front has moved through, the winds have really increased. These colder temps have really slowed down my stitching at night. All I want to do after dinner is get under my down blanket with the Kindle and read until I fall asleep.

Hope you all have a good week - stay warm and get that shopping finished!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Literary Bliss - Just for a Night

I was a happy camper last night. I got to spend the evening with Anna and Andrew and Pat Conroy. I love Pat. I don't think there's a writer who puts two words together better than he does. He was at Neptune Beach (Jacksonville Beach) last night at The Bookmark to sign copies of My Reading Life, his newest non-fiction book. I feel a connection to him that I really can't put into words. Maybe it's that he writes about places I have known for most of my life.

I stood in line for an hour and a half waiting to speak to him and have my books signed. He is such a gentleman, very kind and gracious. He told me about getting lost trying to find the Borders in Augusta last year and getting lost again upon leaving Borders. I bought Andrew and Anna a hardback copy of The Great Santini which he personalized for them: To Andrew and Anna, for love of family, Pat Conroy. For my copy of My Reading Life, he signed: To Melinda, for love of story, Pat Conroy. He spent time with each person as he signed their book and engaged everyone in conversation. That's so unusual these days. Most book signings are very regimented - one book only, no personalizations, no photos, etc. Not much more than a chance to say hello and move on. While the book signing was very non-regimented and an "anything goes" type of event, it made for a long evening waiting for him to have a little quality time with his fans. He would sign as many books as you put in front of him.

It was fun to see the festive holiday lights at Jacksonville Beach last night. The cold (very cold) air and the lights, good food at Ragtime, the holiday decorated small shops, and the company of Andrew and Anna made for a really wonderful evening. I was sorry to have to drive back home again this morning! But my Little Girl is glad to have her momma home with her this afternoon.

Another frigid night here in South. Stay warm wherever you are!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Slow Start to the Construction But There's a Plan

I enjoyed pulling out the Haunted House from its pillowcase and seeing that I have actually made progress on this project. Not enough progress to be caught up with where we start with Kit #4, but enough to not feel too discouraged. I think my stitching plan for December will be to concentrate on the lower half of the canvas. Yesterday I started in on the balustrade with all of its accompanying partially detached needleweaving.

The needleweaving moves along at a nice pace. I stitched the left section yesterday while I watched the disaster (for South Carolina) that was the Auburn/Carolina football game. This afternoon I'll work on the right balustrade and then start in on the raised stem stitch for the top of the balustrade. Amy gives us a nice outline for working this portion of the canvas. I'm looking forward to stitching the arched pillars on the first floor but want to complete the second floor balustrade first.

The UPS man snuck up on me Thursday night and left some packages at the door that I didn't see until Friday morning as I was backing down the driveway. Glad it didn't rain that night! One of the packages was from Ruth Schmuff and it contained this:

Ada Haydon's Winter Tree Canvas along with the November/December issue of Needlepoint Now where you will find the stitch guide. What a perfect project for the dreary winter doldrums - lots of sparkly color to boost your spirits - hot pink, orange, turquoise, lime green. 

That's what the big brown truck brought me on Thursday. The Mail Man brought me this on Friday:

Kelly Clark's First Thanksgiving canvas with the stitch guide. This was my eBay purchase last week. I'll have to purchase the threads but that won't be difficult to do. There were five or six accompanying canvases to this "background" canvas. It was hard to decide which of them I was going to bid on but I eventually decided on this one.

When I walked through the floral department at the grocery store last week and saw all the Christmas cactus on display, I was reminded to go out in the backyard and bring mine inside. Every April, once the chance of a frost has passed, I take my cactus outside and put them under the Japanese Magnolia and hydrangeas where they get shade all summer. And there they stay until the first of December when Mother Nature works her miracle and I bring them out of the bushes covered in blooms. Thought you might like to see one of them in this morning's sunlight in the kitchen.

These have always been one of my favorite seasonal flowers. I would much rather have these at Christmas than a poinsettia.

While I'm sharing favorite Christmas things, I want to show you my most favorite Christmas ornament. He's Nutcracker Crunch by Christopher Radko. He has the place of honor in my dining room on a bed of ornaments.

Last but not least is my new Christmas favorite this year. My Santa Man in the Moon pin. I have always wanted a really special Christmas pin and I have finally found it.

There are all sorts of wonderful little charms that make up his beard - candy canes, Christmas trees, packages, stockings, nutcrackers. I just love him - he makes me happy. I told Andrew and Anna that they will have to watch me because the older I get, the more sparkly I like things. But, if you can't be sparkly at Christmas when can you?

Hope your holiday decorating and shopping is going well or almost finished! Save some time for stitching1

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Where's My Hardhat?

It's construction time again in the Halloweenies world as the next phase of the Haunted House begins this week. My threads and stitch guide arrived from Amy's today. There is so much to be done! All of it fun and interesting, mind you, but just a lot to do. Looking through the stitch guide reminded me that I still have a lot to catch up on from Kit #3. In kit #4, we'll get to apply false eyelashes to someone's big eye on the canvas and learn to make a hangman's noose. My canvas has been safely tucked away since the end of September so it will be fun to get it out again. I remember thinking when I put it away that I had really made some nice progress on it. Hope I still think that tomorrow!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I spent my holiday with the newlyweds in Jacksonville and we had a fun time as always. Anna and I cooked a Thanksgiving dinner for the three of us and it couldn't have turned out better. We had already had one huge Thanksgiving meal at her grandparents' house earlier in the day but we still found room for our own turkey, dressing, rice and gravy, squash casserole, spinach and cheese squares, and Sister Schubert rolls that evening. To quote Rachel Ray, "Delish!".

I got a little bit of stitching done over Thanksgiving. I took my XOXO project with me to work on. It had been a while since I worked on it but I did complete the third stripe and started on the fourth. It's a fun project as are all of the & more canvases. I particularly like the dimension that the stitch in the third stripe adds to the canvas. Here's a picture of my progress:

My Mystery Class Noel canvas arrived on Monday from Ruth Schmuff. Very cute and looks to be a fairly quick stitching project (unless you are stitching 5 other things at the same time). I love the way Ruth packages her threads in fun, festive bags.  I really felt like I was opening a gift for myself when it arrived - it was that festive. Here's a quick look:

I must thank Robin for including a photo of my Halloween mantle in the December issue of Amy's newsletter. There's lots of good information (as always) in the newsletter and a great look at our next Halloweenie character coming in January.

That's it for tonight. I've still got work to do and some deadlines to meet, so there won't be any stitching tonight. Next time I'll have some photos of the construction work. Have a good week!