Saturday, July 30, 2011

Familiar Faces

Although in the back of my mind I knew that these two familiar faces were on their way home to me, I was happily surprised to find them on my doorstep on Monday afternoon. A perfect birthday present for me!

Sarcoph A. Gus and Dev L. Mann have been visiting out in San Francisco with Marlene. These are two very handsome gentlemen all finished in a very masculine steely gray silk with black and silver cording and gray feet. I'm sorry I didn't get another view of their finishing that shows off the fabric but it is a perfect match to the background color of both characters. So now six of the eight characters are ready for Halloween. I'll try to remember to send Dr. Acula and W. Herr Wolff to Marlene this week so that I can have all of them together for my Halloween mantle decor this year. I hope everyone in this group fits on the mantlepiece! It will be crowded!

I finished my Kelly Clark April Diamond Heritage Ornament this week. I am addicted to these ornaments!

 Tonight I plan on starting the July Ruby in this series. These ornaments are like potato chips - you can't stitch just one! And, they stitch up so quickly! I didn't work on it every evening and I still finished it in less than a week. I may have to see if I can order some more of these or maybe just try to wait until the Creepy Characters from Needle Deeva become available. I know they will be a fun, quick stitch.

While I finished one project this week, of course I had to start another. I enrolled in Laura J. Perin's cyber class for Garden Gate and that started on Monday. Laura sent us a complete kit last week with her typically excellent stitch guide. This week we received the first of her emailed instructions. She has written her lesson in a very conversational style which makes you feel like she is there in the room with you guiding you along as you stitch.

I didn't have the opportunity to begin this project until last night. It's been a very long time since I worked on Congress Cloth. It's nice to work on this soft green color. The white in the picket fence really pops off the green background. For my Garden Gate, I opted for yellow roses instead of the pink roses featured in the cover photograph.

You might be wondering what happened to my Keep Calm and Carry On and Peony Collage projects. Progress continues on Keep Calm although two weeks ago I found myself completely stressed out over this canvas because of a dye lot change in the lavender Splendor I am using for the background. I was about 1/3 of the way through the background when I used up the original Splendor I purchased for this project. I had already ordered extra Splendor so it was all ready to go. I compared the new threads to the old on the cards and everything looked fine. However when I began to stitch with the new threads, there was a slight change in the lavender color. My original lavender had a very slight grayish tint and the new lavender has a slight pinkish tint to it.  Under the Ott light, it is (to me) a glaring difference. In regular room light and without direct light on it, you don't notice the difference in color. I know that I will always see the exact spot where I began the new thread. But I hope that once I add the accent threads and stitch the wording that the color change will not be as noticeable to me.

As for Peony Collage, it had an unfortunate encounter with a cup of coffee last weekend. Fortunately, the canvas is ecru to begin with which hides the coffee stains fairly well and the threads are, for the most part, variegated in color which also hide any spots of coffee. I'll go back to this project at some point knowing that once the background is added that it will disguise any lingering coffee spots. One corner is a little buckled from where I blotted it with water but I think if I can dampen it again and put it on the Evertites that I can straighten it out.

I'll leave you this week with a peek at a beautiful little plant I bought last week.

Have you ever seen this before? I hadn't. It is an ornamental Oregano! It doesn't look like any oregano plant I have ever seen but smells just the way you would expect oregano to smell. It is the softest green with shades of soft pink and lavender. You have to look very closely but when you do you can find very tiny pink flowers. I found this at The Fresh Market. I think it's so pretty!

Hope you have a great weekend and week ahead!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Time for Summer Reading

My summer reading list has been growing by leaps and bounds the last couple of weeks. Many of my favorite authors have all released new titles this summer. I have already finished several books and have several more being read at the same time.

So far this summer, I have read (and thoroughly enjoyed!):

Summer Rental - Mary Kay Andrews. I love MK's books, especially the ones that come out in the summer. This quick, fun read takes place on the coast of North Carolina as three friends come together for a month long stay at the beach. What's a summer read without a little anguish, a little romance, and a little drama? I wanted to be at the beach everyday I was reading it.

007 - Carte Blanche - Jeffrey Deaver. I love all things 007! Jeffrey Deaver was chosen by Ian Fleming Publications to write this new James Bond novel. He does a very respectable job. It has all the required elements of a Bond thriller. A handsome, suave James Bond, pretty girls with ridiculous names (Felicity Willing (oh please!)), evil and creepy villains, exciting locations, and lots of action. I loved every minute of this read.

Corduroy Mansions - Alexander McCall Smith. I will read anything Alexander McCall Smith writes. I have read all of the Ladies No.1 Detective Agency books and all of the Isabel Dalhousie series, not to mention the 44 Scotland Street series and the Portugese Irregular Verbs series. Corduroy Mansions give us humorous glimpses into the lives of the tenants of Corduroy Mansions in London. We meet a wine merchant and his grown son who won't leave home, a health food store manager, a secretary to a member of Parliament, a student hoping to snag a job at a prestigious auction house, and various friends and relatives of the tenants. Oh yes, and there is Freddie de la Hay, a Pimlico terrier. Freddie plays an important role in this book and becomes the star of the next book in the series, The Dog Who Came in from the Cold (I'm about halfway through this one).

At the moment, these are the other books being read or waiting to be read on the iPad:

Portrait of a Spy - Daniel Silva. I've read all of his Gabriel Allon books. Allon is a spy who is also an art restorer. Silva's novels are my favorite spy thrillers. I'm saving this one for when I have finished reading several that are in process right now.

The Help - Kathryn Stockett. I had put off reading this book for the longest time in fear that it would give a very skewed view of the South during the Civil Rights era of the 1960s. So far, I'm happy with what I have read. This novel examines the relationships between the white women who employ black women as household help in Jackson, Mississippi. The movie version of this book comes out in August.

State of Wonder - Ann Patchett. I loved Ann Patchett's bestseller, Bel Canto, so much many years ago. This novel is set in the deep, dark jungles of the Amazon where a research scientist for a pharmaceutical company tries to uncover the reasons behind the mysterious death of her colleague. It is a beautifully written adventure and I am taking my time as I read this one.

Against All Enemies - Tom Clancy. I have, for the most part, always enjoyed Tom Clancy books. Especially his earlier books. This one seems to harken back to those great Jack Ryan books of the 1990s.   Clancy introduces us to a new hero, Max Moore, an ex-Navy seal. The action starts immediately in the dark off the shore of Pakistan with the transfer of a Taliban prisoner and then immediately jumps to the drug cartels of Mexico and South America. Lots of action in this one and lots of governmental agencies to try and keep track of. I'll be reading this one for a while!

No Rest for the Dead - 20 Mystery and Thriller authors. This is a great collaboration of writers such as Sandra Brown, Jeffrey Deaver, Lisa Scottoline, and Alexander McCall Smith (just to name four of the authors). The mystery centers around the death of a curator at the San Francisco Museum of Fine Arts. Each author writes a chapter. So far, so good. I think I'll enjoy this book.

With all of these books to read, there hasn't been a lot of stitching around here this week. Despite all of these books,  I did get a good bit done on the April Diamond Heritage ornament series. These ornaments stitch up so quickly. And, for the most part, I find that I don't need to use the floor stand. That's always nice! This is my progress so far this week -

Andrew and Anna came for a visit this weekend to help me celebrate my birthday this week. I love to see them arrive and always hate to see them go. Anna and I went shopping at our favorite local store, Cudos. They were having a fabulous Christmas in July sale yesterday. Anna found some incredible deals on some Christmas ornaments and I gave in to the temptation of a Mark Roberts garden lily elf.  Here he is in all his spring and summer glory.

I'm usually not one for the whimsical side of things but I have always loved Mark Roberts elves. I have two wonderful Christmas elves of his and always hate to put them away at the end of the Christmas holidays. I think this elf can remain out from the spring through the summer. The best part is that he was 1/2 price! This was my birthday gift to myself.

Speaking of birthday gifts, Andrew and Anna gave me this fabulous Dooney & Bourke leather bag and the red patent D & B wristlet. I absolutely love this turquoise bag! Andrew picked this out all by himself - didn't he do a great job? I immediately transferred everything out of my old bag and into this one. If I had bought myself a new purse, I would have gone with a "safe" color like brown or black. But, it's so fun to step out of my comfort zone and carry a turquoise bag.

My stitching friend Linda sent me a fun birthday surprise in the mail this week. I didn't get any pictures of it but you can see one of them in the photo of my ornament this week (the green magnet in the upper right). She sent me a set of magnetic paper clips that make a great needle holder. What a fun surprise - thanks, Linda!

I think we have all had a terrible time with the heat this past week. I hope the heat in your area breaks soon. Maybe we'll all get some rain soon to cool things off.

Stay cool and have a great week!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Christmas in July

This morning I took advantage of an unusual break in our July weather to sit outside and stitch a Christmas ornament. Our oppressive temperatures and humidity took a turn for the better this weekend and we have had cooler temperatures than usual. Yesterday we had our first below 90 high temperature since May. This morning I couldn't resist the 69 degrees and dry air that has moved in. I know it won't last as I saw the forecasted temps in the 100s that are in store for us for later in the week.

I am working on the April White Diamond ornament from Kelly Clark's Heritage Ornament series. The stitch guide is by Gina Liuzzi. If you are looking for a quick stitch with maximum impact, these ornaments work up very quickly. I finished the August Peridot ornament earlier in the week. It's quite a pretty ornament.

I spent yesterday morning watching The British Open and stitching on Peony Collage. What an incredible swing in the weather conditions they experienced on Saturday! I suppose it wouldn't be a British Open without driving rain and howling winds. Peony Collage is moving along as you can see.

I hope to finish the box on the upper right during today's final round of the Open. The small boxes within the larger one are filled with two shades of pink "flowers".

I was so thankful this week that my stitching friend, Linda, had successful surgery to repair her rotator cuff. Soon she'll be able to get back to some serious stitching! I had expected to receive an email from her stitching sister, Denise, letting me know that the surgery had gone well. What I didn't expect was to get a call from Linda just a little while after her return home from the surgery earlier in the afternoon. She sounded wonderful and we had a nice long chat about our needlepoint projects.

Thanks to all of you who left such nice comments on the blog and on Facebook about Queen Elizabeth! She is currently still on the stretchers and propped up on the sideboard in the dining room. Everytime I walk past her, her "emerald" earring just twinkles at me. I have some very specific ideas about her framing and feel as though I almost need to interview a framer before turning her over to anyone.

Have a good week everyone!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

May I Present The Queen!

Yesterday was all about The Queen. I had been waiting for a day like yesterday to come along so that I could devote myself to finishing Her Majesty. Placing the ribbons on the sleeves was the major piece of the puzzle to be finished. The Gloriana ribbon in Autumn Gold was a beautiful choice by Amy. The shading from light to deep gold is perfect. The ribbon actually has a much deeper shade which I chose not to use. It was as simple as just cutting out the shading that I didn't want.

After finishing the sleeves, the next step was to add the "pearls and amethysts" to her hair comb. She also is wearing a beautiful "emerald" drop earring. Her ruffled collar prevented adding the earring for her other ear. I kept looking back at the color copy I made of the canvas before I started stitching just to check the collar placement. It really is painted as high as it appears with my ruffled ribbon. I'm happy that I added the ruffled ribbon and didn't just stitch the collar. The ribbon adds such dimension and is so "over the top" which is in perfect keeping with the rest of the canvas. The last embellishment I added was the set of false eyelashes - the icing on the cake!

I thoroughly enjoyed working on this canvas! It is a wonderful design by Melissa Shirley and Amy Bunger worked her magic with a fabulous stitch guide. Two very talented ladies for sure! The next step in this journey is to come up with the perfect framing suitable for a Queen. There's nothing subtle about this lady and I think she lives up to her inclusion in Melissa's "Wild Women" series.

I took a little break from the blog last week while I was in Jacksonville for the July 4th holiday weekend.  On my way in to Jacksonville on Friday, I stopped at Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island and visited with Michele at The Bristly Thistle. I was hoping to see the progress she had made on Kelly Clark's Noah's Ark and I was delighted to see that she has almost finished it. She has done a beautiful job with all the stitch and thread choices. It is quite a big project and I didn't realize how many separate canvas pieces make up the ark.  She hasn't photographed it recently for her blog but keep checking back because she may have some exciting news to share about this project.

I took the opportunity while there for a little stash enhancement. A few weeks ago I had ordered from Amy's one of Kelly Clark's Heritage Ornaments - the August Peridot. Michele had several in this series as well so I purchased the April and July ornaments.

This is a lovely series with stitch guides written by Gina Liuzzi of A Stitch in Time. I am working on the August ornament and it works up very quickly. I had better get started on the other two as finishing deadlines for Christmas projects are looming.

While I was in Jacksonville, I had some help with stitching the August ornament. Elvis, Andrew and Anna's youngest cat, was extremely interested in my stitching. That lime green Kreinik braid was just too much of a temptation!

I'll leave you with my recent progress on Laura J. Perin's Peony Collage. I love this project and enjoy the changes in color that come with using the Watercolors thread. I'm looking forward to Laura's cyber class that starts in a couple of weeks.

Hope you all have a great week!