Oct 31, 2011

Marvelous Monday Update 10/31/11

Here it is... the end of another month. The dreaded S-word inching its way closer and closer. Gotta feel sorry for those folks in the northeast, don't you? Wow, that was a dumping of the heavy white stuff! I, for one, am NOT ready! I haven't even gotten out Little Blow and tuned her up for the upcoming season.

Last week was pretty uneventful. I'm getting into the swing of things with school again. There's not an enormous amount of reading like last semester, and the instructor actually participates in the online discussions. I managed to write my paper on the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which is due at the end of this week. (And No, I didn't use the "Dummies" book, I just thought it was a humorous graphic.)

Graduation ceremonies is on Saturday. Can I say a big WOO HOO!?! It's a bit of a buzz kill going through graduation ceremonies knowing that I still have 6 more weeks of class left. So you'll probably hear me belting out an even larger WOO HOO in December when I finish class. *big grin*

On the stiching front, I've got my 12 Days of Christmas presents purchased and just need to wrap them up and get them in the mail to the recipient. I am still singing, "Who Let The Frogs Out?". For some reason, I was having a terrible time with Purple Garden last week. I frogged at *least* six times! Ack. I think I'm on the right track now. Obviously with all that frogging, I didn't finish an entire section. But here's the progress so far:

I need to replace the batteries in my flash.
I think that's why the fabric looks purple instead of pink.

I do have a bit of a rant this week, so excuse me while I carefully step up on soapbox I have. Don't laugh, ya'll know how clumsy I am. OK, now for the rant...

The BF took me out for breakfast yesterday to a small family-style restaurant. I've been there many times, and the waitress we had has worked there a long, long time. I ordered my breakfast with scrambled eggs. I'd say 99.8% of the time, I order scrambled eggs. BF heard me order scrambled eggs. My plate comes with eggs over-easy. I didn't notice right away because I was fiddling with the newspaper while she set the plate down and walked away. As soon as I noticed, I did the little finger gesture (No, the *that* one!) to get her attention. I told her she brought me the wrong eggs. Why did she bring me the wrong ones? Because... She wrote it down wrong. The waitress goes to the kitchen to order more eggs. I thought it a bit odd that she didn't take my plate, but whatever. Five minutes later, she returns with an empty saucer plate and tells me to slide my eggs onto it! A bit odd, but OK. I managed to get the eggs onto the saucer without making a mess. Guess what was swimming in the grease under my eggs? Thankfully, not a bug! There was a hair that wasn't mine!! When the waitress returned to retrieve the over-easy eggs, I told her there was hair on my plate. She then says, "Well, let's just get you a whole new plate", grabs it and walks away. She was nice as pie the rest of breakfast, and I was peeved because truly my meal should've been comp'd. BF says that's the last time we'll eat there. Seriously, what kind of restaurant provides service like that and makes the customer pay for it?!

*steps down off the soapbox*

Oct 25, 2011

Who Let The Dogs... errr.... Frogs Out?

Who let the frogs out?

(rib-bit, rib-it, rib-bit, rib-bit)

When the stitchin’ was nice, the needle was smokin’
Progress was goin'

(Hey, Yippie, Yi, Yo)

Who let the frogs out?

(rib-bit, rib-it, rib-bit, rib-bit)

I see ya hoppin’, your little legs headin’ my way
Get back you hippy-hopper
Go away, get away now!

Who let the frogs out?

Oct 24, 2011

Marvelous Monday Update 10/24/11

First up, the iStitch SAL, Part 7. I think there's only one more part to go.

Also finished Part 3 of Purple Garden:

Today marks the beginning of a new semester. As many of you know, this is my last class required for graduating! I'm starting Auditing I. I've already finished this week's reading and two of the three online discussion posts.

Graduation is a bit unusual... The graduation ceremony will be held in two weeks, yet my final semester won't be finished until right before Christmas. It's kind of a bummer to be graduated but still finishing school, LOL.

Until next time,

Oct 17, 2011

Marvelous Monday Update 10/17/2011

At some point over the past two months, some ingrate who has nothing better to do website managed to download spyware/malware onto my laptop. You can read about the About:Blank problem HERE. It's not a contagious kind of spyware... it just slows your computer wayyyy down. I really noticed it toward the end of this last semester of school. Since I couldn't remove it with the programs I have, I took it to a computer repair place. It seems to be working fine now.. Just in time for the new semester to start.

Kathy of A Stitcher's Heirloom is hosting her first ever giveaway. I just love the name of her blog, don't you? Click on over to see her stitchy projects!

Lisa of Hockey Mom Stitchin' Hobby is hosting a 3-100-500 giveaway to celebrate her blogversary. Check it out, as well as her beautiful stitching project.

Dee in TN (no blog) hosted a reindeer contest. We had to guess how many reindeer charts she had chosen to stitch out of the recent stash haul of magazines she acquired. Becky actually won, but she deferred to the next person (moi!) since she won Dee's last contest. Here's what I won:

Sue of Sue's Stitching, Reading, and Family sent me an awesome RAK! She's such a sweetheart, and the list Mom of ESC. Look what she sent me:

The JCS Halloween Ornament issue
The October issue of Cross Stitch and Needlework

I've already picked out several things I want to stitch up out of all three mags! Thank you so much Dee and Sue *big smiles*

Lisa of Mad Stitches also RAK'd me a couple of charts. First up is Momiji (I call them Kokeshi) Dolls:

She also sent me Spring Fairy by Joan Elliott:

Thank you, Lisa!

I was able to complete Part 2 of Purple Garden. I've substituted pink for some of the colors in the design.

Last week, I showed the ornament I sent for the "Words of Christmas" exchange. Over the weekend, I received my ornament from Nancy in CA. I think it turned out beautifully!

Thank you, Nancy!

I'm also working on two "secret" stitching projects, which I can't show yet.

Until next time,

Oct 13, 2011

Shouting from the Rooftop!

Hear ye! Hear ye! The grades are in. The grades are in.

Out of 1000 points available this semester, I earned 943 which makes my grade 94%. An "A". At midterm, I was on the borderline A/B with 91%. I think my final exam grade and term paper grade (195/200pts) bumped me up enough that it wouldn't have mattered if I got lower homework and online discussion grades for the last two weeks. This was a really tough class for me. I practically spent every night studying. Needless to say, I am one happy, happy camper!

The other piece of exciting news....

I was inducted as a new member of Alpha Sigma Lambda! Alpha Sigma Lambda is a national honor society for non-traditional undergraduate students who achieve and maintain outstanding scholastic standards and leadership characteristics while handling additional responsibilities of work and family. In order to be inducted, a student needs to maintain a 3.2 GPA. I've maintained a GPA of 3.9 while working mostly full time and taking care of my home as a single girl. I am so proud of myself!

Oct 10, 2011

Words of Christmas

For the HOE "Words of Christmas" ornament exchange, I stitched up Holiday Spirit by Robin of Samplerbird Stitchery. The ornament made its way to a new home with Kathy and Rory of NY. I really like this design, and it's the second time I've stitched it up. (The first one can be seen HERE.)

Design: Holiday Spirit
Designer: Robin at Samplerbird Stitchery
Fabric: 28ct Gray-Green Linen (brand unknown)
Fibers: Anchor, Kreinik Blending Filament
Embellishments: Gold Star Button, 1/4" Runched Ribbon

Marvelous Monday Update 10/10/2011

Woo Hoo!! The latest semester is done and I'm on the home stretch now. Woo Hoo!! A lot of happy dancin' going on here. *big grins* Even though the instructor is two weeks behind on grading our weekly assignments, posting, AND term paper, I took the final and it's automatically graded. I got a 92%!! Woo Hoo! Can you tell I'm happy?? LOL

I'm already enrolled for the next semester and received my textbook for Auditing I. In talking with my performance coach at work, he suggested that I go out on an audit to see what it's like in real life. He's going to run it by the head honchos, so we'll see what they say. It was kinda cool that he offered to get me going on that, though.

Last week, a couple of commenters asked about why their photos get blurry when trying to take close up pics.

My guess is that you're getting too close to the subject is why it gets blurry. Every camera has a certain distance it has to be from the subject to remain in focus. Usually, it's around 20 inches for a point-n-shoot camera, but you'd have to look in the manual for the exact length. My 300mm lens requires about 36inches. Some of the point-n-shoot cameras have a macro setting that allows close-up photos.

Two readers asked about my confetti stitches. Normally, I don't carry my thread from one to the next. There were a few on Blossom that I did. If you look on my sidebar under How-To, there's an explanation on how I've done confetti sitches. I used Method #2. An "anonymous" commenter didn't leave his/her name and asked to see the confetti stitches on the backside of Blossom. Here goes:

Over the past several months, I've been watching a SAL called Le Jardín Pourpre (Purple Garden). The German group has a limited membership so I couldn't get in until now. So, I've started a new project! Here's the fabric and floss toss:

Check out the progress these gals have made: Sharmila and Karen
I was able to finish Part One over the weekend. I really like how the colors pop off the fabric I chose.

I received Part 6 for iStitch SAL and stitched it up in one evening. Who sent the frogs???

There were several requests for the recipe I used for pretzels last week, so in the next post I've share it along with my notes. Enjoy!

Soft Pretzels

4 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. white sugar
1 1/4 c. warm water (110F/45C)
5 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. white sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. vegetable oil

1/2 c. baking soda
4 c. hot water
1/4 c. kosher salt, for topping

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tsp. sugar in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center; add the oil and yeast mixture. Mix and form into dough. If the mixture is dry, add one or two tablespoons of water. Knead the dough until smooth, about 7-8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1-2 hours*.

Preheat oven to 400F (230C). In a large bowl, dissolve baking soda in hot water. When risen, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12-16 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope (at least 20-24" long – the dough will expand) and twist into a pretzel shape. Once all of the dough is all shaped, dip each pretzel into the baking soda solution and place on a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake in preheated oven (Use a higher rack to prevent burning the pretzel bottoms.) for 8 minutes, until browned.

Why is baking soda solution necessary? Old world Germans used to dip their brezels (pretzels) in a solution of sodium hydroxide (lye) and water before baking. Lye is a very strong and caustic alkaline. Because most people aren't comfortable mixing lye and water to make pretzels, baking soda - a much weaker alkaline - is now used in most pretzel recipes. Once the pretzels begin baking, a 'Maillard reaction' occurs. This is a chemical reaction sort of like carmelization which allows the exterior crust to become a deep rich brown color. The reaction accelerates in an alkaline environment, which has been provided by the baking soda bath. The baking soda, and resulting reaction, is also responsible for the unique taste of a pretzel. Without the baking soda bath the pretzel exterior ends up pale/white, and taste more like bread. The baking soda step is paramount in making a pretzel a pretzel.

• Let dough rise in your oven, no heat, just turn on the oven light. This will provide a draft free, warm place for dough to double flawlessly. Also use a damp kitchen town instead of plastic wrap to cover bowl and you won't have a dry crust to your risen dough.

• When rolling out the dough, make them much thinner than you think (about the thickness of a finger, or a little less) because they puff up a lot.

• Bring the soda solution almost to a simmer and remove from heat. (I microwaved the mixture for about a minute and half) Soak the pretzels for about a minute, turning once. I did one pretzel at a time.

• Once baked, these freeze up really well. Just thaw and pop in the oven for a couple minutes for an awesome snack! Or, microwave fraozen pretzel for 30 seconds.

• These can be made using the dough hook on a mixer. Just add flour until the dough is no longer sticky.

• Brush with butter after they come out of the oven. It's what gives pretzels the shiny appearance and keeps them from becoming hard, like dough does after baking.

Oct 4, 2011

Review: Yiotas Xstitch

I recently was contacted by Yiota Xstitch and asked to do an "intitial impressions" review of their kits. I received the Geisha with Daughter kit from in the UK. 

Shipping took about a week to get to the US. That's pretty fast, I think. Even though there was cardboard in the envelope, the PO managed to bend it a little. Why is it when you put "Do Not Bend", it always gets bent?

The kit was packaged in a resealable clear plastic envelope. The design photo appears to be computer generated (scanned image converted to cross stitch). It would've been nice to see a true photo of the chart stitched up. From a distance, the color photo looks fine. Up close the transitions from the shaded areas to nonshaded areas is not very smooth, and detail is lacking.

The design photo and chart are original (not photocopied) and printed on high quality A4 paper. What's really nice is that the chart is printed large enough to see the black and white symbols easily. Charts are available to purchase separately, if you don't want a kit.

The kit comes with Madiera cotton thread wound on bobbins and labeled. I've never used Madiera before, but it feels really good to the touch! Having it pre-wound on bobbins is a big plus for me. The chart also has DMC conversions, which is nice.

The kit comes with a generous piece of 14ct aida. My design size is 8 x 11 1/2". The aida that came with it was 15 x 17". Plenty big enough. I think it would be nice if evenweave was offered as an alternative, even if it increases the cost a little.

A needle comes with the kit, too. It was stuck into the edge of the fabric. Since I don't plan on stitching it up right away, I put the needle in a tiny ziploc bag left over from one of the other kits I've done.

Yiota's website says if you're not happy with the purchase, you can return it for a refund -- no questions asked.

Oct 3, 2011

Marvelous Monday Update 10/3/2011

Do you like the pretzels from the mall or fairs/festivals? The BF and I made these from scratch yesterday:

It's the last week of the semester. Yay!!! This class certainly has kept me busy. This week I have four chapters of textbook reading plus homework for each, two postings and reponses to other student postings, and of course the FINAL exam. Last week students were able to rate courses and leave commentary. Overall, I thought the instructor was pretty good, but I did leave comments regarding the overwhelming amount of homework, and the fact that he expected us to turn it all in on time (or get a grade of ZERO) yet his timeliness of grading homework was sorely lacking. We'd get our grades anywhere from two to four weeks after we had to turn them in.

Carolyn at Taking One Stitch at a Time is hosting a Halloween Giveaway in celebration of her blogversary. Hurry, hurry. It ends Oct 7th.

There's been some questions regarding the flowers and confetti stitches I'm doing on Blossom Splendor, so I thought I'd show a close-up pic:

So far, I've done close to 100 of those pesky confetti stitches.

I was able to finish another page! I only have the bottom portion of her kimono left to stitch.

I've started some of the backstitched details using Krienik #4 Very Fine braid. It sure does make those areas sparkly.

Until next time,