Jul 30, 2012

Marvelous Monday Update 7/30/12

I'm always at a quandry as to what to make for meals. With the weather being so hot lately, the last thing I want to do is heat up the house with the stove or oven.  I had two thick pork chops and came up with this on the grill...

I had several leftover, which I used to make a scrambled egg skillet along with sausage patties... also on grill.  Yummo!

Last week, I changed my focus to Fleurs et Papillons.  I am almost finished with Part 3.

Here's what it looked like the last time I worked on it:

and after last week's progress, it looks like this now:

Other WIP photos can be seen HERE.

I recently became the new list owner of the Stitch-N-Swap2 Yahoo group.  I'm hoping to get some activity going again!  If you're interested in joining click on the badge below.  Membership is limited to 65 right now.

Click to join StitchNSwap2

(Click to join)

Until next time,

Jul 21, 2012

Top Ten Tips for Japanese Garden

Melinda of Family Business asked me for my Top Ten Tips to know before starting Japanese Garden.  When I started this project in 2006 (I know… Bad me for taking so long to finish it!), it was the first project I had ever worked on evenweave.  First project using specialty stitches. First project using silk threads.  First project with beads.  I liked the design and I jumped right in, not knowing what I got myself into!  Here’s what I've done and what I’ve learned along the way (click on the links for additional information):

  This is an expensive project.  I swapped out almost every “called for” silk thread for less expensive ones, mostly Victoria Clayton and Eterna.  Eterna silks are like satin threads and I can say that I don’t really enjoy using them.  VC threads are really nice to work with.  I keep all the floss for JG in its own case.

If I were to do another Chatelaine, I would use DMC.  I’ve seen several done in DMC and they look just as beautiful.  I’ve also swapped out some of the beads.  I’m sure if you place my project next to one that’s done in the “called for” supplies, it would look totally different.  I’m OK with that since mine will never sit next to another and no one would be the wiser unless I told them, lol.

  I started this project on 26" scroll rods with no stand.  Several months back, I was gifted a lap stand by another stitching blogger.  It is so much easier to use a lap stand (or floor stand) than it is to try and balance one end of the scroll rods on the sofa while holding the other end.  I have also learned to stitch two-handed which makes stitching go so much faster!  It only took me a day to get the hang of two-handed stitching.

  Read all the instructions before starting to stitch.  Sometimes, I’ve had to read them several times to wrap my head around what I was reading.  As I’ve progressed through this project, I’ve made notes in pencil wherever I’ve made changes.

The instructions talk about various sections of the chart.  I’ve highlighted the beginning of each section so that I can find them easily.  It might not be that important if you work the project step-by-step in the instructions, but I didn’t do it that way.

  Since I started this project before it was available in stores, my chart is in PDF format.  I keep everything to do with JG in a 1” binder and use it constantly while stitching on JG.  

  The symbols in the original PDF document are rather small. I enlarged and printed sections of the chart. As I work through the sections, I use a highlighter to mark off the parts I’ve finished.

  The instructions for specialty stitches are very good.  There have been times that I’ve had to frog and re-do them several times.  Mine are not perfect... most people are not going to notice.  So, don’t be intimidated by specialty stitches.

  If you don’t already use one, a needle threader will become a very good friend.  There are several metallic threads in this project which gives it great sparklies.  I use Krenik #4 braid in very short lengths… about 6” because short lengths are easier to work with and the finish on them doesn’t become dull from pulling it through the fabric over and over.

  A bead nabber or tacky bob will be very helpful when it comes time to do the beading.  Personally I like the bead nabber when I’m doing beading.  You’ll also need a beading needle, too.  I plan on using invisible thread when I get to the beading part so that I’m not constantly changing colors to match the beads.

  Time.  I love how JG is turning out, but I’ve learned through this project that doing so many specialty stitches takes me a while.  Since I am slow at learning them and doing them, I have to have a chunk of time to work on JG.

  To protect the project from getting dirty and give a bit of cushion while stitching, I use ½” pipe insulation to put on the scroll rods.  When JG is being stored during other project rotations, I fold the lap stand flat and I put it in a king size flannel pillowcase to keep the dust off it.  Otherwise, I just lay the pillowcase over top when I’m not stitching.

  For me, one of the reasons it’s taken me so long to finish JG is getting all the stuff out… floss box for the JG silks, the binder, the lap stand… It takes up a lot more room than most of my projects. 

Again, these are things I’ve learned in my journey with JG.  Your experience may vary.  I hope these tips will help.  I will be doing the biggest happy dance ever when I finally finish mine.

Other WIP photos can be seen HERE.
Until next time,

Jul 18, 2012

TUSAL 7/18/12

For once, I am on time for the TUSAL! The Totally Useless SAL is coordinated by Daffycat.

This month, my jar features threads from:
Japanese Garden
Summer Mystery Sampler
Sampler aux Bouquets

Until next time,

Tale of Two F.I.'s

Long time readers may remember when I purchased The Homestead.  First came the number crunching… Could I afford it as a single girl?  Then came the news… The cute little bungalow was mine!  Over the years, I’ve shared various trials, tribulations, and projects going on.  It’s hard to believe I’ll have been at The Homestead for five years this fall!

What’s my latest news??  Let me start at the beginning.  I bought The Homestead in 2007.  Shortly thereafter, the housing market crashed and financial institutions (F.I.’s) tightened their credit belts.  The economy continued a downward spiral.  Then in 2010, my employer cut my hours which resulted in a 20% pay cut.  A month later, said employer was acquired by a larger firm and I still have not recovered the lost hours.

Two months ago, I decided to see if I could qualify for mortgage refinancing despite my part time employment status and the possibility of not having enough equity built up.

F.I. #1 
I saw on TV how one of the credit unions was offering a 3% fixed rate refi, so I got dressed up all business-like and went to the CU with my financial statements.  The "loan officer" proceeded to tell me that they don't really give the loans.  He admitted they just process the loans for another larger bank, the rate was at 3.25%, and closing costs would be $2-3K.  He then gave me paperwork to take home to fill out. 

After he told me where the loans were actually from, I asked him:  "What's the benefit of using your CU as opposed to going to the other bank?"  He stammered a bit and finally said: "Not much." and that was the end of the conversation.  Apparently not many people ask that question, lol.  I walked out of the CU thinking, “What a putz!”

F.I. #2 
As soon as I got back into my car, I texted the BF to look up the nearest bank locations (He's got one of those smartphones, lucky guy).  Turns out there are five in the area, so I drove to the nearest one.  Totally different experience than at the CU.  The loan officer took down a bunch of preliminary information for a quick loan app and said he'd get back to me by the end of the day.  He also told me rates just dropped to 3% and closing costs would be around $1000. Hmmm, from the time it took me to drive from one FI to another, it dropped .25%?  And why were CC almost half of what the CU quoted? 

The loan officer did get back to me by the end of the day... I was approved!  Not only was my application approved, I didn’t need an appraisal (saved me $400 in closing costs), no PMI was required, and no escrows either!  He admitted how excited he was about my mortgage deal.

On several occasions he told me the deal could be wrapped up before I went on vacation (to the retreat in Colorado).  Never happened.  Then he said it would be done by the end of June.  Never happened.  As personable as the loan officer was, I have to admit that I am less than pleased with the customer service.  I closed on the refi last week.  Finally!

The Results:
  I cut my interest rate by 55%, FIFTY-FIVE PERCENT!  Thus saving me over $53,000 in interest costs over the term of the loan.
  I cut the term of my loan by 11 years and the monthly payment amount by $20.
  I’ve always paid a little extra each month, so if I continue to do that I can pay my loan off in 12 years instead of 15.
  According to my calculations, I should recoup the closing costs in 10 months. Woo Hoo!

I'm not in the same league as Mark Zuckerberg who recently refinanced his home at 1%, but I'm happy with the 3% fixed rate I got.

Jul 16, 2012

Stitching Rituals?

What sort of stitching rituals do you have when you sit down to work on your projects?

First, let's define ritual....

rit·u·al  noun.
1.  an established or prescribed procedure for a religious or other rite.

Since stitching isn't a religion (although, I *could* be!), we'll just ignore the religious portion.

I don't really have an established procedure for sitting down to stitch.  I just make sure my hands are clean.  I sit on the sofa out of necessity.  I recently acquired a rocker/recliner that I plan to try out as a stitching chair.  I usually stitch with the TV on.  Lately, it's just for background noise on since there isn't anything worthwhile to watch.  I turn on my stitching lamp and put on mag eyes... are those considered rituals? lol

Visit all the blogs in this round of the Stitching the Night Away Stitching Blogger Blog Hop:
Find the instructions on how to participate in this round by clicking here.

Marvelous Monday Update 7/16/12

Well, it was good while it lasted!  The humidity has set in once again and temps are headed to the upper 90's with heat indexes of over 100.  Ugh.  I know it's July and this weather should be expected, but can't we count the June heat/humidity as time served??  We really need rain!

While I was out and about, I stopped at one of the thrift stores and came across their fabric sale.... 50% off!  So, I came home with these:

Most pieces are a yard or close to it and cost 50cents.  A couple of larger pieces cost $1. I see some cute projects for these.

Inspired by Pam's project last week, I tried my hand at punch needle. I had several kits with different styles of needles, so I pulled out one and drew a heart on the fabric based on a design from DMC.  Once I got the hang of it, it was pretty easy.

I used some floss I got from the Free-For-All Exchange at the retreat.  It was leftover from a kit.  I thought this was a great way to use the floss.

The interesting thing about punch needle is that you work the design on the wrong side of the fabric.  When you finish and turn it over, it looks like the above. The texture reminds me of latch hook... miniaturized!

I've been diligently working away on JG. Sixteen specialty stitches and I'll be done with another page. Woo Hoo! I think I'll stitch on it again this week and then move on to Fleurs.

Other WIP photos can be seen HERE.

Until next time,

Jul 9, 2012

Relief! Finally.

I think these photos say it all...
Thursday, July 5th
Friday, July 6th
Saturday, July 7th 
(outdoor temp on the right)

After four days of triple digit temps, we finally have relief from both the heat and humidity.  Hopefully, it will be a while before it comes back.  Now if only we could get some rain!

Victorian Motto Sampler is hosting another great giveaway in honor of Nancy's upcoming birthday. Click on over and see what it's all about.

Before I left for the retreat, I took Celeste to the groomer's for her summer 'do'.  I actually got to talk to the groomer's afterwards (usually they're gone by the time I pick her up). 

I asked how well behaves while getting groomed.  I told them about how she loses all muscle function (lol) whenever I try to brush her and will not stand up.  They told me she stands up for them.  The little bugger!!

As you know, I was notified at the beginning of June that I was a winner of a prize package hosted on the DMC blog.  After I got back from my retreat, I received an email saying the package was still sitting in their warehouse because they needed a street address.  Well, it finally arrived!

I have a finish!  I participated in the mystery SAL offered by Donna at By The Bay Needleart.  I think it turned out pretty cute.  When I started it last month, I did have a new type of finish in mind for it, so stay tuned to see how it turns out.
Japanese Garden was pulled out of hiding.  I worked almost all of the specialty stitches in the upper right corner ornament... 35+ queen stitches, 3 rhodes stitches, 11 sets of satin stitches, and lots of straight stitches for pine needles.  I'm excited that I'll be done with this corner soon.  Woo Hoo!

Here's what it looked like before:
and now:

Until next time,

Jul 4, 2012


I was tagged by Shelley at Shelley’s Artsy Fartsy Life and Eva at Stitching the Night Away.

  1. Post the rules.
  2. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post.
  3. Come up with 11 new questions.
  4. Tag 11 people and link them to your post.
  5. Let them know you tagged them so they can answer the questions.

So here are Shelley's questions: 

1.       If you were stranded on an island with one other person, who would you choose...Oprah Winfrey or Ellen DeGeneres?  Ms. O

2.      Which fabric do you prefer to stitch on...Aida or Evenweave?  Evenweave

3.      What is your favorite genre of movie and why?  Romantic Comedies.  I’m a romantic at heart and I like happy endings.

4.      Who is your favorite cross stitch designer?  I have so many!  Joan Elliott asian designs, Lizzie Kate, Lorrie Birmingham elegant designs, Plum Pudding Needlearts

5.      What kind of flooring do you like in your home...shag carpet, hard wood or stone?  Hardwood

6.      What kind of illumination do you use when stitching?  I have a generic daylight floor lamp that I got at Shopko for $20.  It sits behind my sofa and shines over my shoulders.

7.      What is the farthest you have traveled from home?  Caribbean

8.      What is your favorite brand of specialty thread?  Glorianna

9.      How many languages do you speak? (Note: Klingon is a language!) One… English. I know some words in Spanish and Japanese, but not enough to be able to talk to anyone, lol.

10.   Do you stitch in hand or with the aide of a hoop, qsnap, stand, etc?  In Hand, Qsnaps, Lapstand, and Scroll Rods

11.  Do you believe in ghosts?  No.

And here are Eva's questions: 

1.      Where is your favorite place to stitch? I usually stitch on my sofa.

2.      What is your favorite shop (brick and mortar or on-line) to purchase your supplies? 123stitch, Needle in a Haystack

3.      What is your favorite specialty stitch? I’m not a fan of specialty stitches!

4.      Which specialty stitch do you least enjoy? Of the ones I’ve done, I’d have to say Queen Stitch

5.      French knot, colonial knot or Mill Hill knot? I don’t mind French Knots. They’re quicker than digging out beads and sewing them on.

6.      How much stitching time to do get per day or week or month? Probably 5-10 hours a week.

7.      Do you keep a stitching journal and if so, what do you include? Currently, I keep a pictorial journal with details of the project along with a photo.  I have an online album and an actual photo album.

8.      Besides counted cross stitch, what other forms of needlework do you do? I know how to crochet and knit, but haven’t done them in a long time.

9.       When did you start stitching? and why? I was in my mid-teens. I saw some motifs in my mom’s magazine (Family Circle or Ladies Home Journal) so I untangled some thread she had in her sewing basket to create a birth sampler for myself.

10.   Do you rotate your stitching projects or are you a 'one-at-a time' stitcher? I rotate projects.

11.   How many UFOs, and WIPs do you have? I have 5 projects going right now.

Now, for my questions: 

1.      Do you have a SABLE (stash acquisition beyond life expectancy) situation?

2.      What is the most favorite vacation you’ve been on?

3.      Have you ever entered your stitching in a competition?

4.      Cat or Dog?

5.      Have you taught anyone how to stitch?

6.      What is/are your favorite TV show(s)?

7.      What is your favorite stitching tool?

8.      What brands of floss have you used?

9.      Are you adventurous when it comes to trying new foods?

10.  Do you like kits or do you like kitting up your own?

11.  If you could do anything for a day, what would it be?

Here are the people I tagged: 

Valerie of Fog City Dweller
Chris of Fugue
Cathy of Crafty Cat

Jul 2, 2012

Marvelous Monday Update 7/2/12

Welcome to July!

Over 16 states are currently under a heat advisory.  My area isn't as hot as others, but we're going into our second week of steady 90-100F temps.  Normally, I'm not one to use my AC but it is just so darn HOT! 

My poor garden is hanging in there with my diligent use of the water hose.  I've got baby green tomatoes and peppers. The squashes have flowers galore.  And, I can now see my onions after a tremendous amount of weeding.

If you remember a while back, I mentioned I started a compost bin.  I'm happy to say it's coming along nicely!  The shredded newspaper and food scraps are actually breaking down into dirt-like compost.  To answer people's questions:  It doesn't smell and there are no flies.  Some spiders have taken up residence in the corners, though. LOL  I figure by fall, I should have a nice pile of compost to add to my garden for next year!

I have mentioned my backyard dog breeding neighbors a time or two.  Their entire backyard (which isn't that big) comprises of dog kennels.  This year, the two females had 13 puppies between them.  Add in the two males and you have 17 dogs less than 20 feet from my house.  Over the course of the summer I have called the police numerous times because of whining puppies.  Other times because one mama would get too close to the other mamas babies.  I couldn't even take a nap in my living room because of dog noise! 

There is no ordinance in the city that prohibits dog breeding.  There's a limit to the number of dogs over the age of four months that a person can have... and that's four.  Since puppies are under four months, it's perfectly legal to have 13 of them!  Oh, did I mention they are Siberian Huskies??!?

This is the kennel minus the "temporary" puppy kennel that took up one car size of their driveway. In addition to the noise, it's an eyesore!  I came out one day to find remnants of plywood and wood planks leaning up against MY garage!

Over the weekend, one of the local community theaters put on To Kill A Mockingbird.  Having read the book and seen the movie several times, I was really looking forward to the play version.

The director took liberties I really didn't care for, but overall the play was really good.

Shelley from Shelley's Artsy-Fartsy Life is hosting a Britty Kitty giveaway on her blog.  She recently finished them all and has shown them on her blog as well. Go check out her recent finishes!  They are so adorable.

It took almost a week for me to get back into the groove of life after getting back from the Colorado retreat.  I managed to get unpacked, restock on groceries, and do some stitching.
Sampler aux Bouquets

I did some stashing right before the retreat.  This kit is called Woodland Friends.  I think it's so adorable.  I will probably switch out the aida for an evenweave, though.

I found this afghan fabric at a thrift store for $3.99.  When I got to the counter, I found out certain colored housewares tags were 50% off that day!  What a deal!!

I received a recent edition of a magazine called Oriental Cross Stitch Favorites from Sue.  She is so generous!  She had emailed me that it was coming, so I politely stalked the post office waiting.  There are so many awesome designs in it :)

Debi sent me one of the 6 Fat Men charts from Lizzie Kate.  It's so cute!

A big THANK YOU to Sue and Debi!!

Until next time,