Tuesday, December 30, 2008

It's different down here

This is where I spend most of my time when we are visiting Auntie here near Tampa. I LOVE this spa. It makes me feel sooooo good. I have my chair and hassock here on the lanai, I sit and read or stitch or whatever, and I just enjoy the quiet and the jungle of plants and the WARMTH!

I went in the house this morning and announced that Florida had worked its magic again. While some of my medical issues are with me always, the debilitating effects of the FM seem to recede soon after I arrive here. I know it is not only the weather- which is WONDERFUL!!!- but that is a big factor.

The other big factor is the different pace here. I just don't have to ever hurry. There is NO stress. Being away from work makes a huge difference, but the leisurely way in which we do things when we are here also really helps.

I don't get much done here. I read a lot- two books finished since we left Philadelphia, with another one far gone. I got a few trial stitches into the sampler I will be officially starting on Thursday- the Beatrix Potter Quaker Sampler for which I've joined a 2009 stitch-a-long online. I have my tatting bag down here and even out here on the lanai, but so far no work done on that either.

So, I am resting and enjoying myself. DH is playing golf again today; Auntie is off getting her hair done. Tomorrow we will be going over to St. Petersburg to the P. Buckley Moss gallery. I will write about our New Year's Eve later.

Time to get into the spa- yippee!!!

I'm not gone, just resting

The picture won't upload, we watched a silly movie until way late, and it's Christmas vacation! I'll be back to checking out everyone's blog and posting on mine very soon. But, not tonight!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

I love Christmas letters!

They are derided, denigrated and mocked. You read, often, sarcastic and just plain nasty commentaries on the "dreaded" Christmas letter. Well, I LOVE them!

Now, I must admit that the ones I sometimes get that only talk about "our trip to Fiji" and "little Susie having to choose between Harvard and Yale" are a bit hard to take. Give me a break, people- I knew you when and you ain't fooling nobody!

But the GOOD ones- the ones that really keep you in touch, even if only once a year, with people whose presence in your life has been meaningful, THESE I LOVE!!!!

I got a great one today. It was from my journalism professor when I studied at the Journalism Institute at Catholic University in the summer of 1969. Sr. Joanna at my high school taught me to love writing; Jim taught me to appreciate and value newspapers. He tried to teach me to write concisely, but regular readers here know that he was not as successful at that, lol!

He not only wrote a great newspaper article, he writes a GREAT letter! Although I have only met his now-18yo-son once, I feel like I know him because I have gotten the yearly letter and followed his life. I've met his wife only a few times but the same applies. I feel that I have a *now* sense of the man I knew almost 40 years ago in spite of our IRL visits being few and far between in the intervening years.

I'm repeating a theme here, but the power of the written word, be it in a letter, an email, an IM, or a blog, can make and maintain friendships through years and across miles. One of my favorite movies is 84 Charing Cross Road, the (mostly) true story of an amazing friendship that spanned the Atlantic and many years between two people who never met. It reinforces for me how real the friendships I've made in the last 15 years on the Internet can be, and are.

So, I have written a letter back to him, and will mail it tomorrow inside a Christmas card, even if it is the ONLY Christmas card I get mailed- as I have not finished them yet and I do not mail any until all are done, even if that means, as it has several times, that none ever get mailed. For this special friend, who gave me such a gift when he taught me to write better and to read perceptively, and who continues to share his talent and friendship with me after all these years, I will make a notable exception.

To everyone who has taken the time since I started this blog to comment, I want to extend my thanks and appreciation. For someone who craves the written word in all its forms, as I do, it means a lot.

O Holy Night - Studio 60

This gorgeous version of O Holy Night was first presented on the Christmas episode of Studio 60. The musicians, portrayed as displayed by Hurricane Katrina from New Orleans, are in fact musicians displaced from New Orleans by Katrina. This video has had the dialog track removed. I have always loved this beautiful Christmas hymn and here is a version to treasure.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Knock at the Door

A friend sent me this and I thought it was wonderful, so here it is!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Saturday musings

It's the Saturday before Christmas and therefore destined to be a very busy day. I am getting it off to a slow start, checking out my favorite blogs and sipping my tea.

This BEAUTIFUL card came yesterday from my friend and enabler Etha. The stamps are from the Little Blossom Cottage sets at Clear Artistic Stamps. With all the sparkle and shimmer that doesn't scan well, this card is WAY more gorgeous IRL.

The card got me to thinking (again) about the wonders of the Internet. Etha and I have known one another now for about 13-14 years online. I treasure her friendship. Although my grandmother is to "blame" for all the bags of crochet yarn, and I found cross stitch and quilting pretty much on my own, without Etha's example I would never have tried Hardanger, or tatting, or bobbin lace, or stamping, or cardmaking, or blogging! I learned about EGA and SCS from Etha. I got to visit Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard because of Etha. My husband hiked the mountains of Colorado with Etha- and I was sure that for at least two days of his more-than-month-long trip he was being well fed.

On the "down" side, I have a "craft room" that is too much storage and not enough work space because I collect so much stuff through Etha's enabling, lol!

And, all of this when we have actually, physically, "met" maybe 5 or 6 times!

I have good friends from an old chat group on MIRC. We talked about stitching, sometimes every night, and about everything else in our lives as well. A few of us then met IRL at the various stitching festivals years ago- SOCS and HOCS and CATS. I got to see Bev, one of those special friends, again this year at the Stitching Jubilee and I'm already planning to attend again next year, with Bev and company, I hope.

The SplitCoastStampers Flybabies is another special group of women brought together on the Internet through a crafty interest and who have become friends way beyond stamping. I feel like I know them so well it is actually hard to believe that I have never met any of them.

Isn't technology GRAND?

Well, today I need to try to finish my Christmas cards, finish a small scrapbook of old Christmas pictures for my mother's present, and get some housework done. I also need to rest up a little for the BIG holiday party that our friends give every year and which always goes VERY late. Aside from the housework part, it looks like a fun day.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Good day, bad day

On the "bad day" front, the weather is miserable, I am totally overwhelmed with "other" stuff at work, and the combination of the both of these with some strong lingering effects from being so cold for days on end a couple weeks ago have left me with the Fibromyalgia flare really raging. Everything hurts, my brain is operating at 33 in a 78 world (only those of us of a certain age get *this* reference), and I cannot sleep well but am constantly exhausted. Everything is just "too much" and I am rapidly approaching ANYTHING being too much.

So, I am getting nothing done and yet Christmas gets closer and closer.

On the good news front however, I came home to several pieces of happy news. Along about now I am guessing that some of you are asking "why is there an Easter Bunny picture here and when is she going to explain"? Well, Cornish Heritage Farms had a giveaway on their Creative Blog over the weekend and I was a winner! The prizes were to celebrate the release of three new Saturday Evening Post cover artwork stamps. This bunny is one of the new stamps and is my favorite of the three new ones, and I hope the one I won!

I think I posted here before that my Great-uncle worked on the Saturday Evening Post covers for Curtis Publishing for 40 years. One of these days I will have to tell you all my "tragic" SEP covers story. For now just know that the Post covers were always beautiful and I had/have a special affection for them. This new line at CHF is very beautiful and wonderful to play with. So, winning a new one makes me a happier camper.

Item number 2 of my good news is ANOTHER blog contest win. Over at Risky Regencies I won an autographed copy of Deb Marlowe's "An Improper Aristocrat". I love reading Regencies and this is a real treat to get one straight from the author!

As for item number three that was good news today? Well, for anyone who bakes Christmas cookies this is probably heresy, so maybe you should stop reading. For those who are cookie-baking impaired like me, you should not be *too* appalled. My favorite Christmas cookies at our house (NOT including the ones others who bake well are kind enough to give us, of course) are Tastykake Holiday cookies. They are cute little sugar cookies with colored sprinkles- no big deal. But I LOVE them! Actually, I LOVE almost all kinds of Tastykakes!- Krimpets, Juniors, Kandykakes, pies- love them all! But at the holidays, I love Tastykake cookies. They are sold in cute round cardboard boxes, kind of like movie popcorn tubs.

So, why am I happy? My wonderful son had to stop for milk on his way home from work and what else did he bring home? YES!!!!

So, while I still feel terrible, there is at least some happy news to cheer me up a little. Hope everyone else is having a *Good* day!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hope this will give you a chuckle!

My son has an "interesting" sense of humor. I could not resist sharing with you this little story he wrote to his weekly email group. Enjoy!

In a funny coincidence, I actually had TWO completely different friends going off to cut down a Christmas tree this past weekend. Like, actually go someplace and chop down a live tree, as opposed to the rest of us who just go to the place with the light bulbs strung up on clothesline and buy a pre-cut tree. Seriously, when did strings of bare light bulbs become the international symbol for "buy Christmas trees here" anyway?

Speaking to one of them after the fact, I said, "how did the murder go?"

"What murder?" he asked.

"You murdered your Christmas tree. I'm asking how it went."

"It isn't murder!"

"Sure it is. The tree is alive when you get there. It's dead when you leave. Murder one, man."

"Well then what does everyone else do? Is that murder too?"

"Oh, no. Cutting down a live tree is murder. Buying one at a lot is just disposing of a body."

I love Christmas.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Saturday Night at the Movies

Saturday night is "date night" at our house. DH and I try to spend Saturday night together doing something fun. This time of year with the cold and all, we usually just stay in and watch movies- something we don't have time for the rest of the week.

The last two Saturday nights have been spent with movies that came highly recommended. Last week was "Atonement" and tonight was "The English Patient". Both feature largely British casts, flashbacks as a way to tell the story, and are set in two time periods, the mid-to-late 30s and the war years. Both are visually gorgeous, dramatically intense and classic material for film classes.

Everything that should guarantee that DH and I loved them.

Well, maybe we are both getting old and crotchety, but we didn't much like either one. Both movies are graphically violent, both tell tragic love stories, and both left us with the same reaction- "Well, that was depressing!"

Not that I mind having watched them. They were both masterfully made and exquisite to look at. Both featured good casts and interesting stories. But both reveal at the end that the central character was not, perhaps, worthy of our care, and a sad movie that ends with redemption at least makes one feel like the emotional investment was justified.

If you loved either of these movies, I'd like to hear why.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

What a way to make me feel better!

So I came up to check my email and stuff before heading back to bed. I wasn't in the greatest mood- DH and I had just watched "Atonement" and I was feeling quite conflicted- it's a really good film but the ending did NOT make me happy but then again it was terrific for starting a stimulating discussion. And, the rotten cold (both weather and health) is still here.

And, when I get here, look what I find! A wonderful award and really nice comments on Sandy's blog Herwig Happenings. This certainly cheered me right up! Thanks SOOO much, Sandy!

So, here's how this works:

The rules of this award are:
1. You have to pass it on to 5 other fabulous blogs in a post.
2. You have to list 5 of your fabulous addictions in the post.
3. You must copy and paste the rules and the instructions below in the post.
Instructions: On your post of receiving this award, make sure you include the person that gave you the award and link it back to them. When you post your five winners, make sure you link them as well. To add the award to your post, simply right-click, save image, then "add image" it in your post as a picture so your winners can save it as well. To add it to your sidebar, add the "picture" gadget. Also, don't forget to let your winners know they won an award from you by emailing them or leaving a comment on their blog.

Five Fabulous Blogs I love to read:

1) Wonders and Marvels Holly Tucker writes and supervises a fascinating blog with lots of history and quite a bit of medicine (historical) plus a few other things thrown in. I love her writing and her topic choices- she's a really interesting woman.

2)Mirabilis This is a dream for the "I like to know 'stuff'" types like me. Christine posts news stories from around the world- all the stuff that doesn't make the front page and to folks like me are way more interesting than the front page. Just an example: I created quite a stir at the lunch table last week by announcing that "they've found D'Artagnan's grave"- especially since everyone at the table thought he was only fictional! Thanks, Christine, for your almost daily doses of fun and fascinating information.

3)Word Wenches I recently discovered this blog by a group of Regency Romance authors. I've read books by all of them and one of them (who shall remain un-named so as not to insult the other very talented ladies whose books I also like) is one of my favorite writers in the genre. It is a LOT of fun to hear from the authors in their "now" voices as well as through their books.

4) Stampin' When I Can Allison has a stamping blog that is fun, includes some off-topic stuff that I always enjoy, and that helps enlarge the blogging world because she has a regular feature listing "Newly Discovered Blogs".

5)StitchBitch Just the name of the blog kind of clues you in- Anna is a needleworker with a wicked sense of humor!

Now for the hard part- five fabulous addictions!

#1 is easy- books! I am sitting in a room covered floor to ceiling with no walls showing (yes, they are in bookcases, lol!) with books! I don't remember learning to read- I just always did. Books have always been my friends, my teachers, my comforters, my inspirations. I get them from the library, I borrow them from friends, but mostly I buy them. I *can* bear to give them away later- some of them, anyway- but I cannot, have not, will not, COULD not EVER throw a book away.

The rest are in no particular order.

2) Tea. I love tea. AND, only the way I had it as a kid. In my family, tea is good for everything. My grandmother had a pretty cut glass high sugar bowl that always stayed on her table- full of teaspoons, so you didn't have to go get one for your tea. I've been drinking tea since before I can remember. As a little kid you got a tiny bit of tea with mostly milk and lots of sugar. As you grew up you were supposed to diminish the milk and sugar- which I never really did. One of my students once called my concoction "cream tea", a title I like.

3) Collecting needlework and craft stuff. Yes, collecting. The stitching and the scrapbooking and the other activities are hobbies or even passions- but the collecting is the addiction. If I quit my job tomorrow, stitched and crafted every day for the rest of my life, and lived to be 200, I would only need to replace things like needles and two-sided tape.

4) Kitchen gadgets. I love to cook and "mess about" in the kitchen. Not listed in #1 are the 200+ cookbooks in the kitchen. More than cookbooks though, I love all the great variety of kitchen utensils, tools and equipment. Could I get rid of at least 1/2 the stuff in my kitchen and still cook everything I do now? Of course! Would it be half as much fun? NO WAY!

5) Things with meaning. I like having THINGS that have memories connected to them. I get SOOO mad at the people (sometimes even Flylady) who say things like "you don't need objects, you have memories". I like tangible memories and reminders. I like having my maternal grandmother's dishes- even though by the time I got them I already had both regular dishes and "good china". They were my Grandmother's and I like having them. I love the old chair in the dining room even though it is clearly old and probably not safe for anyone over 100 pounds. It was my paternal Grandmother's, it was used in my father's office and I like just seeing it even if no one sits in it. I love the little construction paper stocking that's been on every tree since first grade; I love the old candlesticks that totally do not "go" in my dining room; I love the broken-handled beer mug from the brewery in Switzerland. So, my house is over-full of stuff with memories- and I like it that way!

This is now WAY long and it is WAY later than whatever time the post will show. DH and DS are downstairs having on of their discussions which could go all night- currently DH is predicting that the Eagles will beat the Giants tomorrow. THAT would be GREAT!

Off for some Nyquil and some sleep!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Sometimes I don't appreciate generosity

DH's friend and colleague "shared" his cold with DH, who so "generously" has shared it with me. YUCK!

If I feel up to it, tomorrow will be Christmas decorating around here. I also want to get some of the curtains washed and stuff like that. If I feel up to it.

Meanwhile, I am really enjoying my current book- a novel about Jane Austen. Tomorrow I hope to have stitching and crafting updates.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Boring online shopping

So, here's how I spent my evening online- yeah, I needed socks and nylons!

Mind you, I am NOT complaining! When I can bulk order (a dozen pair at a time) such mundane things as socks and nylons, while making sure I am getting a better price than if I trekked around to multiple "real" stores, I am a happy camper. No out-in-the-cold, no driving, no walking around stores or malls or whatever. I just notice that I am getting low on whatever it is, find a good deal online and VOILA! A couple days later, I have new ones.

So I am probably just whining rather than complaining. Realizing that you have runs in almost all your nylons (courtesy of the %$#* leg braces) and that you are suddenly wearing weird holes in the heels of your socks (due to the weird way you are walking, courtesy of the %$#* leg braces) and that you have to shop for new ones at the same time that you have MOUNDS of paper to deal with for work, Christmas is 3 weeks away and you have not started on cards yet, and just generally being behind already, means that having to shop for socks and nylons is not only boring but annoying.

Going to old reliable OneHanesPlace.com made the nylons pretty easy. I don't even bother looking anymore- if someone does have my L'eggs cheaper it would take me longer than it is worth to find the site. But, when good old reliable is OUT OF my favorite socks, then I have to shop.

So, my inbox is full of order notices and it is time for LIFE and other than ordering hosiery, nothing much got done tonight. Necessary, but BORING!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I got a couple pictures taken today

I didn't get any stitching done (yet) today (or cardmaking, or any other kind of fun stuff either) but I did get in a few 15s (a Flylady reference for putting in a quick 15 minutes on a long term job) in my craft room.

In the process I dug out a couple of my stitching WIPs, took pictures, and got them ready to be worked on. This one is Star of Wonder, from Just Nan. Not a great picture, I'm afraid, but you get the idea.

This picture came out even worse! Sorry!

This is Road to Bethlehem from Shepherd's Bush. That string hanging from the bottom band is supposed to be there, but not like that. I am part way through doing the weaving with the piece of silk ribbon through the withdrawn threads.

I like Shepherd's Bush designs because they are soft and delicate and yet often intricate. This particular one uses quite a few specialty stitches and as a band sampler changes often enough to keep it interesting. *One* of these years it will finally be finished to show for Christmas- although I suspect it will stay up all year round. This is a piece I am definitely keeping for myself.

I like Just Nan samplers for their complexity and drama. The colors are usually rich and bold, the bands have a lot of specialty stitches, they often use metallic or other fancy fibers, and the embellishments are always gorgeous.

Time to go start dinner for DS's birthday. Back later.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

OOPS- almost forgot to post a BLOG CANDY opportunity

My wonderful TAC angel, Bridgett, is having a big blog candy giveaway for Thanksgiving. You can find it HERE. The drawing will be tomorrow- Sunday, Novemeber 30.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Continuing in the Needlework Theme

Well, I got 5 hours sleep. Not really enough, but I'll get by. The two big things today are the dryer delivery- YIPPEE!!- and getting some trash gone around here.

I got a message from my friend Etha that she didn't remember that I had a stitched piece of hers, so here's a picture of my "needlework wall". I have almost nothing I've ever stitched- like making cards, I stitch things to give away.

Etha's piece is the whitework sampler at the top. She brought it when she stayed with me for a weekend while helping teach a class to our little local (not EGA) stitching group. We had a LOT of fun that weekend- one of the gang still talks about "the heartbreak of hardanger".

This is a closeup of Etha's sampler. The good news/bad news is that from 11 years of hanging in this corner you can see the stitching details better because the piece had gotten quite dirty. "All" it needs is for me to unframe it, unmount it, wash it, remount it and reframe it- which means "one of these days" but not today! BTW, Etha- do you remember if it is laced or taped? Because if it is laced, that "one of these days" is gonna be a longer while, lol!

The sampler contains bands of pulled thread, drawn thread, hardanger, beading and lots of specialty stitches- a real master class! Mounting with the pink fabric underneath really makes the stitching pop IRL.

The two pieces below it- one shown here- were original designs I did for a Caron Fibers contest about 10 years ago. The Caron Collection makes gorgeous variegated threads and has a GREAT website with tons of information and ideas.

I didn't win, no surprise there. But the one who did win- Stephanie Novatski- was part of the group where Etha and I met, and who had the MOST amazing stitching room I have ever seen! It was bigger than the first floor of my house, had marvelous skylight windows and cabinets everywhere for storage of her massive stash. She was really talented and her stitchwork was gorgeous!

I guess these never got given away because they were not originally stitched "for" anyone!
Well, I should stop typing and start getting ready for the dryer delivery.

Late Night report

Well, it is WAY late- like I cannot remember the last time I was up this late! Tea with dessert after Thanksgiving dinner was NOT a good idea.

So, I was strolling around the Web and reading various blogs and groups. I had joined the EGA Cyberstitchers as a guest recently and finally went through all the posts from this month's online meeting. I discovered that they do a lot of stuff and I could get back to EGA- which I really enjoyed!- without the hassle and aggravation of chapter meetings- which I really did NOT enjoy!!!

I (and quite a few others) left our EGA chapter, and EGA, about 10 years ago after a series of events which my friend nicknamed "Stitch Wars"- a several weeks' onslaught of nasty phone calls and emails by a few women with way too much time and way too little sense or decency. It's a long story but one familiar to many of us- women are NOT always kind to other women, a phenomenon I have never understood.

But, through the wonders of the Internet I can belong to EGA (The Embroiderer's Guild of America), take classes, attend regional and national seminars if I am so inclined (and financially able), and get back to really learning about needlework and not just do it. And, I can do all this without the stress and strain of night-time meetings which are totally too much for me, or the potential aggravation of local chapter politics. I am very much looking forward to it.

Thanksgiving was nice. DD was home for dinner, and dessert was our old tradition of seeing DS' friends for peach cobbler- not a Thanksgiving tradition in most places, I know. It actually was one of those serendipitous occurences- about 12 years ago on TG, DS told me WAY too late to make extra pies that "a few" of his friends were stopping over after dinner. I had the makings of a recipe that I'd gotten from a friend in the cabinet and threw it together and into the oven. Well, they liked the pies and such but they LOVED the "peach cobbler". That was that. I've made this every TG since, they've come over every TG since, and I've even had to make it for special parties and once for a wedding reception!

So, we had our usual after dinner- dessert, coffee and tea (and I forgot to make mine decaf!- DUH!), lots of chatting, some TV- the Eagles were on and they WON!!!- and just a generally good time.

Tomorrow is a "purge" day around here. I rarely have the day before trash day off, and will take advantage and get rid of some stuff. Other than that, I'm resting most of the weekend- and waiting for my new dryer!

I hope everyone had a pleasant Thanksgiving- now to get ready for Christmas!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

John Denver ...Poems Prayers and Promises..

This song always seemed to me a good Thanksgiving song. The line "it turns me on to think of growing old" always makes me a little sad because he did not get to do so.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and can spend your evening sitting around with family and old friends and talking of "poems, prayers and promises".

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Timing is Everything

Good timing occurred with the arrival of my Vickie Clayton silks for the Beatrix Potter Quaker Sampler. I couldn't get a really good picture in the house- and I certainly was not taking this stuff outside!!!- so I am sorry but this is the best I could do. (The linen is 30 count ivory from Brunner Haus.) I am really happy with the silks and am looking forward to starting this project with the New Year.

Much less good timing occurred here last night- my dryer died. Now, this was a good and faithful servant for 31 years- so it was well past where it owed us anything! BUT.... with Thanksgiving on Thursday, this makes for a little problem. I always wash my good table linens and did not get to it yet. So, the table may be less festive than usual. The bigger problem is all the work that still needs doing before Thursday- and the fact that now we will need to clean out the basement between the door and the laundry area! This much added effort was NOT on my agenda- but how long, in winter, can one go without a dryer? So, the new dryer arrives on Friday and making a path to move the old one out and the new one in is a MUST before then. Just what I needed- NOT!

I bought my new dryer at Sears, for two reasons. First, the now-deceased one was a Kenmore and who can ask for more than 31 years from a dryer that survived a family of four where the DH coached 2-3 sports/year (meaning multiple clothes changes each day), DD was a dancer (more of the same) and DS was a rower- and they use more clothes and get them more stinky than any other sport/activity I've seen. (Have you ever seen the socks they wear in the boats, AFTER practice? Total YUCK!!!!!)

The second (and more important) reason is Sears' support of their employees who get called for active duty while in the Reserves or National Guard. Sears not only abides by the law that requires that the employees get their jobs back when they return. They also PAY them while they are serving- making up the difference between their military pay and their civilian salaries, so that they are not put to a financial hardship by serving. Good stuff!!!!

So, come Friday I will have a brand new dryer- and probably be too worn out to give it a test run, lol!

OK- back to work!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sitting here on a happy Saturday night

While I am sitting here waiting for my hair to return to its "natural" color, I wanted to share my wonderful weekend.

Here's my copy of Cathy's wonderful Popcorn tree card. The glitter doesn't show up very well but it *is* there. My watercoloring did not come out as vibrant as on Cathy's model but I still really like the card- and all the rest from the class.

We had a really good time last night. Working on cards from models was easy and mindless and exactly what we needed on a Friday night after a LONG week. Cathy's designs are adorable, her card kits are full of beautiful papers and great quality cardstock, and the resulting cards are way more than I would have ever thought up by myself.

Everyone at the event was really nice, and warm and friendly and we felt right at home. There was gingerbread and pineapple upside down cake, so munching made the evening even better.

Then we went back to Cel's house and set up our scrapbooking but yakked rather than scrapping- we were both too tired to do anything that required even the slightest amount of thinking or effort. After a glass of wine, we toddled off to bed.

Today was a wonderful day! We both accomplished a lot- although the books are still far from done- and chatted and laughed and just enjoyed the good company. Oldies playing in the background, comfort food all day (tomato soup for lunch and pizzs for dinner- we were NOT into cooking, lol!), eating and snacking whever we felt like it and not on a schedule, made the day perfect. Cel is a wonderful and solicitous hostess and I had a GREAT time.

BTW- the popcorn tree stamp (our name for it, not Cathy's) comes in a beautiful kit and the stamp itself is from a drawing by Cathy! You can check out the stamp and its companions and the whole kit at Paper Garden Projects. I did a little shopping while we were there, starting with the Popcorn Tree set of stamps. This Christmas Tree Mouse found its way into my bag- which is amazing and proves HOW CUTE it is, because while I love the images others make with them, "critter" stamps are NOT usually my thing. But this one I just could not resist. And, of course, since I collect cardinal stamps, this beautiful Winter Cardinal came under the category of "it must be done".

Time for a hot shower to work out the kinks from scrapping all day then off to bed. Thanks to Cathy and Cel for a terrific weekend!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Happy Weekend Everyone!

Look at what *I* am going to do tonight!

Cathy St. Clair, who runs Paper Garden Projects is having a stamping/cropping evening tonight for charity. Fortunately, she only lives about 30 miles from me, so this is doable on a Friday night! Her cards are gorgeous and I am really looking forward to taking the class. BIG advantage- if you want the class rather than your own cropping time, you don't need to bring supplies! If you're in the Philadelphia area, you can read more about it on her blog, Paper Garden.

More fun is in store as well! My scrapping friend is going with me to Cathy's event, and then we are going to make attempt #2 at the "weekend wedding scrapping". Back in September, three of us got together at my friend's house to work on re-doing our wedding albums. If you got married in the late 70's- as we did- and did your own album- also, as we did- you likely have one of those "magnetic" albums- and your pictures have all turned yellow and you need to get them OUT of that album! Our pictures have all been removed from danger but now we have a box of pictures instead of wedding albums. And, while boxes of pictures of the kids at Christmas, or Halloween, or that summer vacation three years ago, in a box, is acceptable and understandable, having your wedding album be a box of pictures really doesn't cut it.

In case you don't remember, wedding album weekend #1 was, for me at least, a disaster. I got REALLY sick- so bad that DH and DS had to come take me (and my car) home in the middle of the first night.

So, from after class Friday night until dinnertime on Saturday, we are going to be working on the wedding albums. Scrapping with a friend is always more fun than scrapping alone and this friend is so much fun under any circumstances that I know the next 24 hours are going to be GREAT!

I do have to come home Saturday night, as Sunday is reserved for what Flylady refers to as "crisis cleaning". Getting ready for Thanksgiving has now hit total crunch time, so that will finish off the weekend.

But, for now, I am off to make Christmas cards and HAVE FUN! I hope you do the same!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My "Amish Wall"

At the end of a long and difficult day, nearing the end of a long and difficult week, it was a GREAT joy to open the package that UPS left on my doorstep this afternoon.

This is a corner of our dining room, which will now be called my "Amish Wall".

I first discovered the artist Nancy Noel last January when I saw a print on the wall at a hotel in Lancaster. Lancaster County, for those unfamiliar, is the home of most of the Pennsylvania Amish. I was mesmerized! The print, Happiness is Like a Butterfly, is breathtaking in person. I WILL own a copy, and hopefully soon, but I am holding out until I can afford to get the large print, appropriately framed.

I have been stalking eBay, hoping to get lucky with "Butterfly" but with no luck. However, a few months ago I did win an auction for the beautiful EMMA, seen here at the left as she hangs in my dining room, and even better seen (due to, I am sure, a better photographer) HERE at the Noel website. This print is also exquisitely beautiful and it makes me smile just to see it.

Meanwhile, the eBay stalking has continued.

This lovely child is SARAH, whom I found just a few days ago. She was listed with a corresponding quilt square which was framed to match. I fell in love AGAIN!

The quilt square is a Dresden Plate, one of my favorite quilt patterns, although not a true Amish quilt design.

But I saw these, and the design of the frames and even the colors of the matting looked like someone had peeked into my dining room and made them just for me.

You can see the Noel website picture of Sarah HERE, which is where I learned, after I had purchased the print, that SARAH was Nancy Noel's first Amish portrait. That just made this set even more special!

My taste is very ecletic when it comes to what I like hanging on my walls. DH and I bought several prints last year and they are very different from what I showed here. I also have family pictures, scenery pictures, pen-and-ink drawings, all kinds of stuff. One of my most treasured wall occupants is a GORGEOUS whitework sampler stitched by my friend Etha. One of these days I will post some more pictures and show off that prized possession!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Catching up on my stitching list

I was reading a stitching blog the other day and the writer had counted up all her WIPs, UFOs, and kitted projects. The numbers were pretty big.

Over the weekend I sorted out all my projects that are kitted and un-started. It was a lot more than I thought! So I decided to get started on categorizing all my stuff ( we will, of course, ignore all the unkitted charts that I am going to "do someday") and see where I am- and how many centuries I need to finish it all, lol!

So, I'm going to start here with a quick list of the ones that are REALLY WIPs- those that I have made significant progress on but just never got around to finishing. The list of UFOs- which will be those I started but haven't made a big dent in yet- will come later. Maybe looking at it every day on the sidebar here will encourage (embarrass) me into getting more done?

I'll add some pictures when I get a chance to take some so you AND *I* can see where I'm really at.

The "current project" is Sekas' Watercolour Dragonflies which is getting close to done- and which I need to finish because I need the q-snaps for the Beatrix Potter Quaker Sampler.

The WIPs are: Lavendar & Lace Celtic Christmas, L&L Angel of Mercy, Shepherd's Bush Road to Bethlehem, Just Nan Star of Wonder, and an old EGA Group Correspondence course piece that I cannot remember the name of right now.

One I get some pictures, I'm going to set up links to my photo gallery at photobucket.com and keep track of my progress. (For now I'll just link to a finished picture so I can set up the sidebar and not have to completely redo it.)

Sounds like a plan, huh? Let's see how I do with it!

Release Party Tonight!

Here is a card that Etha made with one of the BEAUTIFUL Little Cottage Stamps being released tonight at Clear Artistic Stamps. Check out this link to find out about the release party and the CHAT before the release- starting at 8PM Central time tonight!

You should also check out In the Cottage Studio (CAS's blog) for many more sneak peeks at the new stamps- there are lots of them in different themese coming tonight. You will also see a chance to enter for a great prize and some other "secret" special stuff!

If you have not tried Clear Artistic Stamps yet, you are really missing something wonderful. They are made directly from Belinda Landtroop's beautiful drawings and watercolors and are unique and wonderful to work with. Make sure you watch out for a special stamp- the beautiful flower being released tonight also.

See you at the CHAT!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Nestability News

It's actually Spellbinders (the makers of Nesties) news, but since the product almost everyone loves best from Spellbinders is their Nestabilities....

Anyway! Spellbinders has launched a new website and a new blog. Their old website wasn't *bad*, but the new one is really GOOD! Lots of pictures, lots of info, lots of ideas!

You can check it out HERE.

They are having a few technical difficulties with the launch of their now blog, but what I can see looks like there will be some good stuff there. Check out the blog HERE.

I'm very partial to company websites when they are well done. This one looks pretty good. And, since I LOVE my nesties- which makes me one of VERY many others!- I'm going to put the link on my sidebar- as soon as I finish playing at the new site!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I got to spend a little time on the WildEarth Drive this morning- first time in a LONG time I've done that. Pieter was following a young male leopard named Yambilu. I got a bunch of snaps but these two fascinated me as it really seems as if he is looking directly into the camera as if he knew what it was!

One of the fascinating things about the African safari drives is the relationship between the animals and the guides. The animals seem to know that they "belong" there and accept them. They do not seem bothered by the vehicles or the cameras or even the lights at night. Yet, this is no zoo or contained animal preserve- this is out in the middle of the African bush country- the Sabi Sands area of northwestern South Africa. The guides must still be always aware that they could become prey. It is wonderful that the magic of modern technology allows me to sit at my computer and "visit", live and in real time, the beauties of nature half the world away.

I really need to update my snaps on my sidebar, but there are many pictures there if you want an idea of the kinds of things you can see. The pictures are neat but seeing it live is the BEST. Under "links I like" on the sidebar you will find several of the African camera sites where you can visit various parts of Africa and watch the animals. Most of them are just permanent cameras without commentary, but the WildEarth camera runs two love safaris every day. CHECK IT OUT!

Great Pyramid Mystery Solved?

I am interested in a lot of different things- and one of them is Egyptology. I love learning about ancient Egypt- one of the, I think, most fascinating periods in human history. If you share my interest there is a show on tonight at 9PM ET on the National Geographic channel. This is a taste of what's coming. Read more about it at: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/11/081114-pyramid-room.html

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Look what the mailman brought!

This beautiful scissors fob!

It was blog candy recently on a wonderful blog called Stitch Pink. This blog is for stitchers, but is about breast cancer awareness.

Make sure to check it out!

Check out the Blog Hop

There is a really fun Blog Hop with a great prize going on today at the FireCracker Designs blog!

Pamela makes some of the most fun and interesting stamps around- like this WAY cute penguin! You can win him and the whole set plus some extra goodies, and see some wonderful cards.

Check it out!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Time to teach about Fibromyalgia

Why is she posting in the middle of a work day? Well, obviously, because she is not at work! DUH!

In June of 1995 I had major shoulder surgery, following almost a year of terrible pain and significant functional loss in both my arm and my hand. What they found, and the long term outcome, ended my career as an Optometrist. The surgeon did a great job- my arm works almost perfectly and the problems with my hand are only intermittent- but working on people's eyes was now out of the question.

The damage I had done before the surgery (yeah, I did it- who knew about repetitive motion injuries in 1995? Not me!) combined with re-injuring the shoulder in October set off a cascade that developed into Fibromyalgia. By Christmas that year I was seeing 5 different doctors and spending most of my time in bed. By spring I was sure I was dying. A traumatic incident in May 1996, when I lost half my vision- everything on the right side of the world disappeared!- WHILE DRIVING!!! sent me running to the smartest doctor I knew, and the only one I had not yet seen- my mother's oncologist. He made an instant diagnosis and sent me to my wonderful Rheumatologist where I first learned about Fibromyalgia.

There is no recovery from Fibromyalgia, there is no cure. There is only treatment, and for each patient finding the treatment that helps can be a long process of trying a variety of medicines and therapies. For me, the process of returning to some semblance of a normal life took more than 4 years. I am one of the "lucky" ones- less than 40% of Fibromyalgia patients ever work again.

Fibromyalgia(FM) is a neurotransmitter condition- the chemicals in the body that act as the conductors for nerve information carried to the brain malfunction. They send BAD messages. They send LOTS of bad messages. FM is a "syndrome" because there are a lot of seemingly unrelated problems occurring simultaneously.

The primary symptom of FM is pain- widespread pain all over the body. EVERYTHING hurts, all the time. Along with the pain comes sleep disorders, Irritable Bowel syndrome, chronic migraines, stiffness, numbness and tingling, sensitivity to light and sound, and a whole host of other things. The other "main" symptom of FM is fatigue. Patients with FM are almost always tired. How tired we are, and how much pain we are in, depends on how well controlled the FM is at any given time.

Which is why I am home, sitting with my feet up, and unable to do anything more strenuous than typing. (And, even typing is getting tough- my arms are starting to ache from that little effort!) My FM is flaring up- big time!

I slept until 12:15 today and I am still exhausted. Everything hurts. I am battling to control an incipient migraine- it has been waxing and waning for almost a week. When I "walk", I shuffle like an old lady because my legs are so stiff and sore. Climbing one flight of stairs leaves my leg muscles screaming like I just ran a marathon. I feel AWFUL!!!

Now, this post is not about sympathy. I have dealt with this condition now for many years and I know what I need to do. I am doing it- which is, basically, doing nothing. The heat in the house is turned up to 75°. I am sipping hot tea. I am staying mostly stationary and mostly horizontal. (Courtesy of a good recliner, I am actually mostly horizontal now!) I am doubling all my meds. I am going nowhere.

This post *IS* about education. Do you know someone with FM? Do they "look fine"? Is it hard to believe that loud noises, or stress and aggravation, or rooms kept too cold, or nothing in particular could really cause all this pain? Well, BELIEVE IT!!!!

The hardest thing about having an "invisible disease" is that most people don't understand. The less empathetic don't believe. The really rotten ones assume you are lying or malingering. FM patients do not need sympathy- although it is nice, lol! We DO need understanding, and allowances made for our daily battle.

So, if you know someone with FM, give them a break. If they tell you they cannot be cold, believe them. If they cannot do something, accept it. If they suddenly change plans and disappoint you, they are as unhappy about it as you are.

My bad day at home here is a result of a confluence of little things. The weather turned really nasty. I've been cold too much for several weeks now. Work has been hectic, busy and stressful- and I foolishly let the stress get to me. I've been overdoing. I've walked way too much in the last few days. The totally unrelated Osteonecrosis in my legs and the probably related Arthritis are also being affected by weather and activity, and exacerbating the FM. The holidays are coming and I've been doing a bunch of "get-ready" stuff. Any of these, or even several of these, would probably not set off a flare, but all of them together were more than enough to put me down.

I tell everyone that I should be a "poster child" for FM. I've mostly beaten the %^&* thing. Do I have the life I had before FM? NO WAY!!! I have restrictions and limitations and I MUST follow a pretty strict regimen of what I do. I must carefully choose what I do each day. I have an "energy bank" that is similar to my back account or my car's gas tank- if I use it all up, there is no more. If there is an emergency, the "funds" are not there. Every day I must carefully choose how to use that energy and I make tough choices about things I must not do. My house is a wreck because I can either work or take care of my home. I choose work because I love it and DH and DS would rather have me happy than have a neat house. When I get home from work I settle in my recliner, and except for MAYBE making dinner, I stay there until bedtime. Even when I am doing well, I have to take a couple of weekend days each month and stay in bed. I have to turn down invitations for things I really want to do if they are worknights. I live with a LOT of "I can't"s.

BUT.... if I follow the "rules" I have a good life. I feel pretty good most of the time. I pace myself and do most things others do. I go to work almost every day. I love my job! I go on vacations (DISNEY WORLD!!!) and have a great time. I attend parties and go on scrapbooking weekends and stitching festivals. I lead a "normal" life, within the context of my FM.

If you know someone with FM, be a "Fibromyalgia Supporter". Be understanding. They are doing the best they can. And, if you really, REALLY want to be a supporter, learn more about this condition. Here are some sites with lots of good information:

The National Fibromyalgia Association

Fibromyalgia Network News

The Mayo Clinic site about Fibromyalgia

WebMD on Fibromyalgia

The NIH site on Fibromyalgia

A CNN report on Fibromyalgia

Thanks for reading all this. With necessary breaks it took almost two hours to put together. If you have a little more understanding for your family members or friends with FM, it was a good effort. Now, I'm off- more meds and back to bed, and hopefully a better day tomorrow.

SheetLoad's Blog Candy Blow Out

Sheetload of Cards is having a whole bunch of giveaways this month!

You know I like Sheetload because they are on my sidebar. This month their generosity is exceptional!

Check out this picture of all they are giving away- and then go check out how to win HERE.

If you haven't used Sheetloads before, make sure to take a peek at their new gallery and see how they work- they're WONDERFUL!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Why is November so miserable?

I am feeling weary. Not depressed, just weary. Weary of miserable weather that makes my joints ache and my muscles burn. Weary of miserable people who are petty and vindictive and make everyone around them unhappy. Weary of bad news from so many fronts. Yeah, weary.

Although the looming preparation work is overwhelming, I am trying to look forward to all the good stuff that's coming- Thanksgiving, Christmas, Florida. I am planning on going away overnight with friends next weekend to scrap- THAT will be fun. Cooking Thanksgiving dinner and doing all the baking will be fun. All the fuss of the holidays will be fun. Florida will be WAY fun!

All that stuff is just over the horizon- but first, we have to survive November!

So, let's start a "Good News" chain! I am asking everyone who has "good news" to put it here in a comment and then start a similar thread on their own blog. Let's see if we can find a whole bunch of stuff to be happy about for one another.

Then, maybe, November will be easier to survive!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day Part IV

A Nation's Strength
Walt Whitman

Not gold, but only man can make
A people great and strong;
Men who, for truth and honor's sake,
Stand fast and suffer long.
Brave men who work while others sleep,
Who dare while others fly --
They build a nation's pillars deep
And lift them to the sky.

Here's to the Heroes: A Military Tribute

Veteran's Day Part II

There is a story I want to tell that has always, for me, summed up the reality of what it is to be a veteran, the reality that most of us don't hear.

I was an Optometrist (before health issues forced me into early retirement) for many years. I was also the third generation in my family in Optometry and I practiced with my father until his death in the early 80s.

My Dad served in World War II in the Army. He spent his wartime at a remote small base in Greenland where they did weather forecasts for the naval convoys crossing the Atlantic and also supplied some of the information for the D-Day landings.

In November of 1994 I had a routine office visit with a 70 year old patient who had been with Dad from the time he opened his office- he was a high school classmate of Dad's. We chatted, as we always did, about how my kids were and what was new with him. He started to tell me about his visit to Normandy the previous June for the 50th anniversary of D-Day; he had landed at Omaha Beach in the first wave. He told me of seeing men he'd known 50 years before and of visiting the cemeteries there.

Then he began to cry. He told me that although he and Dad had been friends for years "I have always been jealous of your father because he never had to kill anyone".

My heart broke at that moment. In that one sentence he had summed up all the suffering, pain, trauma and regret that millions of men have had to live with all their lives. We take young boys, train them to be killers, and when their service is done they are sent back to live "normal" lives. In that moment I understood why all my uncles who had seen combat never told "war stories".

Everytime I remember that story I think of all the wonderful men I have known who were not blessed, as my father was, and who did, indeed, "have to kill people". I think of how they adjusted, raised families, were kind and loving husbands and fathers, and were good men in whatever they chose to do after their service.

My father and my uncles served, my brother and my cousins and my friends served and now my children's friends and my former students are serving. Thank you to them and to all who do now or ever have worn the uniform.

Veteran's Day

On SCS, there is a thread encouraging everyone to send a card today to "thank a veteran". This is the one I sent to a wonderful teacher down the hall from my classroom.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunday night report

Obviously, this is the Beatrix Potter's Quaker Sampler. I stumbled across it a while back, and found a Stitch-a-long that is starting on January 1st. I can't say exactly why but the piece really appealed to me.

So, I joined the group, got the chart- an ebook version as this beautiful version is long sold out- dug out some special fabric I've been saving for years and just last night ordered the silks.

You can see lots more details at some of the links in my sidebar. The gorgeous ivory linen came from Brunner Haus- which I just heard will be closing (or already has) due to the retirement of the wonderful owner. What a loss- their linens are incredible! The group is the Needleprint Beatrix Potter Quaker Sampler SAL. The silks came from HDF- I ordered the Tiger Lily which is close to the originals called for but much richer as it is variegated. I even bought new, GOLD needles!

I spent part of the weekend doing some (of the inevitable, interminable) re-organizing in my so-called craft room. Made a little progress. Other weekend work included laundry and getting all the summer "stuff" (the table and chairs from the patio, the grill from the alcove- you know the routine) put in storage in the garage to await the return of warm weather.

We didn't have a good "house" day. I'm increasing the amount that goes into my retirement account each payday significantly starting with the next paycheck. (Put us in the category of those who are now forced to rethink our timetable for retirement after the last few weeks.) So, I've been shopping and spending like crazy in anticipation of less money and Christmas coming. Have you heard that timing is everything? Well, last night the microwave finally gasped it's almost last- about which there are no complaints as it was 24 yo in July!- and today the pipe under the sink sprung a leak! So, we need a new microwave AND a plumber in the immediate future. Yeah, timing is everything!

I got my twinks into their new storage box today, got a big dent made in the Thanksgiving food shopping and got some paperwork done.

The Eagles are playing, and already losing, and I am exhausted from a bad case of insomnia last night. I think I'm going to make it a really early night and head to bed with a good book.

Hope everyone reading has a good week!