Thursday, April 13, 2017

Mt. Vernon, Iowa, Early Stop on International Tour

We attended a concert by the Wartburg College Choir (in conjunction with the Mount Vernon High School Concert Choir).   I figured that they picked the Mt. Vernon location because it would attract people from both Iowa City and Cedar Rapids.  But it turns out the director of the Mt. Vernon High School choir is a Wartburg graduate and was quite a "star" at Wartburg.  The concert was jam packed; we arrived 15  minutes early and had to scrounge a seat along the side, where we had a good view of the conductor, but didn't see much of the choir.

What we didn't realize is that this concert was an early stop on Wartburg's spring international concert tour. With concerts in Minnesota and Iowa, the choir then heads at the end of April to multiple stops in Germany, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland.

And we attended a concert presentation of "My Fair Lady," similar to "South Pacific" which we saw last year.  What I call more than a concert, less than a play.  The orchestra sits on the stage, there is minimal dialogue, just enough to get us from song to song, and the only props were three chairs that were used on and off as people sat or stood, Eliza's jewelry that she gives back, and the pair of slippers she throws at Professor Higgins after the ball.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Collecting Dust Bunnies

I now have a new cat.   I picked out a very personable and cuddly long-haired tabby from the local animal shelter and she immediately made herself at home in my condo.  The first evening, she spent time inspecting and going over every square inch of my floor, collecting dust bunnies from under the bed and the far reaches of my closets.  Once she was satisfied with the floor, she began inspecting the higher reaches (tables, chairs, bathroom and kitchen counters, etc.)  She is much smaller than Max was (her 8 1/2 lbs to his 22 lbs).
Molly holding down the various papers by my computer
One thing I've discovered is that when Molly hops into my lap, she doesn't want to curl up and snuggle.  She wants petting, NOW.  So I have to drop whatever I'm doing, which is usually needlework or reading, and give her my attention.  I found a "grooming mitt" which I can use to pet her and at the same time brush off the loose hair.  She seems to like it.

In the process of adjusting to a new cat, I have managed to get two small pieces (bookmarks) stitched.

"Bookworm" needlepoint pattern I converted to cross-stitch

"Anemones" pattern by Textile Heritage of Scotland

Good Night, Sweet Prince...

...and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest. (Horatio in "Hamlet")

Well, sad news.  In late January, my elderly cat, Mr. Max, decided to quit eating his prescription dry food.  So we tried mixing it with wet food, going to prescription wet food, to no avail.  A trip to the vet revealed no obvious underlying medical problem (blood sugar, kidney function, liver function, thyroid function all normal).  He continued to lose weight and to eat less and less food.  We finally gave up on the prescription food, and focused on just getting him to eat anything, and for awhile he ate chicken and turkey baby food.  Then came dental work, in case his teeth were hurting him and causing him not to want to eat.  That worked for a few days.  Then we went to medicine to increase his appetite (which he fought tooth and nail against taking) and steroid cream that I could rub in his ear that he didn't mind so much.  Everything we tried worked for a few days but not long term.  He lost more and more weight, though was acting his normal self.

Finally the end came on March 22nd.

And the week before, March 16th, was the 10th anniversary of my husband's death.   So the time was doubly sad.

During these weeks, I didn't get much done with regard to stitching.  I was so focused on Max that I wasn't in the mood to do much else.

Sympathy card from veterinary clinic, signed by everyone

Before and After

A beauty salon opened in the neighborhood (which I have been anxiously awaiting).  I gave them a try and as soon as I walked in and sat down, the beautician asked if it would be alright if they took before and after photos of me.  I said OK, and then the more I thought about it, the more I realized this really wasn't a compliment, that they must have thought I looked really horrible with my shaggy hair.   Of course, the haircut took an extra long time as the beautician made sure she got every hair exactly where she wanted it for the "after" photo. They have since posted the photos on their Facebook page, and one respondent commented, "what a transformation."

We went to see "The Sound of Music" at Hancher.  It was great!  And the woman who played the Mother Abbess (Melody Betts) was a stand out!

I did manage to get one piece of stitching done.  This is "Noel" by Lizzie*Kate.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

We used to lick stamps

We attended our first UI Theater Department play since the building was closed for repair and remodeling.  We saw "Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike."  It was billed as a dark comedy, but it really amounted to two hours of members of a dysfunctional family arguing with one another.  And for some reason, the playwright threw in multiple references to Anton Chekhov.  There was a picture of Chekhov on the wall, there were several arguments about whether the cherry trees in the backyard constituted an orchard ("The Cherry Orchard" is one of Chekov's plays), one young neighbor girl decides Vanya reminds her of an uncle, so she'll call him "Uncle Vanya" (another Chekhov play), the family is composed of two sisters and a brother (as opposed to Chekhov's "Three Sisters").  Well, you get the drift.

At one point, Vanya gets really upset and starts to rant about how the world is changing too much and too fast for him to keep up.  In his rant, he cites as an example of the changes in the world the fact that we used to lick stamps.

We also went to see "Fiddler on the Roof" at the local performing arts center.  That is one of my favorite plays, but for some reason their fiddler was never on a roof.  He walked on and off the stage periodically.  The first version of the play I saw many years ago had the fiddler sit on the roof through the entire play, mostly in the dark but under the spotlight from time to time.  Not sure why you'd have "Fiddler on the Roof" without having the fiddler on the roof.  It loses something...

Saturday, October 29, 2016

With first class you get bananas

We splurged on our trip to Richmond, flying first class.  This was our first foray into first class, other than one time many years ago when a flight was over-booked and we ended up in vacant seats in first class.  Anyway, I decided I wanted the more comfortable seats and more leg room, which were worth every penny.  And the snacks are upgraded, with an assortment of regular sized snack bags of chips, popcorn, granola bars, cookies, and fresh fruit, and we could choose two snacks.  That's where the bananas come in.  Bananas were available on every leg of our flight.  What I had not expected is that our checked bags (which were free for first class passengers) would get first class service as well. Not only were we first on/first off, but our bags were first off the plane as well.

I was able to quickly finish two pieces from Spirit of Cross Stitch.  One was "Sweet Little Christmas Stocking Ornament" designed by Jean Farish.  This was one of the classes I attended.

The second piece was from a class I was not able to attend, due to scheduling conflicts with another class.  But, fortunately, kits were available for purchase at the vendor mart.  This is a topper for a tin box, designed by Louise Henderson of Cherished Stitches.  This was stitched on 32-count linen (32 threads to the inch), which I had not attempted before. My normal choice of fabric is 25-count!  But thanks to cataract surgery, I was able to manage (under my magnifying lamp, of course).

And the third piece, not from Spirit of Cross Stitch, is something I've had in my "to do" pile for awhile. I had initially thought it was small enough to be a bookmark, but it's not quite that small.  Just a very small sampler,  "A Flower in its Pot Sampler" by Gay Ann Rogers.

I'm now working on Terry Bay's Nine Patch Tray from Spirit of Cross Stitch class.  I was waiting for some variegated threads to arrive from my favorite thread vendor, Colour Complements in Canada. As soon as they arrived, I started in.  Here are the first four patches done.  Five more to go.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Politics free Zone

In mid-October, we headed to Richmond, Virginia, for the Spirit of Cross Stitch.  This was the revival of a get-together that was very active in the 1990's.  At that time, festivals were held across the country, including in Des Moines.  Initially, we filled the Des Moines Convention Center, and busloads of people came on Saturday for the merchandise mart.  And gradually, over the years, attendance got smaller and smaller, and the festival changed hands, from Spirit of Cross Stitch, to Heart of Cross Stitch, to Creative Arts and Textiles, to Creative Arts and Teaching Shows, and lastly, Stitching Jubilee.  Then none at all... Which is why I started attending Embroiderers Guild and Needlepoint Guild seminars, though those are completely different.

Each year, Spirit of Cross Stitch had a new design for T-shirts, tote bags and commemorative samplers.  Here is my commemorative T-shirt collection.

And here is my version of the 1992 commemorative sampler, finished, framed and on the wall.

This year, attendance was pretty small (around 140), the merchandise mall had only about a dozen vendors, and classes had sparse attendance,  One class I attended had 4 students, a couple had 6, one had 2, and the biggest class had 9.  But, it's a start!

I was really surprised that several of the teachers remembered me from the early days.  Jean Farish, who created the original Spirit of Cross Stitch festivals back in the early 1990's, was a teacher at this festival.  When I sat down in her class, she took one look at me and asked if I hadn't attended the original Spirit of Cross Stitch.  Then we reminisced about those early days, including the fact that the class catalogues didn't have any pictures.  We had to choose classes based solely on the written description.

My Dad wonders why I keep going to stitching seminars, saying I surely must have my PhD in stitching by now!  Here's why.  In Terry Bay's "Nine Patch Tray" class, she diagrammed the double-running stitch she designed for one of the block borders, and she let us take photos with our cell phones.  That in itself was a learning experience since I had never taken photos with my cell phone before and didn't know how.  But after pushing a few wrong buttons, I found the right button, and voila, photos!  I also learned that I can take selfies from my camera, just by pushing the little camera icon, I can change the direction the camera is pointing.
I continue to learn at stitching seminars
And here is what the diagrammed stitch looks like, actually stitched.

What is the point of stitching the corner borders in such a complicated path?  Well, the double running stitch is designed to look the same from the front side and the back side of the piece.  For this Nine-Patch Tray, that doesn't matter, it's just a chance to practice the stitch.  The practical applications would be for things like embroidered towels, handkerchiefs, napkins, curtains, etc., that will be seen from both sides.

Terry Bay also announced in my first class that class would be a "politics free zone," for which we thanked her profusely!  And what was equally pleasant, Virginia is not a battleground state like Iowa is, so guess what - we saw NO political ads on TV for national or state offices.  The closest thing to a political ad was an announcement of an upcoming public forum with the five candidates for Richmond mayor.

And another round of plays we've seen.  In August, we saw something that was more than a concert and less than a play:  "South Pacific."  The orchestra sat on the stage, with the characters singing the songs in front of the orchestra.  No props, just enough dialogue to get from song to song.

And the night before we left for Richmond, we attended opening night for "The Book of Mormon," at the new Hancher Auditorium.  It was quite fun!