Thursday, December 12, 2013

Remembering Ernestine

In Mid November, we saw Lily Tomlin on stage.  My favorite character of hers, Ernestine, made an appearance.  No longer working for the telephone company, Ernestine now works for an unnamed health insurance company, busily denying claims and offering absolutely no sympathy:  'That's an elective procedure.  By that I mean, we elect not to pay.'

And I began work on some Christmas-related stitching.  This one is based on an ornament from the 2013 Christmas Ornaments issue of "Just Cross-Stitch" magazine.  The Assisi piece is designed by Elizabeth Gorski of Primrose Needlworks, though I changed her lettering from "HOPE" to "NOEL."

Children's Reunion

Archaeologist brother Robert let us know he was planning another trip to the United States in October. He represented our family at our Aunt Mimi's memorial service in Louisville and then headed to Dubuque.
Uncle Fritz speaking at Aunt Mimi's memorial service
Brother John and Sister-in-Law Renee had already made plans for a trip to Coralville to visit me and to see the play, "Spamalot."

We invited Rob to join us, and we "kids" had a reunion.  They arrived Sunday morning in time for church (our brand new organ had its debut!) and then the play Sunday afternoon.  We met again for supper Sunday evening, and then said goodbye Monday morning.

At Bandana's restaurant - Dennis, Linda, Robert, John, Renee

Here we are at Perkins for breakfast - Renee, John, Robert, Linda, Dennis

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Inch by Inch

I am taking an on-line stitching class called "Inchies," taught by Kathy Rees.  It is a canvas work piece of 40 inch-sized segments (8 by 5), with different stitches and different threads.  It's a way to try out new stitches and new threads.  I really do not need another piece to hang on the wall, so did something different.  I stitched the inchies in groups of 9 (3 by 3) which I'll make into ornaments to hang.

"Inchies" stitched 3 by 3 to be finished into ornaments
Pink ornament
While waiting for some canvas and threads I had ordered for my next project, I was sorting through a stack of magazines and found "Look What I Did" by Jennifer Rodriguez of Always Time to Stitch in the September/October 2013 issue of "Just CrossStitch" magazine.  The design comes with a ghost holding up a Halloween quilt.  I decided to stitch the Halloween quilt portion and left off the ghost.  I'll finish this into an ornament for my Halloween tree.

Latest Finishes

A few weeks ago I got the urge to go through one (get that - one!) of my UFO (Un-Finished Objects) boxes and found two pieces I wanted to finally finish.  The oldest one was a Ewe and Ewe and Friends design called "Sampler Pincushion."  I had finished stitching the sampler part in 2007 but got stumped by the section the designer had left blank with the instructions to "Be creative!"   So I set it aside.  I've taken it out and looked at it several times since then but couldn't figure out what I wanted to do with the blank section.  Then, finally, inspiration struck.  I had another pattern that had some stitched "lace" sections (that too was a UFO), and I decided to combine some of the lace sections from that pattern with this sampler.  And voila!  A six-year old finish!

My second UFO finish is a bit more recent: "Take Time to Quilt" by Jeannette Douglas Designs.  I started this back in 2011 and set it aside once because I couldn't decide what saying to put in the center. When I decided on "Autumn Colors," I stitched some more and then set it aside again when everything was done except the block in the lower left corner.  I simply could not figure out the instructions. This time I was determined to finish the project with its gorgeous colors.  Though I still couldn't figure out the instructions, I did figure out that if I put the booklet cover under my magnifying light, I could see how it was stitched and follow that as my stitching guide.

This past spring I completed "Variations on a Rhodes Theme," in honor of our cruise last winter that ended up having Rhodes as a port of call.  That was the first of three Rhodes patterns, and I more recently completed another of the patterns, "More Rhodes to Follow."  There is a third pattern, "All Rhodes Lead to Stitching" that is in my "to do" pile.  I am using the same colors throughout all three pieces.

Lest you think all I do is stitch, a friend and I took a two-part Introduction to Islam class that was very informative.  I'm also attending a six-part class on Anton Chekov.  I didn't study him in school so was not at all familiar with any of his work.  We started the class by reading his short story, "The Lady with the Little dog," then moved to his play, "The Seagull."  We are now discussing "In the Ravine," a long short story.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Uh, Did You Want to Finish the Stitching Before Framing It?

Well, another week another play - no, it just seems that way.  The end of July we went to opening night of "Rent."  We normally go to Sunday matinees, but this time Sunday did not work for us.   The auditorium was packed, lots of applause, and a standing ovation at the end!  I had not seen the play before, and was expecting a musical, though not an opera.  Nor was I expecting it to be as sad as it was.

And my "blooper" of the week:  I gave two pieces of needlework to my framer (Claim to Frame).  I have worked with Cathy for many years; she used to have a store front in town, but now works out of her home.  Several days after I gave her the pieces, she contacted me - uh, did I want to finish the stitching on one piece before she framed it?  I thought I had finished the piece and put it away in my stack of FUFOs (Finished but Unframed Objects).  But, I had stitched the top row only about a third of the way across!

I finished the stitching, and realized I had also forgotten to add my initials and date to the piece, so I did that too.  This is a block of four Farmer's Market charts by SamSarah.

One of the stitching email lists I belong to asked for photos of "stitching buddies."  That made me realize I hadn't posted any photos of Mr. Max lately.  Here is one of him sitting in my stacked clothes dryer.  In the winter when it's a bit chilly, he likes to jump into the dryer at the end of the cycle and burrow into the warm laundry as I'm trying to remove it.

On a more stitching related note, here he is digging through my organizer.  He especially likes to pull out my packets of needles (they make a crinkly noise) and highlighter markers (they roll around the floor).

And, when I'm working on the computer, he decides on the time limit.  He starts out sitting on the table beside my mouse, but when he thinks I've done enough work, he moves and sprawls across the keyboard.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Milestone Anniversary

July 30th was my parents' 65th wedding anniversary.  We planned a family get-together on Sunday, July 28th, and knowing that Rob would not be home until October, we planned to hold a second gathering when he was back home.  However, Rob was able to reschedule his trip home, so we were all able to be together on Sunday.

John and Renee placed announcements in the local newspaper and at the church we grew up in, asking people to send cards. Dad said that an announcement was also made at their current church, and the congregation applauded.

The group at dinner
Clockwise from lower left: Dad, Mom, Dennis' Mom, me, Dennis, Rob, John, Renee
Here we are outside the restaurant: Me, Mom, Dad, John, Rob
I had read in the newspaper that a replica of Christopher Columbus' ship, The Nina, would be docked in Dubuque over the weekend.  So on our way to restaurant, we stopped to take pictures.

Such a small boat in which to cross the Atlantic Ocean
Unfortunately, a local newscaster related that Columbus and his men had crossed the Atlantic to avoid religious persecution in Europe.  I think he was confused between Columbus' voyage in 1492 to find a route to the Orient and the Pilgrims setting out on the Mayflower in 1620.  Moral of the story: don't believe everything you hear on TV.

Another stitching finish relates to our cruise last fall.  One of our ports of call was Rhodes.  Once we got back home, that gave me the incentive to finish a piece, "Variations on a Rhodes Theme," by Freda's Fancy Stitching.  I enjoyed doing the piece so much that I've ordered the two companion patterns, "More Rhodes to Follow" and "All Rhodes Lead to Stitching."

Rain, Rain Go Away

Well, last year we had a serious drought.  This spring it started raining and wouldn't quit.  With Iowa River flooding predicted, the University of Iowa began putting up flood barriers around building, and there was lots of sandbagging.  University buildings close to the river, such as the Theater Building, were closed, and students were evacuated out of the Mayflower Dorm.

The closure of the UI Theater Building meant changes in the Summer Repertory Theater schedule. Rather than the anticipated three plays, the schedule was reduced to one play, and the venue was moved to the local performing arts center.  We saw the "Bad Seed" on stage.  I remember the 1950's movie which I found very creepy.  The play had the same premise, but was purposely played "over the top," so the audience was regularly laughing that the people in the play weren't catching on to the obvious.

Next up was the UI Summer Opera, Gilbert and Sullivan's "Iolanthe."  I was unfamiliar with that operetta.

I did finish another piece, "Broken Heart," by Charlette's Collectibles.  I changed the colors from red, blue and cream to shades of green and purple.  And I changed the saying on the piece.  It took some time to think about and find a saying that I liked.  I ended up Googling "broken heart quotations," and looking through pages and pages of quotations.  I finally found one: "Only the broken heart has the ghost of a chance to grieve, to forgive, to long, to transform," by Christina Baldwin, author of "Life's Companion, Journal Writing as a Spiritual Practice.  The quote was used with the author's permission by Judith-Victoria Douglas, "Ariel's Cottage: A Place for Love."  That gave me the idea of what I wanted to say on the stitched piece.

This March was the 6th anniversary of my husband's death.  Sometimes it seems like just yesterday and the tears start, but I am trying to piece my broken heart back together, like I take cut-up pieces of fabric and transform them into a quilt.

The Play's The Thing

In February, we attended University of Iowa productions of two one-act plays: "Trouble in Tahiti" by Leonard Bernstein and "Amelia Goes to the Ball" by Giancarlo Menotti.

In March, I attended a four-session (eight-hour) Senior College course on "Hamlet."  I was an English major in college, so should be well versed in Shakespeare.  However, my semester-long Shakespeare course met at 8 am, so, sorry to say, I rarely made it to class.  Which means I'm woefully unknowledgable about Shakespeare's plays.   Tsk, tsk.

In April, we saw "She Stoops to Conquer," another UI production.

April also saw the Iowa Women's Leadership Conference at the convention center next door to my condo.  Even though I am retired, I could not pass up the opportunity to hear the keynote speakers.

Dr. Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, talked about her mother's role in terms of not just being the woman behind the man, but her essential role in the women beside the man.  Martha Stewart talked about "Living the Good Long Life," and gave everyone copies of her just published book.  Gloria Steinem was greeted with a standing ovation, talked about "The Longest Revolution," and answered questions from the audience.  All speakers were inspiring.

Next on our "schedule" was the play, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum."  I thought it was much better than the movie.

Christmas and Spring Stitching

I finally finished a set of Advent ornaments.  I had stitched them last year, but not gotten them finished because I wasn't sure how I wanted to finish them.  I decided to fringe the edges and then mount them on adhesive mount board with an adhesive hanger.  I purchased a multi-branched table top ornament tree, which turned out to be just the right size.

This pattern is "Advent Calendar and Petite Ornamentals" from JBW Designs.  This is one of those patterns that I ended up purchasing twice.  I was sure I had purchased the pattern, but couldn't find it. So I bought another one and then, of course, I found the first one!

I stitched some other ornaments which I gave as gifts, from a free pattern (Byzantine Christmas) from the Caron Threads website.  These are quick to do and look great in many different colors.  I backed mine with felt.

I then tackled a Mill Hill Sticks piece, "Cozy In," a winter scene outside a cozy room with a fire in the fireplace, wine and tea and a cherry pie on the table.  The kit shows what looks like a footstool with the bottom part of jean-clad legs and feet in slippers.  But the rest of the body is out of view, either behind the table (that would mean the person is lying down, but there are no furniture legs showing for whatever the person is supposedly lying on, or the person's body is out of the picture, which would mean the person is impossibly tall.)  I struggled and struggled trying to figure out what to do, and finally emailed one of my stitching groups for their advice.  I quickly received a number of suggestions, the one I chose was to put a cat in the picture.  So a "fat" cat, looking remarkably like my own cat, is sitting on the footstool.

The non-Holy Land cruise is over

The seas do calm down enough that the ship is able to dock in Italy.
View of the ship, our stateroom was on the 4th floor, with an obstructed balcony

We take a taxi ride to Rome, check in to our hotel and head out for sightseeing.  And it starts to rain and rain and rain.  Everywhere we have to make our way through a gauntlet of hawkers selling umbrellas.

We take the subway to the Spanish Steps, see the Trevi Fountain, eat lunch at the world's fanciest McDonald's (whose floors are incredibly slippery when wet!).  Renee wants to stop at the Christmas market, so we head that way, though nothing interests us,especially in the rain.  We stop at the Pantheon, then walk back to the hotel.

The Spanish Steps

Close up of Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

Renee tossing a coin in Trevi Fountain

The Pantheon
Interior Views

Walking in the rain back to the hotel
We are soaked and head to our rooms, dripping water and leaving wet foot prints on the lovely hard wood floors.   I am quite thirsty and decide to pay the exorbitant price of $4.50 for a can of Coke from the room.  By the time we check out tomorrow, the cost of that can of Coke goes up from the price of $4.50 posted in the room to a whopping $10, due to "fees and taxes."  Unbelievable!

Me drinking that $10 can of Coke

In Search of the Maltese Falcon

November 26th we're at sea.  At dinner, I jokingly wonder whether, when we're ashore tomorrow in Malta, we'll find the Maltese Falcon.

On the 27th, the ship stops at Malta, and we head for a shore excursion.  First, we visit the Grand Harbour.

These "guards" are really just people in "fancy dress" soliciting donations

The view of our ship in port

A real Maltese Cross
After stitching Maltese cross stitches for years, I finally meet a real Maltese Cross in person!  And earlier we visited Rhodes.  Who knew that this Holy Land cruise would turn out to have such ties to the stitching world.

Next stop, the old city of Mdina.  Where what do we find - but the Maltese Falcon gift shop.

Gift shop even sells Maltese Falcons!

Narrow streets in Mdina, just wide enough for one small car

Ornamentation above a door

Mdina City Center

Food trucks

A real phone booth!

Tourists getting a carriage ride through Mdina
Mdina is famous for their fancy door knobs

Last stop, the modern city of Valletta.  We visit St. John's Co-Cathedral and then walk to the town square.

In the town square are a number of vendors, I find a man selling small water-color prints.  I pick a Mdina scene and a Valetta scene.

View of Malta from our stateroom balcony

Leaving Malta
Today is Renee's birthday.  Back on board ship, we celebrate at dinner, and John has ordered a birthday cake for her for dessert.

November 28th we were scheduled to stop at Naples, Italy, with a shore excursion to Sorrento and Pompeii. But guess what - that stop is cancelled - not due to any political unrest, but due to bad weather.  The waves are too strong for the ship to land at the dock!  Hopefully the weather will be better tomorrow, and the waves not as strong, so we are able to dock in Rome!
The weather and waves on the 28th, which preclude our docking at Naples
John's birthday is the 30th, when we will be flying from Rome to London to Chicago to home.  So we celebrate his birthday early.  Another birthday cake for dessert!