Monday, November 23, 2015

Hamlet is for the Birds

We've attended two plays in the past month, actually films of stage plays.  The first was a Royal Shakespeare Company production of "Othello."  I had been looking forward to it, but it really left me cold.  The production was staged with a number of Black actors, so one of the reasons Othello so easily fell for Iago's lies didn't exist.

Hamlet, which we saw last week, was quite fantastic.  It was a National Theatre production, with Benedict Cumberbatch in the leading role.  He was great, as was the actress (Sian Brooke) who played Ophelia. You could see Ophelia coming apart as the play progressed from scene to scene.

But why was Hamlet for the birds?  Well, during intermission a bird (or several birds, we couldn't really tell) either woke up or came in the door, and began flying around and around and swooping over the audience and across the screen.  That continued for awhile and was very distracting, but finally the bird(s) must have gotten tired and settled down somewhere so we could enjoy the rest of the play in peace.

I Need to Learn to Keep my Mouth Shut

Well, several months ago, our pastor asked for suggestions for topics for adult Sunday school.  I gave that some thought, and emailed her with some suggestions.  Her response?  She thanked me for my suggestions and asked if I would be interested in leading some sessions.

So, I'm in the midst of three sessions on forgiveness.  For the first session, we talked about what forgiveness is and why it is better than revenge.  For the second session, we talked about when to forgive.  And next Sunday will be the final session, on how to forgive.

Rain Rain Go Away

The  last week in September we were in Myrtle Beach for the annual American Needlepoint Guild Seminar.  The forecast was for rain, and it turned into more rain than expected.  Hurricane Jouquin stayed offshore, but a storm front stayed over South Carolina and dumped rain and more rain and more rain.   Our hotel was actually only a couple of blocks to the beach, but I never made it out of the hotel until Day 4, and that was just to walk across the entrance to see a plaque.  We tried to see the lunar eclipse on Sunday night, but just as the eclipse started, the clouds rolled in, so there was nothing to see.

The classes were great.  I took a four-day class by Joan Thomasson called "Tidal Textures," which involved learning how to use heat transfer paints to paint a canvas, then using our creativity to stitch a tidal pool of shells, sand and water. Each of our canvases turned out quite different; it was fun looking to see what other students were doing.

Once I got home, I put away my canvas from class, considering it a "doodle" or "practice" canvas and started over.  Here's my painted canvas, with shells scattered about: real shells from Atlantic City, Clearwater Beach, San Francisco, and Myrtle Beach.  The white shells are paper cutouts of shells I will stitch.  I am currently working on stitching the background water and sand.  This is the first canvas that I'm creating as I go along, as opposed to following a pattern that someone else created.
The beginning of my Tidal Textures, class taught by Joan Thomasson at ANG Seminar
The other class I took was a one-day class, taught by Margaret Kinsey, called "Three Leaves."  It was an introduction to using gold threads.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Joys of Living With a Cat

To get caught up, I attended the week-long International Organization of Lace, Inc. (IOLI) in the hotel across the parking lot - how could I turn it down?  I signed up for a lace knitting class, figuring how hard can that be, I already know how to knit.  Well, I found out quick enough.  The teacher had suggested we practice stitching twenty rows of twenty stitches, which I did, but that took much ripping out and starting over and starting over and starting over.  And then during the class time, we practiced stitching patterns,which again meant starting over and over and over again.  The upshot was, I spent so much time practicing that I sprained my right hand and could hardly bend my hand or grasp anything.  Fortunately, some pain killers and rest, and I was back to normal in due time.
It may not look like it, but this is my week's accomplishment!

Then, the area around our condo was the center of activities for the over night stop for this year's week-long bike ride across Iowa (each year is a different route) attended by many thousands of bike riders and their support teams.   The street in front of our building was closed to vehicle traffic, and lined with food vendors of all sorts, there was a concert in the parking lot behind our building, and much much activity during the day and night.

Where does living with a cat come in?  Well, take a look at this photo.

My morning routine is to get up, turn on the coffee maker, feed Max, and then settle into my living room chair to drink my coffee and watch the news on TV.  Well, sometimes Max, feeling well fed, decides to snooze in a sunny spot while I'm drinking my coffee.  In that case, I leave my cup on the end table next to my chair.  Other mornings, Max is feeling frisky and wants to cuddle, in which case I put my coffee cup on the floor is avoid a spill.  Well, there came the morning when Max decided to hop onto the end table, and in the process knocked my telephone onto the floor.  I had my cup of coffee on the floor, and guess what, Max knocked my phone right into my cup of coffee!  We couldn't have managed that again if we tried!  Fortunately, my phone has survived; it took a couple of weeks to dry out completely, but it seems to be working fine now.

I have a couple of quick finishes to report.  Small projects like these are good "stash busters," that is, one can use up leftover canvas and threads.

Little Autumn Ornament #1 from Laura J. Perin Designs

Gingerbread Quilt Ornament from The Victoria Sampler

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Spring Cleaning for the Mind

I belong to a Mystery Book Club at our local library.   We meet monthly, and our latest book is "Aunty Lee's Delights," by Ovidia Yu.  It's set in Singapore, and has glimpses of Singaporean culture sprinkled in, which is very interesting.  But there was one paragraph that really struck me:

"As far as Aunty Lee was concerned, people ought to go through the ideas they carried around in their heads as regularly as they turned out their store cupboards.  No matter how wisely you shopped, there would be things in the depths that were past their expiration dates or gone damp and moldy--or that had been picked up on impulse and were no longer relevant.  Aunty Lee believed everything inside a head or cupboard could affect everything else in it by going bad or just taking up more space than it was worth."

I had never thought about that before.  What a concept!

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Bit of Christmas in July

My latest finish is "Holi-Dazzle,"by Joni Stevenson.  This was the on-line class offered in July by the CyberPointers chapter of ANG.   I was intrigued to learn how to do the poinsettia.

And I've done another bookmark.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

So Sooty

Well, in mid-June, we got the word that I had been dreading - our 90-year-old mother had taken a drastic turn for the worse and "it was a matter of days."  My youngest brother, who lives in Germany, flew back, and the family gathered in Dubuque June 23rd.  Mom lingered for six days, but then we got the call at 7 am on June 29th that she had passed during the night.

The memorial service (not a funeral) was held on July 6th - Dad wanted us to celebrate Mom's life, not mourn her death.  Lunch was served at the church following the service, and  Dad had written two pages about "The Wartburg Connection" that I read at the lunch.

I received a number of sympathy cards from friends at my church, including an electronic card from someone who didn't proofread very well.  Instead of telling me she was sorry, she wrote that she was "so sooty."  Nothing like a good chuckle in the midst of grief.

Mom had picked out the hymns she wanted sung at her memorial service, and one was unfamiliar to me: "Behold the Host Arrayed in White."  Dad said this hymn was sung at her father's funeral, and it had a great impact on Mom.  Text by Hans A. Brorson, Music is Norwegian folk tune.

Behold the host arrayed in white like thousand snow-clad mountains bright,
that stands with palms and sings it psalms before the throne of light!
These are the saints who kept God's word; they are the honored of the Lord.
He is their prince who drowned t heir sings, so they were cleansed, restored.
They now serve God both day and night; they sing their sings in endless light.
Their anthems ring when they all sing with angels shining bright.

On earth their work was not thought wise, but see them now in heaven's eyes;
before God's throne of precious stone they shout their vict'ry cries.
On earth they wept through bitter years; now God has wiped away their tears,
transformed their strife to heav'nly life, and freed them from their fears.
For now they have the best at last; they keep their sweet eternal feast.
At God's right hand out Lord commands; he is both host and guest.

O blessed saints, now take your rest; a thousand times shall you be blest
for keeping faith firm unto death and scorning worldly trust.
For now you live at home with God and harvest seeds once cast abroad in tears and sighs. 
See with new eyes the pattern in the seed.  The myriad angels raise their song.
O saints, sing with that happy throng; life up one voice;
let heav'n rejoice in our redeemer's song!

I retrieved the painting of Saint Barbara that Mom had hung on the wall above her bed, no one else wanted it.  The portrait came along with an explanation of who Saint Barbara was.

Can One Sermon Encompass both "Fiddler on the Roof" and a George Carlin sketch?

You betcha.  On Father's Day, I preached my very first sermon.  Our church's pastor was heading to vacation and they couldn't find anyone else.  I vaguely remember telling the church at some point that I would be willing to lay preach, so they came to me.

The lessons dealt with "on the one hand, on the other hand," which to me was reminiscent of how Tevya in "Fiddler on the Roof" dealt with problem solving.  And then I focused on Paul's statement that "on the one hand we have nothing, and on the other hand we have everything."  That brought to mind George Carlin's sketch about "stuff."

I think the sermon went well, if I do say so myself.  Lots of people came up to thank me.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Meet Earl Grey

I've discovered Annie Lane Folk Art (she has an Etsy store).  Her designs are quite humorous.  One of the things needlepointers need is needle minders, or needle magnets.  When you're doing cross-stitch on fabric, you can weave your needle through the fabric at the margin when you've finished a stitching session.  But needlepoint canvas is too stiff to do that, so what to do - why, use a magnet in the margin of your canvas and lay your needle on the magnet.  Hence a wide variety of needle minders, and another thing to collect.   Some people purchase a new needle magnet for each project, matching the magnet to the project.  I'm not quite that bad, but I do have a bunch of different needle minders.

My latest two purchases are from Annie Lane.  The first one is of a cat "hiding" behind a flowering plant, with the title "Danger Lurks."  And the other one is Earl Grey:

Friday, May 29, 2015

Max is up to his same old tricks

Oh, the joys of living with a cat.   One day I was drinking some Strawberry Crush, with a glassful on my side table.  Up jumped Max, and as I grabbed the glass to keep Max from spilling it, between the two of us we ended up spilling the red drink on my living room rug.  I tried to clean it up right away, but I still have some red spots on my rug; fortunately, they aren't "too" noticeable.

And, what do you make of this - do you think Max really thinks he's hiding?  I have a red throw rug in the doorway to my sewing room, and a blue throw rug in the doorway to my bedroom, and he seems to take turns crawling under them, though the messed-up rug is usually the only evidence that he's been there.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

You wouldn't think needleworkers would fun afoul of the federal government, but...

My latest project is called "Ariadne" by Stitchplay Designs (Carole Lake and Michael Boren). This is another on-line class and it came in a variety of different colorways.  While some thread manufacturers simply number their different thread colors, the Caron company also names their colors.  So, among the colorways was "Green Tea/Kelp," in shades of green, "Amethyst/Olive Grove" in light purple and olive green, and so on.  The colorway I chose was "Elderberry Wine/Havana."  As you can guess, "Elderberry Wine" is a purple and dark blue; "Havana" also has some purple, but it has a lighter blue shading into a yellow green. And this is where the class ran afoul of the federal government.

Some of the students chose to pay for their class via PayPal, and PayPal put a hold on those payments "due to federal regulations."  It turns out that somewhere along the line, someone at PayPal thought the stitchers were trying to illegally import Elderberry Wine from Cuba!  Once Carole Lake talked to PayPal, things were quickly straightened out and the class proceeded.

And here is my completed Ariadne, done in the Elderberry Wine/Havana colorway.  Yet to do are Daphne and Arabella, the other two pieces in this triology.

As for recently finished stitching, I have completed "Choices," by Pat Mazu, which was the May educational program for CyberPointers.  The "Choices" involved two versions of a stocking, plus a rectangular version.  This is the Option #2 that I stitched.  The primary overdyed thread is Colour Complements #109 (no name, just a number).   When I shared my stocking with Lorraine of Colour Complements. she was so impressed she wants to share it on her blog!

And, my first use of Colour Complements overdyed thread was "Alpine Summer," by Carolyn Mitchell Designs.  It's a two-sided ornament; I substituted a stitched Rhodes heart in the center for the crystal that the designer used.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Perhaps they are not really stars in the sky

On Saturday there was an arts and crafts show at the Marriott next door.  The shows occur twice a year, in the spring and in the fall.  It's interesting how the wares change from year to year.  One year a lot of vendors will be selling soap, the next year no one will be selling soap and lots of vendors will be selling small throw rugs. This year, lots of vendors were selling knitted dish cloths.

Of course, the vendor that most interested me was selling cookies, mini fruit pies and nut brittle.  I couldn't pass that booth by.  And I found a vendor who was selling various sizes of wooden signs with various sayings.  The one that caught my eye was this one.  It's apparently an old Eskimo saying, though I'd not heard it before.

Perchance you think I haven't done much stitching lately, I have two finishes to report.

First are the Patriot Sparklers, which are now stitched.  At some point I need to actually finish and assemble them onto sticks so they actually look like sparklers.   We students had so much fun with this on-line class that we asked EGA to schedule a class next year for Set #2 of the sparklers, another set of six.

And I have finished the Shady Colors class, albeit a few weeks late.  

So I've now finished two of the five classes I signed up for at the beginning of the year.  I'm working away on the ANG Stitch of the Month water lily, and the Starstruck mystery sampler. The Explorations class is just beginning, I hope to start that this week.  Then, I signed up for another class, Ariadne, that will start in May.  Plus over the summer will be on-line classes called Holi-Dazzle, and Choices.

And, as if cross-stitch and needlepoint weren't enough, I found out that the International Organization of Lace, Inc. is holding their annual convention at the Marriott in July.  I couldn't pass that up.  A couple of the classes were really hardanger stitching, not strictly lace, so I signed up to attend. Unfortunately, those classes were cancelled due to low interest so I had to choose another class.  I picked Lace Knitting.  I know how to knit so how hard can that be?  Well, I'm finding out.  Lace is knit using size 0 or 1 needles and size 30 crochet/tatting cotton.  The teacher recommended we practice ahead of time, stitching 20 rows of 20 stitches.  I'm glad she did.  The first evening I spent several hours just trying to get 20 stitches cast on and the first row knit.  I kept losing stitches and having to start over...and over...and over....  But it's getting better, so hopefully I'll be ready by class time.

I will go with thee to thy uncle's

Yesterday afternoon we saw the film of a Royal Shakespeare Company production of "Much Ado About Nothing." My favorite line in the play occurs in Act 5, when Beatrice asks Benedick if he will go with her to hear the news, and he responds, "I will live in thy heart, die in thy lap, and be buried in thy eyes, and moreover, I will go with thee to thy uncle's."  There's a lot of humor in the play, but this line I think is the best.

We started the day at our Fire Department's pancake breakfast.  And then looked at the variety of fire trucks and rescue equipment in the parking lot.  The fire department has a fire pole, we aren't sure whether anyone actually uses it anymore.

There is a needlepoint stitch, the basket weave stitch, that uses the fire pole analogy.  That stitch goes down the vertical thread, like a fire fighter goes down the pole, and goes up the horizontal threads, like a fire fighter walking back upstairs.  Of course, I learned the stitch before that analogy became popular, and I remember it by "vertical down = V.D."

She enjoyed embroidering tea towels

Several weeks ago I noticed an obituary in the newspaper.  I didn't know her, but the notice about Mildred "Millie" Campion, who was 86-years old, included the information that "She enjoyed embroidering tea towels, making homemade noodles for her family, doing cross word and jigsaw puzzles and playing Scrabble."   Sounds like someone I would have liked to know, such an interesting combination of interests: embroidery, noodles and puzzles.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Shakespeare in the Park Without Shakespeare and Without the Park

We're halfway through this spring's six-week Shakespeare class.  We're studying "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Cyrano de Bergerac."  But wait - Cyrano?   What's he doing in a Shakespeare class? That will take a bit of explaining.

By way of background, we have a local theater group, Riverside Theater, who each summer has held two weeks of "Shakespeare in the Park."  Using an open-air theater vaguely reminiscent of the Globe Theater, for many years they have staged a Shakespeare comedy and a Shakespeare tragedy.  Well, the past two summers have seen flooding on the Iowa River.  While the theater stayed high and dry, the access road into the park went underwater and the theater season had to be cut short, and the company lost money.

So, this year, they decided to hold their festival indoors.  And, for some reason, decided to stage "Cyrano de Bergerac," rather than any of the Shakespeare plays.

Our Shakespeare teacher tries to be supportive of Riverside Theater and has taught her class based on which play Riverside Theater would be producing that summer.  In an attempt to continue to be supportive, she decided to teach Cyrano, and then identified a Shakespeare play that could be paired along with Cyrano.  Thus, "Much Ado About Nothing."

Monday, February 23, 2015

How Did I Ever Find Time To Work

Well, I've signed up for multiple on-line stitching classes for the coming months:
  • First off, I'm participating in the ANG "Stitch of the Month" project.  This started January 1st and will be a three-dimensional water lily (assuming I finish!)  A new stitch is introduced each month, over the course of the year.
  • Next, we have a mystery sampler, "Starstruck," by Kathy Rees.  I've taken her "Inchies" class and "Sudoku Delight" class in the past.  This time, we don't know what the project looks like, it's a mystery.  We could pick what colors we wanted to work in and won't find out what the completed sampler looks like until the end.  We had our first lesson February 1st and will end July 31st.
First Lesson of Starstruck Mystery Sampler
  • Then EGA offered a "Patriotic Sparklers" class that started today.  It's six small projects done in red, white and blue.  The class will be done in six weeks.
  • Next, we have "Shady Colors," by Carole Lake and Michael Boren.  The very first online class I took was their "Stella Polaris" project, which I liked so much I did the piece twice in different colors.  This time, I picked gray and silver as my color choice.  This class starts March 1st and ends May 1st.
First Lesson of Shady Colors
  • I figured that was plenty of stitching, but no, along came another online class that I couldn't pass up: "Explorations" by Debbie Rowley.  That class starts in April and goes through June. Mix in other projects, large and small, and I think I'll have a busy spring into summer!

And a New Year Begins

I re-joined the Embroiders' Guild of America.  I was a member years ago when there was a local chapter, Plum Grove Chapter.  That chapter disbanded and I let my membership lapse.  But decided to join the on-line Cyber Stitchers chapter.  One of the first things I discovered is that the President of the Cyber Stitchers chapter had issued a challenge to complete UFOs (UnFinished objects), that is, stitching we've worked on and then put away to finish later.  Some UFOs languish for years and years...  Anyway, those wanting to accept the challenge could identify up to five pieces they wanted to finish over the course of the year.  Most of us responded, "ONLY five???"

I have been able to complete two of my five identified UFOs.  One was the teaching piece from last year's ANG Seminar in Chicago.  I changed the color a bit, it has a hint of pink, rather than the hint of beige that the teacher planned.  Shortly after finishing the piece, we learned that Pat Donaldson, the teacher, had died.  I also changed several of the drawn thread rows..  I had set it aside with all the stitching done except for the needleweaving column on the left, that was new to me and for some reason I thought it would take a long time.  Once I picked the piece back up and started needleweaving, it only took about six hours to complete the piece.  Here it is in all its glory!

Whitework Sampler by Pat Donaldson
And now for something completely different: the second piece I've completed so far this year. Can you guess the designer's name without reading the caption?

Lahaina Breezes by Laura Perin Designs
In between those two big pieces, I stitched a bookmark.  I picked up the kit in the gift shop at Westminster Abbey on our 2011 cruise.

Stained Glass Window bookmark by Textile Heritage

Remembrances of Things Past

A trip to Dubuque for Christmas Day, with roast beef dinner at the assisted living facility, followed by opening of gifts.  Last year I gave Mom and Dad some assorted candies, this year I went for salty snacks.  Plus springerle cookies "imported" all the way from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  I discovered Springerle House at the farmer's market across from the hotel in Lancaster where Stitching Jubilee was underway.  It's a great farmer's market, and the springerle cookies are excellent!  Fortunately they do mail order, so in December I order some for myself and some as Christmas gifts.

This would have been my 45th wedding anniversary; my husband and I were married on Christmas Eve in 1969.  So, the holidays had a somber note for me this year due to this milestone.  I remember when Stan was dying back in 2007, the on-call chaplain who arrived in the hospital room in the middle of the night, asked how long we had been married.  My response:  "thirty-seven years...but not long enough."  Some days it is still an effort to get through the day without him.

But on to more cheerful things.  I ended up finishing several stitching pieces.  First up is a chart I purchased at the ANG Seminar in Chicago.  The designer's name should be familiar - I've done a number of her designs.

Nordic Valentine by Laura J. Perin Designs
 Next is a smaller piece, a needlecase.  Here are the stitched front and back, ready to be assembled.   Textile Heritage makes a "Violets" series and a "Lily of the Valley" series of small accessories: needlecase, bookmark, sachet, and scissor keep.  I earlier completed stitching on and posted a photo of the "Lily of the Valley" scissor keep.  Here is the Violets needlecase.
Violets Needlecase by Textile Heritage