Monday, December 29, 2014

On the Last Day of Christmas Vacation


...which was yesterday...

...I thought we could use a recap.

This Christmas vacation, I started three new projects, worked on two WIPs, spent a day with my favorite niece, a day with my in-laws, started learning some new-to-me technology, slept in, relaxed, ate too much junk food, cleaned up my sewing room (please note I didn't say it was clean, just that I had cleaned it up) and generally had a nice relaxing time that seemed to fly by far to quickly.

So how did my "December Plan" go? Here it is, as published on Dec 1.

1. My two main cross stitch projects this month will be: The Castle and Penguin Family. Results: Major progress on Penguin Family, minimal progress on The Castle. 


Before

Before
After

2. My two quilts I will work on this month are: Sunset Kona and Hugs and Kisses. Results: No work done on Hugs and Kisses (actually, I did piece the backing and purchase batting). Kona Sunset has about 60% of the top pieced. 

No Change

Before
After

3. I will plan on finishing the green hood and starting Jack's brown ranger hood. - No Change. Funny how the month just seems to get away from me,.


4. My lunchtime cross stitch projects at work will continue to be the Christmas ornaments. I don't know how many of these I will finish before Christmas, but I have eight done and four more in progress. I also need to get these made into ornaments. Results - Completed! (mostly). I finished 10 of my planned 16. The rest will have to wait until next year. All ornaments should have been delivered to their new homes by now.


Before
After
After
5. On a more personal note, my December "Get Healthy" goal is to get some exercise every day, even if only for fifteen or twenty minutes. I've always been wishy-washy about whether or not to post these non-crafty goals since its not really relevant to the blog topic but I think it will hold me a little more accountable. So far, so good. I was able to exercise today. Results - Nope. Totally didn't happen. Part of this is that my living room always has laundry all over it, so there isn't really anywhere to exercise. I'll have to address this in the future, but in the meantime, I did make an effort to drink more water every day and have been averaging a couple liters a day!

6. I want to finish a book I just started on the Roman Empire. It is called Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire by Simon Baker. This directly relates to my Nanowrimo idea for next November, and I have a lot of research to do before I can start plotting. I'd like to work on this a little bit every day. Once I finish the book, I will start drafting a plot outline. Results - Will not finish the book in time. It turned out to be a little drier than I had anticipated. On the flip side, I did start a new trilogy called "Merlin's Spiral." Excellent books, highly recommend them. I'm about a tenth of the way through the third book. 

Now onto the new stuff. I started A Light in the Dark. It mostly looks like a blob of brown now, but I'm only about 700 stitches in. There are seven different colors in that little blob of brown.




I started Affairs of the Heart. Here is block #2, completed thanks to Jack stuffing my stocking with beautiful variegated threads to do the embroidery. Where is block #1 you may ask? Well, I was a little intimidated by all the scroll work in block #1, so I tackled block #2 first. I also have some work done on block #5. 



I started World Travel Bookshelf as well. All twenty or so stitches!


I still have a couple days of December left, so I'll see how far I get before making my January Plan.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Embroidery Machine Magic

I finally! started playing with my new machine today. (For those of you that don't know, this was sitting in my living room a month before Christmas because Jack had to ask my advice on it, and I wasn't allowed to touch it until Christmas.) And as it turns out, there is a pretty steep learning curve and a wide assortment of supplies that are needed but don't come with the machine. Like stabilizer and thread.

Here are my preliminary results.

One color

Four colors
I love that kitten, he came with the preloaded embroidery templates and he looks just a little bit cranky. The only thing missing is a mouse tugging on his tail.

My new sewing machine needs a name. Maybe I should go the Asgard route and name it The Daniel Jackson or The O'Neill. Now that I think about it, I haven't named my regular sewing machine or my serger yet either. It might be time for a mass christening.

The next step is to purchase an embroidery pattern that I think I will use and see if I can transfer it to the machine.

Friday, December 26, 2014

On the Ninth Day of Christmas Vacation

...I spent a lot of time trying to learn about my Christmas present!

Jack bought me my very own embroidery machine for Christmas. (Isn't he a keeper?) It is a Brother SE400. It has a 4" x 4" stitch area and in addition to embroidery, does everything a regular sewing machine does. This means that I no longer have to constantly swap by sewing machine from a quilting set up to a garbing set up. Let the peasants rejoice!

Shiny!
Up until Christmas eve, I spent a lot of time working on the Penguins. I think I only have 1700 or so stitches to go.


They are almost done, but I decided I didn't want to spend all of my vacation working on WIP and I started both my AOTH quilt and World Travel Bookshelf. Gandalf is also now in progress, but since there isn't much to show on any of those three projects yet, you'll just have to wait for updates.

Monday, December 22, 2014

On the Fifth Day of Christmas Vacation...

... I didn't get a lot of sleep the night before. Got my crabby self up and went to the dollar store for some stocking stuffers and found that the rear window on Jack's car (which had been damaged by a magical flying rock on the expressway a few days ago) was threatening to fall off the car. I called the auto shop and took it in for repairs, not even finishing my Christmas shopping because I was worried that if I went over a bump, the whole thing would fall into the street.

However, on the Third Day of Christmas Vacation, I was able to spend the entire day finishing the ornaments I had cross stitched. Jack was busy being Germany and Taking Over the World, so it did leave me plenty of time to craft away. I'm very glad these are done and stuck the rest of the unstitched ones away for next year. I will need six more for next Christmas but I don't plan on starting those until July.



On the Fourth Day of Christmas Vacation, I worked on my penguins. Oh so close to a finish! 2400ish stitches to go. Mayhaps I will devote the rest of today to trying to finish it off. I did finally take this one off the scroll frame and put it on a Qsnap and I wish I'd done that ages ago. Its going much faster now that I'm not fighting constantly with lousy tension and the stitches are coming out much neater.


And that brings us back to the Fifth Day of Christmas Vacation, or today. I'm torn between starting a new project to relieve a little of the sleepless crabbiness and trying to finish the penguins,. I still have to go pick up Jack's car when they call and say that it is ready. Tomorrow I get to spend time with Astrid. And Wednesday is Christmas Eve Day!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

On the First Day of Christmas Vacation

my computer gave to me,

three hours of headaches, two hissy fits, and one finally resolved issue that turned out to be a setting in my firewall. It was preventing me from viewing ArenaNet's webpages, of all things. And yes, it took me most of the morning and part of the afternoon to finally figure out what was going on. Not how I was planning on spending my first day of vacation but at least the problem is solved now (and was thankfully not caused by unremovable malware).

I didn't get a whole lot of crafty on this Thursday due to that "little" hitch, but I did make it downtown to grab lunch with Jack on his last day of work before vacation. And in the evening, we went to see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Very good movie, but it really felt like they cut a lot of scenes at the end. There wasn't much resolution for the Epic Battle and the Fifth Army was barely present. I'm thinking we're going to see a lot of extra minutes added in the extended edition.

In between scolding my computer and trips outside the warm confines of my home, I was able to finish one ornament on Thursday.


This ornament originally had all orange decorations on the tree and I thought that was rather boring and mostly annoying (orange is possibly my least favorite color), so I swapped them for red, blue, and yellow. I'm very happy with how it turned out.

On the Second Day of Christmas Vacation, I had a bit more time for craftyness, in between cleaning up the house a bit to give myself a more relaxing Christmas Vacation. I made good progress on my last ornament and am hoping to finish it today and start gluing them together.


I also put some time in on Kona Sunset. I have all the blocks sewn in rows and while the quilt top isn't complete, when I move it off my design floor in preparations for World Domination, I will be able to keep everything in order.


I have so far been good and resisted the urge to start any new projects. I'm still hoping to get a finish or two first.

Thus begins The Third Day of Christmas Vacation.

Linking up to MOP Monday@Tweety Love Quilting

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Vacation Day Zero

It's here! I'm trying to revel in the moment, because I know my vacation will be over far to soon.

I made some progress on the penguins. Baby Penguin has an eye and a neck now.


I really want this project DONE, so it will probably be the focus of my cross stitch efforts over the next couple of days.

The Kona Sunset Quilt is about half put together and I decided what to do for a border. I pieced together some of the trimmings, squared it up, and cut it into 2.5 inch strips.



I will put a silver/white border all the way around, and then the fractured border, and finally another white border. I'm kind of geeked about how it will look. This quilt needs to get off my floor before Saturday, or it will have Axis and Allies players tromping all over it.

Future vacation day plans? Find time to see the Battle of the Five Armies, spend a day with my favorite niece, and drown myself in crafty projects!

Monday, December 15, 2014

AotH Test Block

Here it is! It was an experiment in monochromatic blocks, machine applique, and contrast stitching. It doesn't satisfy my OCD for color arrangement, but it taught me a lot and I think I can now tackle the Affairs of the Heart Quilt some some degree of confidence.


Next up are the last two ornaments I need to finish, my ranger hood, and then I'm going to try to finish Penguin Family. It would be nice to get a few things off my to-do list before the New Years!


Friday, December 12, 2014

Ornament Finishes!

I'm off to the extended-in-laws in a few minutes for our pre-Christmas Christmas. They used to spend the day baking cookies but now they spend it crafting ornaments. Something about too much sugar in cookies. I have no idea what they are talking about.

Before I go, I thought you'd like to see the gifts I'm giving them this year. Three of the mini ornaments I worked on this year have now been completed and will travel to their new homes today.


I'm not too happy with how they were centered. The instructions said to cut the aida 3.5" x 4" but this really didn't leave enough room to get them properly lined up on the cardboard backing. 4.5" x 4.5" would have been much better. Maybe in the future I will buy extra aida and make my squares larger. This ornament kit thing taught me several lessons, most of which involve never buying an ornament kit again. It would be much better to buy a book of patterns and kit it up myself.

Happy Un-Cookie Day All!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Life Lessons with Kaelyn Angelfoot

Once in a rare while I feel obligated to share a Life Lesson here.

Today, someone made a comment to another person, in my hearing, that implied that I was uneducated. It was made worse by the topic of the conversation, which was how expensive higher education can be. Maybe if my parents had been rolling in the dough, I would be properly educated.

Cue instant defensive anger.

But I kept my mouth shut and decided not to make big stink over it. However, its been bothering me all day. I mean, ALL DAY. The "Hey wait a second! I have TWO bachelors degrees. It took me SEVEN years but I did it!" It wasn't at Harvard or Yale, or Cornell, but gosh darnit, it is my degree, I earned it, and I'm still paying for it.

My parents never had much money when I was a kid. My dad worked long hours, especially on evenings and weekends, so my mom could stay home and homeschool us. We ate lots of peanut butter and grape jelly sanwiches, tuna, and mac'n'cheese. Mom used to put just $3 of gas in the car at a time, just to get us to the library. I remember being a happy, opinionated kid who was always dragging my cousin into one escapade or another, usually resulting in both of us getting grounded for at least a week. I don't remember feeling neglected, deprived, or "lower class."

When I headed off to college I always understood that I would have to figure out how to pay for it. I don't think the topic ever came up. Mom and Dad just didn't have the thousands of dollars a year to cover tuition.And yet, every time I called with some emergency, they cosigned my loans, sent me a check, and did whatever they could to see me through.

So you can understand why I get a little cranky when someone tells me that my education isn't good enough because it didn't cost enough money.

I was sitting at my desk tonight, gluing together some ornaments, stewing over today's event, and praying that I can just let it go. Do I confront the person or just assume it was malicious? Or assume that it was innocent and forget about it. Ugh.

What came to mind was this one moment in sixth or seventh grade, at church camp. One of the girls was talking about how someone told her she didn't look like her older sister, and I piped up with "No, you don't. Stacy is pretty." What I had intended to say was "Stacy is glamour-ish pretty, and you have more of a cutesy sporty look," but the horrified screams of my campmates drowned out the rest of the conversation and sent me running in embarrassment. To this day, I still wince when I think about what happened. And although I try very hard, even today sometimes something just comes out wrong. I have a chronic case of "Open mouth, insert foot."

Which really means that I should be the last person to throw stones and the first to assume it wasn't said the way it was intended. So that is what I am going to do.

In the end, the truth is, it doesn't really matter what other people think. I love my life,  My car runs, my furnace heats the house, and my bills get paid. I spoil my niece and dote on my husband. I'm happily married, have a job that I like, family that loves me, friends that support me, and have more crafty projects than one person can complete in a lifetime.

And there isn't a college or a university in the world that can give me all that, no matter the cost of the education.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Affairs of the Heart QAL

I decided to stitch the Affairs of the Heart quilt from the book by Aie Rossman. I've spent the last couple weeks finalizing my fabric decisions and I ordered some background fabric. Its all been washed, ironed, and folded, ready to go.


It is a nice assortment of Asian fabrics on a deep cream background. 

I am actually hosting a Affairs of the Heart QAL on Quiltingboard.com. The plan is to complete three blocks per month with one week off for catch up. I have no idea if I will be able to keep up, but if I do I will have a finished quilt top at the end of the year. 

If anyone is interested, I will also host a linky party here on the blog where once a month people can link up their finished blocks. I would start the linky party during the catch up week and let it run the whole week. Here is a current schedule. Unfortunately, due to the rules at Quilting Board, I'm not allowed to advertise on QB that I'm holding a linky party here. I was quite disappointed at that particular piece of fine print.

Jan 4 - 10
Block 1
Mar 29 –Apr 4
Block 10
Jun 21 – 27
Block 19
Sep 13 – 19
Block 28
Jan 11 - 17
Block 2
Apr 5 – 11
Block 11
Jun 28 – Jul 4
Block 20
Sep 20 – 26
Block 29
Jan 18 - 24
Block 3
Apr 12 - 18
Block 12
Jul 5 – 11
Block 21
Sep 27 – Oct 3
Block 30
Jan 25 - 31
Catch Up
Apr 19 - 25
Catch Up
Jul 12 – 18
Catch Up
Oct 4 – 10
Catch Up
Feb 1 - 7
Block 4
Apr 26 – May 2
Block 13
Jul 19 – 25
Block 22
Oct 11 – 17
Block 31
Feb 8 – 14
Block 5
May 3 – 9
Block 14
Jul 26 – Aug 1
Block 23
Oct 18 – 24
Block 32
Feb 15 - 21
Block 6
May 10 – 16
Block 15
Aug 2 – 8
Block 24
Oct 25 – 31
Block 33
Feb 22-28
Catch Up
May 17 – 23
Catch Up
Aug 9 – 15
Catch Up
Nov 1 – 7
Catch Up
Mar 1 - 7
Block 7
May 24 – 30
Block 16
Aug 16 - 22
Block 25
Nov 8 – 14
Block 34
Mar 8 - 4
Block 8
May 31 – Jun 6
Block 17
Aug 23 – 29
Block 26
Nov 15 – 21
Block 35
Mar 15 - 21
Block 9
Jun 7 – 13
Block 18
Aug 30 – Sep 5
Block 27
Nov 22 – 28
Block 36
Mar 22-28
Catch Up
Jun 14 - 20
Catch Up
Sep 6 - 12
Catch Up
Nov 29 – Dec 31
Catch Up

The size of the quilt blocks finish at 7 inches square, so I think I will enlarge them to get either a nine or a twelve inch finished block. I would like to get a queen size quilt out of this if possible, even though I have no idea how I'm going to quilt it!

If you are interested in participating, either drop me a comment below or head over to quiltingboard.com. Please note that no patterns will be provided for this QAL - in order to respect the author's copyright, each participant must purchase their own copy of the book. It can be found here on Amazon. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Back to work tomorrow

My Thanksgiving vacation ends tomorrow *sad face*. Then two more weeks of work and another short vacation before we get back to my regularly scheduled work. There is a benefit to saving up vacation days for the end of the year.

I was working on Penguin Family today. It really does help to have a list of what I want to do before I start. Otherwise, I spend time being all indecisive!

Before

After
I was able to fill in quite a bit of the penguin's wing (are the wings or flippers?) Hang on, let me google that... Hmm it seems that they are officially called flippers. I might get a bit more done on this tonight during the Hockey Game.

I also spent some time this weekend working on Kona Sunset.


The bottom two rows are stitched together.

And finally, I've decided to scrap my progress on the Fairy Spell and start it back over at some undetermined point. I haven't worked on this project in a couple months because it was tedious. This is as far as I got, about 1700 stitches in.


I came to this decision after much thought and trying out a new HAED on a different type of fabric. I have determined that I really don't like working with the evenweave I purchased from JoAnns. The linen by Wichelt that I purchased at Hobby Lobby is much nicer to work with and produces more even stitching results. In addition, the use of the red line to grid was proving troublesome, because it gets in the way. I'm now using a marker designed to wash out and keeping my fingers crossed. Despite having put several hours into The Fairy Spell, it is better to cut my losses now.

The humble beginnings of Hope Returns. 

This one isn't on my list this month, so I may work on it a little bit but it won't be the focus of my efforts.


Monday, December 1, 2014

December Plan

Happy December 1st everyone, I hope your Thanksgivings all went smoothly and you survived Black Friday.

I've been thinking lately about how I used to do this thing at the beginning of every month where I would make a list of things I wanted to get done. I haven't done so in a while and I think it would be beneficial.

1. My two main cross stitch projects this month will be: The Castle and Penguin Family.


2. My two quilts I will work on this month are: Sunset Kona and Hugs and Kisses.



3. I will plan on finishing the green hood and starting Jack's brown ranger hood.


4. My lunchtime cross stitch projects at work will continue to be the Christmas ornaments. I don't know how many of these I will finish before Christmas, but I have eight done and four more in progress. I also need to get these made into ornaments.


5. On a more personal note, my December "Get Healthy" goal is to get some exercise every day, even if only for fifteen or twenty minutes. I've always been wishy-washy about whether or not to post these non-crafty goals since its not really relevant to the blog topic but I think it will hold me a little more accountable. So far, so good. I was able to exercise today.

6. I want to finish a book I just started on the Roman Empire. It is called Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire by Simon Baker. This directly relates to my Nanowrimo idea for next November, and I have a lot of research to do before I can start plotting. I'd like to work on this a little bit every day. Once I finish the book, I will start drafting a plot outline.

Looks like I have a full month ahead of me! What are your plans before the New Years?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Crafty Weekend

This is one of those weekends where it is better to stay off your favorite crafty seller's websites. Connecting Threads and HAED are both running amazing sales and if you have some disposable income, now is a good time to dispose of it. I'm fighting to avoid extending my stash any further. I failed yesterday when I logged on to buy backing fabric to finish a quilt and couldn't turn down batik FQ packs at half off. (I mean really, who could turn down $3 a yard batiks. That's yard sale prices we're talking about.) but I'm using my Stash Page on my blog to avoid buying any more cross stitch patterns. 

I've spent my last few days cooking food, cleaning up a little, enjoying a crazy Thanksgiving (the munchkins were a little wild), and working on The Castle. I was able to fill in a good portion of both the castle and the dragon's wing.

Before

After
I think I'm going to try to get a little quilting done before everyone comes over to visit. I've got about three hours. The house is more or less as clean as it is going to get. 

I'm going to pull out this quilt top and try to get it sandwiched. I know a little girl who is about to acquire twin siblings and I think she could use a big sister quilt.


I've decided to call it "Hugs and Kisses" 

I hope the rest of your weekend is excellent. I'm really enjoying the extra time off work. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Turkey Day Preparations

I'm not hosting Turkey Day this year but that isn't stopping me! I hit the grocery store today after work and patiently wound my way around the throngs of cranky shoppers. And then I hit the other grocery store when the first was out of a few choice items. Who knew that strawberries were so difficult to find?  And I'm sorry, but I really need a specific brand of shredded hash browns for cheesy potatoes. This just isn't negotiable.

I think I managed to gather enough supplies to not only get us to Turkey Day but prevent us from having to leave the house on the Friday after. I really don't like Black Friday. Its like a yearly Anarchy Fest. I stay home, hiding safe and warm in my crafty room, equipped with multiple cups of coffee and a snack stash.

This year I'm planning on making;

Cream Cheese Mashed Taters
Cheesy Taters
Apple Crisp
Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake
Fruit Tart Thingy

The Fruit Tart Thingy is a new recipe and I don't remember the actual name of the recipe. I'll let you know how it turns out.

In the meantime last Saturday I stayed home and put together a selection of movie marathons. It took me like half an hour to decide between the Fairy Tale Maration, the Harry Potter Marathon, the Epic Medieval Movie Marathon, the Lord of the Rings Marathon (a 15 hour event that no one should miss!), and the Kaelyn's Favorite Actors Marathon (Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Denzel Washington, and Johnny Depp). I eventually settled on the Fairy Tales Marathon.


With Stardust as my guide, I settled in for a day of laundry, dishes, and cross stitching. Four loads of laundry, one load of dishes, and four movies later... tada!


Mr. Snowman forced me to finally learn to do French knots. I still don't like them, but I can do them. Eight ornaments down, eight to go. Three in progress.


I'm leaving work tomorrow at 2 pm, so I plan to do all my cooking then and have a nice easy Thanksgiving. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A New Recipe - Balsamic Roasted Beef

Somewhere along the line, I missed out of the genes that would allow me to both cook healthy food and keep up with the housework. When I was keeping the house up, we ate takeout every night. Now that I'm cooking, the place is a disaster area.

I've resigned myself to the fact that I'm not superhuman and have decided to focus my attention on getting us eating healthier, as I think that is more important than not having laundry laying around.

I like roast  beef but Jack doesn't (unless it's Beefcarver), but when I found a top sirloin roast at the grocery store, I thought we'd give it a shot. The end result was that Jack went back for seconds!

The recipe I used was from the blog So Tasty So Yummy. Here is the original recipe: Balsamic Roasted Beef. I really like this blog, as the recipes all seem to contain "real food" and not canned or boxed ingredients.

I made a few modifications to suit us (added garlic, because everything is better with garlic.) Here is my version.

2 ½ pounds filet of beef, trimmed and tied. Buy top sirloin filet/roast.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine
1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon coarsely cracked black pepper
4 cloves garlic, sliced thin

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Prepare dutch oven by drizzling two tablespoons olive oil in the bottom.

Place the beef in the dutch oven. Combine the red wine, vinegar, and salt in a small bowl. Spread the mixture on the filet and brush it evenly over the top and sides. Sprinkle the cracked pepper evenly all over the meat. Sprinkle the sliced garlic on top of the roast. Cover with lid.

Roast the filet for 30 minutes exactly for medium-rare (25 minutes for rare and 35 minutes for medium). Remove the pan from the oven, leave the lid on, and allow the beef to rest in the pan for 10 minutes. Slice thinly and serve with gravy (use beef broth to make gravy).


Serve with: Cheesy potatoes and green beans with toasted almonds and garlic. 

A couple lessons learned:

 One: my ceramic coated dutch oven may well be toast after this recipe. There are blackened burnt drippings all over the inside. I've yet to find out if I can successfully clean it off without destroying the ceramic coating. I may have to dedicate this one to making roasts and get a second for other meals. 

Two: cut off the well done ends and eat the tender meat from the middle of the roast.

Three:  this is much better with a little gravy. I used beef broth to make the gravy, but next time I think I'll try to salvage some of the drippings from the pan and use those. 

We have a lot of leftovers, as there is no way the two of us could eat an entire filet of beef, but I'm hoping to use them tomorrow in a beef pot pie of some sort. And cheesy potatoes never go to waste around here.