31 January 2006
nice people
Yesterday was full of encounters with really nice people. How often does that happen? It was great!

No one's noticed, or at least not commented, that our neighborhood RR blog is named for the themesong of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Now there was a Nice Guy. My oldest son has a few of his books, about being mad and sharing friends and stuff. They're perfect for kids of around 4 years old. Not that I ran into Mr. Rogers yesterday ... that would've been an encounter of another sort.

Here are my nice encounters (not counting my DH Niek who is always nice to me whether I deserve it or not!) in no particular order:

An eBay seller (knottyneedle) from whom I won several charts accidently charged me too little for shipping, and then told me to just leave it like that.

Yesterday I took some bread back to the supermarket that was mismarked - it was the second time I'd tried to buy honey & nut bread for the kids only to find out at home it was bell pepper bread (which they will not eat!). The manager not only gave me a loaf of the correct bread, but also refunded my money.

Friends Joanna and Gemmak helped me solve a problem that was really bothering me, so last night I could go to sleep without the problem nagging away at me & keeping me awake. Thanks you guys!

Two packets arrived from Michele of Acadian Corner - there was a mixup in my order and she sent out a second envelope that included two packs of DMC #28 needles at her cost. Thanks, Michele! (Look out - stash enabling photo!)

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I received several emails from friends offering support & encouragement. I'm not sure if you want me to name you or not, so I will simply say thank you - you know who you are!

And Von, one of the nicest people I've met online, has tagged me. Oh no, more boring stuff about me. I'll keep it very non-controversial this time ;-) and give (mostly) grown up answers.

What were you doing 10 years ago?
Ten years ago I was living by myself in a 5 bedroom Victorian in Maine wishing I had kids and a partner to enjoy life with. (Look out what you wish for, it might come true!)

Five snacks you enjoy.
1. olives
2. wheat crackers
3. cucumbers
4. leftover pizza
5. chocolate

Five songs to which you know all the lyrics off your head right now.
All the lyrics, without making up any hazy bits in the middle?
I’m afraid they’d all be kids' songs, maybe one or two Christmas carols…

Five things you would do if you had one million dollars
1. Set up funds for each of our kids
2. Set aside enough for my parents to visit a couple of times
3. Buy a little place in Maine
4. Set aside enough for a trip to Japan when the kids are older
5. Do a mini-makeover on our home

Five bad habits.
1. Procrastination
2. Being impatient/cranky
3. Swearing
4. Being unable to relax
5. Staying up too late even though I’m tired

Five things you like doing:
1. Reading
2. Stitching
3. Talking with my family & friends
4. Doing stuff for/with my family
5. Daydreaming about ‘what if’

Five things you would never buy, wear or get new again.
1. a car
2. shoes that don’t fit comfortably
3. heels higher than 2 inches
4. a bikini
5. a wig

Five favourite toys
1. Crayons(ha ha!)
2. all my stitching stash
3. my computer
4. my camera & DVD recorder
5. did I mention my stitching stash?

Feeling nice, too? Go check out BookCrossing and commit some random acts of kindness. Thanks to Leeny for this link!
30 January 2006
mischief managed
This weekend I again attempted to participate in the Monday Check-In (through the Friends Gather group) and again managed to nearly avoid stitching all weekend long! My project this time was Max's sea dragon. Here are my before & after pictures, and you can see that I didn't get much done!

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I have learned a lot about comment moderation this weekend too. I extend my apologies to everyone regarding the petty escalation that occurred in my comments section, particularly to Joanna. Thank you for your support and common sense!

Tomorrow we have a parent-teacher conference with Max's teacher and we are very curious how it will unfold. Max is a smart kid, but a very marginal student. I plan to bring in the library books he checked out, and which he has read on his own. They're pet-care books, not specially written for kids. There have been a couple of words that I haven't known! (Before you start to wonder about that, the books are in Dutch, and I still have a lot to learn even after 8 years here.) He's also taught himself to read in English, which his teacher found incredible.

Our younger two beasties will very soon celebrate their birthdays and we plan to have a family party on Sunday and a friends party (at the daycare) on Friday. Lots of cooking and baking hours are coming up.

In short, I may not get as much stitching done as I'd like this week, but I hope you'll still come by to visit!
posted by mainely stitching at 11:03 AM ¤ Permalink ¤ | 2 comments
29 January 2006
and now for something totally different
Today I happily gave up my stitching time for a family trip to the aquarium (Sea Life, in Scheveningen) at Max's suggestion. Nicky and Rowen are finally getting old enough to enjoy family outings. After a few years of not really being able to do much, this feels like a new lease on life to me! (Sara, Mom, and others who know me from 'way back' know how hard it is for me to stay in one place for long.) Nicky and Rowen love fish, and this was just a total delight for them. Max knows his way around the aquarium pretty well, so he had a great time acting as the tour director. It actually went so well that we dared to stay for a big lunch at the attached restaurant. Our younger two can strike terror into the hearts of waiters & waitresses, so this was a big gamble. And it was a total success! Not only did they not break anything, trip anyone, or steal stuff from other patrons, they actually ate all their food and were very fun dining companions! I won't make much progress on my weekend's stitching goals, but it was more than worth it. Here are a few pictures that turned out okay in spite of the difficult lighting.

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Thank you one and all for your very kind, supportive, encouraging comments. I'm blushing at all the nice things you said. I hope that my negative commenter will find something else to do with her time. More importantly, I hope that people will think twice (or three or four times) before saying something mean, unwarranted, untrue, or otherwise negative. It hurts people, and it diminshes the person who says it.
28 January 2006
time to get a grip
Since a commenter who I will not name told me to go to 25 Things for Charity and “write a sensible blog entry” I guess I’ll catch up on what I’ve done this month, even though it isn’t the end of the month yet. This month I sent a quilt square to Cole’s Quilts (my turtle on ivory aida), donated two boxes of toys to raise money for street children in Russia, and donated 4 bags of children & adult clothes to a local charity. I have also collected several warm children’s sweaters to mail to China, but since they haven’t been posted that will have to count for February.

If anyone knows of any literacy groups collecting books for very young children, please let me know. Our children have nearly outgrown theirs. These are all English-language books, and I can’t find any local charities for them.

When I signed up as a member of this amazing group, I didn’t think I stood a chance of accomplishing the year-end goal of 25 “things” but I wanted to try. Each month, I attempt to devote at least two gestures toward a charity – it could be a handmade item, recycling clothes or toys or books for those who don’t have them, etc. This has turned into a process of change from the inside, too. I’ve been looking at the world with newly-opened eyes. My oldest son has been interested in helping, too, which is probably the best possible thing that could happen – touching one person, who touches another … a chain reaction of goodwill.

That said, trying to help out where it’s possible does not mean abandoning humor and only taking life seriously. So, please, withhold commands to go absolve myself for a burst of humor. I think if people laughed a little more often, there’d be that much less misery in the world. If my blog bothers you because I am too nationalistic and too insensitive - traits that I can't imagine anyone assigning to me - you do have the option of simply not reading it.

Thank you very much for your kind and supportive comments! Wow. I'm at a loss for words. I'll get a grip now, myself, and follow my mom's advice from childhood: Ignore anyone who's bothering you because they'll just get bored and go away.

Isn't it weird that the older you get, the more your parents know? LOL!
27 January 2006
guilt-free SEX
I bet that got your attention, didn't it?!

Today, Max and I renewed our library cards. To my surprise, nearly a whole year had passed since they expired. What can I say - the time has just breezed past me. Anyway, the library has actually bought books in the past year, including a radical expansion of the cross stitch section. While Max staggered out under his stack of animal-care books, I was staggering under a stack of cross stitch books just chockablock full of charts. Yippee! So that is my guilt-free SEX experience.

When we got home, I found out that my backordered Stitching Bits and Bobs order had arrived. Yippee again! Wow, this was such a delicious envelope to open. I wish I could've crawled right into that mass of rich color. These are the fibers I need to do the CHS alphabet series and a few others that just called out to me during a 25% off sale. Oh boy are they beautiful. You can't blame me for indulging, can you?

Some friends have been asking for a progress picture on Max's dragon, even though I keep saying there is no progress to show. I've only really stitched on it for a couple of hours, and had to frog a fair amount due to a missed symbol. But at least you can see how stunning the colors are: this is a Silkweaver solo from Carol and WDW grenadine.

I'm also signed up for a Bent Creek mailart exchange that I'm itching to begin. However, I've got my hopes up for a sunny weekend so I can finally catch up a bit on Miss Mary Mack and A Primitive Stocking. Both are being stitched over one and I just can't do it at night under lamplight. I need a daylight lamp and a magnifier!

At Cory's suggestion, I played another Google game (oh boy does that sound like a modern Dr. Seuss line!) using "Unfortunately, Barbara" while I was at work today. Fortunately, my boss didn’t catch me at it. Unfortunately, Barbara seems to be a name common to women of … another profession. Here’s the tragic story of another Barbara:
Unfortunately, Barbara lost her sleeping companion.
Unfortunately, Barbara's heart would break again when she learned that Andy wasn't
the upstanding young man she thought he was. (It all has to start someplace.)
Unfortunately, Barbara does not have an email address so you’ll need to phone
her at 973-729-9232. Her rates are reasonable.
Unfortunately, Barbara generally leaves us with wimpy fantasies more appropriate
for middle class school girls. (Hey, it’s a new career, she just needs to find her niche!)
Unfortunately, Barbara was unable to appear due to a prior commitment she had
with the dark lord Lucifer. (Well, at least she got a heavy-duty pimp.)
Unfortunately, Barbara has been made an escape-goat. (You know, separating the sheep from the goats …)
Unfortunately, Barbara has been shot dead. (It was bound to end tragically, wasn’t it?)

After this Friday silliness, I'm off to stitch something. I hope you're all in good health and high spirits!
26 January 2006
doin' laundry & goofin' around
That's what I've been up to.

Nicky sure isn't toilet training like his big brother did. I'll spare you the frustrating (and gross) stories. I'm just glad I bought extra laundry detergent when it was on sale!

I started Max's sea dragon last night, frogged some out this morning and re-did that bit. There's not enough to make an interesting progress photo, but the colors are really glorious together so far. I'm stitching it on a 32 ct Silkweaver solo that Carol sent me especially for this project. Thanks again, Carol!

I've been poking around in everyone's blog and found this funny game in Lee's: You type "Barbara needs" (using your own name, obviously) in Google and see what kind of silly things come up. Here are my top 10:

Barbara needs to maintain her unique charm.
Barbara needs to get out mor.e
Barbara needs to know.
Barbara needs some momentum.
Barbara needs new guts - help!
Barbara needs $80000.
Barbara needs to stay at the Country Club and keep herself away from the real world.
Barbara needs to be rewarded.
Barbara needs oxygen.
Barbara needs a decent Thai place.

I also saw a fun quiz on Bastet's blog that I promptly had to do. The results are actually pretty in line with my personality, even though I thought some of the questions were strange. (God of the Sea ran a close second, with 80% compared to Frigg's 90%.)

Which Norse God or Goddess are you most like?
created with QuizFarm.com

I also took the What Kind of Cat quiz that I've seen in everyone's blogs, but for some totally weird reason, I came out as a Persian. Even after answering that my hair is something that I sometimes remember to comb. I would say I'm much more of a barn cat.

It's been gray & gloomy today. I've been battling myself not to buy anything on eBay, even though the exchange rate is pretty darn adventageous right now. So far, I'm winning the battle. Tonight I have yoga, so I can stretch & twist all of today's sitting out of my body and go in to work tomorrow feeling reasonably fit.
25 January 2006
how did I spend my day without a computer
Well, the ICT guys couldn't find the problem with my laptop during yesterday's inspection. How hard they actually looked is another question. But as Annemarie pointed out, as long as the computer still works fine to keep up with my stitching activies, what's the problem? LOL

Yesterday the kids were forced to deal with more of my attention than usual, since I didn't have my online outlet to drain off some of my focus. So Nicky is finally wearing underpants - which is another way to say he's progressed in the potty-training department. He was very proud of his new Spider Man underwear and asked me to take a picture.

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I'll spare you the stories of the laundry that built up through the day. ;-)

I also finished the Lizzie Kate "Love" ornament that I'd intended to do during the weekend. However, my finishing on this one was not up to snuff and I'm not sure if it will go out to a charity or be hung up here where the sloppy finishing stitches won't matter. It's a cute, quick design so I'm disappointed that my finishing skills (or lack thereof) made a dog's dinner of it.

Today we are all five off to the dentist. It will be the first time for Rowen and Nicky, and the first time for Max since he got a big scare from a very child-unfriendly dentist. To add to the fun, it's cold and raining outside. Oh well, it only comes up once a year. And thank heavens we have dental insurance!

We have another new blogger in our midst. As you know, Annemarie very recently started blogging and has posted some great pictures and some funny, though-provoking topics. Last night, Rachael, another member of our neighborhood RR, also jumped on the bandwagon. It's great to have even more ways to keep in touch with friends!

I can't close without thanking Carol for sending me "Alphabet Soup" by Brightneedle. Thanks Carol! I think I have just the project in mind for it, too.... Those of you who've been to our house know that our kids have left their mark on the furniture ... and I've been seriously considering replacing our worn out cloth-covered sofas with leather ones, which I've been told are much more practical in a houseful of kids. To soften the look of leather, I'd like to make (washable) linen throw pillows with cross stitch designs - and the great alphabet designs I now have seem like the perfect touch for our kid-filled, crazy household. What do you think?
posted by mainely stitching at 10:25 AM ¤ Permalink ¤ | 3 comments
23 January 2006
unplugged, disconnected, out of the loop ...
My little laptop has developed a severe dislike of the workplace network, which is a big problem because this is a work-issued computer that I'm supposed to ... well, do work on. For the past two weeks, it just conks out on me at work and I constantly have to reboot, which is time consuming and occassionally results in a bit of lost work (not much - I do CTRL + S very often!). So I finally called the technical WonderBoys in our ICT department and they will delve into the hidden depths to search out the problem tomorrow. Which means I'll be offline all day, and (gulp) possibly longer if there's a serious problem.

I participated in the January stitch-a-thon in the Friends Gather group. sigh I didn't do well at all with that. But a big thanks to Karen, who has the brilliant idea of working on one project for all the monthly stitch-a-thons. I'm shamelessly stealing this idea and using it for myself! Now the question is, do I dedicate the CHS alphabet series to this endeavor? Or Houses of Hawk Run Hollow? Or do I do one stocking at a time till I've got them all? Hmmm. Tough decision.

I'll miss you all tomorrow - I tried to get to everyone's blog tonight, and if I missed you, I'm sorry! Thank you all very, very, very much for your kind comments on my little house. I am so happy with it - it really took on a whole new level of significance as I re-made it to suit me, which was a very pleasurable experience. I'm eager to begin the second house but I'll have to wait till March! I get to work on Annemarie's next, while mine heads over to Novia. Exciting!!!
posted by mainely stitching at 11:05 PM ¤ Permalink ¤ | 2 comments
22 January 2006
it's done ... who wants to dance?

Here's my completed house for our neighborhood round robin! I'm pretty excited about it. The house looks reasonably like our own, and I've changed the birds to those that visit us IRL. There are two blackbirds, a big magpie, and our Gilbert. Though an apple tree actually grows in our front yard, we have a lot of weeping willows across the street that we all enjoy looking at, so I kept the willow that's in the original design. The kitty is our own Spin. I've changed most of the colors, but I did use the different stitches called for - though not always exactly where they were called for! Nonetheless, I think the designers would recognize it and would not be dismayed by my "tweaks."

I am very excited about this project - we've got a great group, and I'm looking forward to getting to know everyone better and seeing everyone's stitching. Dianne sent me a lovely ornament for Christmas, so we do have a sample of her stitching already at home. And Annemarie's beautiful mailart envelope has place of honor in our living room (where I use it as a needlecase). I've seen Novia's stitching, too, when she came to a stitchers' gathering here in September. But I have enjoyed Carol's, Rachael's, Su's and Veronica's stitching only from the distance of the internet.

This weekend went by far too fast - I had planned to also complete at least one charity ornament, but only got about 1/3 of the stitching done for it. However, I am very happy to have completed my house!
21 January 2006
gifts and grannies

Hi everyone! Today we spent the day visiting Niek's grandmother, who only two months after breaking her hip is back home on her own, climbing stairs, doing her own shopping, and much more. This woman has a will of iron! The kids enjoyed seeing her, though Nicky expressed some regret at bedtime that she didn't have any good toys. Niek and I enjoyed seeing her and were relieved at how quickly and fully she's regained her mobility. She lives quite far from us and so it isn't possible to lend a hand with housework & shopping, which makes it all that much more of a relief to know she's doing just fine on her own. While we were there she gave us a gift for the nursery - that she stitched herself - which I'm happy to show off here. She'd loosely framed it, but as the frame didn't fit, I'm going to ask if it's okay for me to finish it as a soft-sided wall hanging. I think it would look great!

I had hoped to whip up a charity ornament during the long drive, but our kids are not easy travelers and most of my time seemed to be spent hushing our noisy passengers. I didn't take my neighborhood RR for the obvious reason that to do so would only invite disaster - a spill (I always drink Coke in the car), leaving it behind, who knows ... something would've happened. However, I have a slightly more recent picture of my progress. This is actually a scan because our camera doesn't like my color scheme and keeps making it look much pinker and darker than it is. Though it is surprisingly pink and feminine. I was quite surprised when I realized this because I am not overly feminine myself. The "pink" house is actually meant to look like weathered brick (which is what our house is made of). The "pink" steps are done using GAST old brick. I think once I complete the rest of the airborne birds, the piece will look more balanced and less girly. Oh, that big, blackish spot in the upper corner will become a magpie, which we have a lot of here in the neighborhood. I'm using a blend of old crow and midnight GAST fibers to try to copy the black-blue color of the magpie. It's a little too dark, though, for a real magpie.
20 January 2006
berlin from below

It was 1991 and I was living in Germany as an au pair. A very good friend was living a few towns over, where he'd worked as a cook for about a year. We'd both wanted to visit Berlin for a long time, but couldn't find anyone else willing to make the 400 kilometer journey and share expenses. So we saved up, took time off from our jobs, and went to Berlin for Easter. It was one of my first vacations as an adult, and it certainly set the stage for strange future vacations!

I'll spare you the horrors of trying to navigate the German autobahn (which had no speed limits at that time) in an antique car that could barely manage 100 km/hour. Phew. Lots of Mercedes blaring their horns....

Eventually we arrived. I have no idea how my friend Andy chose our lodgings, but it was cheap and there were no bugs (which is more than I can say of my experiences in Paris!). It was the strangest place I'd ever seen. I was still pretty new to Europe, and this was my first pension (a place where breakfast is included with your stay). It was also my first exprerience with the shared-bathroom concept which is very common over here. Our room, for better or worse, was next to the toilet. The advantage was, I would not get lost trying to find it - the hallways were unbelievably long and convoluted and there seemed to be only one 25 watt bulb per floor. It was a little like being in a funhouse at an amusement park, with the ancient floor heaving and buckling, and inadequate lighting to be sure of your footing. The disadvantage to being next to the toilet is the traffic to & from it all night long, and the rattling, thundering pipes from the antiquated plumbing. I'm a light sleeper and eventually I just had to get up and look outside the room to see what on earth all the thumping and bumping was. You cannot begin to imagine my amazement at finding the twisty, bumpy, dim-lit hall outside my room seemingly filled with midgets. It was surreal. My German was terrible, and I'm not even sure that's what they were speaking - there was a certain amount of polite gesturing and mumbled explanations that no one understood before I could duck back into my room. In the morning, I pestered Andy, whose German was better than mine, to ask what was with all the midgets in the night. I think he suspected me of trying to pull a joke on him, but the person on breakfast duty said they were a troupe of performers and were only there for the night. We ate our European breakfast (boiled eggs, bread, cheese and jam) and set off to see Berlin.

With a few notable exceptions, none of you know me from my salad days. I never really qualified as a hippie, but I was certainly on the outer edges. We explored Berlin in ways no tour book would advise - it was great fun and a wonderful adventure. Luckily, young people with good intentions seem to have a host of guardian angels watching over them, so no harm came to us. We saw the Wall, and I've included a picture here I took of the rubble from taking the Wall down that hadn't yet been hauled away. We saw East Berlin, which was truly like stepping into a time machine and going back to the 1940's. We watched rabbits run through vacant lots and listened to people drumming on the street, drank Turkish coffee to keep warm and fill our bellies, and took trams (that looked like they were borrowed from a museum) all over the city. All too soon, the long weekend was over and it was time for our 6 or 7 hour drive back.

I am not a city person, but the experience made such a deep impression on me that I often considered moving to Berlin in the years after that trip.
19 January 2006
hearth & home
Well, I think I've figured out satin stitches. :-)

Here's the latest view of my house for our neighborhood RR. The kids have been surprisingly cooperative about allowing me stitching time during the day. Normally, I can only work on projects after they're in bed. It sure makes a big difference in how quickly a project comes together!

This design is based on "Come Fly Away" by Sheepish Designs, but I've made lots of changes - from the color scheme to the stitches to adding lots of flowers to the lawn, and so on. As mentioned, that bright green bird is actually our Gilbert, and the kitty climbing the tree is Spin. Nicky said that Spin was climbing the tree the wrong way and should walk on the ground - everyone's a critic! LOL! I put a blackbird in the strawberry plant because we have lots of blackbirds here. I'll probably also make changes to the flying birds (that are yet to be stitched) to reflect our feathered friends.

The weather hasn't been great, but if I'm paying attention in the morning, around 8 or 8:30, the sun really does try to come out. It doesn't make it, but at least there's the attempt to lift one's spirits.
18 January 2006
Cory, over at Sourpuss, has tagged me. To try to relieve the boredom of reading personal stuff about me, I've tried to provide the most unlikely answers (that are still true).

And on the stitching front, I will post a new picture tomorrow. My RR piece is coming along nicely. Yay!

Four jobs you have had:
(which one seems the least likely to be true?)
Jewish food prep assistant
Illegal dishwasher/chambermaid
Technical writer

Four movies you could watch over and over:
The Harry Potter Movies
The Sound of Music
The Sixth Sense

Four places you've lived:
(these are some surprising places where Major Life Events happened)
Florence Arizona
Machias, Maine
Waltham, Massachusetts
Barneveld, Netherlands

Four TV shows you love to watch:
CSI Miami
Gray’s Anatomy
Any British crime series
??? (I don't really pay much attention to TV)

Four places you've been on vacation:
Antwerp, Belgium – hitch-hiked and slept in an unlocked store
Berlin, Germany – stayed in a pension with a troupe of midget performers
Boston, MA – lost my luggage and had to spend nearly 2 days in a bus shelter waiting for it; the street people were offering me assistance!
Key West, FL – slept in the car and hung out at Denny’s till I met up with friends

Four of your favorite foods:
lentils (really!)
Fresh tuna steaks
Anything very spicy

Four places you'd rather be right now:
the coast of Maine
Some sunny island
In bed

Four sites I visit daily:
Slate newspaper
Dr. Weil health site

Four Bloggers you are tagging:
Wacky Wanderings
Contemplating my needle and thread
Dianne Rambling On
That’s the way life is
posted by mainely stitching at 10:36 PM ¤ Permalink ¤ | 0 comments
17 January 2006
gray skies are gonna clear up
Ugh. Don't let me get started on the weather. Really, I have no right to complain because it was sunny this weekend. So if I have the feeling that I'm molding or that those are webs between my toes ... well, I'm just being overly sensitive.

The kids had a fun afternoon together, once they decided to call a three-way truce, and decided to get dressed up for a train ride through the countryside. I'm not sure where they were going, but the journey was obviously more fun than the destination anyway!

The little charmers also allowed me more stitching time than usual today, which I really needed. I'm not very proficient once I venture beyond the basic cross stitch ... but I'm always up for learning something new. I've tried satin stitches, but despaired of ever getting them to look right. So perhaps "Come Fly Away" was not the most inpired choice of designs - it has a lot of satin stitching! I had to rip out my first attempts, but I think what I have here isn't too bad. This is my I-give-up-for-tonight stopping point, so the tree looks pretty weird with only half its branches. That funny looking green bird is actually a pretty reasonable likeness of our Gilbert, a collared parakeet.

posted by mainely stitching at 11:11 PM ¤ Permalink ¤ | 3 comments
16 January 2006
what is our neighborhood round robin?
Thanks, Sara, for reminding me that not everyone has been intensively thinking about her neighborhood round robin (RR) design for the past couple of months (big grin). You know how it is when you can no longer see the forest for the trees? Well, ever since Annemarie mentioned this idea to me, I've been a little bit obsessed with it and have lost sight of the fact that a lot of other people will have no idea what it is.

First off, in case anyone isn't sure what a round robin is (and I had very little idea till Annemarie explained it), it's when a group of cross stitchers decide to create a finished piece together. You can use one design, or have a theme made up of different designs (as is the case here). The members divide up their own pieces of fabric into the size and number of squares needed to complete the project and usually stitch their own contributions first. Then, at an appointed date, everyone delivers her piece of fabric to the next stitcher in the rotation, who then stitches her design. (For you male stitchers out there, please forgive me my use of the pronoun "her"! Obviously there are great male stitchers out there like Kim's husband, Greg.) So in our case, I will stitch the rest of my design, neatly block off the rest of the fabric in 100x100 blocks for everyone else's design, and send my in-progress neighborhood to Annemarie. Annemarie, meanwhile, will send her in-progress neighborhood to Su. After that, the WIPs will go on to the next people in the rotation, and so on. We are a group of seven stitchers, so each neighborhood will have at least seven designs. Some busy bees, like Su and Veronica, are stitching more designs to create a fuller neighborhood.

The work of art that sparked all this is the Dijon Round Robin Sampler, which can be seen at the cyberhome of another neighborhood sampler: Welcome To My Neighborhood.

Each of us has chosen a theme for our neighborhood, and we are all incredibly interested and curious about how they will all turn out. Each member gets three months to stitch her design and send it along to the next member, so our completed neighborhoods won't come home to us until September 2007! In the meantime, you are very welcome to view our progress and leave your comments at our new blog, Our Neighborhood of Make Believe.
not even close
No, I didn't even come close to finising my 100x100 design for the RR. But we enjoyed a lovely, long visit with friends today. And after that, I had a great long phone call with my mom, another with my dad (even getting to speak with one of aunts who was visiting), and of course there was the normal playing-about-with-the-kids that is part & parcel of every day. Didn't even pick up my needle till after 8 pm tonight, so it is actually kind of remarkable that I got this much done. I am a notoriously slow stitcher. I've stayed up far too late tonight, but just had to share.

For those interested in peeking, we have set up a blog for our round robin called Our Neighborhood of Make Believe. The link is in my sidebar.
posted by mainely stitching at 12:36 AM ¤ Permalink ¤ | 1 comments
14 January 2006
I've thrown down the gauntlet

In the Friends Gather community, I said that this weekend I would like to finish my neighborhood RR piece. That was probably a bit overly ambitious because I have barely begun it and we are having friends over tomorrow, but I'm going to give it a go. Here is my picture of it as it now stands. Keep in mind that I goofed the doorway, missing a diagonal stitch up and a diagonal stitch down, so I have to take that out and do it over. The roof is not done - I wanted a diagonal effect from the overdyed floss (both of these are Stranded by the Sea fibers) and I still need to go in and do the alternating rows.

Ready, set, go!
posted by mainely stitching at 11:58 AM ¤ Permalink ¤ | 2 comments
11 January 2006
The itty bitty pear doll. What do you think? I stitched her over one on a piece of 19 ct. Cork I bought over a year ago from Nordic Needle (my first online fabric order...). I used silks out of my stash, so she's darker than the Sisters & Best Friends model. She's a ripe pear :-). (The camera had a hard time with the similarites between the fabric background and the face/arms, so this isn't the best picture.)

I have plenty of time to stitch her into a doll before Rowen's birthday, so rather than tackling finishing on this cold, wet, dark day, I instead cut my piece of fabric for the neighborhood RR. Su has already done her first house, and Dianne and Annemarie have also started, so I figured I better get busy. As far as my actual stitching progress goes (I'm doing "Come fly away" by Sheepish Designs), I don't think my 6 little stitches merit a progress picture. I'm just glad to have the fabric decided upon - I went through agonies of indecision before finally going with a piece of 28 ct taupe Cashel linen I had in my stash.

It was too dark for Miss Mary Mack today - I need both natural daylight and an overhead light - but thank you all for your kind comments on the progress I made yesterday. Hopefully we will have some sunnier weather tomorrow and I can resume.
10 January 2006
the postman always rings twice

Wowser, what a day for mail! First, my long-lost Silkweaver order arrived. Hooray! It contained a nice cut of Days Gone By, Light Sand, Black Forest (this is so gorgeous IRL), and my long-anticipated R&R Hog Wild. Which was such a huge disappointment that I contacted Silkweaver - can you see those nasty rust-brown streaks and patches? I have other R&R fabrics and I'm familiar with the distressed appearance, but this just looked dirty and damaged. Silkweaver has said that all the recent Hog Wild has come in this way, but they're willing to refund it if I return it. What do you think? I could do A Pennsylvania German Stocking (CHS) on it. Or is this rusty brown mottling just too much?

Secondly, and even better, a lovely packet from Cathy arrived. I was expecting something from her, as she'd said she would pick up a tin pin for me for the Miss Mary Mack SAL we're doing. However, when I opened the package, I nearly fell over from surprise at goodies inside! Cathy, you are just so sweet! She sent us some cocoa for the kids (who've reluctantly agreed to wait till tomorrow for it), a delightful Sheepish Designs chart that will look perfect in the nursery, a DT freebie and the fabric so we can do a SAL (I am really going to learn some new stitches for this piece!), and the tin pin. I'm speechless. It was so unexpected and such a kindness! Thank you, Cathy!

And speaking of the Miss Mary Mack SAL, I did not start yesterday due to worn out eyes - I wore my new contacts for far too long - but I did get started today. After reading in Chelle's blog that she was stitching it petit point, I decided to do the same. I'm doing another project over one on 36 (or 38?) ct linen and the full cross stitches are a bit bulky. I'm not too thrilled with her shoes - I think they may need full crosses, but the dress has reasonable coverage. I'm doing this on a Silkweaver Solo, 40 ct Newcastle, using the bluest "Black Crow" skein I have. for reference, I've left in my size 28 petite needle. It's a fun stitch, but not one I'll be able to do at night. I need a magnifying lens!

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We are back to our version of normalcy, so life is loud and busy and chaotic. It is very strange to think that someday these wee beasties of ours will be busy individuals with their own lives.
08 January 2006
returning to normal
The holidays are past and tomorrow marks our return to normal. Actually, I don't think there is such a thing as normal for a family of five, but we will return to our regular routines and schedules. Not a moment too soon, either. The holidays are wonderful, but exhausting!

We managed to bring a bit of order into our chaotic lives and household during the holiday season. Niek's gift of a stash-storage bureau has been appreciated each & every day (several times a day!). Though running up & down the stairs a dozen times is exercise, I much prefer having all my fibers, notions, and patterns right at hand.

We also rearranged the nursery. Nicky, now nearly three, couldn't be kept out of a regular bed any longer. I'd had visions of him toppling down the stairs, wandering around while we slept, and getting up to mischief, but he has been wonderful so far. He loves his big bed, and his little sister is very jealous of it. They sleep in the same room, so it was necessary to move things around a lot to accomodate the bed. I managed to convince Niek that a bookcase was necessary, so we braved Ikea (twice!) to find the right one. Their room is very inviting and cheery, don't you agree?

They love all the little animals that pattern the wallpaper, and I love the framed bird art, and everyone agrees the big sheep rug is great (forgive me for not vacuuming before I took the picture!).

Today I took down the Christmas cards, which was kind of sad. I've really enjoyed looking at them and thinking of the friends & family who are far & near who sent them. Here's a picture of how they looked. Tonight, we plan to take down the tree. It'll be nice to have the living room back again.

Tonight I also hope to complete the stitching on Rowen's pear doll so I can begin the Miss Mary Mack SAL tomorrow. I probably won't do much on that because I have work and fitness tomorrow, but I will at least get the first few stitches in.

I hope you all have a great Monday!
06 January 2006
squinting in frustration
Yesterday I started Rowen's Itty Bitty Pear doll and made surprisingly good progress for a slow stitcher. I had so much fun using some of the new silk fibers I got in Wednesday's stash pack!! Today I had to work at the office (gotta support my habit somehow, right?) and spent the day looking forward to getting back to the doll. But by the time we tucked the kids in bed, my eyes had become so irritated that it actually hurt to focus on the stitching. So no progress pics tonight, I fear.

This weekend we plan to finally assemble the correct bookcase for the nursery - after three trips to Ikea during peak holiday shopping times, I don't think I ever want to step foot into that store again. So I sure hope the bookcase isn't missing any vital parts! We did get all the other rearranging done in the nursery and it looks so nice in there. Pictures.... I've already promised some to my mom, so I will post some here, too.

School resumes on Monday and our lives will return to some semblance of normalcy. The past two weeks have been very full and noisy and chaotic. Kids bring the magic into living, but they sure bring a lot of noise and mess along, too! LOL We enjoyed being able to do more Max-oriented things this vacation than we've been able to in the recent past, now that Nicky and Rowen are getting old enough to take out for more than a few hours at a time.

I'm off to rest my eyes, and the rest of the package, in bed. Hopefully they'll feel normal again tomorrow, since I can finally try out my new contact lenses!

On a parting note, I want to tell Becky how much I have enjoyed meeting her and getting to know her, what a postive impact her blog had on my own stitching long before I even contacted her for the first time, and how much I've enjoyed her generosity and kindness. There are lots of wonderful people in the world, and I count myself very fortunate to have met so many of them. It is very sad that the few nasty, mean-spirited, trouble-sowing people garner so much more attention. They truly are not worth it. Before you go any further, take a moment to think of a few people who've had a positive impact on you - and go on with a happy heart.
posted by mainely stitching at 10:40 PM ¤ Permalink ¤ | 1 comments
04 January 2006
let the good times roll!
Today we took the kids to the museum of natural history in Leiden to catch their Crocodile XXL exhibition - a dinosaur-eating croc that lived in prehistoric times. Wow - that thing was as long as a city bus (12 meters) and its head was as big as a full-grown man. 132 teeth! 80000 kilo bite-power! (I'm full of fascinating facts after helping Max find all the answers for his museum book!) We had so much fun. Even Nicky and Rowen - without toppling over any of the carefully arranged dinosaur skeletons! LOL. (Truthfully, these sorts of ideas keep me awake at night.)

When we got home, tired and happy, I found my big packet from The Natural Dye Studio awaiting me. Listen, if you are a fabric freak, you have to check her stuff out. She is amazing. This is my second order and I will be back again! I bought the silk I wanted to make Rowen's Itty Bitty Pear Doll, the silk twine and thick spun silk I want to use to finish off Max's dragon project(s), and a lot of cotton squares/scraps for ... my secret project. Sorry to be so coy, but it will be a gift, if it comes out right. There will be lots of fun stuff for finishing the smalls I intend to make this year, too. She sells on eBay and her prices are great, her shipping is very fair, and she's a very considerate seller. (I don't mean to sound like an advertisement, but I just get very excited when I encounter an eBayer who is so good to do business with.) I know that a few of you are also members of the smalls group, and these little pieces are great for finishing. She sells yarn, too, but darn it, I still haven't had the chance to sit down with those knitting needles again. (I will figure it out this year!)

I contacted Linda at Cole's Quilts today regarding the sweet little turtle and he will fit well with a Nemo-theme quilt that is soon starting up. Phew! Linda accepts any light-colored aida, and it was for her organization that I made my very first charity piece last year.

Continuing the positive streak, I have also decided which house I will stitch on my neighborhood RR. I love primitive stuff - it's just so wacky that I always smile - and I've settled on "Come Fly Away" by Sheepish Designs. Coincidentally, it is on that funny list (Nov. 18th) I made of charts that describe me/answer questions.
03 January 2006
stitching bloops & blunders

I wanted to start my charity piece for this quarter, and when I saw a quilt request with a sea theme on Quilts4Kids, I got pretty excited because I have this excellent sea turtle freebie from Blue Turtle Designs. I sent an email to Linde, the coordinator, but I was so eager to stitch the design that I started before I received her reply. I have a stack of ivory aida squares that I use for charity pieces, so I grabbed one and started choosing the floss colors. I thought the blend of DMC colors 904 and 470 was perfect for the turtle's flippers and head, and I decided to go with a selection of neutral colors from Stranded by the Sea for his shell (the very light one is another DMC blend: 3023 and 3047). I was nearly finished with the green when I received Linde's reply - the pattern is great, but they only accept white backgrounds! Oh no!! Fortunately, Love Quilts also has requests for a couple of sea-themed quilts, so this little turtle will find a happy home. (Sorry for the dark photo - it's late and our camera still acts kind of weird. Oh, the border is not part of the freebie, but something I added to fill the square out better.)

Today's lesson: Read all the guidelines - assume nothing!
posted by mainely stitching at 10:54 AM ¤ Permalink ¤ | 4 comments
02 January 2006
Most people think of the word faith in religious terms, but I associate it with trust - belief that it will get better, even if it never makes sense to us. I've struggled for a long time with the age-old question about why bad things happen - it's unfair! Finally, after many years, I guess I've accepted that fact that things just aren't fair. (I still don't like this though!) Like anyone, to me natural disaster seems particularly unfair. It's unprovoked, it's unavoidable, and it is often catastrophic in scope. I've been fortunate to live in areas where natural disaster is very, very rare - and I've been fortunate to see quite a bit of the world, including areas where natural disaster is commonplace. When I was in my mid-twenties, I took several extended camping trips up & down and back & forth across the USA and one of my favorite places was New Orleans. I am a huge blues and jazz fan, and I love spicy, exotic foods, so I was walking on air during the time I spent in New Orleans. It was such a shock to see the pictures after Hurricane Katrina hit .... So much beauty and history, wiped out. I read an informal poll run by the Salvation Army which reported that approximately 30% of the residents did not want to return to the area. Who will revive the old traditions, and who will carry them on?

I wanted to do something both helpful and symbolic. Thanks to Zoanna and Isabelle for getting the Katrina Bags project going, which were filled with useful toiletries and toys for the displaced survivors! And thanks to Kathie for organizing the Hurricane Katrina Quilt Project, which will ultimately coordinate and create quilts for the stricken states. I've posted previously about the Katrina Bags, but here is my quilt square. This is based on a freebie by Canterbury Designs, but I've changed it to include the wonderful quote (and source of inspiration for today's post) from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Faced with things out of our control, we can only continue on the best we're able. We can only "take the first step in faith."

01 January 2006
happy new year!

We had a very fun New Year's Eve celebration - Niek made oliebollen & appelflappen, salmon salad, and other tasty treats. We woke Max shortly before midnight so he could bring in the New Year with us. We toasted (champagne or grape juice) and kissed at midnight, then set off our fireworks with all the neighbors. Niek's oliebollen were the best in the neighborhood! Nicky woke up briefly from the noise and came downstairs with us for awhile, but by 2 am we were all dreaming in our beds.

I wish you all the very best of the New Year!!

posted by mainely stitching at 12:01 PM ¤ Permalink ¤ | 0 comments