Stitching Saturday

Many of you have remarked to me (privately) that I seem depressed and down lately. It’s true. But I’m OK; I’m working on it. Meantime, I’ll try to make more interesting posts so you don’t have to be depressed, too.

Long Dog Mystery Sampler 2007

Long Dog Mystery Sampler 2007

If you follow my Flickr stream at all (see the left sidebar), you’ve probably noticed more than a few photos of embroidery work. Everything I’ve worked on lately has been of the counted thread variety, and I am really quite proud of the Long Dog Mystery Sampler I’ve been making. There are a few places where it’s bumpy and yucky but overall the stitches are neat and even. It’s my first cross-stitch project on evenweave (i.e. not Aida cloth), so that means I have to actually count the threads rather than simply going for the obvious squares as you would with Aida. But it is such a sensual pleasure to work with the soft linen and the silk threads that I’m not sure I will ever be able to return to DMC cottons on Aida. Yes, I’m sure they have their place, but I am a Materials Snob. I’m a Taurus, right, so I enjoy working with nice things. I would rather have one really well-made item than ten so-so things. At any rate, this piece is being worked in Hand-Dyed Fibers silk floss, on 35ct. Cream linen from the same source. If you do the calculations, it turns out that it’s only minimally more expensive to work with silk threads, mostly because Vikki at HDF has a really nice points program for those who participate on the site.

For some reason all the stitching (and possibly some of the watching of the historically inaccurate but still awesome series The Tudors) has renewed my interest in going to SCA meetings. The Barony of Cynnabar is sadly not close enough to home to attend every week, but I’m in Ann Arbor at least once a month anyway — on Mondays, too. So I’ll be attending the arts & sciences meetings from here on out. I am fascinated by the accoutrements of everyday life in the Middle Ages, so it gives me a good excuse to geek out and make or acquire lovely shiny things similar to those that would have been in use. Also to dress up in garb and pretend I live in the 14th century. But I digress; that is another post. I’ll be dragging my husband along, though he is more of a futuristic/sci-fi dude than a historic/fantasy dude. Still, he likes D&D.

I emailed the Chatelaine of Cynnabar to ask about the meetings, and she kindly pointed me to a local fiber arts group made up of SCA folks from around the area. And — get this — next Saturday they’re having a Day of Fiber-y Goodness from 9am to 6pm. So I get to take my spinning wheel, my drop spindle, my knitting, and my stitching, and sit around with a bunch of other nerdy fiber geeks all day! Plus there’s a covered dish dinner, and tea. It’s like my dream SnB and I can’t wait. If you’re near me (in Southeast Michigan) and have any desire to tag along, please let me know and I’ll be happy to provide details. This event isn’t restricted to period crafts, and you don’t have to dress up if you don’t want to.

By the way, I seem to have lost the battery charger for my digital camera, which is sort of a disaster and means I cannot supply you with lovely photos until I either find it or cave in, buy a new one, and THEN find it. Alas.

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Wednesday of My Discontent

Today is one of Those Days. I’ve been running on very little sleep thanks to the enthusiasm of one kitten named Noodle, and she’s really been triggering my allergies, too. I woke up at 2am doing one of those giant gasp-for-air things and somehow inhaled stomach acid and started choking. I got up for a while and then went back to sleep. I woke up to some idiocy on the part of my bank (Bank of America; I’ll be switching) and spent about an hour on the phone with them, only to reach a mostly unsatisfactory resolution. Then I went downstairs to grab some breakfast and stepped on a metal shaving I assume my husband brought home from work on his clothes or his shoes. I have a good, bleedy puncture in my heel now. It kind of hurts.

I sincerely hope that I get some new BPAL in the mail today, or that some other miracle of yay! happens. Excuse this exercise in whining. I really did mean to write a post about chipotles.

Crazy Quilting Giveaway

I found a lovely shop/blog and to celebrate her 100th post, the owner is giving away a pretty amazing package of fabrics, trims, threads, and other yummies. My inner bird wants to take it all and make the world’s shiniest and best nest.

I really had never thought about crazy quilting until I saw a gorgeous beaded stalk of wheat embroidered on some gold silk. I still think I’m more likely to use embroidered squares for other, smaller projects (I’ve got one in the works which hopefully will turn out well and be shared with you soon), but patching pieces together could make for something really interesting.

Be sure to enter the contest if you’re interested, and check out the blog, Crazy By Design.

The Wonderful World of Blackwork

As is usually the case, I have already bookmarked or printed or considered purchasing at least 50 different cross-stitch or blackwork embroidery patterns. Oops. I had several Etsy and custom orders last week, so I bought myself a quarter-yard of linen and lots of silks from Hand-Dyed Fibers and a back issue of The Gift of Stitching so that I could start on the Long Dog 2007 Mystery Sampler, which is very colorful and will probably drive me insane with all the detail and just the sheer number of stitches. But never mind! It will be gorgeous when it’s done, and then I can procrastinate for several years on getting it framed, and then spend another year trying to convince my husband to put a hanger in the wall (it requires a drill, and I… let’s say I’m not skilled with the drill and leave it there). AFTER which time, it shall adorn the house and be utterly lovely.

Blackwork Square

Blackwork Square

Meanwhile, I’ve started a few more projects, one of which is to use several squares from a 15-sided biscornu stitch along and instead stitch them onto a small scrap of linen. I plan to make a needle book out of it, which should prove handy. This is being done on 35ct white linen; that means there are 35 threads in every inch of fabric. The stitches are done “over 2″ which means each stitch covers two threads of warp or weft in the fabric. So each stitch is roughly 1/17” — this thing is tiny. I love it. I want to make 800 of it, but then I wouldn’t have time for other projects.

Of course, it’s also making me go cross-eyed from trying to count threads. The photo, being taken with the macro setting of my camera, is slightly deceptive in that it makes the threads look rather larger than they actually are. They are teeny tiny. I think today I will have to appropriate the husband’s daylight spectrum lamp and someday I will have one of those neck-hanging magnifying glasses and three cats on my lap and my stitching and I will be an Old Lady at 30. Which is fine. I can’t wait to be an Old Lady; I plan to be exceedingly eccentric.

That’s Right: More Needlework

Besides knitting, crochet, sewing, and embroidery, I’ve also recently rediscovered cross stitch. Threeish years ago I realized it would be a great medium for rendering 8-bit video game sprites, and I was all over some Subversive Cross Stitch (still am, really; I find it highly amusing). But I have to admit that my interest in all the fiber arts is sort of similar to the way some people view religion: It’s a connection to those who came before me, repeated rituals, shared knowledge. I joined the SCA to learn card weaving (which is handy, portable, and cheap), and have been known to occasionally lament the historical inauthenticity of my spinning wheel. But that’s really another story for another time.

An online friend of mine has lured me back into the world of making tiny x shapes on fabric. She linked me to Brodyzen, who is running a stitch along for a 2009 sampler. I love stitch (and knit, and sew) alongs, probably because I haven’t really been able to find a crafting group here. Yes, I know, Ann Arbor, but it’s too far to make it every week, practically speaking. But thanks to the wonders of the internet, I can imagine I am hanging out with a bunch of other folks all working on the same project. Yay! So far I’ve caught up through week 5 and have a rather cruddy photo of my work, which is in DMC color 213 stupid tangly cotton floss.

Bonheur, week 4.5

I really like the style of this sampler, but I don’t know which adjectives to use to describe why I like it. So I started it. Then said online friend started linking me to all kinds of sites, like Hand Dyed Fibers and Silkweaver and lots of others, which are sadly bookmarked on the laptop which currently has no power cord (courtesy of Noodle). She even sent me samples of silkies, which is just pure evil. So now I’m sort of frantically searching for more charts I like, because God knows I don’t have enough works-in-progress and just plenty of time for more crafts. Ahem. It should be noted that I am Not a Fan of 90% of the cross stitch charts available. That particular brand of country-cutesy does nothing for me, which is perhaps why I’ve spent more time embroidering, generally, than working counted cross stitch. But I’ve found enough samplers and charts that I suspect I’ll be adding a fair bit of it to my craft rotation. I’d like to work on evenweave linen with silky silk threads, because I think at least that would feel more… um… something.

I’ve got a Noodle on my lap, and she is fascinated by the computer screen and the way it has MOVING THINGS on it, which makes it rather difficult to type. Perhaps she is signaling that I ought to go do some stitching instead.

Later today, if we’re lucky: Menu planning, “we’re broke” edition!

Noodles and Otters and Pez, Oh My

As you may have noticed from the photos in the sidebar here, we adopted a third cat this weekend. Initially we had spoken with the adoption group and decided on a 2-year-old marmalade boy cat, but his foster mom wasn’t sure she’d be able to get him into a crate. And sure enough, when she tried, he sunk his claws in and wouldn’t budge. So when we got to Petco yesterday, she suggested another kitty for us, a 4.5 month old chocolate brown girl named… Noodle. I generally try to adopt older animals, but they took Noodle out of her cage and handed her to me and I was smitten. So was my husband. She tried to eat his beard.

Noodle the Walrus Cat

Noodle the Walrus Cat

She’s a feisty little whirlwind of a kitten. Most cats I’ve adopted or worked with have found a piece of furniture to hide under, a vantage point from which to observe their new surroundings. Not this one. We let her out of the carrier (in which she slept quietly all the way home — another novelty) and she immediately started headbutting us and running around all over. Here you may see her inspecting the camera and looking like a tiny walrus. She’s really very small and weighs next to nothing. I often forget how small kittens really are.

Given her courageous exploration and enthusiastic attacking of the bedspread, we thought we’d open up the bedroom door and let her roam around — supervised, of course. Audrey, our almost 6yo tortie, growled and hissed, but Noodle ignored her and just kept exploring. Isabella (who will be 3 in May) hissed once and then vanished into the basement, where she has Secret Hiding Spots. She didn’t come out again until just now, when she finally ventured upstairs to eat. Meanwhile, Noodle is walking around like she owns the place, yelling at me to open doors she doesn’t want closed (all of them), dragging toys from room to room, and generally tearing around the house like a tiny lunatic. She’s adorable and amazing, and we love her already.

Noodle naps

Noodle naps

Good thing, too; we slept with her in the bedroom, door closed to prevent any cat fights (so far Audrey hasn’t even taken a swipe — she’s just growly). I use “slept” lightly there. Noodle enjoys snuggling and is not shy about demanding it. I spent half the night with a tiny cat sucking on my face and kneading my throat. Every time I removed her she would spring right back, undeterred. She also put in a lot of time playing with Zack’s beard, chasing feet under the covers and pouncing, and running all over us. In between these bursts she would snuggle down in my arms and purr herself (loudly) to sleep. I was, to be honest, amazed she slept at all. I thought the two hour nap in the evening guaranteed we’d be up all night. Presently she’s snuggled up with one of my feet, purring away in her half-sleep. I think soon it will be time to hunt the toilet paper roll again.

We made a little video of her yesterday; this was taken all of five minutes after we arrived home. If you have the volume up high enough you can hear her purring. I hope soon I can get a video of her trotting along behind Audrey, who feigns total indifference. In spite of the size difference it’s already a little hard to tell them apart when they run quickly through the room. I foresee a lot of “Otter-Noodle, what are you doing?” in our future.

Menu Plan Monday

Or Tuesday, as the case may be. Yesterday was filled with doctors’ appointments and shopping for kitty stuff (meow!) so I didn’t quite get around to posting this. The menu this week is a little strange and pretty interesting, at least for me. I visited with a naturopathic doctor and nutritionist a couple of weeks ago to talk about fertility issues and all the other concerns I have, foremost among them the horrible allergies that make me miserable pretty much year round. She recommended an anti-inflammatory diet, which I’m really willing to give a fair shot. It will be tricky, though; I mean, no tomatoes? Really?

So this week’s menu is the beginning of this diet, for me. You’ll notice (if you are familiar with this type of diet) a few items that don’t strictly fit in, but I think it’s a heck of a start, considering. I’ll probably report in occasionally on how it makes me feel and whether I think my overall health is improving. After a very disappointing cycle including a chemical pregnancy, I have decided to simply focus on my health and allowing my creative self to put its energy elsewhere for a while, so this is one step in that plan.

Tuesday

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal with almonds
  • Lunch: Spelt bread, smoked salmon, spinach leaves, capers, onions, horseradish. Plums!
  • Dinner: Brown rice. Shrimp in masala curry sauce (thanks, Trader Joe’s). Green beans, salad. Plums.

Wednesday

  • Breakfast: Curry leftovers
  • Lunch: Smoked salmon on spelt bread again. Good thing I like it! More plums!
  • Dinner: Brown rice. Beef, mushrooms, onions, fried egg, fern brakes in a bibimbap-esque dish of yumminess. Kochujang, sauteed greens, and kimchi. Aaand another plum.

Thursday

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal with almonds and a plum.
  • Lunch: Leftover bibimbap.
  • Dinner: Chicken marsala with mushrooms. Roasted cauliflower, sauteed greens. Fruit for dessert.

Friday

  • Breakfast: Smoked salmon sandwich, as above.
  • Lunch: Leftover chicken marsala and fruit.
  • Dinner: Sauteed cabbage, onions. Lentils and quinoa. Possibly sauteed Dover sole. Lots of spices probably to involve cumin and cilantro. More fruit!

Saturday, Valentine’s Day

  • Breakfast: Smoked salmon sandwich again!
  • Lunch: Leftovers from Friday’s mess of a dinner.
  • Dinner: Frisee salad with dried cherries, pecans, Stitchelton blue, cider vinaigrette. Seared lamb chops with olive, caper, and parsley relish. Roasted potatoes with anchovy and lemon. Sauteed greens with garlic. Burnt sugar ice cream with chocolate-dipped pecan tuiles.

Sunday

  • Breakfast: Eggs, toast, smoked salmon (again?)
  • Lunch: Salad greens with seared salmon, olive, caper, parsley relish, lemon vinaigrette. Possibly also bacon.
  • Dinner: Chile-roasted beef. Mashed cauliflower, roasted green beans. Fruit.

Obviously the Valentine’s day dinner doesn’t exactly qualify as anti-inflammatory, but it could be much, much worse, I’m sure you’ll agree. I can try to share recipes and photos, if (as I hope to do) I remember to take pictures of any of it.