Sunday, December 28, 2008

Another Year Almost Gone

Christmas is over, and the celebration of the new year is almost upon us. For many years now, I've not been a fan of this time of year, and I can't say that anything this year helped change my opinion of it. I think the hustle, bustle, and general insanity of the Christmas season have gotten way out of control. I did most of my shopping online this year, avoiding the mall experience for a couple of short forays to get gifts that either couldn't be obtained online or that were last-minute, impulse buys. I plan to do the same for next year's shopping. The less time I had to spend among the crazy hordes at the malls or in Wal-Mart or Target helped make my holiday brighter.

I've put the Christmas stitching away (with the exception of one little ornament) and gone back to working on my "real" projects. Last night I did quite a bit on Emma's Garden (I don't think I'm ever going to finish her hair, though!), and on Jan. 1, I plan to take Flower Power out for a brief spin. I'm going to concentrate on Emma's Garden, though, since it is something my sister more or less commissioned for a friend of hers. As I've commented here before, my sis's good friend, whose only and very beloved granddaughter is named Emmah, lost her home and most of her belongings due to the flooding from Hurricane Ike. The family has bought a new home, but they have very few furnishings or decorative pieces. I'd like to get this piece finished in the next couple of months so that we can get it framed and given to them.

I'm looking forward to the end of the never-ending fall semester, too. As much as I've tried to take a vacation from work, my mind keeps returning to my end-of-term plans. I'm ready to get back into it and get finals given, papers graded, and the semester finally ended. The spring term should go much more smoothly, and then it's time to prepare again for hurricane season.

I don't know why hurricanes are so on my mind right now. I'm already fretting over next year's season, even though I know there's nothing I can do about it. The dogs and the cat are my big worries. It's difficult to evacuate with as many animals as I have, and then when we add my sister's crew into it (an ancient mixed breed, a humongous lab, and five cats), it's hard to even imagine where we could go with such a menagerie. My family and I were lucky with both Rita and Ike with only minimal damage from either storm, but who knows what the next storm will bring. I just need to shake it off and quit borrowing trouble--at least for the next few months.

I hope that all who read this have had a peaceful and joyous Christmas and that the coming New Year will bring much luck and prosperity.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Another Sunday Night

We celebrated my nephew's birthday last night, and he seemed pretty pleased with the dragon. He opened it, looked at it, and then took off to find a place to hang it in his bedroom. When he takes a gift to his room immediately, it usually means that it's a hit. Last year, my sister and I did a little scrapbook for him with pictures of his grandparents, who are all deceased now. He really only got to know my mom well; my dad died shortly after my nephew's first birthday, and my brother-in-law's parents lived in Massachusetts. When he opened the scrapbook, he paged through it and then took it to his room before even opening his other gifts. I know the scrapbook means a lot to him, so I hope that the similar reaction to the dragon means the same thing.

On a less bright note, I've got two more weeks of work to slog through before the Christmas break. Hurricane Ike really threw a monkey wrench in the semester. Normally, we would be doing final exams at this point, with commencement this coming Friday. Then we would be out of school until right after the MLK holiday. This year, we'll have two weeks out of school. We'll be finishing up the fall term during the first two weeks of January before beginning the spring term at its usual time. I know I shouldn't complain, but the loss of our usually lengthy holiday is a real drag.

I'm still stitching on ornaments and bookmarks. As always, I think I've bitten off more than I can chew. Luckily, in going through some finished items I found some ornaments I stitched last year but never did anything with. I think some of those will make their debuts this year as stocking stuffers for a few people.

My other big accomplishment this week is finishing all of the Twilight books (I know the last three have different titles, but I can't remember what they are). I can't say that I am in love with them, but I also can't say that I dislike them. The biggest thing that disturbs me is the way the main character, Bella, allows herself to be subsumed by Edward, the vampire she falls in love with. For me, her infatuation and single-minded desire to be with him is too much like the infatuations--sometimes dangerous--that many young girls develop on their boyfriends or boys whom they wish would be their boyfriends. I don't think a healthy relationship operates like that.

Off to watch tv and stitch.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The DRAGON is Framed!!!!

The picture is not great, but here's the framed dragon. It looks great in person. I left the plastic around the edges because I don't want to ding the frame up before it actually gets to my nephew.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Wine, wine, wine . . .

Just finished the backstitching and adding the charms to this little piece for my sister. I'm going to take it to the framer tomorrow when I go to pick up the dragon. I don't know which I'm more excited about--finally getting this one finished or seeing the dragon framed. I'll post a picture of the dragon after I get it home tomorrow evening.

I'm off now to work on ornaments and bookmarks. I've got to finish at least two more of each before Christmas. My friends and I at work don't exchange big gifts, but I would like to have a little something for each of them just to show them that I'm thinking of them.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Oodles of Poodles

My poodles had a big day at the grooming shop yesterday, and since they're all nice and clean and in my good graces for right now, I thought I'd write about them. The big guy sleeping on the couch is my oldest standard poodle, Spenser. Spenser's official name is Champion Cadbury's Spenser for Hire. He's 12 years old now, and he is my first champion and the love of my life. When I look back at his show career now, I have to shake my head and wonder about my sanity. It took almost 3 years--and a ton of money, blood, sweat, and even more tears--to get him finished. I can remember the day he finished his championship like it was yesterday. It was a March afternoon in 1999, and I was playing hooky from work. (Shhh--don't tell anyone!) He was one month shy of his 3rd birthday, and I was desperately hoping he would finish before then. My friend who was actually in the ring with him had an asthma attack while in the ring with him, and I'm not sure how she made it around the ring with him. She did, though, and we spent the rest of that weekend on cloud nine.

The lovely girl in the second photo is Rory, now almost 7 years old, officially known as Champion Cadbury's Evening Star. I got her and Spenser from the same breeder, thus accounting for their kennel names. Fran Fischer of Cadbury Standard Poodles, is best known for her brown standards, but Spenser and Rory, as you can see from their pictures are both black. Fran knew that I liked black dogs, so I was lucky enough to get these two from her. In this picture, Rory is being shown at the 2004 Poodle Club of America show. While I (and a friend) showed Spenser to his championship, Rory went to a handler to be shown. It took her significantly less time to finish than it did Spenser, no doubt because her handler knew what she was doing. Rory is a real pistol. Even as she moves into middle age now, I never know what to expect from her. My couch is in the middle of the living room, and Rory never walks around it in order to get onto it or off of it; she sails over the back of it as if it were the most normal thing in the world.

The little brown girl in this picture is Rory's daughter, Emmy. Her registered name is Cadbury's Terms of Endearment. Fran and I bred this litter together, and Emmy was the puppy that remained at home with me. I had high hopes that Emmy, too, would be shown and become a champion, but her temperament is not well suited to the show ring. She is a baby, in every sense of the word. It's hard to tell from the picture, but she is pretty small for a standard poodle. She doesn't like to go places, and she gets nervous if too many people look at her. At home, though, this little girl is a demon. I've lost count of the number of shoes that she has eaten. Yes, I said "eaten." I wish she just chewed on them. I might be able to salvage some of them if they just had teeth marks on them. She has finally trained me to put my shoes up--way up.

The black boy in the last picture is Emmy's brother Ace, also known as Cadbury's Helpful Hardware Man. Ace and Emmy are 2 years old. Ace lived for a while with a friend of mine in Wisconsin, but for various reasons he came back home to me this past summer. He was a delight as a puppy, so I was happy to have him come home. What I didn't know was that he had grown up to as much of a terror as his sister. He likes shoes, too, but he likes cross stitch supplies even better. He seems to be particularly fond of overdyed floss and Silkweaver fabrics. I'm now trained to keep my cross stitch things put up--way up. I have had some nervous moments worrying about the things he's ingested, but so far--knock wood--there have been no complications as a result of his bizarre tastes.

Friday, November 21, 2008

It's Been a While . . .

I haven't posted in quite a while, mostly because I've been so busy. The semester has gotten crazy with lots of papers and tests to be graded. Grading, to me, is the least favorite part of my job. I have a hard time forcing myself to sit down and start reading papers. Once I get started, I then have trouble stopping, even if it's getting late or I need to get moving in order to get somewhere. I'm glad that we have a short week next week. I can't decide if Friday will be a shopping day or a resting day. Guess it will depend on how much turkey I eat on Thursday!

I took the dragon that I stitched for my nephew to the framer this afternoon. My sister went with me, and she helped me pick out a frame that my nephew would like. It's not the one that I would like if I were keeping the dragon; I would put a big, ornate frame on it. My sister reminded me, though, that my nephew is not very ostentatious and doesn't really like things that are loud and gaudy. So, we went for a more sedate frame and a much lower price than the one I had originally gotten. When I get it back, I'll post a picture here.

I've been working on some cross stitched bookmarks for Christmas gifts for people at work. I hope to finish at least 4 of them in the next 3 weeks. My needle better get to smoking, though. I think I'm the world's slowest stitcher, especially when I've got a deadline in front of me. The bookmarks are easy, though. I found the patterns online after someone on the 123Stitch message board posted the ones she had done. They are simple, symmetrical designs, so they do stitch up fairly quickly.

I'm off to bed right now. Even though tomorrow is Saturday, it's another early morning for me. I'm loading up the poodles and taking them to the grooming shop. Rory and Emmy are going to have haircuts, while Ace and Spenser get baths. Two weeks from now, the boys will be getting haircuts. It nearly kills the groomer--and my budget--to groom all four of them on the same day.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

What a Week!

This past week has been a tough one for me. On Tuesday night, my best friend called me around 10:15 pm to tell me that her standard poodle, Capri, was sick. After talking with her, we both set off from our houses to meet at the emergency vet clinic. Capri had bloated, and her stomach had twisted. (The appropriate and technical term for what happened to Capri is gastric dilation and volvulus.) After dealing with one of the worst vets I have ever encountered, we made the very hard decision to have darling, beautiful, wonderful Capri put to sleep.

Desi (my friend) got Capri about nine months after I got Spenser. Spenser was born in April, and Capri was born in October of 1996. Desi and I became friends because of these two dogs. When I needed help grooming Spenser and showing him, she stepped in and helped me out in a big way. When Capri came along, we fell into a team rhythm with the two of them. I bathed and brushed and learned how to put topknots up; she groomed and handled. We had so much fun in those years of showing the kids, as we've always called them. We lost many more times than we ever won, but win or lose, we enjoyed going to the dog shows. Our lives have moved on now, as lives are wont to do, but we both look back fondly on those days.

In 2006, my last litter of puppies was born. Capri was utterly captivated and fascinated by the puppies, and my girl Rory (the mother of the puppies) seemed to be pretty content to let Capri observe the puppies and sometimes even climb in the whelping box and hang out with the puppies. In this picture, Capri was lying on the couch, and we put one of the puppies up on the couch with her so that she could snuggle with it and love on it. She never had puppies of her own, but she loved those little guys of mine as well as any aunt anywhere. When they got older and got too rowdy, she would look at them as if to say, "Whew! I'm glad I don't have to take 'em home with me."

On a brighter note, I got some stitching done this week. On Friday night, I finished one of the Mill Hill ornaments I just bought. I always think these are fun stitches. I like the beads! I use little things like this as stocking stuffers for friends. Today, I'm going to start stitching on Emma's Garden. It won't be finished in time for Christmas, but I do want to get it going. And with that said, I think it's time to head into the living room, find something totally without merit on television and start stitching!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Almost Friday!

Another week is almost over--thank goodness! I remember as a child thinking that each week seemed interminable. Now, as a middle-aged adult, it seems like Monday morning starts a roller coaster ride.

Still working through things I've finished and looking at them, and I thought I'd post a few more. As usual, I'm not sure who the designer is for the piece; it's probably Heart in Hand or Bent Creek, but I wouldn't want to swear to that. I probably also originally stitched this for my sister. She's got two yellow cats--One Ton and Two Tone. The cat on this piece reminds me of Two. The girls got those rather bizarre names as kittens. My brother-in-law found one kitten in the yard and brought it in to my sister. While she was getting things ready for a teeny kitten (had her eyes open, but wasn't really ready to be away from her mother), he appeared with another one and said, "Well, here's number two." For some reason, One and Two stuck as their names, and as they grew older (and One got chubbier), they became One Ton and Two Tone (she's yellow and white).

This one is a Bent Creek design that will one day be framed and hang in my office at school. I like the school books and the cat sitting on them, but I'm still a little creeped out by the glasses that make the cat look like an owl. I guess I'll get used to it! It was a fun and easy stitch, as I recall. I think I stitch more for the therapeautic value than for anything else these days. My job seems to be becoming more and more high stress, so when I come home in the evening, I want to sit down and unwind. For some reason, counting squares and making stitches makes me happy.

Friday, October 17, 2008


I'm so glad to see the end of another week! My big plans for the night include going through my stash and kitting up some projects. Of course, in doing that, I will discover that I need this color of floss for one project and a piece of fabric for another. Guess that means I'll have to make an order from my favorite online shop--123Stitch. Oh, dear. LOL!

I just ordered Emma's Garden (Lavender and Lace). We've got a good friend whose granddaughter is named Emma. Their family lost everything in the flooding from Hurricane Ike's storm surge. I'm going to stitch the piece for her as quickly as I can so that when they either move into their rebuilt home or a new one, she will have something to help decorate the place.

I am anxious to get my stash out and go through it. I packed it all up a month ago in preparation for Hurricane Ike, and it's still in Rubbermaid containers. I think it's safe to unpack it now. At least until next year.

Hurricane Ike, like Hurricane Rita, has been a defining moment in the life of my community. We suffered so much damage in this little corner of Southeast Texas, and much of the time, we feel like the rest of the world not only has ignored us, but never heard of us to begin with. It's a bad feeling for all of us, both those who lost everything they owned due to the flooding and those of us who were so fortunate and didn't lose anything. While my house may not have been damaged, my town was, and it makes me heartsick to think of it.

Ah, on to something cheerier. My dogs are being groomed tomorrow--I hope. My groomer, who is also one of my best friends, slipped and hurt herself earlier this week, so I hope she's able to get the kids done out, as we say. They haven't been groomed in almost three months, so it will be a big job to get all four of them done. After they are groomed, I will try to get some pictures of them to post here. After all, all of us proud moms like to brag on our children.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Butterfly is Finished!

One down, and how many more to go? I finished the first of the butterflies on Flower Power. Stitching over 1 nearly made me crazy. I wear magnifying glasses (those cheap little cheaters you can buy at the Dollar Store or Joann's Fabrics), but even with the help, I still had trouble seeing what I was doing. I think I did most of it by feel. I'm not looking forward to the rest of those little suckers.

In other Flower Power news, I'm trying to finish up the leaves and stems that go with the coneflowers so that I can move on to the next group of flowers. I'm aggravated with myself because I'm one stitch off, and no matter how many times I think I've corrected for it, it keeps coming back to kick me in the head. I think I miscounted on the second flower, and there is no way I'm frogging all of that work. I'll just have to keep correcting and hope I don't end up way off somewhere.

Here's a close-up of the butterfly. I can spot all sorts of things I did wrong on it, but I'm hopeful that when all is said and done, that it won't look too bad.

I'm off to catch the very end of Dancing With the Stars. For some reason, it's imperative that I know who has been sent home this week. My hope is that it's Cloris Leachman, but I think she'll be there for another week or two.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Ms. Margaux Hemingway

I didn't get as much stitching done over the weekend as I would have liked to, but I did get some housework done. Clean floors and clean clothes went a long way toward making Monday morning more bearable. Tonight, while I watch Dancing with the Stars I will be working on that dadgum butterfly. Maybe I will triumph tonight and finish it.

I was watching the dogs and cat a few minutes ago, and I got to thinking about what an odd cat my Margaux is. I got her in 2005, just a month or so after Hurricane Rita had hit my home town. She and her sister, who also came to live with me, had weathered the storm outdoors, and after the storm, someone captured them and dropped them on my veterinarian's doorstep. Originally, Ellie (the sister) went home with a vet tech, but after she was disruptive in that household, she came to live with me, too.

When I took Margaux and Ellie in, I already had four cats. Yep, that's right--four other cats. The three older cats didn't last long after Rita. It seems that the stress of storms is often too much for old people and old pets to bear. That left me with Frankie, Margaux, and Ellie.

Now, I know that many people won't agree with my actions, but I do let my cats go outdoors. I live in a very quiet neighborhood, well away from a busy street, so the cats can wander around my house and a few neighbors' homes. Ellie went missing first, and Frankie followed her a few months later. I think that both of them moved in with neighbors. I thought that Margaux would probably get tired of life in the "poodle house" and join the others.

Well, apparently Margaux is enjoying being the queen of the household and the ruler of the poodles. As I watched them today, I was struck by how happy she looked as each one of the dogs stuck his or her nose in her face and gave her a good sniff. She particularly likes to cuddle up at night with Rory, my six-year-old female. The two of them bathe each other before finally falling asleep.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

What to do on a Saturday Afternoon?

I've been sitting around the house all day today, telling myself that I should either stitch or do housework. So far all I've done is watch reruns of The Rachel Zoe Project. I think I'm about to get motivated enough to start stitching.

I thought that I'd post some pictures of other cross stitch projects I've completed. This dragon was done for my nephew, but it's never been framed. When I took it to the framer's for an estimate, I nearly fainted. So, it's still sitting in my pile of finished projects until I feel flush enough to get it framed properly. I wish I could remember the designer for it; I know it's not the Theresa Wentzler dragon. I bought that design, looked at the pattern and floss list, and said, "No way!" This dragon took me long enough to complete. I'd be working on the TW design until I died!

The cats and dogs design is one I stitched while my mother was having chemotherapy and radiation treatments for lung cancer. The waiting area had a whole wall of windows, and I could stitch a little bit every day while she had radiation treatment. On the days she had chemo, I got to put in quite some time stitching. It wasn't the most pleasant of places to stitch, but it helped me pass the time. Mom recovered from lung cancer, and lived for a couple more years before other issues caught up to her. Every time I look at this piece, though, I remember the comments I got from others in the waiting area, particularly an elderly male patient. He would come check my progress every day and tell me that I needed to stitch faster. He wanted to make sure I finished it before he finished treatment so he could see what it looked like. The piece is stitched on a piece of 10 count material with Caron Wildflowers (or maybe it's the other thicker thread). Some day I will have this finished into a pillow. For now, it's safely tucked away.

The reason much of my "stuff" is tucked away is because of my four-legged children. I have four standard poodles and one cat, and they are rough on everything! They don't always intend to be, but I really wouldn't want them to have much contact with this piece once it's made into a pillow. And, since the house is maintained for their comfort, I'm sure that one or the other of them would want to put his/her head on it. My oldest guy, Spenser, is in the picture on the right. He's 12 years old, and he is the absolute apple of my eye. Maybe someday I'll blog a little bit about his show career.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Now I've Done It!

I've finally created my own blog. I don't know that I have that much to blog about, but I wanted somewhere to share the things I love the most: mystery novels, counted cross stitch, and poodles.

The big thing on my mind right now is cross stitch. More particularly, a piece that is kicking my behind right now: Flower Power by Crossed Wing Collection. I've been working on it for about six weeks, and I felt like I was making pretty good progress. I've finished the coneflowers, even though I miscounted on one and had to make some adjustments to the pattern as I went along. I'm almost through with the leaves and stems that go with the coneflowers.

Then I started the first butterfly. Instead of stitching over 2, I'm doing it over 1. Let me tell you, my eyes are too old for over 1, even with magnifying glasses. I'm about two-thirds of the way through with it, and I'm not super pleased with it. Up close, I think it looks kind of lumpy; from a distance, it seems to be okay, though.

When I finish the butterfly, I'll post a new picture of it, but for now, here's the last picture I took of my progress.

It's easy to tell I'm new at the blogging thing. I'm not sure about how the picture is going to turn out! Oh, well.

Back to the butterfly!