Monday, August 31, 2009

The Best Kind Of Summer Camp

When I was in the sixth or seventh grade, the one thing I really wanted to do was to go to Camp Lawrence. If I remember correctly, this was a week-long Catholic summer camp for elementary and middle school age kids. For some reason, going to camp was the big thing that year. Everyone was going. My friends and I started making lists of the things we needed to take. All of our enthusiasm didn't make any difference to my parents though, or to the parents of many of my friends. It was a no-go. So my equally deprived best friend and I spent camp week at home, making hippie love bead necklaces, riding our bikes, and being annoying.

Well, the good kind of karma struck when I found out about Camp Iwannastitch, which is held at my favorite cross stitch shop, The Dogwood Patch. The store itself is located in Hiawassee, GA, with mountains and Lake Chatuge in view. What a beautiful setting for a relaxing, stress-free weekend!

My sister, Sheila, and I booked our camp spots with the expectation that it would be as wonderful as last year's and we were not disappointed! Armed with our stitching and supplies, we made the trip through the winding roads of the North Georgia Mountains. We arrived on Friday afternoon to greetings from the store owner, Terrie, and our fellow campers. The store was stocked with fabulous charts, floss, fabric and supplies, plus chocolate in the form of candy and brownies. Terrie and her husband, Kenneth, are great hosts and always made sure we had everything we needed. Who could ask for anything more?

So from Friday afternoon until Sunday afternoon, we stitched, ate (the food was good too), shopped, played games, had some great conversation and then stitched some more. Some people might be confused as to how this could be fun. They wonder how we can derive pleasure from "just sitting around and stitching for that many days". One of the other campers summed it up best when she said that you would only understand if you were a stitcher.

I finally finished Leaping Cat and started Little Ballerinas by Country Cottage Needleworks while at Camp Iwannastitch. It was a good feeling finishing something because I haven't been stitching all that much lately. I think I got a stitching jump-start! Now I'm excited to keep going with my current project.

None of us left until we absolutely had to on Sunday. We finished up our shopping and said goodbye to Scooter, Terrie's newest kitten. We said our sad goodbyes to Terrie and our fellow campers, who we all consider to be new friends. There was also an agreement made to attend camp together next year! It will look a little different next time because Terrie is moving her store to Buford, GA. It's new name will be The Stitch Store. I will definitely be back!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

So They Loaded Up The Truck And They Moved To Berk-e-ley

I had never received so many astonished looks than when I told people that yes, we were going to drive to Berkeley, CA to move Matt to grad school. Then after we got back, people were more inclined to tell us that we were nuts when we told them that we had done the drive in 3 days. From Atlanta to Berkeley. And, no, we didn't break any land speed records in the process.

What we found was that driving on I-40 is not an interesting trip, even though I had never visited most of the states we drove through. I'm sure that all of these states have their lovely views, exciting cities and interesting attractions. We just didn't get to see them.

We saw some weird stuff though. Near Conway, AR is Toad Suck Park. We saw the sign for this sometime late in the afternoon during the first day, just when we were starting to get punchy. My traveling companions laughed in merriment, while I wondered why they would give what was probably a perfectly nice park such a revolting name. Later in the day, we met a very nice Starbucks lady in Little Rock who told us that she used to live in the city we just moved to. Small world!

Amarillo, TX boasts The Big Texan, which describes itself as a steak ranch. The big draw here is that they'll give you your meal free if you order the 72 oz. (that's four and a half pounds, for all of the mathematically challenged) steak and eat all of it. And all of the sides that come with it. Oh yeah, one more thing, you have to finish it in ONE HOUR! Neither Mark nor Matt was up to the challenge, so we travelled on.

One place along our route that I would have liked to visit is The Freshwater Pearl Museum. It sounds wonderful -- a guided tour, lunch and a jewelry showroom! I was driving at the time and was soooo tempted to pull off the highway, but I decided to save it for another time. It's not too far away from home.

By day three we were in the desert and it got seriously hot. Yes, our car thermometer said 105 degrees. We were somewhere in California when this picture was taken. The desert is pretty fascinating at first (Look! A cactus!), but after about 10 hours you find yourself wishing for the cool, green mountains of North Georgia.

And another bit of interesting info? When you enter California, you have to go through California Customs! Ha Ha! They actually stop your car and ask if you have any fresh fruits, vegetables or plants. We had none of the above, so we didn't get to find out what would happen if you did. Would they confiscate your apple?

You can only imagine how happy we were to arrive in Berkeley on Sunday night. It truly looks like Matt's kind of place to live. I predict that he'll be happy and successful there. Even though we'll miss him, both Mark and I are glad that he found a good place to live and learn for the next 5 (?) years.

We'll be visiting the beautiful San Francisco Bay area again for sure, but next time we'll be flying the friendly skies.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cats On The Move

While we're all a bit stressed out about this move, I can't help but worry about our three feline companions. Everything I've read tells me that moving is highly stressful for cats especially. Dogs do a much better job at getting used to their new surroundings. But we have cats and we better start looking forward to that extra challenge.

There are so many websites and articles devoted to moving with your cat and getting him acclimated to his new environment. One website tells me not to pack in front of the cats. A former neighbor of ours used to travel a lot. Whenever she brought out her suitcase, one of her cats barfed on it. Now that's a statement. Another article says that seeing the rooms in their familiar house empty can make cats feel unstable. We've emptied out rooms before to clean carpets and the cats seemed to think it was great fun! What an adventure!

I already know that our three - Cosmo, Ozzy and Moxie - are going to hate the travel part. Luckily we'll only have to drive for an hour or so to get to the new house, but none of them have ever ridden this long in a car. Well, that I know of. And they all HATE riding in cars, although to varying degrees.

Cosmo: REALLY, REALLY hates cars.
Ozzy: REALLY hates cars.
Moxie: Kind of doesn't like riding in cars.

We've decided that we are going to divide the cats up and take one each. I'll take Moxie!! Oh yeah, one website tells us not to put your cat in the back of the moving van. What? Someone would do that? Another says to play classical music when you're transporting the kitties. Hmmmm. Yet another advises us cat movers to ignore their howling while in the car. Uh huh.

One of my favorite pieces of advice is to communicate with your cat on a regular basis and include him in your plans. Also you're supposed to "send your cat thought pictures of your new home". This was a gem. But I might do it.

My biggest concern is getting our three kitty friends used to our new home. From what I've read, this can be extremely tricky. Many of the articles I've read offer very good advice about confining the cats to one room in the new house where they can just chill out. This will be their room for a while so it needs to have everything in it to make them comfy, like their litter box, food, blankets and toys. OK, we can do that. Then after a few days you can start to keep the door open. There are also products that can help to calm your cat. One is an actual plug-in thing that you put in their room. Who knew?

The thing that scares me the most is that this acclimation period can take up to six weeks!

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Very Moving Experience

Finally, after 14 months of our house being on the market, it seems that we will be moving! It's something we've been planning for several years now. We just didn't anticipate putting our home up for sale during the worst housing market in recent history. Here's a quick timeline of our house-selling attempts:

4/08 House goes on the market. Bad housing market? Who cares! Our house is FABULOUS. It will be quickly snapped up by a lucky buyer!

10/08 There have been only 4 showings during the past 6 months. Fabulous or not, no one seems interested. Take house off market for three months to enjoy holidays. It's tempting to totally stop cleaning the house during this period.

1/09 New real estate agent. We're hopeful. Reduce price. By a lot.

4/09 We have several showings during the first couple of weeks of April alone. This is encouraging. Finally an offer, but it falls through when potential buyer decides she must file bankruptcy.

6/09 Lots more showings. What's going on with the market? Another offer in late June, but we are extremely cautious.

7/09 Looks like fabulous house is finally sold. The appraisal went well, the inspection is over and all of the "problems" are being fixed as I write this. I will be so glad when the haggling part of this sale is finally over. Moving won't even seem so bad after all of this contract back-and-forth stuff.

Or will it?

Fifty miles is not a long way to go when moving. I know this first hand because about twenty years ago, we moved 750 miles. With a toddler. About 10 days before Christmas. In the snow. And we packed everything by ourselves. Was I crazy? I was like some kind of modern pioneer woman cramming newspaper-wrapped chachkis into a box with a baby on my hip. The strange thing was, I didn't even give it a second thought; it was just what I had to do.

Now, 20 years later, the process seems monumental. We figure we'll have approximately 17,000 boxes of stuff alone. And this is after we "went through" all of our junk and got rid of a lot. Where did we get all this stuff?

But in the end I know that it will be totally worth it. We love the area we're moving to. The new house is wonderful. We'll be closer to my sister and her family and to my brother and sister-in-law's cabin in the mountains. And the cats are so looking forward to it.

By the way, this is not how Ozzy will be traveling to his new abode. We will NOT be packing him. I just wanted to throw that disclaimer in. He just thinks that cardboard boxes are fabulous.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Small Stitching Sampling

As promised, I'm including some actual cross stitch photos today. I love to see what other people are stitching, and I hope that you'll appreciate my stitching as well. I've often chosen projects by seeing other stitchers' work. There's lots of inspiration just seeing the actual stitched piece.

The first photo, Leaping Cat by La-D-Da, is my current work in progress. I'm stitching it with DMC on 32-count linen. This project is just for fun and it's something I'd like to frame and hang in our new house, er, the potential new house. (We're cautiously optimistic today.) This one's fun to stitch -- all whole stitches, no backstitching, pretty colors. And of course, it features a cute kitty, and he'll look much cuter once I stitch his whiskers.

The pillow you see above is a chart called Square Dance from a New Stitches magazine published sometime in the mid-90's. This is probably one of my favorite things that I've stitched. I used 14-count navy blue Aida for the background and something called Aida Plus for the cream color squares. Basically I stitched the Aida Plus squares, cut them out and then attached them to the blue Aida by cross stitching them in red. Do they even make Aida Plus anymore? It's great stuff. I just haven't seen it in stores lately.

This is a box with a stitched piece in the lid called "Woodland Flowers" from the book Amish Quilts to Cross Stitch by Jeanette Crews Designs. If there's one thing I'm not, it's a quilter, but that doesn't stop me from thinking that quilts are beautiful. Quilters are true artists. So I figure that the next best thing is to cross stitch quilt blocks. This block is made up of a collection of wonderful colors with a black background, stitched on white evenweave. I purchased the box from a company called Patches 'n Planks which sells gorgeous handmade wood items. This box was made for a good friend for her birthday. I think I need one of these for me. OK, put that in the mental "To Be Stitched" file. Now THAT'S a post for another day!

I hope you like the samples of my stitching you see here. Maybe I've inspired someone? I'll be posting more photos in the future. And other stuff too. Stay tuned.


Monday, June 29, 2009

Yippee! A New Cross Stitch Blog!

Hi everyone. After thinking about starting a cool cross stitch blog for a while, I'm finally doing it. I've visited a lot of lovely cross stitch related blogs, and I've decided to join the fun. After all, you can't have too much of a good thing, right?

I've been doing some kind of stitching since I was about 8 years old. My mom used to stamp patterns on pillow cases, which I would happily embroider or cross stitch. Mom was smart -- she found something to keep me occupied during those summer breaks! One day a friend of my mom's asked us to go to the 5 & 10 (known to us kids simply as "the dime store") and pick up some DMC floss in a color I'd never in my life heard of -- ecru. Maybe this was the first time I noticed the beautiful rainbow of DMC colors carefully arranged in order in the basement of the dime store. Wow, this was cool.

I still love that color palette, and I still mostly use DMC. There are so many other wonderful flosses out there and I will be trying those in the future and sharing my results and opinions here. When it comes to fabrics, I have branched out! Other than aida, I've used linen and evenweaves. My favorites are 28 count Lugana and Jobelan. I really like those fabrics. So soft and a pleasure to stitch on. I am not a fast stitcher and I probably would stitch more if I could leave my stitching stuff out all of the time. This is due to my cats. You cat owners out there know why this is. If you don't, I will tell you that it involves lengths of floss, floss bobbins, needles and the strange desire to park their furry bodies on any kind of fabric they've never experienced before.

Okay, so you've noticed the unusual title of my blog. When you visit here, you'll be treated to book reviews, chats about jewelry making and beading, an occasional recipe, rants and raves, the cats, moving, framing and anything else I think is fun that day. And I will include photos of my cross stitch works in progress and finishes.

Please check back regularly. I hope that you'll find this a fun place to visit.