August to mid-September 2018 Wrap-Up: part 1 of 2 (needlework)

I’m a wee bit behind on posting a wrap-up. There’s a lot to post, so I’m splitting it up into two posts.

NEEDLEWORK:

Cozy Blue Stitch Club — April 2018 pattern:  I finished this project, which I’d started in July.

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I used my own color choices (DMC 51, 90, 92, 107, 436, 3839, 3840), using all 6 strands for a chunkier look, and did a little bit of colored-pencil tinting. I was reminded while stitching this project that I’m not a fan of using plain backstitch; I did end up whipping some of the backstitched areas but not all of them. I used to love using stem stitch and outline stitch back when I was embroidering a lot, so will begin using those more often again. I do love how the fishbone stitch turned out, such a gorgeous stitch!

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This was relaxing to stitch on in-between cross-stitch projects. Embroidery goes so much faster for me than cross-stitch, but sometimes with embroidery my brain comes to a screeching halt about deciding which stitch to use next and which color to use next, and with cross-stitch that’s typically a non-issue. On the other hand, with embroidery I don’t have to count squares and I’m not as pokey of a stitcher. The two types of stitching are good counterbalances to each other for me =).

 

Ain’t No Party Like An Introvert Party by Stitchy Little Fox:  I stitched this up to keep for myself. This was a fun, easy project and it makes me smile when I look at it =D.

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Fabric:  Loops & Threads 14-ct “Oatmeal” Aida (purchased at Michael’s craft store); this Aida is a bit softer than the Charles Craft brand I find at Hobby Lobby. Thanks to Christine, aka Calico, for mentioning this brand of Aida on one of her Flosstube videos!

Floss:  DMC 310, 601, 906, 740, 3844, using 3 strands of each to get fuller coverage

I did add an apostrophe in front of “cause” since it’s short for “because”, and not having the apostrophe changes the meaning of the word — grammar nerds unite!! 😛  I didn’t worry about trying to adjust the spacing to fit in the apostrophe, I just smooshed it in there.

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I hooped it up on a plastic Yarnology hoop from Hobby Lobby — this was my first time to use one of those hoops and I love them so much more than wooden hoops! I laid the cross-stitch on top of a piece of white quilting cotton then hooped them up together. I like having a piece of fabric or felt on the back of the stitched piece, to provide opaqueness and to protect the stitchwork, and hooping up the quilting cotton with the Aida was quick and easy.

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I fairly often change up the way I finish off the back of my hoops. My current method is to fold over the quilting cotton to the back side, then use narrow double-sided adhesive tape to adhere the quilting cotton to the hoop, then another piece of tape to adhere the Aida to the quilting cotton. This is very easy, and I don’t make a mess of things like I do when using hot glue :P. Also, if I want to remove the project from the hoop and finish it a different way, it’ll be easy-peasy to disassemble.

 

Bob Ross by Good Morning Maui:  I stitched this up for a friend, and love it so much I’m going to stitch up one for myself!

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Fabric:  Loops & Threads 14-ct “Oatmeal” Aida

Floss:  the called-for DMC except I substituted 168 in place of 762; 3 strands of each to get fuller coverage, backstitched using 2 strands

I did opt to outline it in black and think it helps the design “pop” out from the fabric a bit better, especially the white part of the artist’s canvas.

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I put it in a plastic Yarnology hoop, with white quilting fabric behind the Aida, and finished it off the same way I did the “Introverts” piece above.

I first saw this pattern on Instagram, and the finishing was super cute — check it out HERE (be sure to swipe because there are multiple pictures).

 

GIFTS RECEIVED:

I received happy mail :::doing the Snoopy dance:::!!! First up is a beautifully-stitched, delicate monogram from my friend Julie — such teeny-tiny stitches!! The font and colors are so “me”, as are the sweet needleminders, which have already been put into use — I love using the fox for my embroidery needle, and the fan and book for my cross-stitch petite needle =).

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from Julie 002

Then I received this fabulous scissor fob and lovely crocheted dishcloth from Kristi. I love the autumnal colors and how she matched the colors in the two items. Also, the charm on the scissor fob is a good daily reminder to let go of stress relating to not being able to Accomplish. All. The. Tasks. Today.

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from Kristi 002

I received lovely cards from various family and friends. I usually only keep cards for a week then let them go, but this year I’ve been reluctant to part with them. So I put a couple of them on our decorative window frame, and a couple others have been turned into bookmarks (because I can always use bookmarks!).

(The frame is hanging straight. The picture-taker (that would be me!) was standing on the couch cushions, which didn’t make for the most level of surfaces.) 

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bookmarks

 

PURCHASES:

Oh boy, it’s been purchase-palooza around here!!! Some of these were gifts, and others were purchased with gift money.

These 3 charts were from my my husband and son: (a) Lizzie Kate “Dog Lessons for People #143”, (b) Plum Street Samplers “Turkey Sausage”, and (c) Amy Bruecken Designs “I’m Sorry, Did My Eyes Roll Out Loud?”. I can’t wait to stitch these up!!

patterns

 

I purchased Theresa V.’s (“KittenStitcher’) Issue One of her new digital zine, Samplers Yesterday & Today, which I enjoyed reading and which contained plenty of needlework eye candy.

Theresa's zine

 

I resubscribed to Just Cross Stitch magazine (digital edition), and rejoined the Embroiders Guild of America (although as an at-large member rather than a local chapter).

Lastly, I purchased some fabulous loot by way of Michelle BendyStitchy‘s fundraiser for the 2018 Walk to End Alzheimers. I scored dyed Aida, patterns, silk floss, and a couple already-stitched items. It’ll be a fun box to open when it lands at my front door! Pictures will follow later this month or in October.

 

[Part 2 will recap the books I read, the things I watched, and a few other life goings-on. I’ll come back and edit this post to add a link to part 2 HERE once it’s live.]

July 2018 Wrap-Up

July was a low-output month in terms of stitching, reading, and watching. More about that later in this post =).

NEEDLEWORK:

After my cross-stitching frustration last month, I took a several week break from stitching anything. A little past mid-July, I unkitted the cross-stitch projects I’d previously kitted up, organized my floss, and looked to see what I had in the way of ready-to-stitch embroidery projects. I found two unstitched Cozy Blue Stitch Club designs, so started on this one:

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I’m using some DMC variegated floss, and, thus far, am sticking with simple, basic stitches. I may embellish . . . or I may not. I’m only stitching once or twice a week for an hour here and an hour there, so it’s slow-going. But I’m enjoying it!

 

BOOKS:  (These have been added to my Books Read page found HERE.)

Detective Sarah Alt series (Trudy Nan Boyce) —  I love this series! I especially liked the writing in the first book, Out of the Blue. The third book, The Policeman’s Daughter, is actually a prequel, even though it was released third. I read it after the first two books and did wonder if I would recommend reading it first, or reading the series in publication order, as I did —- normally I would prefer to read the prequel first, but in this instance I liked knowing what I knew about the characters’ future when I read the prequel.

Three Sisters, Three Queens (Philippa Gregory) — This was in my “you might like…” list from the library. This book is part of the lengthy “The Plantagenet & Tudor Novels” series, for which I found this reading-order list online. I found the novel interesting, especially the author’s note at the end. I would enjoy reading all the novels in the series, but would prefer to do so in chronological order; it’ll be quite an undertaking because I typically don’t find historical fiction to be a quick read.

Of Mess and Moxie (Jen Hatmaker) — (non-fiction) While I didn’t find everything in this book applicable/relatable to my life, all in all I enjoyed the author’s writing voice and her essays.

 

TV SERIES:

Killing Eve (S1) — Yay for Sandra Oh being in a series again!!! Bring on S2! (watched via BBC On-Demand)

Riverdale (S1 & S2) — Lots of familiar faces of all ages, along with some new-to-me faces. So much drama! I get a kick out of this show, and am glad to hear it received an order for S3.

 

WHAT’S NEW AROUND HERE—>2 THINGS:

Weight Watchers — At the tail-end of June, I read something that, for me, was the straw that broke the camel’s back when it came to not taking proper care of my health. Long story short: the next day I opted to attend my local Weight Watchers, and I’ve been going strong on the program ever since.

This is not my first attempt at W.W., not by a long shot, but this time I discovered the plan has been revamped in a way I’m finding to be very positive. No more weighing or measuring or counting points for fruits, veggies, eggs, skinless chicken/turkey breast, fish, shellfish, legumes, lentils, or nonfat plain yogurt. Granted, portion sizes are still important, but not having to count points for the aforementioned healthy foods is very freeing and also results in me gravitating towards more of those items when hungry. More options in the form of zero-points foods equals less instances of being hungry (or hangry!). If I’m hungry it’s not because I’m out of points, it’s because I’m not getting off my behind and getting myself a snack or meal in a timely manner :P.

For me, the change in foods I eat actually isn’t that big; rather, I’ve cut waaaaay back on non-fruit sweets, I’m not defaulting to pasta/starchy foods out of laziness, and I’m eating better-balanced meals. But I’m not eating foods I’d rather not eat (beef, poultry), and I am still eating within the confines of which foods won’t trigger health flare-ups of one type or another (which means I’m still limited on which veggies/fruits/legumes/nuts/condiments I can eat, and anything containing vinegar, citric acid, MSG, sulfites, or nitrates is a big ole no-no). Prepared foods, prepackaged foods, and restaurant foods remain problematic for me health-wise and will trigger all kinds of no-fun flare-ups, but not being a regular consumer of those types of foods actually works in my favor for W.W. because I rarely am in the position of using my points for those types of items.

My cravings for sweets have diminished considerably, and my “eat the feelings/stress” moments are much farther-and-fewer between.  Progress, not perfection!! =)

I also rejoined the gym because, as my husband said, we’ll gladly pay $11/month to walk indoors in the air conditioning!! (The summer heat seems particularly brutal this year.) I’ve been enjoying the treadmill quite a lot . . . I just prop my Kindle on the treadmill and read and walk undisturbed for an hour =D. I’ve also been easing into some strength-training with dumbbells at home.

I’m very happy with the weight loss I’ve had thus far and with the health improvements I’m already noticing. My body, on the whole, is easier to move around. I can bend over and tie my shoes without it being uncomfortable. I had a decent stretch of weeks without health issue flare-ups, which isn’t something I’d experienced for a very long time prior to last month. I’ve not had brain fog AT ALL in the past five weeks, not even when the outdoor mold count was sky high and my ears and sinuses were verrrry cranky as a result…….still no brain fog —- I can’t describe how amazing that’s been!! I can walk on the treadmill for an hour and not be out of breath. I’m starting to see and feel the muscles in my legs and arms again, which makes me all kinds of happy!!

W.W. has a fantastic app now, which I’m loving. It’s used for tracking your food/points, but also has an expansive community comprised of members and leaders, which I find to be as important for my continued success as anything else I’m doing (including attending weekly local meetings, which are important to me). Any time of day or evening when I find myself needing a boost of motivation to keep on keepin’ on with developing better health habits, I pop over to the W.W. app and read posts by other members.

The gym, preparing meals for myself, and being in the W.W. Connect community are taking chunks of time that I used to spend stitching/reading/watching tv, so that’s why there aren’t much of any of those things in my July recap. I’m also making an effort to move more when I’m at home, instead of defaulting to sitting down. Closets and cabinets have been cleaned out and organized, and the fridge has been cleaned more thoroughly than it’s ever been cleaned :P. Don’t get me wrong, I can still park my rump on the couch and not move for a while(!!), but I’m trying to do less of that ;-).

(By the way, I’m purposely NOT mentioning numbers related to weight. I may mention these numbers when I reach my goal . . . or I may not. I prefer to use the number on the scale as just one of many tools in this journey — it’s not the be-all-to-end-all — so I’m not making it a focal point at this time.)

 

Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps — This is the other new thing that’s going on . . . my hubby and I are hard-core in debt-elimination mode. Interestingly, taking control of personal health and taking control of financial health have A LOT in common!! Being of an age where we see the financial and health struggles with which older loved ones are dealing has made us take a hard look at where we are . . . and think about where we want to be 10, 20, and (if we’re so lucky!) 30+ years down the road. I read Total Money Makeover, and watched 1 of the Financial Peace University dvds (which was the only one our library had), and I’ve gotten lots of good ideas from the #debtfreecommunity on Instagram. As with Weight Watchers, community support is positive and extremely motivating in the debt-free community.

 

FAVORITE SNAPSHOTS THIS MONTH:

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June 2018 Wrap-Up

NEEDLEWORK:

U.S. Sampler by Glory Bee — Finished and fully-finished.  I posted about it HERE.

 

After finishing the above project, I started Flag Maker by Notforgotten Farms, a freebie pattern I’d seen stitched by both Vonna Pfeiffer and Priscilla Blain.  I was stitching it on 28-ct. Irish Linen using 2 strands of the called-for DMC colors.  I loved the linen, but my eyesight struggled with the 28-ct. fabric. I worked on the piece for a couple weekends, but finally admitted defeat this past weekend and abandoned the project.

I’m not feeling the stitchy love at this particular moment, but that’s okay because I have other things on my plate right now that I’m enjoying. I do have a couple embroidery projects I’d like to stitch, as well as a couple cross-stitch projects that I just need to find a different fabric for (I’d planned to use the 28-ct. linen for them).

 

 

PURCHASES:

Punch Needle & Primitive Stitcher magazine — I opted for a digital subscription, which also provides access to the prior 4 issues. I’ve already put some of the patterns on my To-Stitch spreadsheet. (Although I don’t do punch needle, many of those patterns can function quite well as embroidery patterns, which is how I plan to use them!)

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Harvest Keeper by Plum Street Samplers — I love the colors and the design of this autumn-themed pattern. I purchased the pattern from Jen’s Stitching Niche; she was super speedy in getting the chart mailed.

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Antique Scissors & Spools by Theresa Venette — I purchased the PDF directly from Theresa’s website. There’s a lot of flexibility for fabric and floss colors for this one! I’m so glad Theresa’s working towards including more patterns in PDF format, as those work better for me when it comes to storage.

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BOOKS:  (These have been added to my “Books Read” page found HERE.)

The Bear and the Nightingale (Katherine Arden) — I think I would’ve preferred this in audio format. I liked it fine in print format, but it feels like a story that would be better if you could hear it being told.

The Sweet Life in Paris (David Lebovitz) — (non-fiction) Enjoyed this one.

Open Season by C.J. Box (Joe Pickett series) — This is the first novel in this series. I’m curious enough about the character to continue on with the series.

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman — I loved this and it’ll definitely be one of my favorites for 2018. It’s the prequel to Practical Magic, which I’ve not yet read but I do have the book on hold and am looking forward to reading it. Now I’m delving into the author’s backlist.

l’appart: The Delights & Disasters of Making My Paris Home by David Lebovitz — (non-fiction) I liked reading this on the heels of The Sweet Life (mentioned above) and found it interesting and entertaining. I’ve always said I don’t ever want to do a renovation and, holy smoke, reading this reinforced my opinion!!

 

TV SERIES:

Poldark (S3) — I love me some Ross and Demelza!! Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson are fantastic as their characters; actually, the whole cast is fantastic. (watching via PBS Masterpiece, by way of Amazon Prime)

Unforgotten (S1 & S2) — I enjoyed this U.K. detective series; each season focuses on a different cold case.  Nicola Walker is in the category of I’ll watch whatever she’s in; love her. (watching via PBS Masterpiece, by way of Amazon Prime)

The Coroner (S1) — Another U.K. crime series I’m enjoying. (watching via Britbox, by way of Amazon Prime)

 

MOVIES:

The Post — A phenomenal cast telling a compelling story which is, unfortunately, currently relevant in many ways.

Ocean’s 8 — I wanted to be sure and catch this before it left the theater. It was fun, I loved all the actresses chosen for the main 8 characters, as well as James Corden in the role he played, and there were some wonderful cameos of actresses who’ve been out of the movie/tv spotlight (whether voluntarily or involuntarily) for far too long. Five of the eight main cast members were recently on an episode of the Graham Norton Show and it was a rollicking good time.

 

FAVORITE SNAPSHOTS THIS MONTH:

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The produce below is from the Farmer’s Market, not our own garden (which, sadly, had an early demise this year). I was so excited to find fresh eggs! We used to have chickens ourselves and got very spoiled to fresh eggs; I hope the egg vendor is able to return to the market throughout the summer.

Watermelon; Cantaloupe; Peaches; Strawberry Jam; Pear Jam

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Zucchini; Summer Squash; Green Apples; Cucumber

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Fresh Eggs!

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FFO: “U.S. Sampler” by Glory Bee (6-25-2018)

The pattern is “U.S. Sampler” by Glory Bee, found in the August 2012 issue of Just Cross Stitch magazine.

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Fabric:  14-ct. Fiddler’s Aida in “Lite Oatmeal” by Charles Craft

Floss:  The called-for DMC colors (except B5200 instead of White), using 3 strands to get full coverage. Colors: B5200, 221, 310, 729, 898, 930, 932, 945, 3778

06-2018 US Sampler by Glory Bee 002

It needs to be blocked; you can see where the fabric got stretched out of shape below Sam’s shoes and above his hat; I stitched the whole thing in-hand and apparently had a death grip on the fabric in a couple places :P.   The wonky border bugs me a little, but not enough to delay fully-finishing the piece and displaying it =D.  The needlework is not permanently attached to the stickyboard; instead, it’s just lightly tacked down on the back with low-grip painter’s tape.  So if, at some point, I want to remove it and block it and/or finish it another way, it’ll be  easy to do so.  But we’re enjoying it as-is, displayed on the table under our tv!!  The fabric panel has magnets glued to the back (a la Priscilla Blain), so that I can easily remove this project from the tray and swap in another project.  (I picked up the tray for $2.99 at Hobby Lobby.)

So, the Aida . . . it was quite stiff, which made for some tough stitching in-hand, not helped by the fact that I didn’t cut off the excess fabric until after I’d finished stitching.  It got a bit unwieldy at times!  But I still preferred stitching in-hand as compared to using a hoop or q-snap.  I have no interest in going back to a hoop or q-snap for cross-stitch.  (I don’t anticipate stitching a piece so large that I would need a scroll frame. Been there, done that, not interested in doing it again!)

For the border (including the stars) and Sam, I used the sewing method, which I felt went okay until I needed to stitch the white stripes in the pants and the flag; some of the white stitches in those stripes are not pretty.  For comparison, I stab-stitched all of the letters and words, and I think the white stitches in “1776” look much better.

The purpose of stitching this piece (besides ending up with a finished project) was to experiment with stitching in-hand using the sewing method, and I did figure out some things I liked and didn’t like about it.  It’s definitely faster than stab-stitching, and I loved using it for stitching the brown “x”s in the border — having a space between each “x” allowed for quick stitching.  (I can see how using the sewing method while stitching 1-over-1 would go very fast.)  I used 3 strands on this piece, which was a lot of bulk in filled-in spaces, and I seemed to have less twisting and smooshing-up of floss when I stab-stitched.  (I’m currently stitching 2-over-2 on 28-ct. linen and am doing a hybrid of the sewing method and stab-stitching.)

All in all, this was a fun project! I’m enjoying stitching things for me to keep, as I’m more comfortable experimenting while stitching than I would be if I were making these things as gifts. Fully-finishing is not my favorite thing if I can’t pop something in a hoop 😛  but, again, these are good opportunities for me to try new things and practice finishing methods that don’t come as easy to me as popping something in a hoop =D.

 

May 2018 Wrap-Up

NEEDLEWORK:

Mini Santa (but not so mini!) — This is the same CozyBlue Handmade freebie “mini Santa” pattern I used to make mini-ornaments last Christmas. This time, however, I enlarged the pattern to 4″, to give myself more room to practice fill-stitching.

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(Once I FFO it and the fabric is taut, the straight-stitches on the face will lie flat.)

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Fabric: a tightly-woven, unbleached muslin from Hobby Lobby; it’s my favorite light-colored fabric for embroidery

Floss: DMC 321, 414, 798, B5200

Stitches: Hat = chain-stitch (3 strands 321 & B5200); Eyebrows = chain-stitch (2 strands 414, 2 rows stitched very tightly next to each other); Eyes = satin stitch (2 strands 798); Nose = straight stitch (2 strands 321); Cheeks = straight stitch (1 strand 321); Mouth = chain-stitch (2 strands 321, 1 row of stitches layered right on top of another); Beard = french knots…..sooooo many french knots!! 😛 (3 strands B5200)

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I’m going to finish it as a round ornament, but will wait until later this year when Christmas fabrics show up at Hobby Lobby.

 

U.S. Sampler by Glory Bee (Just Cross Stitch magazine, Aug. 2012 issue) — I’m loving stitching this little sampler, and I’m liking most of the called-for colors much more than I thought I would when I pulled them. I’ve gotten very comfortable stitching in-hand using the sewing method with this project, which was my hope. I do see some stitched areas that I’m not completely happy with, and I think it’s because in those areas the 3 strands of floss are bunching up rather than lying next to each other. It seems to be more of an issue where I’m stitching the white floss in-between the already-stitched red floss….the white looks like it’s been squeezed in. It may have worked better if I’d stitched each stripe in the pants and flag in order, rather than the red stripes first then the white. Food for thought! I’ll finish stitching and FFO’ing this sampler in June.

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Fabric: 14-ct. “Lite Oatmeal” Fiddler’s Aida (Charles Craft)

Floss: I’m using the called-for DMC colors (except B5200 instead of White), using 3 strands to get full coverage. Colors: B5200, 221, 310, 729, 898, 930, 932, 945, 3778

 

OTHER PROJECTS:

Needleminders — These were a gift for a friend’s birthday. I made them at the same time I made myself a bunch of needleminders last month. The Gilmore Girls needleminders were made from a set of pins, and the cat and teardrop-shaped needleminders were made from goodies from Hobby Lobby’s charms/jewelry section. I love love love the teardrop-shaped one…..it’s so beautiful in person, and extremely lightweight.

05-2018 Needleminders for Kristi

 

“To-Stitch” spreadsheet — I have a dvd containing Just Cross Stitch magazine’s Christmas Ornaments issues from 1997 thru 2013. It’s a great resource, but I found it impractical to sit at my computer and look through the digital issues whenever I wanted to start a new project. So I created an Excel spreadsheet listing the ornaments I want to stitch. I ended up with 78 patterns total from those 17 issues!

Then I decided to do the same thing for the digital copies I have of the regular JCS issues, and for the digital issues I have of Cross-Stitcher (UK) magazine.

I didn’t stop there! I also added tabs for the non-magazine/non-book cross-stitch and embroidery patterns I have in digital format. (I only have a couple patterns in hard-copy format, so indexing those is a non-issue right now.)

Below are snippets showing how I set up the section for the magazines, and the section I set up for embroidery.

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to-stitch spreadsheet 002

This has been a wonderfully-helpful project for me, and a fantastic resource!! At a quick glance, I can see: what I have in the way of seasonal and non-seasonal patterns; which patterns are small and quick-to-stitch; which patterns I’d like to make as gifts; which patterns I’d like to make for myself; which patterns I want to purchase fancy floss and/or dyed fabric for; and so on. I also rediscovered a lot of embroidery patterns I’d forgotten I had and which I want to stitch up.

 

PURCHASES:

DMC Color CardOrdered directly from DMC. I don’t know why I balked for so long about ordering this….it is so worth the $25!! (If the color card is out of stock, they do seem to restock it quickly.)  Side Note 5/2018: When I was at Hobby Lobby earlier this month, they had reset their DMC floss section to make room for the 35 new DMC colors. I assume online shops now have the new colors available, too, without them having to be purchased in the Collector’s Tin.

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28-ct Monaco & 28-ct Lugana — I picked these up while at Michael’s because I want to see if they’re more comfortable for stitching in hand. If, however, my eyes balk at the effort, I’ll be just fine with using 14-ct Aida for all my projects.

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BOOKS:  (These have been added to my “Books Read” page found HERE.)

A Gentleman in Moscow (Amor Towles)(Book of the Month Club 2017)  I loved this book so, so much. As of now, it’s at the top of my fiction favorites for 2018. This wasn’t a hurry-to-get-to-the-ending book for me; rather, it was one I luxuriated in taking my time reading. The language was a delight, I loved the characters, I liked how the passage of time was handled, and I had no quibbles at all with the ending. This would be an enjoyable reread. I have Mr. Towles’ book “Rules of Civility” on my “holds” list at the library; I’ve heard glowing reader-reviews about it, as well.

Big Cherry Holler (Adriana Trigiani) — This is the second book in the Big Stone Gap series. It deals with the complexities of marriage, as well as sorrow and loss and friendship and love. I enjoyed it quite a lot, and would enjoy it as a reread, as well. There are a third and fourth book, which I’ll likely get around to some time this year.

Unseen (Will Trent series) (Karin Slaughter) — This is part of a crime series; it’s not the first book, but it’s the first I’ve read of the series. I liked it enough that I’d like to go back to the start of the series. It has cross-over characters with the Grant County series below.

Blindsighted (Grant County series) (Karin Slaughter) — This is the first book in a series. I liked it enough that I’ll read more in the series.

One Dark Throne (Kendare Blake) — I read the first book in this fantasy series in March and liked it enough to want to continue on to this second book. Now I’m looking forward to the third book’s release.

The Seven Rules of Elvira Carr (Frances Maynard) — I enjoyed this book about a young woman learning to navigate life in ways she’d always been told she couldn’t.

The Breakdown (B.A. Paris) — This is a thriller by a new-to-me author. So…..I figured out the reveals fairly early on in the book, but kept reading because I thought perhaps there would be a surprising twist at the end. But, nope. What I’d figured out is what ended up being the reveals towards the end of the book, so that was a bit of a bummer.

The Music Shop (Rachel Joyce) — (Book of the Month Club 2017)  I’m working my way through my remaining 2017 Book of the Month Club picks, and this is from that stack. Overall I enjoyed it, and I particularly loved the last several chapters and the ending. Also, the author made a playlist on Spotify (TheMusicShopPlaylist) containing the various songs referred to in the book, and I’m so glad she did!

Last year I did a 12-month subscription to Book of the Month Club. I chose the option of paying for a year in advance in order to bring down the overall cost per month. I don’t often read hard copies of books anymore because it’s so much easier for me to read on my Kindle (portable; lightweight; easy to read in a dark room at night without disturbing my spouse); as a result, my unread BOTMC selections stacked up over the course of the year. I chose to not renew my subscription after the twelve months because I still had so many of the Club books unread, but I did enjoy the subscription. I liked being presented with book options I perhaps would not have otherwise given a second glance, and choosing from just a handful of titles each month eliminated the “So. Many. Choices.” feeling that can be overwhelming when you’re at the library or bookstore, whether they be brick-and-mortar or online. Also, it was nice to actually have hard copies of books readily at-hand! As much as I use my Kindle for convenience purposes, I do miss reading hardback copies of books. And as much as I prefer to keep Stuff-n-Things on the minimalist end of the spectrum, being able to go to my bookshelf and have a dozen or so unread books from which to choose…..well, I’ve enjoyed that. I thought the BOTMC 12-months-in-advance subscription cost was quite reasonable, and may opt to reactivate my account once I’ve finished my unread Club picks from last year.

 

TV SERIES:

LOST (series rewatch)– I stopped with two episodes left and waited for my husband to catch up, which he’s now done, and we’ll watch the last two episodes together. There have been both happy tears and sad tears on my part throughout the series, particularly during the last season. It’d been so long since I first watched LOST that I’d only remembered a smattering of plots and storylines (as well as the very end) before I started my rewatch, which worked out for the best for my enjoyment of the rewatch. I enjoyed it so much more than my original viewing of the series. My perspective on how the show wraps up is different this time around (in a good way), and I appreciate the entire series in a vastly different way than when it originally aired. I loved many of this show’s characters, and am sad about parting with them. (watching via Hulu)

For the People — I’m enjoying this new series quite a lot. I typically enjoy lawyer/courtroom-types of shows, and I’m liking the characters and stories on this one thus far. (watching via Hulu)

Grey’s Anatomy — I don’t watch Grey’s regularly, and it’s not uncommon for me to miss a couple seasons before I go back to it, but I do still enjoy the series quite a lot and I always go back to it. This month I finished S13 and nearly finished S14, and I’ll probably begin watching weekly again once S15 comes out. I’ve enjoyed the journey this series has taken over the years; I like the diversity of the cast; I like that there are lots of female leads; I like the importance sisterhood is given; and I like the character of Meredith without Derek. I know a couple of the main female leads will not be around next season, so I’m interested to see which other characters are brought to the forefront.  (watched/watching via Netflix for older seasons and Hulu for S14)

Escape to the Country (S18) — I watched an older season on Netflix last year and fell in love with the series: no one’s complaining about not enough/not big enough closets; no one’s complaining about counters not being granite or marble; no one’s complaining about appliances not being stainless steel; and actually, there is very little happening in the way of complaining, period. The scenery is gorrrrgeous — the rain and humidity required to sustain such greenness would make me crazy, but the green green green landscape and the lush English gardens sure are lovely to look at on my tv screen! (watching via Britbox, by way of Amazon Prime)

We added Britbox and PBS/Masterpiece to our Amazon Prime service this month, so I’m looking forward to delving into shows on both channels.

 

COOKED & BAKED (new-to-me recipes):  I got the itch to tinker around with different options for doctoring up a cake mix. I’m not quite sure why I got this particular itch because, other than pound cake and coffee cake, I’m not a big fan of cake! But I scratched the itch and made two attempts, and now I’m done :P.

Attempt 1:  I used info from one of the posts on CakeCentral,which called for: 1 box Duncan Hines cake mix + 4 large eggs + 1 stick of butter (melted) + 1 C whole milk + 1 T vanilla. Stir all together, then beat on medium speed for 3-4 minutes. I found that I had to cook this 10-15 minutes longer than the directions on the box, likely because of the additional egg and the added vanilla. The cake was moist and noticeably more dense than a typical box mix, which is what the result was supposed to be. Personally, I wasn’t a fan of the texture, but for people who like a more dense texture for cakes then this would fit the bill.

Attempt 2:  Using the above attempt, I used: 1 box Duncan Hines cake mix + 3 large eggs + 1/3 C butter melted) + 1 C whole milk + 1/2 T vanilla. I extended the baking time by about 5 minutes. I like the texture of this one much better, as it’s more like a typical box-mix cake. However, the outer edges of the cake got a little dry because of the added cooking time needed to get the middle of the cake completely cooked. I don’t think the substitutions of butter for oil and milk for water or the addition of vanilla made a noticeable difference in the taste.

 

FAVORITE PICS THIS MONTH:

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