Monday, January 18, 2021

January Cottage - Second Cross Stitch FFO for 2021

 "Darkness cannot drive out darkness;

only light can do that.

Hate cannot drive out hate;

only love can do that."

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was just thirty-nine years old when he was assassinated fifty-two years ago. 

His words still inspire all today on M.L.King, Jr. Day.

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience,

but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." 

Here is my latest cross stitch finish. The chart is from Country Cottage Needleworks. I'm not sure these images makes it clear, but there are various sizes of snowflakes in the background.

Stay safe. Have hope.

_________________           _________________        _________________

Joe Biden's Inauguration will take place on Wednesday. In preparation, 25,000 National Guard soldiers will be in Washington, D.C. Twelve foot fences with razor edges on top surround the Capitol. The city is locked down. Threats have been made across the country.

The death toll from Covid in the USA has reached 398,000. Expert fear that the number will reach half a million by mid-May.The world' s death toll has reached 2.03 million.

 Joe Biden faces seemingly insurmountable challenges: Covid, the economy, a divided nation. Let us pray for his success as his success will be ours. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Some Pretty Photos to Soothe the Soul

Hi Everyone, how are you doing??? 

Today, I thought I would share some photos that I shot yesterday with a new lens. These are my first attempts using this lens, and there will definitely be a learning curve. This orchid was a gift from my cousin Linda and her little guy when they visited earlier this month.

As you know, I love shooting photos of flowers and insects, and I have always liked the soft focus images of among others, Kathleen Clemons and Anne Belmont. One is able to create dreamy images a number of ways: using certain filters, placing diffusers over the lens, even something simple such as fogging a filtered protected lens with one's breath. All these techniques work, but I was looking for more. I watched two presentations in the past few months: one by Kathleen Clemons offered by Hunts Photo and Video and one by Anne Belmont which is available on the B&H Photo site. Both are users of Lensbaby lenses. Visit their websites to see stunningly beautiful images. Both also have various short videos on Youtube.

I ordered the Lensbaby Velvet 85 several months ago, but since it had been backordered, it did not arrive until a few days ago. Yesterday, it was finally warm enough to spend an hour on my sunporch and try out my new purchase. The light kept changing, and as I said these are only my first attempts. (There were  many unsuccessful shots.) It is a manual lens which presents some challenges, but it will give me something to work on in the days ahead. The images that I have posted here just hint at the potential of this lens. Hopefully, I may know what  I am doing by springtime. :-) 

One of the things that I did recall from the Anne Belmont presentation was her encouragement to shoot all parts of each subject, and so, taking this suggestion to heart I photographed the back of this blossom. It's one of my favorite images.

 Because it is an 85mm lens, it is also perfect for shooting portraits. Fortunately, my favorite subject was on hand. 
This marks the end of my happy, upbeat post. As always, please feel free to skip the material below the broken line.

Be safe. Have hope.
                        —————          —————          —————          —————

The truth is I am terrified of what may occur in the days ahead.
This afternoon just one week after the insurrection the House of Representatives voted to impeach Donald Trump for the second time. He will go down in infamy as the only President to be impeached twice. 

Photos today show armed National Guard members in combat gear sleeping on the floors in the corridors of Congress. This type of military protection has not happened since the days of the Civil War. 20,000 armed National Guard members will be on duty in the days leading up to the inauguration of Joe Biden.

The FBI has warned of possible attacks on all fifty statehouses in the days ahead. 

If you have not yet seen it, I urge you watch the  video by former Governor Arnold Schwarenegger .
It is a powerful message to the citizens of the United States and to the citizens of the world. Please watch it.

Pray for the safety of our President-elect, our Vice President-elect, our members of Congress, for our country and our democracy.

I wish you peace.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Frightening Times

What a horrendous week this has been. For me, the week had started well. With the turn of the new year, I have settled into a more productive routine. Indeed, on Wednesday I was looking forward to sharing some of my recent projects with you. Before sitting down to write my blog post,  I decided to turn on the TV to watch a bit of the electoral college coverage in Congress. Soon, a nightmare unfolded before our eyes. 

Now, I know that some will not want to read my impressions and thoughts about what happened, so as usual they will come at the end of this post below the broken line. Knowing that some may need to read something light, I will present that here first.

This Santa marks my second finish for the new year. It is a Prairie Schooler chart of Santa from 2016. There was quite a lot of stitching in this small piece which took me about two and a half weeks. In the original photo on the chart, it appeared to me that the reindeer had only three legs. I assume that the other back leg was supposed to be behind Santa, but it looked really strange to me, so I stitched in a fourth leg. I also used brighter floss than was indicated.

I made seven bitty boards (7x7)inches. What they are used for and how to make them may be found on this Lori Holt Youtube video.

For some reason, I am unable to load a photo of the Q snap grime guard that I also made. 

If you need a break from the news coverage, let me offer a suggestion, A Fisherman's Friends on Netflix. I had watched it Monday night and wanted to be sure to tell you about it. This film is based on a true story of a group of working fishermen living in Port Isaac on the Cornish coast. (If the locale appears familiar to you, it is where Doc Martin is filmed.) This group of fishermen who love singing sea shanties was discovered by a visiting music executive. You will definitely enjoy it!

Stay safe. Have hope. 

          _________________       ___________________       _____________________ 

Death toll in the United States from Covid  . . . 370,000.

On Wednesday morning, our unhinged President instigated a mob of what he called 'patriots' to rampage through the Capitol. Five people were killed in the mayhem. 

Images I will never forget from that day: the scene of hordes of rioters breaking through barriers and beating back Capitol Hill police to storm through the People's House in search of Vice President Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Polosi. The scene of a Congresswoman covering in terror on the floor holding the hand of a fellow lawmaker, and the guards with guns drawn at the barricaded door while instigators broke glass and tried to break down the door. I learned today that one of the men with the guards was an unarmed legislator who was determined to fight along side the guards to protect his fellow lawmakers. 

I did not know that the gas masks that legislators quickly donned are stored under their seats in the chambers. That this precaution is necessary is frightening.

The resolution of lawmakers to go back hours later and finish the work they had begun was inspiring.

I had been to Washington, DC, many times as a chaperone for school trips over the course of my teaching career, and I was always awed by the majesty of these buildings. To see what was happening there on Wednesday terrified me. I am terrified about what could happen over the course of the next ten days.

I  am praying for Joe Biden, for Kamala Harris, and for our democracy.


Monday, January 4, 2021

First Finish of 2021

Happy, Healthy New Year!!! Yes, here is my first finish for 2021. Now before you start patting me on the back, let me tell you the whole story.

I had laughed when I found this pattern last year as the cat in the Christmas sweater reminded me so much of my cousin Kristin's cat Franklin. Kristin's family has two cats; Bella who is a sweet, friendly cat, and then there is Franklin who is neither sweet nor very friendly. This is exactly the look Franklin would have given had anyone been foolish enough to attempt to put a sweater like this on him.

I also made a quilted wall hanging for  my cousin Linda's family as two years ago, Santa Claus had brought her two very good boys a sweet, white kitten all the way from the North Pole. Snowy is a wonderful addition to their family. If you would like to see the pieces that I made last year, please click here.

My neighbor had seen those pieces last year and thought they were wonderful. I knew then that I would make one featuring her two cats as a Christmas present this year.  I pulled fabric from my stash to match both cats, tucked away the strips used to make the sweater piece, the sparkly fabric for the ornaments, some cording, and a snowy background fabric. All this along with the pattern I placed in a bag knowing that I would have a whole year to get this piece done. Well, November rolled around, and it occurred to me that I should get started on it. Did I? Nope. Thanksgiving, such as it was, came and went and still I hadn't start working on it. Let me admit right here that I have one longstanding character flaw . . . I procrastinate. (I probably have other character flaws, but I don't believe they are relevant to this story. :-) 

Anyway, finally about the second week in December I started working on it for maybe a day or two. Then . . . you guessed it . . . I put it aside to work on other things. As I noted in my last post, when my neighbor brought over a gift for me on Christmas Eve afternoon, I showed her a pile of cut out pieces that would soon be her gift. 

When did I start really working on it in earnest? Sunday, December 27th. Procrastinator . . . At this point I stayed focused and was able to get it done by January 1 . . . only a week late. :-)

In fact, I accomplished a lot on January 1st. All of my outside decorations were put away including these ornaments that I hang on my railings and shepherd hooks around my yard. I corralled them in this sifter that I use to filter my compost. Though they have tight caps, you would be amazed how much water collects inside them, so I turn them over to let them drain before putting them away. They looked so bright and colorful that I had to grab a couple of shots.

The other highlight of the day was a socially distanced, masked visit from my cousin Linda and my favorite cub scout. He had Emma perform all of her tricks and played "Hide and Seek and Get a Treat." There was a whole lot of running going on in my backyard. Both Emma and I enjoyed their visit.


If you enjoy "Antiques Roadshow" and you have Netflix, check out "The Repair Shop."  It is a British program. Folks bring treasured items to "The Repair Shop" where a group of skilled craftsmen restore the items. On the first episode that I watched a butter churn, a suitcase, and a watch were the featured items. You meet the people who own the items, watch the painstaking process of repair, and then see the owners' reaction to the finished items. Now perhaps you are thinking . . . that doesn’t sound very exciting . . . Well, let me tell you it is interesting and is very relaxing to watch. Personally, in these trouble times, a little bit of interesting, informative, and entertaining is welcome. Try it; I think you will like it.

Last night, the film Jimmy Carter - Rock & Roll President played on CNN. It will no doubt be repeated, and I would encourage you to watch it. It talked about music, the 70's, and about Jimmy Carter the man who is so greatly admired for all that he has done since leaving office.

So, about that lifelong character flaw . . . I should work on it, but I think I will just put that off for a while. :-)

Stay safe.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Goodbye 2020

I thought that I would end this year with a photo to make you smile. It was sent by Emma's groomer at Pooch Paws in Hanover. They always send a Christmas card with a photo, but never with a set up such as this. :-)  My sweet Emma turned nine today; the years have flown by.

Below is a Christmas gift made by my neighbor.

I have been cross stitching and also working on a Christmas gift  . . . It's just a tad late. At this point only the binding need to be sewn down. I'll post a photo of this project in my next post.

Here are two more pillows for my red two-tiered tray.

 Recommendations: If you have Netflix, check out the second season of Virgin River. If you haven't watched season one, start there. This is a pleasant series. Virgin River might be an interesting place to live. I binge watched the whole second season over the course of three evenings. Good News . . . Netflix has announced that there will be a third season. Virgin River is based on the novels of Robyn Carr.

Second recommendation . . . The Paradise on Amazon Prime . . . This BBC/Masterpiece series centers around the people who work at and who shop at one of England's first department stores. It originally aired on PBS in 2013.
It's a strange New Year's Eve. Times Square will be empty except for a few small groups of first responders.  There will be musical groups performing, but no crowds of revelers. Actually, it's a fitting, strange end to this very strange year.  

I wish you a safe, healthy, creative, much happier year ahead.

_________________         ____________________       ______________________

 No Rose Bowl Parade this year. 

The other day I read that one in every 1,000 people in the United States has died from Covid. I thought that had to be a mistake; it wasn't.

Deaths from Covid throughout the world . . . 1,816, 118

Deaths from Covid in the United States . . . 345, 316

Deaths from Covid in Massachusetts . . . 12, 338

A new variant of the virus has appeared in England, and now it has also been detected in Colorado.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

"Merry & Minty" and Two Project Bags

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! I intended to write this post early this morning, but I was busy finishing a Christmas present. Wait . . . that's a big fat fib . . . I was just starting the piece. My neighbor had liked the quilted wall hangings that I had made for my cousins' last year, and so I wanted to make one for her this year. Unfortunately, I had not been able to get my act together. . . covid inertia . . . lack of motivation. She came to the door this morning with a gift for me, and in return I showed her a stack of oddly shaped, cut up pieces of fabric. I promised that her present would be completed soon. :-)

Above is my most recent cross stitch FFO (fully finished object), "Merry & Minty." Brenda Gervais had offered a four part free chart on her Facebook page, and I dare say cross stitchers around the world have been stitching it. I know this because I watch Flosstube videos on Youtube, and it appears to be a wildly popular chart. (Note: You do not need to belong to Facebook to download this chart.

I have also complete two vinyl project bags for my cross stitching. Don't you love this Christmas fabric? I receive emails from Cotton Weeds Quilt Shop in Freeport, ME, and last month they had a sale.  I took a look online and found this fabric. It’s perfect! I always stop at this lovely shop on my way to one of my favorite vacation spots, Boothbay Harbor. If Freeport sounds familiar that is because Freeport, Maine, is where you may visit the flagship store of L.L.Bean.

On January 1st, I'm starting a cross stitch piece that will last a year recording the temperature each day on a tree. So, of course, I needed to make a tree themed project bag. Rather than go into details about this cross stitch project here, I will show you my progress as I go along. Quilters will be familiar with this concept as there are various “temperature” quilt patterns.
Besides choosing my fabric, I love making the coordinating zipper pulls. This is one of my favorites.
Speaking of quilters, have I got a tip for you!!! This morning I got a small area of sticky stuff (technical term) on my iron. What was I to do? I know there are many ways to remove this junk, but I had an idea and so I grabbed one of these sheets. Wow!!! It worked great. First I put the sheet down and then ironed over it. The iron was on a low setting. There was still a tiny bit of residue, so I picked up the sheet and rubbed it on the spot which returned my iron to its pristine condition. I was quite pleased with myself and wanted to share this tip with you.
One of the reasons that I got a late start working on the gift was because I was watching an old Christmas movie, "All Mine to Give" from 1951 on TCM. It was one of the saddest movies that I have ever seen. If you want a darn good cry, this movie is for you! You can find it on various streaming services but please be sure to have a full box of tissues beside you. Even sadder, I looked up information on the movie and found it was based on a true story. Overview: after the death of his parents, a twelve year old boy on Christmas must find homes for his little brothers and sisters. What a tearjerker!!! If someone had come to my front door, I would not have been able to answer as I had cried all through the last part of the movie!!!

Last Saturday, we had a blizzard; tonight we are expecting very strong winds and lots of rain. The newscasters and weather people keep reminding us to have our devices charged, flashlights ready, etc. as power outages are expected. The electric companies already have their crews in place all over the state. According to tonight's news, about a third of the country will be suffering the effects from this storm. Selfishly, I hope that we do not lose power as my freezer is stuffed within an inch of its life. At least if the power goes out, the temperature tomorrow will be in the balmy 50 to 60 degree range. Merry Christmas to us all!

This is longer than I thought it would be but let me leave you with a few photos of the creche figures that I inherited from my aunts. Usually, I display them on my fireplace mantle, but this year I displayed them across the piano top where they are less crowded. The book, A Dream of Christmas Eve, on the left is one that I have had since childhood. It is a richly illustrated story of our Saviour's birth and incorporates a visit from Saint Nick to the stable. The story is told in rhyme form.

That's it.  This is a difficult time for many this year. I wish you peace and may you all be safe, healthy, creative, and happier in the year ahead.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Holiday Traditions in the Time of Covid

 The storm started late on Wednesday night and continued throughout most of Thursday. Thankfully, it wasn't too difficult to shovel, and my awesome neighbors take care of my driveway with their snowblowers. I just have to shovel the front steps, about three feet in front of the garage door, a section of the deck, the steps down from the deck, and an area for Miss Emma. I went out a few times to keep up with it, but it wasn't bad. We had a freeze on Friday which allowed Miss Emma to walk on the surface of the snow. Yesterday and today it is a few degrees warmer, so she sinks down into it. She gets her exercise trying to walk about the backyard.  Due to the blowing and drifting it would be hard to get a true measure, but I would say ten to twelve inches.  All in all, a medium size storm unlike parts of upstate New York and Vermont that received thirty-five to forty inches. Yikes!!! I cannot even imagine having to deal with that amount.

 So, back to the title of this post.  My cousins' dad and his wife always host a pre-Christmas family get together, and I am delighted to be included. With Covid, an in-person party would not be possible, so this is what we did. The gifts for each family were dropped at their dad's home which was the most central spot for all. I delivered my gifts early Wednesday morning. On Friday around noon, there was a knock on the door, and it was my cousin Brian (the dad of the triplets who are now fifteen!!! . . . Some of my readers will remember when they were born.) Besides a gift, he also brought me a delicious lunch. :-) He stood on the front walk and I was at the door; we were both masked. It was a lovely surprise.  

On Saturday, my cousin Kristin called to say she was driving over with gifts from her family and the family of my cousin Linda. Since by tradition, we have Chinese food at this pre-Christmas get together, I called in an order, and she picked it up when she drove through Weymouth Landing. While waiting for her, I shoveled out a Covid safe conversation spot. :-)  :-)   :-)

I sat in front of the garage eight to ten feet away. :-)

Our zoom pre-Christmas get together started at 5:00. My cousin Linda hosted the zoom meeting. She had a wheel which determined whose turn it was to open a gift, and each family had ordered Chinese food.

  I have to say that it really was great fun. We would have preferred to be together in person, but this was the next best thing. I grabbed this screenshot to remember the occasion. God willing we will all be together next year.

Oh, just in case you are curious as to what I was wearing, it was a Santa hat with reindeer antlers . . . yes, just the touch of sophisticated elegance for which I am known.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Have hope.