Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

We had a great Christmas week last week -- here we are all dressed up for church Christmas eve. Steve got me some pajamas (sorely needed), Harrison found me Mary Roach's new book "Packing for Mars," and I got some really cool gifts from friends -- a homemade tote with one of her grandmother's antique buttons from Jennifer, a custom art piece and spinner rack display from Sue, a French Rolling pin from my brother-in-law Bob and ANOTHER one from his girlfriend Cathy...and more...

Mom scored me some great Tupperware (which has become very hard to find), and Dad pruned my hedges, fixed my spinner racks at the shop, vacuumed, and did a few other odd jobs. Much-appreciated!

The boys helped my dad put pine straw around the plants outside. We have this really neat bush...I don't know what it is, but it always gives me these bright pink and yellow flowers at Christmas.

Since moving to the south, I have learned to make gumbo. I use Emeril Lagasse's recipe that you can find on the Food Network web site. I make my own roux, which Steve insisted on stirring this time. It was delicious chicken and sausage gumbo, a perfect dish to serve on a cold Christmas eve.

Christmas morning I got up and baked two pies and made "Little Devils" with the pie crust leftovers (on the left.) Graham named them "Little Devils" when he was one himself, and that name stuck. Basically, it's just the scraps cut off the edges dusted with sugar and cinnamon and baked. They always go quickly.

I am kind of known for my pie-making skills in my family, and I thought I'd share my recipe with you. I have used lots of different recipes, and this one works the best for me, producing a flaky crust, as long as I handle it properly...

Theresa's Apple Pie:


2/3 cup plus 2 Tablespoons COLD Margarine (I use Blue Bonnet)
2 cups all-purpose flour (I use White Lily, since I live in the south now)
Sprinkle of table salt
ICE water

Using a pastry knife/blender, cut the margarine into the flour until margarine is pea-sized. Sprinkle in a little salt. Put in several teaspoons of ICE COLD WATER. This is important. Start mixing by hand. You want the dough to just barely come together (add a little more water if it still seems dry). THEN STOP!!!! The less you handle the dough, the better it will be. Chill it in the fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap, as long as you like (you can also freeze it.)

While the dough is chilling, peel and slice up about five or six Granny Smith apples (these are perfect for pies). Sprinkle liberally with white sugar, cinnamon, and about a Tablespoon or so of flour. Mix it up. The flour will help your apples make a sticky sauce. My mom adds butter to the innards. I always figure it's some calories I won't miss, but knock yourself out if you like.

Halve, then roll out both pieces of the dough. You're going to need to sprinkle flour on a flat surface, and roll with a rolling pin. Lay one in the bottom of an 8 or 9 inch pie plate, pour your apples in there, lay on the top piece of crust (I cut a couple of slits in there to let the pie breathe), and sprinkle the top with white sugar. Pinch the crust shut around the edges, slice off the extra crust, and bake at 350 degrees until the pie starts to brown.

Since they're so delicious, make some Little Devils by putting your extra crust pieces on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. These only need about ten minutes or so...and they won't last that long once they're out of the oven.

Merry Christmas, everybody, and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat

Graham said last night: "Boy, Christmas snuck up on me this year." It's the same day every year, but it seems like when you least expect it, there is Christmas staring you square in the face. I wanted to share a few of my ornament finishes with you.

These are block ornaments I made for my nephews -- I used a scrap of 29 ct. Natural Glenshee, and 2" wooden blocks that I bought for 99 cents at Hobby Lobby. A little paint in two different colors, and a quick finish with the stitched design stretched over a piece of cereal box...they're really cute. After this picture was taken, they got teacup hook hangers in an antique bronze color. Oh, and the pattern is an older Prairie School pattern.

This set of ornaments I made for friends. I could only find FOUR wooden blocks that were big enough for the boys' ornaments, so I found these little paper mache boxes (also 99 cents) at Hobby Lobby. Same two colors of paint (a sage green and a light brushing of brick red.) And I mounted these using some cool sticky tape that mimics hot glue (without the heat.) These don't get hangers -- I finish some ornaments without hangers, so they can nestle on a branch.

And this last one is for my niece, Claire. She's very smart and sweet, and I found this old pattern by Monsterbubbles in a Just Cross Stitch ornament issue. I had torn this page out, but didn't get the supply list. I used a scrap of Lakeside Linen (this piece of fabric is probably ten years old or more), and plain old DMC floss. The original was done in green dots and black letters on pink fabric, but I went with shades of pink/red, and left some of the dots out. It turned out really cute, I think...and see if you can figure out "the joke." I'm hoping Claire can figure it out.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Heeeeeere's Giblet

We bought a bird feeder for our cats (yes, the cats) earlier this year, and it has given them more hours of enjoyment than we could ever have imagined. Plus, we now have some very fat cardinals and finches in our neighborhood.

On the left is our new kitten, Giblet. She is about five months old now, and was abandoned by her owner (along with another kitten, who has also been adopted.) She is a regular member of the family already. Here are some things Giblet has checked off of her "to do" list so far:

* Fall into a bathtub full of water
* Unravel an entire ball of hemp string
* Climb Theresa like a tree (multiple times)
* Sit in the Christmas tree branches
* Bat the ornaments (of course)
* Step through Theresa's birthday violets
* Purr, and purr, and purr, and purr (check!)

I'm not sure what else she's got on her list, but we sure like having her around.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Nuclear Cookies and a Supply List for Ann Grant

My mom is having a great time this December, her first "free" December in twenty years. She worked at a department store in Omaha and just retired in January. So, she's busy catching up on twenty years of cookie baking and merry making. She dusted off an old recipe of my Grandma Carmen's for Springerles...German Cookies/Biscuits that call for a very special (a.k.a. "weird") ingredient.

Baking Ammonia. Baking. AMMONIA.

My mom has had her current little vial of Baking Ammonia for almost 40 years. It's a little green glass bottle with white crystals inside. When I was a child, out of curiosity, I uncapped the vial one day and took a big whiff. And I just about fell off the stool I had dragged over to the cupboard where the spices were kept. It really does smell like...ammonia.

Baking Ammonia is used in items that are rolled flat and it leaves almost no flavor (unlike Baking Soda, which will add a slightly bitter taste to cookies; the more you add, the more bitter they taste.) Mom did a lot of research to see if 40-year-old Baking Ammonia was safe. A pharmacist told her it has a very long shelf life, and as long as it still bubbled in a little milk, it was good. Mom made the cookies, and to be sure she ate one first before giving any to her friends. I had joked: "Does the recipe also call for weapons-grade plutonium?" If she starts glowing at night, we'll know it was the cookies.

Anyway, here's the recipe. You can easily find Springerle rolling pins online. And the Baking Ammonia is also an ingredient you can order on the Internet. But you're going to have to supply your own elbow grease.

Grandma Carmen's Springerles

8 eggs
4 cups sugar
pinch salt
1/4 tsp Baking Ammonia
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
7 cups flour
Anise seeds

Beat eggs 15 minutes. Add sugar and salt and beat for 20 minutes more. Dissolve Baking Ammonia and Baking Soda in 1 Tbsp. warm milk. Add to above mixture and stir well. Gradually add the flour on a slow speed.

Sprinkle lightly-greased cookie sheets with anise seeds. You will need 4 large cookie sheets. Using additional flour, roll out the dough to 1/4"-1/2" and cut into squares. (Press lightly with a mold or your Springerle rolling pin, if you're lucky enough to have one).

Place on cookie sheets and cover with kitchen towels over night in a cool place (or at least 10 hours). Bake at 325 only until the bottom of the cookie is LIGHTLY browned. Do not over-bake. It might only take six or seven minutes. As soon as they are cool, place them in tightly-covered containers, separating the layers with waxed paper.

People are almost wetting themselves over Ann Grant's sampler (above.) It is graphed. The supplies have now been sent to the model stitcher, and we will all have to patiently wait for dear Kathy to stitch the darn thing. I thought I'd post a list of supplies for y'all, just in case anyone wants to be absolutely ready to get started on this when it's done. It's going to be lovely.

Stitch count: 293 by 347 -- Fabric is 32 count Vintage Sand Dune (Lakeside Linens)

Gloriana Silk Floss: Schoolhouse Red, Pecan
Thread Gatherer Silk N Colours: Camelot's Lady, Potter's Clay
Belle Soie: Chocolat, Baguette
Au Ver a Soie: 2635, 3812, 3431, 3745, 3815
Needlepoint Silk: 993, 222

It is possible you will need more than one skein of a few of these...I won't know for sure until the model is stitched. I will also be doing a conversion to Sampler Threads and to DMC floss. Autumn Gold linen by Lakeside Linens would be absolutely gorgeous for this ... I hated to choose that color, because Pat has to dye that color twice, and there's going to be a stampede for linen when this comes out. I do have a list of people who have pre-ordered the sampler graph. Feel free to hop on the Ann Grant boat.

In personal news...just to catch up a little...we have a new cat. You might remember we had to put dear Abigail to sleep a few weeks ago. Steve found another cat (I am certainly outnumbered.) Her name is Giblet (we adopted her the day after Thanksgiving, so she is named for "the edible offal of a fowl, typically the heart, gizzard, liver and other visceral organs." Steve's mom makes giblet gravy every year (VERY English). I don't eat the gravy, but I do like our little Giblet. I'll post a picture soon. (She's a "mutt," but looks like a Russian Blue.)

Also, I am busy stitching on a Christmas stocking for my nephew Tate (it's an original design that I will release next year. Will post a picture when it's done.) And I have some ornament finishing to do yet. I actually am looking forward to doing some holiday stitching when I take a few days off next week for Christmas. Mom and Dad will be here from South Carolina...maybe she'll bring me some nuclear cookies?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Oysters and Pearls

I pick Graham up after school every day, and I've always loved that luxury. I get to hear about the day while it's still fresh in his mind.

Yesterday he was upset, because his classmates and teacher were angry at him in math class. During an electronic math game, he didn't work his math problems quickly enough, and so his class didn't beat the other class. The electronic nature of the game meant Graham's answers could have remained anonymous, but the teacher indicated it was Graham and then called him a name. Graham became teary while telling me the story, and then I did, too.

I mulled it over last night, and remembered what it was like to get in trouble in school (especially in front of my peers). I was an excellent student, but took any mistake of mine and brooded on it, often for years.

In third grade, I accidentally tripped my teacher Mrs. Stern (yes, her real name.) We were walking to gym class, and I was first in line behind the teacher. The girl next in line bumped into me, and I tripped forward, causing the 70-something-year-old Mrs. Stern to go crashing down onto the linoleum. She didn't get hurt, but I quickly went from being Teacher's Pet to Enemy Number One. She stood by my desk that afternoon, tapping on it with her long fingers, saying she had told us many times not to walk so close behind her. I felt completely ashamed, and after that, she was wary of me.

That quarter, I got an S-minus in "Listens to and follows directions."

I never told anyone at home about it, but this was one of those moments that burrowed into my head and didn't come out for years. I watered and cared for a few other similar situations to punish myself with whenever I was feeling anxious or sad. At the time, it made me feel like I was probably a bad person.

So this morning on the way to school, I said: Graham, let me tell you something.

A teacher's job is very difficult and stressful. And I would guess most teachers go into teaching to help all of the students, not just the ones for whom school is easy. When you were having trouble in math yesterday, your class was frustrated, and so was your teacher. But she should not have done what she did. Everybody makes mistakes, even teachers, and she made one yesterday. You need to forgive her for that.

Don't let what happened continue to bother you anymore. I used to beat myself up over little things I did wrong, for years. For years, Graham. And that's ridiculous. You're going to make mistakes, just like I did. Just like everyone does, and you have to let them go.

I've come to think of it like this, Graham. Do you know what an oyster does when it gets a little piece of sand inside?

"Yeah," he said. "It makes a pearl."

Well, I said, it does make a pearl. But instead of spitting that piece of sand out, an oyster keeps the sand, and adds to it, and adds to it, trying to make it smoother and feel better. In reality, it just keeps making it bigger and bigger. And we do that, too, with worries. We keep them inside and work on them, and they get bigger than they need to be. Just spit them out, Graham. Does that make sense?

He thought a moment. "You know," he said, "that's a very good analogy."

Do you feel better? I asked.

"A little," he said.

I still have times where I let myself or someone else down. I'm not perfect. But I know those moments don't define me. And instead of sucking on those moments, I just forgive myself. Then I spit them out.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Farewell, friend

Yesterday we said a very premature farewell to Harrison's cat, Abigail. He adopted her from our local shelter early this year, and she was a beautiful cat. She was, Southern Pines thought, about one year old when she was pulled off the streets, and I'm sure she had some cold months before finding the warmth and security of the shelter of the ... well, shelter.

In August (in fact, the day this picture was taken) I came home from work to find Abigail with two different-sized pupils...one very large, and one small. I rushed her to the vet, who looked her over, did some tests, and sent us home with some medication for a possible eye infection (although neither one of us thought that's what she had.)

Over time, our poor Babs became incontinent, lost her appetite, became constipated, had a few seizures, and eventually had lost so much weight she was becoming weak and wobbly. We took her to the vet again yesterday morning (Steve and I), and he said we had run out of treatments (we had tried a bunch.) Dr. Ricks told us she was on that terrible downward slide toward death, and if we let her, she'd survive until she was just bones and skin. That's not much of a life. We decided there and then for a peaceful end for her. The doctor is convinced she had either a neurological disorder or a brain tumor, uncommon in cats, but not unheard of.

We held her while she became drowsy from the sedative, and the doctor took her from us. She is being buried on a farm near town here. I tell myself that she was lucky to have had time with a family -- the warmth of sunny windows, companionship of other cat friends, good food and table treats, cozy laps and gentle brushings. And while I try to take solace in the ten months or so we had with her...it just doesn't seem like enough.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Introducing Miss Ann Grant

Here she is ... Ann Grant's lovely sampler from 1829. This sweet girl was just ten when she stitched this massive piece. It's about 21 inches by 22 inches and stitched in wools on a 28 count linen. You can click on the picture to see it a little larger. Here is what the verse says:

In the soft season of thy youth
In natures smiling bloom
Ere age arrive and trembling wait
Its summons to the tomb

Remember your creator God
For him your powers employ
Make him your fear your love your hope
Your confidence and joy

Ann Grant worked this sampler in the
10th year of her age 1829

It's always fun for me to reproduce a sampler on the computer, because I can really see the piece come to life. Areas that are faded suddenly stand out. Patches that are worn or missing show back up in the graph, and it's such a joy to see how the original looked when it was new.

I bought this sampler from madelena.com -- I've purchased a number of samplers from this United Kingdom supplier. I hadn't really been looking for a new/old sampler to buy, but found this sampler one morning on their site and immediately claimed it. There are a few things that drew me to this sampler.

First, the colors are lovely. Any time there is red in a sampler, I am immediately interested. There's something about the color red that just makes art look alive. And red when combined with pinks and putty-beiges just knocks me out.

The house is fabulous -- I love that it's 3-dimensional (you can see the front and the right side.) Four chimneys. A 3-dimensional lawn, too, which is slightly unusual (the fence wraps around the left, you see.) My husband said he really likes the tree, which is big and over-flowing with flowers, leaves and birds. There are butterflies, birds, a dog, a fancy peacock, a few moths, a parrot, a rabbit, and a TINY man to the left of the tree.

There's also something about those three dividing bands around the verse I really enjoy. It's unusual ... striped berries and some leafy stars. They'd make great designs for banding around a basket.

Since I have the border finished, I can also tell you that this piece was stitched on a slightly unevenweave fabric. The sampler is almost square, but the piece, when stitched on evenweave linen, will be taller and thinner than the original.

I wanted to share a picture, because I know you guys enjoy seeing what's next on the agenda. The plan is for this one to be released in time for Nashville Market in February. I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's almost Halloween...

...so I threw a big party on Sunday night with my Hattiesburg friends. On the menu was chicken salad sandwiches on croissants (I put chopped pecans, granny smith apples and grapes in my homemade chicken salad), hot spiced cider, cheesy potatoes, pumpkin dip with apples and gingersnaps, and lots of food contributed by my friends.

I used to dress up every year, even as an adult, but hadn't done it for a while. Originally, I had thought about being a witch (not very original, I know), but then decided on a vampire after finding out my friend Sharon was going to be a witch (two witches at a party is nothing but trouble!) A vampire is, sadly, also not very original, but it was fun anyway. Steve was a punk rocker, Harrison was a Bavarian, and Graham was a zombie (although he didn't want any face paint.)

I wanted to come up with a cool centerpiece for the table for the party, but not spend a ton o' money on it. Paper boxes were on sale at Hobby Lobby last week, so I bought three hat box style boxes to paint like a Halloween cake (maybe $10 or so total?) Sunday morning I took a couple of hours and painted like crazy, not caring if I was sloppy (because this was supposed to look folksy.) Black and chartreuse and tangerine and grape paint and lots of Halloween motifs and patterns were topped with a dry-brushing of black and then a spray of glitter paint I found in the cupboard.

I think it really turned out cute, and as you can see, Ruby (who went to the party as a black cat, naturally) was all tuckered out the next morning after all the ruckus.

In other news, I bought a sewing machine. I've been inspired lately by a lot of the small craftsy projects that are out there (I just picked up a copy of Prims magazine last week -- so cute!) Alas, my sewing machine is 20 years old and gets all grumpy when I stitch (knotting up the thread, clogging the bobbin, stomping it's presser foot.) My mom has a Bernina, which she loves, and I wanted to get one that will last me another 20 years of happy sewing (and no foot stomping.) Very exciting -- I know these machines are high quality, and so although I will not be quilting (I don't do that sort of thing well), you will see some designs of mine for fun-finished projects now, as well as my framed pieces. Next on the agenda -- I want to learn how to make ruched ribbon for edging.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Halloween week -- before you know it, we'll be singing Christmas carols!

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Japanese Maple

A good while back, Steve and I were walking through Baker Nursery in Fargo, North Dakota, looking at plants. Near a door was a beautiful and delicate-looking tree in a large concrete pot. The leaves were an ethereal purple-red, and almost translucent. "Japanese Maple," the tag said. "$150."

An employee walked by, and we stopped him to ask about the tree.

"Do these grow here?" I asked.

"Oh, no," the employee said. "They'll never survive the winter."

"Then why are you selling it?"

"Well, we have some people who buy them kind of like an annual. They plant one, it eventually dies, then they just come replace it the next year," he said.


I was thinking about that tree again this week. A person's first reaction might be: "What kind of fool do you have to be to plant a $150 tree, knowing full well it's going to die in a few months?" I must not be in a tax bracket where this kind of logic makes sense.

But imagine if instead of planting a doomed tree, the person had planted a crabapple tree, or a lilac, or an oak, all of which love the northern climate. Eventually, the shade and beauty of that tree would be enjoyed by an entire neighborhood. Birds could nest there. Flowers could be gathered. The fall flame of leaves would signal the beginning of winter, and the buds...the promise of spring.

How often we try to be who we're not. Are you flowering in the constraints you've given yourself? Be yourself! Wear jeans and tennies. Eat a big old cookie for lunch. Spend the entire weekend reading. Adopt a few dogs. Throw your hair in a ponytail. Laugh at lowbrow jokes. Go to a few garage sales.

There is definitely a time for doing the things you SHOULD do. But for sure make time to do things you WANT to do and things you're naturally good at. (End your sentences with prepositions!) Who cares? Be interesting, because life is short like summer.

Oh, you've got a little food on your face...right there. No, there. Never mind!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Post Market Report

We didn't take many pictures (we were so busy), and then the few I had of me, I look so dreadful and tired. I found this one of my booth, and by making it black and white and stepping it back a bit, I don't look too awful.

I am exhausted! You people have no idea how much work it is getting ready for market, and I am so much more than pleased to do it for you. The previous eight weeks or so have been almost nothing but needlework...designing, stitching, framing, graphing, printing, packing, kitting. And I had eight new designs (between Shakespeare's Peddler and Raise the Roof Designs) and a t-shirt project (see below.) I missed having Sue along with me this time, but Harrison stepped in and stepped up to the challenge, packing orders like a pro.

And the cool thing about having Harrison there (see him above in his nifty Jenny Bean T-shirt), was that he got to see first-hand what I do when I go away twice a year. And the distributors and other designers said, "Your mom is so awesome," and "Did you have any idea how hard she works?" and "Your mom is super-talented." It made me feel good, and Harrison was proud enough that when we got back home, I got a big hug.

I just finished updating my web site's Theresa's Basket section with almost 100 new things that I brought back with me. Others are forth-coming. Since I wasn't able to start leaving the booth until later on Saturday, I missed some items that were really popular.

I also have a few other designers who have been invited to join in on the Jenny Bean & Friends club...won't post names until I know for sure, but they all gave me a tentative "yes." Lizzie Kate, SamSarah Designs, Primitive Needle and Chessie & Me all said their Jenny Bean Friends charts did well, and there are other samplers already planned in the series.

I want to give a huge thanks to all of you who attended market...shops, designers, distributors and the like. It's wonderful to see everyone, and the weekend always goes by so quickly. TNNA has asked me to teach at the Nashville show, which ought to be cool. I'm not going to even think about designing stuff for that and my retreats next year until ... oh, gosh, I don't know when. I can't even think straight anymore.

I am not needleworked-out, but I am looking forward to a relaxing weekend at home with a cat on my lap (while I nap? Please, while I nap!)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

St. Charles Market Post

I was up at 5:30 -- there are always a hundred things running through my head during this time of year, and it's just as well to get up and get a few things done.

Market so far has been awesome! Everyone has been loving the new Jenny Bean Sampler, especially, and my This is Christmas piece I designed for Raise the Roof Designs. Also, there has been loads of enthusiasm about Jenny Bean's friends. Linda from Chessie & Me, Patti from SamSarah Design Studio and Linda from Lizzie*Kate have all already said their friends are going to design more samplers. Yesterday I talked to Amy from AB Designs, and she is interested in joining the group, too.

Yesterday morning I was up early, showered, had breakfast, and worked on getting the booth finished up. I had a line outside my door before market opened, and I thought, "Gee, I was never this popular in school. You like me. You really like me." Harrison described the first four hours as "intense." He worked on getting orders packed into bags, and did a great job. By the end of the day, he said he knew the inventory like the back of his hand, and had even done some rearranging for better efficiency.

We went to historic Main Street St. Charles and had dinner at a place called "Quintessential." It was a hip bar & grill where we were able to eat dinner on the roof and listen to live music. We both had this really great chicken dish. We thought it was your typical chicken breast with sides, but it turned out to be three small chicken breasts on a tri-sectioned plate. Each one was done in a different style: one jerk with pineapple salsa, one with black beans and cilantro, and one with a curry rice. Yum! After such a long day, we opted for dessert -- he had cheesecake, and I had an apple galette.

I always like to rearrange the booth a little bit on Sunday, because people see things they missed the first day. I'll go grab breakfast, and get ready for another big day. Market always gets me so rejuvenated. All the weeks/months of preparation have been worth it.

I'll post again later, hopefully with pictures.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Just the facts.

The wait is over. Here is what will be available at market this weekend designed/reproduced by little ole me. Special thanks go out to Kathy Krause and Jennifer Regan for helping me with my stitching. You can click on any of the pictures to see them a little bigger and better.

This is Christmas (Raise the Roof). Frame by Crescent Colours and button pack available through Just Another Button Co. Fabric is 32 count Natural Belfast. Threads are a mix of Sampler Threads/Weeks Dye Works/Crescent Colours. A DMC conversion is provided. Stitch count is about 110 by 180.

Winter & Christmas (Raise the Roof). Fabrics are Parchment and Denim Blue Gingham by Weeks Dye Works. Fibers by Weeks Dye Works. A DMC conversion is provided. Button pack and pins available through Just Another Button Co.

Sampler Roundy (Shakespeare's Peddler). Available as a kit (limited edition), and a graph. Fabric is 32 count Vintage Meadow Rue by Lakeside Linens (not included in kit). Kit comes with limited edition threads, reproduction antique brass button, chart and instructions for making the pincushion base. I also am making pincushion bases for sale (if you don't want to bother with it.) Graph uses limited edition Harvest pack by The Gentle Art. I have these for sale to shops and stitchers.

Spanish Mystery Sampler (Shakespeare's Peddler reproduction). Fabric is 40 count Vintage Light Exemplar by Lakeside Linens. Threads are Belle Soie, Needlepoint Silks and Gloriana. Conversion to DMC and Sampler Threads is provided. Stitch count is about 500 by 320. Frame is by Valley House Primitives.

Jenny Bean's Friendship Sampler (Shakespeare's Peddler original design). Fabric is 40 count French Vanilla by R&R Reproductions. Threads are Sampler Threads, and a conversion is provided to DMC. Frame is by Eastside Mouldings.

Jenny Bean's Christmas 2010 Ornament (Shakespeare's Peddler original design). Fabric is 40 count Vintage Meadow Rue by Lakeside Linens. Threads are by Crescent Colours (Belle Soie). Conversion to DMC provided.) The ornament base was something I found at Hobby Lobby and painted. Then I strung a chain through it. Easy-schmeasy!

Halloween Towne (Raise the Roof). Crescent Colours is distributing this. All four parts come together as one piece with the Belle Soie silks. Button pack is by Just Another Button Company. Fabric is 32 count Vintage Pearled Barley by Lakeside Linens.

Father Sail Home (Shakespeare's Peddler original design). Fabric is 40 count Vintage Meadow Rue by Lakeside Linens. Threads are a limited edition thread pack by The Gentle Art, but a conversion to their regular line and DMC is provided. Pencil box by Olde Colonial Designs.

I hope you like all of my new designs. These are available from me, they will be at market this weekend, and you can most likely get them at your local shop (bug them to get an order in, would ya?) A lot of hard work goes into designing, stitching, framing, charting, organizing, printing, stuffing, and just getting these babies ready for your hands. If any of you asks me "is this all you've got?" -- you're going to get a knuckle sandwich.

Happy stitching!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Spanish Mystery Sampler: Finished

I just put this beautiful sampler in the frame, and oh my, it's a stunner. I wish you could see it in person -- delicate blue, golds, white and pretty repeating bands and interesting alphabets. The frame is by Valley House Primitives and will retail for $130.00 (this is for the 40 count linen frame size).

The linen is Lakeside Linens Vintage Light Exemplar with a mix of Gloriana, Belle Soie and Needlepoint Silks (not too many colors.) Thank you so much to my good friend, Kathy Krause, for her many diligent hours spent stitching this for us. She did a wonderful job, and said it was a fun one to do.

The charts are available for pre-order now through me, or ask your shop to get them at market. If your local shop won't be attending, they will be able to order this in several weeks from Norden Crafts, Yarn Tree and Hoffman Distributing. The chart will retail for $20.00, and comes with the graph and writing about the original sampler.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Just for you guys...

I finished working on this last night, and as a treat to my loyal blog followers, you guys get to see it first. This is "Sampler Roundy," and it is being released as a graph AND a limited edition kit at market. I was just going to do the alphabet in a circle, kind of clock fashion, but then started moving letters around, and my Boggle mind (no one will play with me, the master), started seeing words. If you like word puzzles, or know someone who does, wouldn't this be fun to put on a desk?

The kit will come with the antique reproduction brass button and the limited edition threads (in a round tin.) I am not including fabric -- everyone likes a different count or type (I stitched mine on 32 count Vintage Meadow Rue by Lakeside Linens, but you could use Aida, evenweave, hand-dyed, make it small...bigger...whatever!) Both the graph and the kit will come with instructions on how to make this pincushion base (that cost me maybe five dollars all told) and finish it into the pincushion you see here. I used three different-sized round plaques from Hobby Lobby, some Arlene's Tacky Glue, some paint, and a little rick rack. Oh, and adhesive cork for the bottom, so as not to scratch any of my already-scratched furniture.

This sort of reminds me of a cake stand, and was a really fun little project. Plus, I am super-pleased with how it came out. Ask your shop to pick these up at market. I'm only making around 250 of the kits. You can also pre-order the kit or graph through me.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sneak Peek Number Three...Almost There

I just finished stretching and framing Jenny Bean's Friendship Sampler. I'll take a more "artistic" shot for the chart cover, but hey, now you get to see 3/4 of the sampler AND the wonderful frame by Eastside Mouldings. When I designed the piece, I wasn't sure I liked this third house...seemed weird to me. But when I'd go to change it, I'd keep coming back to it. And once I stitched it, I loved it! The roof is very cute, and the colors are strange, and look at my cats! In the corner you'll see Boo and Ruby. You can stitch colors of your favorite cats and their initials. In a week, I'll post a picture of the whole thing. LOTS of people are pre-ordering this one, and shops are chomping at the bit. Yea!

And since you're all such kind and good people, here is another market sneak peek. It's "Father Sail Home." This is finished in an Olde Colonial Pencil Box I bought at the last market, because I thought it was so cool. It's stitched in Sampler Threads, and shops can pick up this limited edition set at market. But there is a conversion to their regular line and to DMC, too. I was thinking...pencils...school...little girl. And then I just got to daydreaming about a little girl named Emeline whose father had just sailed off for adventure (or work.) Kids still miss their moms and dads when they have to travel, and it's always so nice when the whole family is together again. Hope you like it. Thanks (again) to my good friend Kathy for stitching this for us.

I accomplished quite a bit this weekend. I finished my Jenny Bean 2010 Christmas ornament, and I also designed and have almost finished stitching a sampler round pincushion that will be released as a limited edition kit at market (it'll come in a tin with the limited edition threads and finishing instructions.) I'm still hacking away at market things. This week will see the printing of many a graph.

Today is my son's fourteenth birthday -- happy birthday, Graham! You're so cool!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sneak Peek #2: Jenny Bean's Friendship Sampler

As promised, here's sneak peek number two (if you click on the picture, you can see it larger). This sampler was a lot of fun to stitch, and you can pre-order from me, or make sure to have your local shop pick some up at market. I can also take orders from shops and ship right after market (this might be faster than waiting for the distributors.) Next week, I'll show another quarter of the piece...and the week of market you'll get to see the whole thing in the frame (I'm still waiting for that to come in.)

We had a relatively quiet Labor Day weekend. Graham stayed home with a cold on Friday, and then promptly shared it with the rest of us. No big deal -- we're all feeling better, and I did get lots of stitching done. I finished two new pincushions (they will go with some pin sets from Just Another Button Co.), and designed and started stitching Jenny Bean's Christmas ornament for 2010, which will go nicely with the Friendship Sampler.

One cool thing we did this weekend: Thanksgiving Dinner! Sunday, for fun, I roasted a turkey breast, and made homemade stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, and even bought a can of cranberries (it was the best I could do there...no fresh or frozen ones in the store.) It was DELICIOUS! What a treat! Everyone kept saying: "Oh my gosh, this is sooo good." We ate until we were too full, and then I think a few of us took naps. Who says you can only have that meal once a year? It's easy to cook, and so delicious (and inexpensive...I spent way less on that dinner than if we had gone out to eat.) And the leftovers (what little there were) tasted delightful.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

OK, so this is cheating...

This isn't a Shakespeare's Peddler piece, but it is designed by ME and it is sampler-y. I designed this under the Raise the Roof Designs label for Crescent Colours, and this will be released in a few weeks at market. It's called "Halloween Towne," and shops can pre-order with Sharon at Crescent Colours (or pick up packs at market.) This will come out as ALL ONE PIECE (rather than four separate pieces.) The charts will come with the silks, but no buttons or fabric (retail price will be $28.00).

In case ya need to know, the button packs can be ordered through Just Another Button Company, and the fabric is 32 ct. Vintage Pearled Barley by Lakeside Linens (shops: you can get three to a half yard cut.) Hope you like it -- so fun to get this in the mail today, since I hadn't seen it stitched.

And in other (fabulous) news, I got my Spanish Mystery Sampler back from stitcher extraordinaire Kathy this morning! It is not stretched and framed yet...frame to come from Valley Primitive...but here's a sneak peek down the sampler that will get you drooling for silks and linen. This is LOVELY LOVELY, and I know a lot of you are going to enjoy working on this intriguing (and unique) sampler!

You can click on both images to make them larger. I'm working 'round the clock. Wish me luck!


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sneak Peek at Jenny Bean #1

I put the last little stitches in Jenny Bean's Friendship Sampler last night. Oh, it is so pretty! My son Harrison said he loves the color palette, and my husband (as always) said: "Good work." Once a week I will reveal another quadrant of the sampler. This one you've already seen a little bit of, but next week, you'll get to see a little more.

I'm posting a threads list here, too, so you can check your stash and make sure you've got what you need. The Gentle Art will be selling thread packs at market to shops (NONE of these are limited edition colors.) I hope you enjoy this sampler -- it was really fun to stitch.
  • Parchment
  • Wood Trail
  • Toasted Barley
  • Moonlit Path
  • Cherry Bark
  • Espresso Bean
  • Old Brick
  • Forest Glade
  • Carmel Corn
  • Mustard Seed
  • Melon Patch
  • Dried Thyme
  • Aged Pewter
  • Maple Syrup
  • Grape Arbor
  • Endive
  • Oatmeal
  • Tomato
  • Raven
  • Piney Woods
A DMC conversion will be provided on the graph. The fabric is 40 ct. French Vanilla by R&R Reproductions. On 40 count, I used one thread, and you will only need one of each skein. If you're going to stitch on any other count, I recommend you get (2) of the Parchment (it's used to fill in all behind the verse.) I'm ordering an Eastside Mouldings Frame.

If you want to pre-order this from me, either just the graph, or the fibers/fabric and/or frame, just do so through my web site. Or have your shop make sure to stop by my booth at market to pick up graphs.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Delicious (and quick) dinner idea

OK, so Pasta Primavera means "Spring Pasta," (and it's the end of summer) but it's so good I could eat it year-round. I adapted a recipe I found online, and this is so good that when I made it last night, I didn't even think to take a picture for my blog. And then I ate it. And it was good. If you've got about a half an hour, a bunch of pantry "basics," and a hungry tummy, I highly recommend this recipe.

Bell Peppers sliced into strips (red/yellow/orange are good, but green will also do)
(1) Medium Yellow Onion sliced into strips (or circles, whatever!)
(3) Carrots cut into coins or strips
(1 or 2) Baby Zucchini cut into coins or strips
(1) Yellow Squash cut into coins or strips
(6) White Mushrooms (or whatever you've got) sliced

(You could leave off or add veggies you've also got around.)

Put all of the above on a cookie sheet with a lip. Drizzle with about
1/2 cup olive oil and add good salt and pepper. Sprinkle on 1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning (you'll find this in the spice aisle at the grocery store.) You kind of have to have the Italian Seasoning, I think.

Roast @ 425 for 10 minutes. Stir/flip veggies around to help them cook more evenly, then roast for 10 more minutes.

In the meantime, boil 1 box of your favorite pasta (bow ties are good and what I use. My favorite brand is Barilla.) It'll be trickier to eat if you use spaghetti or other long/skinny pastas. But by all means, use what you've got.

When veggies are done, combine them with the drained pasta and add about a half a cup grated Parmesan and/or Romano cheese
. This is also good with cooked chicken breasts/strips, or you could also do shrimp. If you want to have delicious chicken breasts with it, here's what I do: take two good sized boneless/skinless chicken breasts and start them FIRST. Put them in a little non-stick pan with a drizzle of olive oil on medium-low heat. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder. Let these little guys cook while you're doing everything else. Flip them over to cook the other side. Make sure they're cooked all the way through. I do NOT cut them into strips before cooking, because it keeps the breasts very tender and juicy. If you cut them into strips, they will cook faster, but not be as delicious. Slice cooked breasts into strips and just toss them into your pasta/veggies and mix, or arrange them artfully on top.

This is a really healthy, quick, and delicious meal that will impress your friends or keep you full and happy. Plus, most of this is stuff you're going to have around anyway. And since you have just eaten your veggies, you can treat yourself to a slice of chocolate cake.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Jenny's working hard for market

Jenny B. is working hard for market, which is in just over six weeks. I've included a little picture of a corner of her "Jenny Bean's Friendship Sampler," which will kick off the new "Jenny Bean & Friends" group. A number of designers are joining me (er, Jenny) in designing samplers for the fall market season. I'm especially excited about everyone's participation and can't wait to see all of the samplers by Jenny's friends.

The designers participating are: Chessie & Me, Heartstring Samplery, Little House Needleworks, Lizzie Kate, The Primitive Needle, R&R Reproductions, Raise the Roof Designs (Sue!), SamSarah Design Studio, and Shepherd's Bush. Each designer will release her own pattern, under her own label. The fabrics, subject matter, fibers will all be different. I wanted everyone to just have fun designing without size, color or subject restrictions. Heartstring Samplery has already released Poppy Maye Russell's sampler (you can find it as the Kit of the Month on my web site.)

And another thing I'm excited about is my new picture of Miss Jenny Bean. I commissioned an artist from Australia to draw her, and what you see here is a small portion of the logo for this line of designs. It's always nice to put a face with a name.

People are already asking me (daily) what I'll have new at market. This much I know for sure: Jenny Bean's Friendship Sampler and the Spanish Mystery Sampler reproduction (these are both well under way). The rest is still to be created/designed. I basically design, stitch, design, stitch up until the last couple days before market. Since I do all of my printing in-house now, it's easy for me to print things quickly. I do have other ideas, but it's just a matter of executing them. Would you believe some of us designers are still assembling charts the night before market opens? (It's not just this one who pushes it until the last minute.) That's what you get with us creative types -- we're a little flakey!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

This is Boo.And this is Ruby.

Both are cats we adopted from our local shelter in the last ten months. Boo was first. Boo was a wild thing. I mean, she was really, really nuts. She stole packages of floss and his them in a corner under the computer desk. She clawed at the carpet. She swiped at Kitty (our oldest cat). She would race around, leap onto an upholstered chair, dig her claws in, and roll her head and eyes around like a crazed lunatic. She jumped on everything, slept in my hair at night, made serious hunting noises at the birdies outside in the tree, and when the doorbell rang, she came running TOWARD the door like a dog (not away from it, like a cat.)

Then we found Ruby.

Ruby was little, and cuddly, and snuggly, and sweet. We brought her home, and Boo did NOT like that one bit. For three days, she hissed, and complained, and groaned, and ran away from that sweet little honey bun.

And on the fourth day, Boo relaxed. She started grooming Ruby and letting that fluffy little black ball snuggle up to her to sleep. When it was time to eat, Boo would stand back and let Ruby go first. And when Ruby tackled Boo to play, Boo kept her claws in like a good cat, and let Ruby win (most of the time.) She stopped stealing floss. She stopped swiping at Kitty. She sleeps at my feet (if she's not sleeping with Ruby). When I look at Boo now, there's nothing but peace behind those beautiful gold-green eyes.

It struck me one day that Boo's personality completely changed within a matter of a few days. We all loved the wild Boo, but we love the calm and almost Zen-like cat we now have. She is patient, and kind, and humble, and giving.

Anybody can make the decision to make changes in her life, and make them immediately. It was Shakespeare who said: "Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie." Every day is a new chance for change!

One of my favorite Christian prayers is from St. Francis of Assissi:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness; joy.
O divine Master
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Have a peaceful and lovely day.