May 31, 2013

No Dancing For A While...

I've been a little lot side-tracked the past six weeks. Because I think there's
an important message that should be shared here, I'd like to tell you about it.

On April 17th, I had my regular, annual checkup. 
I'd been feeling great so I expected everything to be routine and uneventful. 
It was the beginning of many scary days for Handsome and me.
My regular doctor is a wonderful woman who is a family practitioner in Venice. I've been her patient for five years, so she knows me and my medical history pretty well by now.  She can do my "girly" stuff once a year, but if I get a cold, she can treat that, too, which I like. I also like that she always takes her time during our appointments and we cover just about everything before my actual hands-on exams.

At this year's appointment, she did her exam and reacted with alarm when she felt something she hadn't felt before. She checked again, made notes with her nurse and then said that we should talk after I got dressed. When I sat with her a few minutes later, she told me that she wanted me to have an ultrasound and then schedule an appointment to meet with a gynecologist. I left her office a little numb.

I had the ultrasound the next day, a further MRI procedure, and then made the appointment with her recommended gynecologist as soon as possible after that. The gynecologist reviewed the test results, made her own examination and then referred me to a gynecological oncologist in Sarasota the same day. 

If I told you that Handsome and I were nervous, it would be an understatement. We were concerned, and Handsome attended every single examination and conference with every doctor after that initial checkup. He was in the room, holding my hand every step of the way and I'm so grateful he was. Because he heard everything that was said to me, we could discuss what we were told and keep each other from misunderstanding or misinterpreting anything.
The result of all these appointments was that I had major surgery on May 23rd to remove what so concerned three different professionals. We told our family and close friends ahead of the date. I can't tell you how much it meant to me to know that mine were not the only prayers asking for a positive outcome. During the surgery, everything was tested right away. Thankfully, it all proved to be non-malignant and the surgery was concluded without having to do anything else but heal. All of our prayers were answered.

The doctor gave me strict orders to "take it easy" until I'm healed in four weeks. Handsome is taking great care of me, making sure I follow all the instructions we were given. I still tire very easily, but I do try to spend a little time in the studio. I promise to get my blog back to normal just as soon as I'm able.
I'm not telling you all of this now for sympathy or recognition. In fact, had this resolved any other way, I probably wouldn't have posted about it at all. (Remember, this blog is dedicated to Thoughts on a Joyful and Creative Life.) I would have kept the bad news to ourselves.

I want you to know because I had been feeling great prior to my April appointment. I really had no idea that there were things growing inside me that could have been life-threatening. I have gone for my annual appointments every single year since I turned 19...without fail. 

While I've been diligent, I'm aware that there are many women who don't get annual checkups. I would like to encourage you to make an appointment and make sure that you're healthy. It could save your life.

May 30, 2013

Victorian Cross Stitch Kits - Elizabeth Bradley...

Before I ever learned to quilt, I spent many happy hours working on
cross stitch. After I opened my needlework shop, Stitches in Wisconsin
I attended more than a few needlework markets and discovered these kits.

They are cross stitch executed in wools on printed canvas, and the
technique is called "Victorian Cross Stitch". The kits are designed by
Elizabeth Bradley from the UK. (She also sells through stockists in America.)

When I attended market, Elizabeth could be found stitching at a frame in her
booth while her gregarious husband, Nick greeted shopkeepers and took orders.
It was difficult to ignore all the beautiful wool pieces they brought with them.
I couldn't resist their quality and detail, so I chose many of the kits for my shop. 
When we moved to Florida, I decided to work on my first kit, "Daisy".
It took six diligent weeks to complete, to the exclusion of all else.

Although I haven't had it framed (which is my intent), I take it out from
time to time and admire the vibrant colors on the black ground wools.
Using the black, as with quilting, really pops the colors in the flowers.
In addition to the "Daisy" kit, I also selected a few other personal favorites.

The finished designed are 16" square on 20" square canvased and come complete
with printed pattern, printed canvas, wools and needles in a box showing the full 
color design on the cover...ready to stitch! Exquisite kits from start to finish.
Of course, "Hollyhock" would have to be one of my choices!
"Sunflower Basket"
"Sunflower Basket", because it reminded me of Mom Grace, and
All the kits are perfect for taking on our travels, and this one reminds me 
of the heady, fragrant blossoms on the specimen tree in our front yard.

When pulling the link for Elizabeth's American website, I found that
there is now a "Geranium" kit, too. (sigh) I may have to add it to my 
collection. If you'd like to look at her designs, this is a link to kits like mine.
Oh, and here's the link so you can see the "Geranium" kit.
It's gorgeous, isn't it?
This is the last of my "auto pilot" posts. Thanks for being so patient with me.
I'll be back tomorrow to tell you a bit about my short hiaitus.

May 29, 2013

Lilac Love...

There are no lilacs growing in Florida. They need a hard freeze to thrive, and that almost never happens in subtropical climates like ours. We have bouganvilleas, magnolias and hibuscus bushes that are so stunning they'll take your breath away, but alas, you'll find no lilacs. 

Being raised in Wisconsin, I never saw any of these southern beauties until Handsome and I came here on vacation. But as lovely as all of our southern flowers are, none of them compare to the fleeting fragrance and soft lavender-blue or lavendar-pink color of lilacs in late spring...and I miss that scent every single year.
When I visit all my internet friends and see lilacs, I'm filled with a true longing. Sometimes, I'll see photographs of huge ironstone pitchers filled with freshly-cut stems. Other times, I might find a snap taken on a sun-dappled afternoon in the backyard. There are bushes upon bushes of cascading blooms and I can almost smell them!

Recently, my talented blog friend, Michelle Palmer decided to share watercolor versions of her own lilacs, and created a number of framed stems. I just knew that one of them would have to come and live in the studio! (Click here to visit her watercolor Etsy shop.)
It now resides in a favorite spot where I can see it every day that I'm at my machine. There's only one thing missing - that heady fragrance. Now, I'm in search of a "bottled lilac" that most closely mimics the real thing.

Do you have any leads you could share with me? If you have a favorite source for "lifelike" lilac fragrance - either a room spray or body mist or drawer liner? I'm desperate here, girlfriends! Any help is greatly appreciated.

May 28, 2013

The Alto Sewing Machine Prototype...

 I was recently visiting a favorite blog - Cactus Needle Quilting - when I saw
Nedra's post about this innovative design for a sewing machine. I was so
intrigued that I went to other sites to learn more about it and how it works.

It was designed by Sarah Dickens of the UK for the 2012 James Dyson Award
program, and as far as I can tell it's not yet in production. It doesn't have a foot
pedal to control the machine, it simply uses pressure on the base of the machine
(near the faceplate for the bobbin) to make it sew. It also has a straight path 
from the spool on the right side of the machine all the way to the needle.
You also find a huge amount of free space to the right of the needle.

I don't see bells and whistles like "back and forward" buttons or lights, but
I think the machine is beautiful and would certainly have a practical use.
I mean, wouldn't it be beautiful for traveling in the Flying Cloud?

When I put this up on my FaceBook page, my friend Troy from Junk
Exchange mentioned that the wood would probably age to a beautiful
patina over the years, too. (He always thinks of cool stuff like that!)

I thought you might enjoy a video to tell you a little more about the machine.
What do you think? Would you like to have one if they are ever produced?
I think I would, but the price would have to be right.

May 27, 2013

Tuesdays With Tag - Mom's New Walkin' Boots...

 Hi, Everybody!
Did you have a nice holiday weekend?
 It was nice here, too. Our family spent the day together and just took it easy.
Isn't that really what it's all about?
I want to show you Mom's newest boots. They're called "Wellies" and they're great
for dealin' with muck and mud and rain. They're made in England. Mom used to have 
a pair (or two) of green ones for doin' kennels in Wisconsin, but she donated 'em a 
couple of years ago. (She keeps wonderin' what she was thinkin'!). She didn't think 
she'd need 'em anymore. Then, she thought they would have been absolutely perfect 
for takin' campin' when we're on the Flyin' Cloud! So, when she saw these, she knew 
they had her name on 'em! BooYah! She ordered 'em right away!

By the way...This wonderful pillow was made by our friend, Troy at Junk Exchange. 
It's one of Mom's favorite "touches" in the master bedroom!  He always has such cool 
stuff, and he does special requests, too! Here's a link to Troy's Etsy Shop.
 "Rule Brittania. Britannia rules the mud..."
hee hee
I can hardly wait for our next walk in the rain. Me, in all my Welsh glory,
and Mom in her British Wellington boots. We'll be stylin', for sure!
Have a great week. I'll see you again soon. 'til next time...
"More Waggin' and Less Barkin'!"

May 26, 2013

Memorial Day Tribute...

The first time that Handsome and I watched Ken Burns' "Civil War" series, we were moved to tears when we heard the letter written by Sullivan Ballou to his dear wife, Sarah as he prepared to leave for his first battle. Being read against the background of the musical piece, Ashoken Farewell, made it that much more poignant. Since that first time, I've heard it performed by Handsome, and on one occassion, I sang in our local Chorale as the letter was once again read to an audience that was equally moved.

Oftentimes, these war experiences belong to someone else, and are only stories we read about with scholarly concern. However, in going through our own family documents, we have found a series of letters written by an ancestor, A.F. Davis, to his loving wife, also named Sarah, whom he nicknamed "Sally". 
One of his first letters so reminds me of the Sullivan Ballou letter that I'm unable to read it aloud without tears streaming down my cheeks. The stories of the Civil War are so poignant and touching, and the devastation of war touched nearly everyone. There were neighbors killing neighbors and the skirmishes were such that you looked your enemy in the eyes as they died.

Our ancestor joined the Union Army in 1861 and served for four years. He survived the war and lived to the age of sixty one, keeping a journal of his letters and experiences. He had a long, happy life with his "Sally" and their children.. Even so, that first letter as he prepared to leave for war continues to hold my heart.
As we sit down to share a meal with our loved ones this Memorial Day, let us not forget to give thanks for all of the soldiers who served, paying the ultimate price for our freedom. Whether in the Civil War or the too many wars since, may their sacrifices never be forgot.

May 25, 2013

Sunday Scripture - For Oklahoma...

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Our thoughts and prayers are with the survivors in Oklahoma.
Please help if you're able.
Donate to the American Red Cross
(Both organization names above are direct links)

May 24, 2013

Wooly Critters...

 Last year our Coffee Club created all of our own blocks of the month.
You saw each one as I finished it, and they were all mini quilts that hung
on a small tabletop rack. I got a chance to try new techniques or fine tune
some of the things I'd learned earlier. I recently gifted all of them to my dear
Vermont girlfriend, Denise so she could have and enjoy them at her house.
 For 2013, I suggested the Shabby Fabrics Country Cottages blocks of
the month (you can click the link on my left sidebar to download them).
We all agreed that they would be fun to do, and everyone else has 
completed January through May - while I finished steering the guild 
quilt project. I'm bummed that I haven't sewn a single block for this year!
 We're already thinking ahead to 2014 and what we wanted to do for next
year's Coffee Club project - and this is the pattern we settled on...
The "Wooly Critter Sampler" by Brandywine Designs.
 We have a choice of stitching in wools or cottons; machine or hand
applique' and I'm really happy that we will sew these all together into a
finished quilt. Kathy and Nora purchased all the patterns for us and let
us have them ahead of time - as long as we promised not to start on any of
 them prior to December so we could finish Block One on time in January.
 Although I didn't divide these in order to photograph, we will sew them
from one through twelve. I had to show you my three favorite blocks in
this picture...The Owl, The Crow and...ta daaa, The Squirrel and acorns!

A promise is a promise, so I won't cheat and start early.
I always keep my word. Friends and family can count on it.
But, as soon as December rolls around...

If you're interested in joining me for this block of the month in
2014, let me know. I can pre-order patterns if you want to play along.

May 23, 2013

Last Look Before The Longarm...

  Well, dearies. 
This is the last time you see my Over The River quilt until after it comes back
from the long-arm and the binding is attached. I couldn't resist this great paisley
 fabric to use for the backing and I think it's just "right" to go with the designs
and colors on the quilt top. (You remember how I love paisleys, right?)

Although the images for the stitcheries are winter scenes, my memories of
trips to my grandparents' house make me think of more autumnal drives.
The paisley seems more like fall to me. I can almost smell the rustling leaves.
I spent last weekend forming and joining the pieces for my corner appliques'. This
is my shot of them "in progress". They're waiting for the right side leaves to be 
attached here, which are now done. I've found that it takes me about three hours
to stitch each of these corner sets to the ground fabric, so I'll have them sewn soon.

If you are someone who checks out the items in my sidebars, you may have seen the
"Pledge To Share Step-by-Step" button. Each time I share my progress on a project,
it's really not so you'll be impressed with what I'm doing, but so that you can see
the steps that go into creating a finished piece. In my case, I like to consider those
steps to be part of my artistic process. Sometimes my finished piece is nothing like
I imagined it would be when I first started choosing materials, cutting and sewing.
I hope you find as much enjoyment following my progress as I do with my "work". 
After stitching down the first set and assessing my work, I knew they were exactly 
what I wanted for the final touch for my quilt. They make it a true one-of-a-kind.
 Although I've drawn the leaves with veining, I won't make a final decision on that
until after I've stitched everything else down. I'm still thinking about that.

If you're a quilter, stitcher, knitter or you choose to express your creative side in 
some other way...Do you take the time to diverge from a pattern or chart to do 
something that will make your piece unique from all the others that will be created 
from those same patterns? How do you personalize your work? If you're a quilter, 
of course, you probably choose fabrics that are different from the original, but what 
other ways do you change it up so that yours will be different? I'd love to know.

May 22, 2013

A Date With da Vinci...

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 I have a date with da Vinci.. 
He's not the artist, but he is artistic.
He's not the inventor, but he is innovative.
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I will be away for a little while, but my blog will be
on auto pilot, so you'll still have a few fun posts to read.
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I'll be back in person as soon as I'm able.
Love and Blessings,

May 21, 2013

1925 Farmhouse Goods and Sew Many Roses...

1925 Farmhouse Goods Etsy Header
Dear friend, Dawn Edmondson of The Feathered Nest has opened a new Etsy shop.
It's called "1925 Farmhouse Goods", and features "all things old and wonderful".
All images are used with Dawn's permission.
 You'll find sweet items like this little baby pin pinkeep...
 or a gorgeous ironstone tray (unless I buy this one myself first!)...
Or a vintage copy of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn.

Click here to head over to Dawn's lovely shop and enjoy browsing.
I know you'll have fun and who knows what you can't live without!
By the way, Dawn has another shop called "Sew Many Roses" where she
showcases all her fabulous handcrafted creations and patterns. I swear, you'll faint
when you see them. She has a special eye for creating the most lovely things.
 Click here to visit "Sewmanyroses".
Don't blame me if you have too much fun shopping. I'm just the messenger. hee hee