Sunday, April 30, 2006

Whoo-hoo! It's done!

Part 7 of Alpine Seasons that is. Okay, so I still have 5 parts to go, but I'm really delighted with this - both how it looks and the fact I got it done.

(Click on the image to see a bigger version)

It's been a long haul to get this far, but I still totally love the project. So far I managing to stay with my new philosophy of "enjoy each moment and don't stress about the total time it will take". Today being the end of the week, I'm at the end of this first slot in my renewed rotation, so this is the prefect place to stop. Next I'm going to get out Defender of the Kingdom and do however much I manage between tomorrow morning and next Sunday night. I have realised I'm unlikely to manage to stitch every day, so I think I'm at peace with that and I'll do whatever I can.

Latest Layout - Ebony and Ivory

This one speaks for itself really. The photos were taken at my parents' place on Easter Sunday. Daniel and his family called in to say hello for Easter and he and Marcus played the piano together. How could I use any other title?

Decorative seal from Melany Violette's Boys CD extras; everything else from Elegance by Renee Peters.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Home Grown Philosophy

I had a moment of clarity in the shower today.

I faced up to the fact that I am sick, I have been sick for a long time, and I can't keep on pretending that I'm not. In nearly sixteen years, I've learned to do that physically, but I suddenly realised that I haven't truly done it intellectually. I have to some degree - I know I couldn't put in the concentration, and possibly not even the understanding, needed for higher degree study for example. But at a more basic, at home level I have refused to do so.

Beyond the everyday, family and household things, there are the things I want to do for me, the things that make me feel personally satisfied and challenged and fulfilled.

I still buy books as if I could read them at the same rate and with the same ease as I did before I got sick (and that's ignoring the fact I didn't have a husband, a child or a household back then and my mother did all my washing and cooking). I still imagine I'll read everything that sounds interesting, and then I get stressed and frustrated because the to-be-read pile and my expectations keep piling up until I feel they're going to topple over and crush me.

I still have a heaps of embroidery designs I want to do and plan out to the distance of years ahead what I'll stitch next - that Dragon Dreams after the one I finish now, something like ten Mirabilias I want to stitch, Heaven and Earth Designs, Chatelaine and a host of others. (You notice I generally don't pick small projects to put on my to-stitch list.)

I want to do everything I ever think of for Character Creations and struggle to keep moving at a steady and sensible pace because I want to do it all now.

To top it off I went and got myself hooked on Digital Scrapbooking as well and now plan to do Marcus' journal that way.

(Let's not mention that time-sink called the Internet.)

I'm not prepared to give up these "me" things. I need them and I've been holding onto them jealously, taking time for them when I should be resting or playing with Marcus or spending time with Dave. I've lost so much I've been determined to keep all these things.

And I can't keep up with it all.

So today, I had a moment of revelation. If I want to hold on to these things, then I have to accept that doing them will take longer than I currently think it should and/or I'll get less done. But that doesn't mean I have to stop doing them, just enjoy each moment I get on one of these things and let it all take as long as it does. I need to pick out what's really important to me and accept that some of the lesser stuff will have to go by the wayside.

Practically, I'm taking that in the following ways:

Books - Stick with the things I really want to read. Accept that some things I think sound interesting just won't be read. Don't stress about that, just enjoy what I do read. Make sensible choices and don't get sidetracked from them by temptation. Be okay with it taking me to take a week to read a book I might have once (sixteen years ago!) been able to read in one or two days.

Stitching - Focus on the now. Enjoy what I'm stitching and stop imagining what I'll do next and next and next (something I'm very bad at). Go back to a weekly rotation with the projects I most want to stitch - that's Defender of the Kingdom, Dawn Star and Alpine Seasons. I'll put in a fourth slot for "free choice" which means I can do a bit extra on one of these or do something different (that is one of my current WIPs - I refuse to add more at this point as that would add to the stress). For the immediate future that slot will go to a gift for my niece- or nephew-to-be.

Scrapbooking - Do it when I feel like it and scrap what I feel like. If it takes another year to do Marcus' journal pages, that's okay. I have all my LJ entries from his first year safely saved to my home computer, I have the photos and the momentos I saved at the time. They're not going anywhere.

Character Creations - Work as steadily as I can, try not to take on too much extra and don't get stressed if things take a little longer that I first imagined.

I hope I can make it work. I hate to waste that clarity.

On a much less philosophical note, I did get some stitching done today - I worked on Alpine Seasons while watching The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Because it's so hard to get out to things like the movies these days, I hadn't seen it before. I was delighted with it. The kids were great - Lucy is a darling - and matched my childhood visions of them pretty well. The beavers were totally cool and Aslan was brilliantly done. I also loved the very last Narnian scene where the grown up kings and queens are hunting the white stag. They had matched up their adult actors and child actors so well it worked perfectly. I'd kind have liked it to be a bit more explicit that Digory had been to Narnia too and therefore believed them, but I can't remember know if that is actually in the book, or if I just know it because I've read The Magician's Nephew and know how it came about. I certainly hope they keep making more of them - they're clearly got the CGI and the techniques to pull it off now.

Oh and the griffins - they were the coolest. I want one.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


I became a Wen Spencer fan after Barbara-the-pusher (my affectionate nickname for my specialist bookseller who treats enabling as a God-given duty) gave me Alien Taste to read. From there it was a case of 'the rest is history' and I've read everything she's written, I watch her livejournal and hang out for hints and tipbits of her upcoming books. I read Tinker from the library when it came out in hardcover, then bought my own paperback copy when that was released. I have several books that sit on my bookshelves unread because I'd read them by borrowing them from a library or a friend, but still needed my own copy. Tinker was one of these. When the sequel, Wolf Who Rules, was soon to be released, I spent a fair bit of time tossing up whether or not to buy it in hardcover. In the end, I succumbed to the temptation and ordered it. However, with my poor memory, there was a lot of Tinker I didn't remember, along with a few things I hadn't fully grapsed the first time around and I wanted it all to be fresh and clear before starting Wolf Who Rules.

I finished my reread today - and loved it the second time around, which is always a good thing.

Tinker is set in a near future Pittsburg, where twenty years earlier a hyperdimensional gate was opened to facilite travel to the stars, with the unfortunate side-effect that a neatly circular section of Pittsburg got transported into an alternate reality called Elfhome where magic is stronger than on Earth. In the past, natural gates existed and it was through those that limited travel had occured between Earth and Elfhome, leading to humanity's legends of elves. Once a month, the gate is shut down for 24 hours, returning Pittsburg to Earth and allowing the influx of goods, ideas and travellers.

Tinker is eighteen, a genius and has lived her entire life in the Elfhome part of Pittsburg. She runs a scrapyard and spends much of her spare time putting her huge intellect to work inventing pretty much anything she chooses. As the book begins, the Elven noble, Windwolf, is chased into Tinker's scrapyard and injured just as Shutdown begins. This leave her stranded with him in Pittsburg on Earth without the benefit of magic to help him heal. With some help, she manages to keep him alive and finds her life forever twisted up with his and that of the all the elves.

Add to this some serious culture clash and misunderstandings and the reappearance of an ancient enemy of the elves who see Tinker and her genius as a way to open their own gate to Elfhome for an invasion and you have a clever, swift and intelligent novel that moves at breakneck pace and leaves the reader fully satisfied.

On my first reading, I had a little trouble with some of the scientific principles of just what had happened to Pittsburg and how the gate effects worked. Rereading cleared this up very nicely for me as instead of being thrown in at the deep end in the first chapter, I was able to take the worldbuilding as clarification that helped me 'get' Spencer's world much more clearly. The same was true of the gate physics, that became significant in the last quarter of the book. It is well-written, without large amounts of technobabble or handwaving, so don't be afraid of the word 'physics'. It was much clearer this time and I can now head into Wolf Who Rules happy knowing that I pretty much understand what has gone before.

I gave this book 9/10 last time and I'm giving it 10/10 this time. Spencer has real talent - not to mention that all three of her series so far are very different from each other and her current work promises to be different again - and I suspect I will continue to buy her books in hardcover now that I've broken the first time. I won't be able to wait long enough for the paperbacks.

Latest Layout - Strong

This is my response to a challenge with Clikchic Designs, where the requirement was to use their Cyclone Larry charity kit. I hadn't been planning to enter, but obviously I had something bubbling away in the back of my mind as I spent last night working on this.

I am really, really pleased at how this came out. It's a lot softer, subtler and and simpler than I originally planned, but I love it.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Quick note before the Sleep Monster gets me

Hooray, I have finished those stupid trees on part 7 of Alpine Seasons (let's not think about how they are mirrored in part 8). If all goes well, I hope to get the part finished this week.

I have stayed up way, way, way too late working on a scrapbooking layout. Three Australian designers have put together a lovely kit in blues and browns as a fundraiser for Cyclone Larry victims. Over at
Clikchic Designs, they're having a challenge to use the kit for a layout - and thereby encourage people to buy the kit as well. I admit I hadn't planned to do anything, then an idea struck and it was perfect. I think I've got it how I want it to be, but it's so late now that I'm going to let it sit overnight and look at it again with fresh eyes in the morning.

It's really weird, because I only have a basic idea when I start working with the photos and elements - when I started this one the photos were the last thing I did as the inspiration was all abut the wording rather than the images - but somehow I muddle around and get what I want. It's very satisfying - and quicker than stitching!

Don't worry Stitchers, I'm not going to be seduced away to the dark side, I'm just going to keep flirting with it a bit.

I'm loving my reread of Tinker as well.

If I could just turn the rest of the world off for a little bit, it would be perfect. Oh yeah, and get well, and have the housework magically done and the dinners cooked and... Okay, I'll stop now. Clearly I'm overtired and raving.

Window Shopping

I've finally found time to go and take a look at the Online Needlework Show and I discovered that, fortunately for my bank balance and sanity, that it has actually closed. That let me window shop safely. Here's the goodies I liked...

Yin Yang from The French Needle
Livres Chat Rouge from The French Needle

Tiffany Roses from Tapis-Tree
Poppy and Asters from Tapis-Tree

Frog by My Mark
Never for Granted by My Mark

Don't Bug Me! by The Sweetheart Tree

My Latest Layout - Java Boy

This is my nephew (well, technically he's my best friend's son, but I'm his honourary auntie so that makes him my nephew). While down in Palmerston North Dave, Marcus and I met up with his family for gelati and coffee. Paul was very interested in his Dad's coffe, but was eventually convinced to stick with icecream.

Eyelet from "Tans and Teals" by Dawn Webb; everything else from “Scrappucino" by Taran Conyers

Monday, April 24, 2006

Wow, just wow!

I called around to see Nicki today (okay, really I called around to see her finished Alpine Seasons).

I'm only just picking my jaw up off the floor now. I looks so totally amazing. She has done a fantastic job and it looks stunning on her choice of fabric. I know she was a bit worried about the fabric colour, but it looks fantastic.

She showed me her progress on The Token as well and that is very pretty - and so tiny as she's doing it over 1 on 32-count.

I am now inspired to get back to my own Alpine Seasons. Not necessarily energised I am forced to admit, but certainly inspired.

Beautiful, beautiful work, Nicki.

Update on Dawn Star

I'm just putting this away now to spend a week with Alpine Seasons. (Yes, I'm trying rotating again.) This is how far I got while on holiday - after I pulled out everything I'd stitched in the wrong shade of purple.

(I've just got a new laptop - thank you my darling husband - and we're rebuilding my desktop so I won't be updating the gallery until everything is loaded, updated and configured. Just saying...)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Latest Layout - Uh Oh

Marcus has three things he can say clearly - bye bye, no and uh-oh. Since these are understood, he uses them a lot. He's also just started adding a hand of the mouth gesture when he says uh-oh. It is totally cute even if it isn't always appropriate to the circumstance. While we were down in Palmerston North, I caught him on camera doing it. It's not the best of photos, but the moment was so cute I just had to use it.

Journalling ~
15th April, 2006

While riding on the tricycle at Granny Pam's, Marcus stopped to tell Mummy "uh oh", even though there was nothing wrong.
Credits ~
Background and brad from " Shining Star" by Melany Violette; letters and tag from "Love this Boy" by Carrie Stephens; coloured stars from "Lucky Star" by Gina Cabrera; frame and pin from "Views" by Lauren Bavin

His Majesty's Dragon

I've just finished reading His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommed it to anyone who likes dragons in their historical fiction. Novik's sole fantastic premise is that dragons exist - in a number of regional varieties, from British and French to Chinese - and the rest of the story is extrapolated from this.

The novel is set during the Napoleonic Wars, and as it begins Captain Will Laurence is master of the ship Reliant when it encouters a French vessel. Once the ship it taken, he finds it carries a major prize - a dragon's egg. Despite his misgivings, he finds himself handler to the newly hatched dragon, whom he calls Temeraire.

From there the book moves through Laurence and Temeraire's training as aviators as they try to find their place - Laurence is a misfit as a Navy man and Temeraire proves to be equally different when it is discovered he is a Chinese dragon rather than a familiar British breed.

This is a nicely written alternative history, where the dragons are as much characters as the humans. Laurence and Temerarie are beautifully drawn and getting to know them as they got to know each other was a delight. I did feel I had a bit of an advantage over Laurence, since I know that a five toed Chinese dragon was going to be as much a scholar as any kind of fighter and so I was unsurprised at Temerarie's delight in having Laurence read to him or his grasp of mathematics and tactics.

In the sequel (Throne of Jade, to be published next month) they visit China, so it will be interesting to see them learn more about Temerarire and his abilities.

Novik's air force is well drawn - used to dragon books where each dragon has a single rider, I was at first suprised by her full crews - from a second to the sharpshooters and bombers and the maintenance crew. They are well drawn and her tactics sound solid to me in my inexperience.

The end of the book covers the time of the Battle of Trafalgar and it's aerial partner the dragon fought Battle of Dover. Napoleon's method for invading Britain is brilliant and I don't want to spoil it by saying anything more than that. There is something of a Battle of Britain feel to this section as the tired, outnumbered aviators fight off an overwhelming force, but Novik makes it all her own.

I thoroughly enjoyed this an recommend it.

Lookie what I got!

Dave asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I suggested the normal things - book vouchers or money towards stash - but he wanted to get me something that I wouldn't buy for myself that I'd really like.

After thinking for a bit, I asked him to get me a print of Abranda Sisson's Dragonfly, which I just love. Abranda is one of my artists, so we've got to know each other a bit and I gave Dave her email address and he said he'd contact her.

On my birthday he told me he'd ordered the print, but because I hadn't given him enough warning to get something mailed from the States, it would arrive in the next week or two.

I was delighted when I checked the PO box and found a card saying there was a parcel to pick up at the counter. It was soon clear it was my print. Yay! I got home, opened the parcel and found that Abranda had sent me, not a print but the original painting! What a wonderful surprise.

I picked it up from the framers yesterday and it is just beautiful.

I will be charting and releasing this through Character Creations as soon as I am able to do so. Right now I'm not well enough to do new charting - but when I am in good shape, I try to build up a backlog of designs so that I still have new releases ready through the time I'm not doing new ones.

I can't wait to have some time and energy to sit down and do some charting again as I really love it, but my brain has to be functioning better than it is right now to do a good job.


I've had some lovely stash arrive lately.

I ordered Tiger's Eye linen from Silkweaver for Chatelaine's Illuminated Medieval Sampler, and since I was making the order I added in some Starquest Reflections which I hoped might work for Watergarden one day in the future, and three random samples.

The Tiger's Eye has more copper green in it than I expected, but it's really growing on me. The Starquest won't work of Watergarden, but I'm thinking it might do nicely for Dragon Dreams' Not Forgotten. I can't remember the colours of the samples off the top of my head, but they were all new colours to me and I'm sure will prove useful.

I also got some Dusk 16-ct Aida from Silkweaver, which will be used for a model, so I'm not going to say anything more about that at the moment. But it's going to be very pretty - although I do have to finish the charting first.

My kit for the Medieval Sampler also arrived from European Cross Stitch, along with the Quaker Game Board pattern. The sampler is going to be very pretty when I finally get a chance to stitch it, but for now I'm just going to enjoy the beautiful supplies.

Stitching Update

Any stitching has gone very slowly lately as I haven't been feeling all that well.

My Embroiderer's Guild is doing a canvas work round robin, so I've spent some time picking my colours and working out what I want to do. Then, of course, I had to find the time and energy to stitch it.

I chose to use pink 18-count mono canvas, with a selection of pink, purple and green threads in all sorts of textures. My dividing band is canvas stitch and the main band is tweed stitch. I will admit that I spent a lot of time tryign to choose what to stitch for my main band, but when I saw "tweed" stitch, I immediately thought of Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and that decided me.

We went away to visit my parents for Easter and I took Dawn Star with me. I got a nice bit of stitching done, but then I discovered that I had done a whole lot of it in the wrong colour. I've pulled it all out, but haven't faced up to starting restitching again.

I've decided to have another try at a rotation, but only have four slots in it - for Dawn Star, Alpine Seasons, Defender of the Kindom and a free choice from the rest of my WIPs - as I'm struggling to get anything done at all. I need a very fine balance between freedom and structure and I still haven't found it yet. Instead, I'm going for a variety of approaches and at least trying to get something stitched.


At long last, here comes an update.

I've not been feeling particularly great lately, and haven't done much stitching. However, I have caught the digital scrapbooking bug and I've been having a great time creating my first layouts. For now, I have them up in my Livejournal Gallery until I figure out the best place to keep them all.

I've decided to turn this blog into an "obsessions" journal - it'll include my stitching, scrapbooking and reading.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

"Study" original art

This is primarily for etitameh, who asked to see the original art of Howard Faria's "Study".

(And here is a link to the chart if anyone wants to compare.)

Monday, April 03, 2006

I was wrong about the trees

When Nicki was around the other week, we talked about the trees in Alpine Seasons. She said she hated stitching them and I said I liked it.

I was wrong.

I'm struggling with the ones down at the bottom of part 7. Bah. I will get them done, but it'll have to be when I have a moment of space for myself, and that hasn't happened lately.

Nicki, you were right. They are horribly fiddly. I think the fact they're right over on the edge of the scroll rods isn't helping either.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

A little Cinderella

I decided today that I've had enough of Cinderella for now. Those trees are really annoying to stitch, so I'm just going to stitch a little bit at a time until I get the castle done. I'm happy with this as I've been feeling a bit funky lately (a highly accurate medical turn you understand) so I think staying settled and as minimally stressed as possible is best.

Here's what I got done this time around. (Previous progress here.)

Birthday Stitching Stash

My parents gave me some money for my birthday, which gave me enough to order the supplies kit for Chatelaine's Illuminated Medieval Sampler.

These are the overdyed colours for the design:

Since I was already shopping and had a tiny bit of money to spare, I also ordered Papillion Creations' Quaker Game Board. I was tempted by the thread pack as well, but that was getting a bit extreme, especially since it will probably be a few years before I get to stitch it.

To top it all off, the wonderful Fudgey gave me the new HAED release of Teri Rosario's Fire Element. She even admitted that she had, ah, encouraged Michele to get it finished in time for my birthday. I love this and would love to start it soon, but I'm sticking with my "don't make the rotation any bigger than necessary" plan. Since I'm planning to add some kind of birth sampler to it soon anyway, this beautiful chart will have to wait.

Looking for a baby pattern

I've recently heard that Marcus is going to get a cousin in October. (My SIL had the first scan yesterday and all is looking good.)

I'd like to stitch something for the baby, but it will need to be something I can get done in time. I'd rather have something a little "classy" rather than "cute". Also gender neutral or able to be customised at the last minute as they still haven't decided if they want to know the sex of the baby.

I wondered if some of the nice sampler designs out there these days (like Long Dog and Papillion and those guys) has something for a new baby?

I would welcome any suggestions please.

(I had a great birthday yesterday, including stitchy presents and I'll post an update when I have enough time to get together pictures to go with it and that sort of stuff.)