Saturday, December 31, 2011

Midnight Watch

In 2009, the Blackbird Girls did it to me again.  They introduced a new design called Midnight Watch.  I could not wait to get my hands on this design.  Black cats and fall colors--it was calling my name.

In June of 2010, AppleJack and I took a road trip to Kansas City.  We had a great time and Kansas City was a great town.  AppleJack and I are spontaneous travelers.  Stopping at stitch stores is always on the agenda when traveling.  I had read about this stitch store called Ole Mill Stitchery in Liberty, Missouri  We got out our trusty map and followed the signs.  Ole Mill Stitchery was a fun find, many purchases later and nice ladies, I wandered across the hallway to American Whatever!  WOW!!  If you love wool, if you love hooked rugs, if you love creative, high energy people and a cat named Rosie, DO NOT MISS American Whatever in Liberty, Missouri.  You will think you have died and gone to heaven.  Sorry there are no photos my camera was on the fritz, the day we visited.  One of the great finds at American Whatever was this wonderful re design of Midnight Watch.

This is my 2012 rug hooking project.  As you can see, it is in its beginning stages.  There are many fun stages along the way--purchasing the wool!  Next step, cutting the wool--a great Sunday afternoon project.  Callie Mae naps and supervises while I cut away.  Sometimes we find an old movie to watch, sometimes a Law and Order marathon or Sopronos marathon or History Channel.  Am looking forward to working on this project and hope to complete for fall 2012.  The design and colors just say fall to me.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Seeing Stars

In March of 2011 the American Folk Art Museum had a quilt exhibit at the Park Avenue Armory called Infinite Variety.  The exhibit featured 650 red and white quilts from the collection of Joanna S. Rose.  The exhibit was packed with quilting enthusiasts.  I did not see the exhibit, I think I would have been in sensory overdrive.

Reading about this exhibit and seeing via newspaper, magazines, Internet some of the quilts started me thinking about making a red and white quilt of my own.  Remember, Grandmother Sarah Miranda loved the color red.  I found a freebie pattern called Just One Star.  I looked in my fabric stash box one day and said Eureka!  I have a lot of red fabric.

 While cleaning out a closet one day, I found toile fabric.

 The elements are starting to align--right design, right color, right fabric.  I believe it is all coming together.  Red Stars for Christmas 2012 sounds like a good plan.

From my best estimate, I think the quilt will require approximately 100 stars.  To date, I have made thirty.  It would be wonderful if all the stars could be a different color of red fabric, but alas I do not have this much red fabric in my stash.  I do think I will shop for an appropriate red fabric to make the sashing.

AppleJack wanted to know why I had a needle threader caught in my hair.  Some things are just hard to explain.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

2012 Stitching Plans

I am a list maker!  My lists sometimes make AppleJack roll his eyes!  There is the standard list--groceries and Honey Do list.  The other lists are the stitching, quilting, and rug hooking lists.  Dave Ramsey, author and founder of Financial Peace University says "no one plans to fail, but most fail to plan."  I do not make New Year's resolutions, I make lists plans.  As 2012 is barking on my heels, it is time to start making the stitching, quilting, and rug hooking plans.

Stitching Plans 2012 (please do not come home to haunte me)

1.  An All Was For An Appil by the Scarlet Letter

I have admired this sampler for years.  My love affair with this sampler began when I saw Carmen's.  When I visit Carmen, I also visit this sampler.  For me, this Adam and Eve sampler is the epitome of all Adam and Eve samplers.  The guilty looks, the "I've just been caught with my hand in the cookie jar look,"  the colors, the animals, the scale.

 This sampler is big, I am stitching on a 28" x 18" piece of 32 count linen.  I keep telling myself I am half finished.  I started stitching the sampler in the lower left hand corner because this seemed to be the most dense part and I did not want to do this part last.  Many have stitched this sampler and I admire each and every one.  My plan is to join the ranks of those who have completed the sampler.

2.  Ann Pennsylvania Peacock aka Anne Magnolia by Little by Little

Annie Magnolia was AppleJack's Grandmother.  Isn't this a wonderful name?  Isn't this a name calling to be stitched?  Annie Magnolia affectionately called "Ma" by her family is one of the most fun people in AppleJack's family.  Whenever I am with AppleJack's family especially Sisters, Sis and Sister C, we always talk about Ma.  I will never tire of hearing the stories about Ma.  Again, this sampler sings to my heart because there are so many quirky elements.  Annie Magnolia is bigger than the house!   She had a problem with spelling.  She loved her dog. 

3.  Smalls--As both Appill and Annie are large samplers and I am a S L O W stitcher, I stitch many smalls.  Smalls give me instant results.  I get to say I have finished something.  Some of the smalls on my 2012 plan list are:  Nick by Notforgotten Farm, Primitive Merry Christmas by Chartmakers, a freebie Merry Christmas using French General fabric as the backing, Crowning the Tree by Blackbird Designs.

I also have some Valentine items of smalls by Pineberry Lane.  One is called Redwork Sampler Pillow and the other is Token of Love.

I found some beautiful overdyed wool in my stash and I have decided to use it as backing for Waiting for the Harvest by Blackbird Designs.  And because I love primitives and quirky designs I have included Fancey's Sunflower by Pineberry Lane.

Whew!  For me, this is an ambitious list plan!  We will see how it goes.  It is a good thing I have Callie Mae an alarm clock set for early rising.  Let's hope Life and the new designs from the Nashville Needlework Market in February do not make my plans go amuck!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Feeding the Birds

There are many trees at Thistle Manor.  One of my favorite trees is the dogwood.  Beautiful in the spring with its white or pink blossoms, brilliant red leaves in the fall and berries for the birds in the winter.
The Japanese Maples are another favorite.  The beautifully shaped leaves and coloring.

I have a mixed bag of feelings about the black walnut.  There is nothing like walnut stain for baskets and linens.  The downside to black walnuts--very messy.  It is also very difficult for other varieties to survive under a walnut tree.

The trees provide a landing place for the birds.  The squirrels jump from branch to branch.
Miss Callie Mae loves to hear the sound of the wind rustling through the trees.

There are bird houses.

And empty bird feeders.

One year AppleJack and I decided we would feed the birds.  It began with a 10 pound bag of bird feed which was consumed overnight.

I had always heard a bird eats it weight each day--but WOW those guys had an appetite bigger than mine.  We kicked it up a notch and bought a 25 pound of bird feed.  Same story.  While sitting at the kitchen table, we learned it was not the birds who were enjoying being fed but the squirrels!  They were having a  P A R T Y!  Those clever squirrels had invited their families, extended families, friends, acquaintances, strangers they had met in the grocery store and anyone else left in the squirrel world to Thistle Manor for lunch.  AppleJack and I decided we could not afford to feed the squirrels birds.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Whoops! I forgot the stitched boxes

These are some of my favorite pieces!  Great for storing smalls, embellishments, and buttons.
I also use them for fall and primitive decorating.

The smaller box is a design from The Goode Huswife called Pennsylvania Quilt, it is stitched over one.

                                             The larger box was a freebie from Carriage House.

This is a Blackbird Design from one of the Loose Feathers--Secret Garden, Necessity Box.

The boxes are from Hobby Lobby and start out looking like this.  It is amazing what milk paint, sandpaper, elbow grease, and shoe polish will do to a box.

Does anyone have any suggestions for this box?  I was thinking of a Carriage House design called Penny Rug, a second option is Overshot Heart by Barrick Sampler and a third option is Blackbird Designs Loose Feathers Partridge Sewing Box

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day

In Britain, Boxing Day is usually celebrated on December 26, the day following Christmas.  Many poorly paid workers were required to work on Christmas Day and took the following day off to visit their families. As they prepared to leave, their employers would present them with Christmas boxes.


Boxing Day at Thistle manor has a different meaning.   I have boxes of all sizes and assortments for different purposes.   There are little boxes.

                                                                    Shaker boxes.

                                                                   Festive boxes

                                                                  Painted  boxes

                                                           and wallpaper boxes

Boxes with a purpose.  The boxes provide an eye pleasing approach to hide all my "stuff."  Important stuff like buttons, fibers, linen, letters, fabric, Christmas ornaments

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Charlie Brown:  Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?

Linus Van Pelt:  Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.  Lights, please.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them:  and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, "Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manager."  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."
Linus Van Pelt:  That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown

Saturday, December 24, 2011


Each year Just Cross Stitch magazine releases their annual Christmas ornament issue.  I eagerly anticipate this special publication each year and make many trips to the bookstands to ensure I have a copy.  When I have the ornament issue in my hot little hands, I read it from cover to cover, many times.  I look for my favorite designers and new designers.  I read the stitch illustration section.  I read the "where to find it" section.

 In conjunction with this magazine Shepherd's Bush Printworks has a charm to embellish their ornament.  Through the years the charms have included folk hearts, a shepherd's crook, a horn, their signature sheep, a star, an inn, a silver moon and the list goes on.  Thinking I would stitch the ornament, I purchased the charm.  Soon I had an accumulation of charms but unstitched ornaments.  What does one do with an accumulation of charms?  Make a charm bracelet!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Grandmother Rebecca's Banana Pudding

Bananas are a very controversial subject in our house.  If you want to engage in a lively discussion, just bring up bananas.  No one straddles the fence on the subject.  There are two decisive camps:  the banana lovers and the banana haters.   I'm in the camp of the banana lovers.  One of the reasons I love bananas is because of Grandmother Rebecca's banana pudding.

Here are the ingredients for Grandmother Rebecca's Banana Pudding:

2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup water
2 eggs, separated
1 1/2  milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
18 to 24 vanilla wafers
2 medium bananas

Combine the sugar, cornstarch and water in a heavy saucepan; mix well.  (Grandmother Rebecca used an iron skillet and I find this works well).

Beat egg yolks, add milk; mix well.  Gradually add milk mixture to cornstarch mixture.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture comes to a boil.  Boil one minute, stirring constantly, until thickened.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Cool slightly  (I make the meringue while the mixture is cooling).

Begin with a layer of vanilla wafers then bananas and pudding.  Top with meringue and bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

The good thing about having bananas being a controversial issue:  more banana pudding for me.

In memory of Grandmother Rebecca I stitched a mourning sampler.  I used a Barrick Sampler design called Mary's Wreath.  The mourning sampler is stitched on Birds of a Feather linen and was stitched with Needlepoint Inc silks.  This is one of my favorite pieces of needlework.  Grandmother Rebecca was a survivor and when I am feeling wimpy, I think about her life and pull on the big girl panties.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Silk Ribbon

When I walk into a fabric shop or hobby store one of the sections I never miss is the ribbon, the silk ribbon.  Rubbing my fingers across the silkiness immediately soothes my soul.  I look at colors, not because I am looking for a specific color, but I look for interesting ones that give me inspiration and motivation to work on my ever growing list of projects.  I have been known to purchase silk ribbon for these reasons alone.

I use ribbon in many ways.  I tie my letters from my cherished friend Cindy with silk ribbon.

This over dyed silk ribbon added the perfect embellishment for this Christmas ornament.

Ribbon ties for a needle case.

Well. . . if you are thinking I have an affinity for silk ribbon, let me share Miss Callie Mae's silk ribbon tale of woe.  Yes, Miss Callie Mae has an addiction to fibers.  Her drug fiber of choice is silk ribbon.  When no silk ribbon is available she will settle for a ball of pearl cotton or over dyed fiber, but silk ribbon is her first choice.

Roll the tape back, AppleJack.  The setting is New Year's Eve.  We had just returned home and realized when we walked in the door that something was wrong with Miss Calico.  Crying, upset tummy, not eating, something was wrong, very wrong.   When I walked into the All Purpose room I immediately knew what was wrong.  Miss Callie Mae had been playing with a 16" length of silk ribbon.  The ribbon was missing and with a sinking feeling, I had suspicions where the ribbon was.

Miss Callie Mae was placed into the carrier and off to the Pet Emergency Room we go.  An X-ray showed the ribbon to be in her digestive tract.  The good news, the ribbon was moving and there was no blockage.  In the words of the vet, "what goes in, must come out."  Now would be a good time to give your imaginations a rest.  Let me just say, silk ribbon looks very different when it crosses to the other side.

It took Miss Callie Mae Calico a couple of days to recover from her silk ribbon adventure.  However; this very bad experience did not stop her fiber addiction.  She has eaten smaller lengths of fiber and she is constantly on the prowl looking for fibers.  She is creative in her search, finding her in places I did not think possible for her to fit.  The silk ribbon is now under lock and key.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Introducing Miss Callie Mae Calico

It was the best of times it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch  of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of the noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities    
Thank you Charles Dickens for these words!  I believe you said it perfectly.  The year 2007 was not a good year for me.  In a six week period, I experienced the death of an aunt and two uncles.  Five months later, our beloved Bobo kitty, who shared seventeen years of his life with us would pass.  Two weeks later a dear cousin would pass and two months later a lifelong neighbor.  And my Father was dying with cancer.  It was the worst of times.

For those of us who are blessed enough to share our lives with a pet, their passing leaves an empty place in our hearts and our homes.  No more being greeted at the backdoor, no more jumping into the middle of the bed and staking his claim, no more supervision during weed pulling, no more raids on the Christmas tree.  No more together time.

One day AppleJack crossed the line and suggested we get another kitty.  AppleJack is a brave man!  After my melt down and giving him the forty nine reasons why we would not be getting another cat, he listened. Fast forward a few weeks, brave AppleJack brought up the subject again.  A second melt down, more tears, more reasons.

 A few weeks later, we were driving in Franklin, we drove past The Factory.  The Factory is a renovated circa--1929 group of buildings that once served as the home of Dortch Stove Works, Magic Chief and, in later years the Jamison Bedding Company.  It is on the register of National Historic Places.  This landmark is now the home of a unique shopping experience.  Happy Tales is one of the occupants in The Factory.  Happy Tales is a rescue center for cats and dogs.

Brave AppleJack, crossed the line again, and suggested we stop "to visit the kitties at Happy Tales."  Yes, you guessed it, another melt down, another forty nine reasons why this was a bad idea.  Wise AppleJack said:  "well, let's go anyway, we will leave anytime you want, besides the the Viking store is directly across from Happy Tales and you can buy yourself something new."

With great trepidation we walked into Happy Tales.  With the first sighting of a cat, the tears began to roll down my face and I knew another melt down was on the way.  To prevent the Happy Tales folks and innocent others from calling the men wearing white coats to bring the strait jacket, I found a set of chairs setting out of the way and sat down to compose myself.

AppeJack and I had just sat down when this spunky calico jumped into my lap.  She meowed softly, lifted her paw to my cheek and caught a tear rolling down my face.  She said, "Lady, I don't know what's wrong with you, but life ain't all that bad."  With that statement, she sat down on my lap and started purring.  Stroking her silk like fur, I composed myself.  Five minutes or so later, Calico jumped out of my lap into Jack's lap.  She said, "Bubba, do you have your work cut out for you.  You seem pretty easy going, but that one beside you, well, she has issues."  The spunky calico sat on AppleJack's lap for a few minutes and then jumped down and sat on the floor in front of us.  We started watching her.  We watched the way she interacted with the other cats at Happy Tales and the other people and children.  There was no aggression, no hissing, no impolite eating or bathroom manners, just easy going.  Thinking we were really smart, we realized she was watching us.  She was watching us interact with the other cats, the children and the other people.  Fifteen or twenty minutes passed and she made a second visit.  "Look all you want folks, but when the end of the day comes, I am going home with you."

With this declaration, we started the adoption process.  One of the many wonderful things about Happy Tales is their adoption process, it begins with an application and is followed by an interview.  The application asks questions like:  Do you know how old the average house cat lives?  Do you know what hair balls are?  How do you feel about pet hair on your clothing and furniture?  Who will be responsible for cleaning the box?  What kind of food will you be feeding?  The application is reviewed and the interview begins.  The application and interview determine if you are a suitable, responsible adoptable cat parent.  Whew!  After more tears explaning the death of our beloved Bobo kitty, we passed and the paperwork began.  Medical records and shot records were reviewed with us.  Miss Calico sat close by watching it all.  Everything was going well until Miss Calico was placed in the carrier and the Happy Tales lady started to cry.  She said:  "we get so attached to them, we know they are going to good homes and we want them to be adopted, but they have become a part of our lives."  More tears from me and the Happy Tales lady and Miss Calico once again had to come to the rescue.  "Ladies, this is a happy day, cut the water works, me and Bubba are going to Music City."

On the drive home, Miss Calico never cried.  There was no scratching or clawing the sides of the carrier, there was no instant release of cat hair into the car, just purring.  Miss Calico did remind us to stop and shop for necessary essentials she would be needing for the night.  You know the basics like food and cat liter.

When we arrived at Thistle Manor and opened the carrier, Miss Calico calmly jumped out of the carrier, looked around and started exploring.  She confidently walked from room to room and then sat in front of us.  "Not bad, I believe I can live here.  You know folks it has been a long day and I'm tired, where do I sleep?  In the morning, after everyone is rested from this emotional day, we will establish the rules and boundaries."  This was the beginning of our lives with Miss Callie Mae Calico.

Since Miss Calico was born in March, a date close to St. Patrick's Day, a good Irish name seemed fitting.  Callie Calico seemed to fit.  The Mae came from the book, The Help.  Remember Mae Mobley--you are kind, you are smart, you are important.  We began a new chapter in our lives with this spunky, feisty, Calico.

It was the best and worst of times.  A few weeks after Miss Callie Mae Calico came to live with us, my Father died.  More tears flowed and once again she reminded me "life ain't all bad."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Dishes

Presentation.  If you watch Food Network shows, there are frequent references to presentation.  The Barefoot Contessa does it with style and grace, like Sis.  I will have to agree food does taste better when it is presented with appeal.  AppleJack says his Hillbilly Steak aka bologna sandwich tastes better on a plate--a real plate.

From the late 1940's to the mid-1950's The Homer Laughlin China Company produced a line of china known as Americana.  The special achievement of Homer Laughlin China Company has always been its ability to mass produce inexpensive dinnerware with outstanding artistic value.  Althought their line of Currier and Ives was short lived, it is recognized as the first ware of its kind to successfully translate the rose colored transfer patterns found on expensive English china onto quality everyday dinnerware.  Homer Laughlin "Currier and Ives"  dinnerware pieces are quiet common finds at local antique shopes and malls.  Get the car gased up AppleJack, there is antiquing on our agenda.

Whenever I am feeling down in the dumps, I treat myself to eating on the Homer Laughlin china, the food does taste better and makes me feel special.

The Ruby Red vases were a gift to AppleJack from his Aunt's Avo, Cleo and Minnie.  The vases add such a festive touch to the red plates.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to.  Don't you see?  It's not just Kris that's, on trial, it's everything he stands for.  It's kindness and joy and love and all the other intangibles.
Miracle on 34th Street is one of my many favorite Christmas movies.  Each Christmas season, I try to make time in my very busy, crazy, hectic life schedule to see this movie.  The above quote is one of the reasons I make time to see this movie.  I have always believed in Santa Claus and I will always believe in the kindness and joy and love and all the other intangibles which Santa represents. 

In our corner cupboard sits Chalkware Santa's.

American children call him Santa Claus


In the United Kingdom he is called Father Christmas

Ahh, AppleJack Santa received my Christmas letter.  He is bearing gifts and has a heavy sack full.

That's not lumps of coal in that bag?  Have you been talking to AppleJack?

Another favorite line from Miracle on 34th Street:  "Oh, Christmas isn't just a day, it's a frame of mind."