Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas! Saffron is under the tree, Sophie is wearing her Santa hat, the house is decorated, and stocking are hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there...

Stitching, Baking, and Waiting for Santa

The cards and packages have been mailed, the decorations are done, and the presents are wrapped. It's time to settle down and cross-stitch while I watch It's a Wonderful Life and wait for Santa.

I'm stitching a sampler by Blue Ribbon Designs called "Peppermint Twist":

I don't do many samplers but I found the Christmas colors and motifs irresistible! So far I've only done the poinsettias in the upper left corner. I'm stitching on linen called Wood Smoke and the color actually looks like this photo. It's 40 count (i.e., 40 "squares" per inch). You stitch over two squares, so it works out to 20 stitches per inch. This is the smallest linen I've ever worked on and I really like it! I use a magnifier, so it's not hard at all -- and I only need to use one strand of floss.

Speaking of needle work, I haven't yet blogged about our most recent needle felting class on embellishment. The class was taught by Deb (from Stitches 'n' Things) Dec. 13 and I attended with stitching buddies Laurie and Sue. We started the class by wet-felting a Christmas ornament; the rest of the class was devoted to embellishing a sweatshirt with felting. (If you've never heard of needle felting or want more info, refer to Needle Felting Basics.)

Wet felting was what I always thought of as felting. We used hot water to shrink the wool over a styrofoam ball, then embellished it with layers of sparklie floss or textured ribbons and more wool. It was fun and I really like my purply ornament, but wet felting involves lots of pressing and rolling which didn't help my tendonitis.

Embellishing the sweatshirt with needle felting was fun! Here's my finished product:

This is much like the shirt Deb made and used in the class description. When I told Mom about the class and showed her Deb's shirt, she said she wanted a shirt just like Deb's, so that's what I made her for Christmas. (Yes, she knows about it, otherwise I wouldn't be blogging about it before Christmas.)

I cut open the front of the shirt, then trimmed off the ribbing at the neck, cuffs, and hem. I used a stencil to create the flower-and-vine pattern then felted the raw edges. It went amazing fast and I'm very pleased with the result! The shirt is easy to care for, too: just toss it in the washer and dryer.

By the way, if you want to try needle felting, I don't recommend working about Siamese cats (even mixed breeds) who are notoriously attracted to wool. Sophie, my Siamese Snowshoe, tried to help with felting the raw edges and was really miffed when I wouldn't let her lay on the shirt, suck on the already felted portions of the shirt, or play with the wool roving.

Tomorrow I plan to stay home and do more stitching when I'm not baking. I'm making a Red Velvet Cake for my brother's birthday (it was the 19th but we'll celebrate it on Christmas Eve at our family Christmas party). It's been a long time since I made a cake from scratch and I hope it turns out OK! If it doesn't, I'll still have time to get to the bakery before Christmas Eve. :) If I have enough energy left after the cake, I might also make my grandma's date cookies (very similar to this recipe).

Whatever you are doing to celebrate the holidays, I hope you are having peaceful, relaxing Christmas season!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Barney Cam 2008

Every year I look forward to Christmas at the White House. I've never been there but I always enjoy the photos and descriptions on the White House Web Site. My favorite part is always Barney Cam, a Christmas video of the Bush Scotties Barney and Miss Beazley decorating the White House, with cameos by Willard (the Bush cat), President Bush, Miss Laura, their daughters and son-in-law. Other than First Family, the guests vary from year to year.

To see the White House decorated for Christmas or watch this year's Barney Cam, visit the Red, White, and Blue Christmas page. There also link for the previous seven years, in case you'd like to see the decorations or videos.

This is Barney's last Christmas in the White House and I sure am going to miss Barney Cam! I wonder if we can buy them all on DVD? (If so, I haven't yet found the link.)

A Winter Poem

The temperatures have plummeted from the 40s to the 20s with a single-digit wind chill. (Translation for our metric-using friends "temperatures have plummeted from 8 C to -4 C with a -14 C wind chill.") In honor of this freezing weather, I would like to share a poem sent to me by my friend Bob in England.



SHIT, it's COLD!

The End

Stay in and stay warm!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Strange Blogger Problem

Now that my end-of-the-semester grading is done, I have time to think about blogging again. A while ago I noticed a strange problem with blogger but have been to busy to actually write about it. Since I added the code for expandable posts, Blogger's Layout/Page Elements feature is disabled. (For you techie geeks, the error message says:
Error interpreting blog template

Invalid data reference GoogleMarkupException: No dictionary named: 'post' in: ['blog']
This means that to edit my layout I have to remove the related code from my template, update the layout, then post the code back in so I don't mess us the expandable posts. It doesn't take long but I find it annoying, which is why I haven't updated my summer reading list until now.

Does anyone know a better solution?

I tried Blogger Help and several discussion boards with no luck. I'd post the code in question, here but Blogger won't let me. If you want to see it, e-mail me and I will send it to you.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Sweet Saffron

I'm busy with my end-of-the-semester grading, but my beautiful, sweet Saffron is keeping me company in her favorite spot.