Friday, November 29, 2013

Not a Happy Camper : (

I have been wanting a nice nativity set for many, many years but I have never been able to find one I have liked.  I started looking again this year & found a lot of nice looking sets at Fontanini  I purchased this one ...

  ... along with several separate figures to go with it.  It arrived earlier this month but I did not bother looking inside the boxes, trusting that all would be fine.  After all, Fontanini has been around for a long time, & they are a well respected company that produces nativity sets of high quality, right?

This morning I felt festive & decided to start doing a bit of decorating.  I cleaned off the top of our buffet in the livingroom & excitedly opened the box that contained the stable you see above.  Let's just say that I am appalled.  See those "earthenware pots" on the right side of stable?  Mine are sitting on blobs ... big blobs ... of hot glue that spread out around them.  One of the pots is actually leaning to one side because it was not glued down flush with the base.  There are also blobs of hot glue underneath the fence posts & these blobs spread down toward the front of the stable base.  

What has happened to pride of workmanship?  I could literally sit here & cry, I am so disappointed   : (  Now I have to package everything back into a shipping box & pay to ship it back to the store.  I did not notice before printing out the return form that they charge a 20% restocking fee for all returns!!!  I emailed them saying I did not think this charge should apply to me since I would have gladly kept the product if the workmanship hadn't been so shoddy.  I'm sure that will get me nowhere.  If anything, they might offer to send me another nativity set, but after seeing the workmanship on this one, I don't want to try again.  

Sorry for the rant.  I guess I'll go do some dusting & think of what else I can put on that buffet other than something that represents the true meaning of Christmas  : (    

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

"Oh come, let us sing unto the Lord:
let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,
& make a joyful noise unto Him with psalms."
Psalm 95:1-6

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Las Vegas

I have just spent 2+ hours trying to find a decent blog template to match with any number of winter/holiday header photos I have.  What an ordeal.  I'm not thrilled about the way things are looking right now but I am (no surprise) tired of playing with it ... so I will catch you up on my life these past several days without my computer.

Most of you assumed that my computer was going away for some repairs or upgrades of some sort.  I can understand why you thought that, but the computer stayed right here on the dining room table.  It was me who went away.  I didn't want to post ahead of time that I would be gone for a few days & I'm sure you can understand that decision   : )

John has been wanting us to travel someplace together for months now, but with my surgery & health issues it hasn't been possible.  Although my health is still rather iffy, I figured I was well enough to go somewhere for a few days.  John decided we'd go to Las Vegas.  He had been there not long ago & really enjoyed himself.  He loved the weather & enjoyed walking around & seeing all the hotels.

I had been to Las Vegas when I was 19 ... 41 years ago.  Two friends & I decided to leave home (Pittsburgh) & move to California. Hard as it is to imagine, I was a model during the brief time we lived there.  The photographer I worked for took several of us girls to Las Vegas for 2 days for a photo shoot at a nearby ghost town.  It being my first time away from home, I was in awe of being someplace so famous that I had only seen & heard about on TV.  Here I am back then ... 1972.  I asked the photographer to take a picture of me as we were heading back home so I could remember my visit.

I had hoped that John would be able to take my photo with this scene in the background ... kind of a "then & now" kind of thing, depressing at that would be ... lol! Unfortunately, that sign ... that whole area is no longer the same.  I guess I didn't really expect it to be, but I hoped that the hotel would have had the sign on their grounds somewhere.  They didn't.  This is a photo I found online of the Las Vegas strip when I was there.
Here it is today.
You just can't imagine what it's like being there unless you've been there.  New York City, San Francisco, London ... nowhere I've been comes close to the constant bombardment of noise, advertising, excess & overindulgence. 

It rarely rains very much in Las Vegas, but it started raining the day we arrived & it never stopped until our last day there. Three days of constant rain.  It was also windy & cold.  Thankfully everything is close to everything else so it was easy to duck in & out of hotels, casinos, & shopping malls. Before we left the devil's playground, I did a bit of research & found that there is a great cross stitch shop & knitting shop in the town of Las Vegas (not on the strip) & I was looking forward to visiting them, but the weather was just too miserable to catch buses & trot a few blocks to get to these places.  

We saw a couple shows while we were there. Jersey Boys, which is the story of how the Four Seasons got together, & a show called Divas.  Both were okay.  Nothing to write home about ... or in this case, nothing to write a blog post about   : )   

The shopping opportunities were beyond my imagination!  I had a lot of fun looking through the different stores.  We found a Teavana & I stocked up on some yummy teas while there   : )   The food offerings were also amazing!  I will miss having all that good food!  I went off my diet while we were there & ate such things as pizza & burgers & fries & chocolate, yet I only gained a pound & a half.  Maybe I can chalk that up to all the walking we did   : )

I took very few photos because of the weather.  It was so cold that it snowed on the surrounding mountains so I did take photos of those   : )

The hotels & malls were in the process of getting their Christmas decorations out on display.  Here is a photo I took in the Wynn hotel.  Those Christmas baubles are actually made of all different kinds of live flowers.
We asked a security guard to take our photo in front of one of the displays in the Encore hotel.  Of course we blocked out most of it!  
Here's the display without us being in the way.
I thought it was pretty cool   : )

This next photo is the ceiling in the lobby of the Bellagio hotel.  The ceiling is like this all year.  All those flowers are made from colored glass.
In this same hotel there was a French patisserie, Jean Philippe Patisserie.  I couldn't pass up having some French pastries!  They weren't as good as they are in France, but I enjoyed the vanilla eclair I decided to have. I took a few photos of all the sweet baked goodies to show you   : ) 

There was a chocolate fountain there because Jean Philippe not only makes pastries, he makes chocolates.  There was a plaque next to the fountain telling how it is the largest chocolate fountain in the world. There is a place for white chocolate, dark chocolate, & milk chocolate.
I took this next photo while on a portico of the Bellagio.  It shows the Paris hotel in the background with a replica of the Eiffel Tower which is half the size of the original tower in France.  John & I went up to the top to look at the views.  Quite scary for someone who is afraid of heights but once I got up there I felt safe.  It's all enclosed so no chance of slipping & falling out   : )
We stayed at the Trump hotel.
I meant to take photos of our room, but every time I thought of doing that we had our stuff laying everywhere.  I did take some photos of the bathroom though.  All marble & glass.  The shower was huge!  (Yes, that's a bit of the bedroom in the second photo.  We had a one bedroom suite.)

Our first night there we decided to take the hotel van to Cesar's Palace.  While waiting at a light to turn left, a car plowed into the back of us & hit hard.  It's amazing that the driver was not hurt.  He wasn't paying any attention at all ... he just rammed into the back of the van at high speed.  The front of his car was totally demolished.  There were 10 of us in the van.  John felt some back pain.  I had a pinch in my neck that shot a kind of electrical jolt across my face to my eye.  We reported this to the hotel & had to fill out a bunch of forms.  We seem to be getting better.  I hope so.

Our flights to Vegas were uneventful but the return flights were exciting   : )   The connecting flight in Denver was late coming in so we ended up leaving late.  It was snowing to beat the band (I loved it!) & by the time we all got on the plane & the plane was de-iced, we were too late getting to Chicago to make our connection to Cincinnati.  We had to kill 3 hours waiting for the next flight to take off.  It was snowing in Chicago too, by the way, & I loved it there also   : )   We arrived in Cincinnati at 10:00 p.m. & yes, it was snowing   : )   We got back home at about 12:30 this morning.  No snowing here but it had snowed.  There was snow laying here & there in the yard.  It did snow earlier this evening, however, so woo-hoo!!!  

Getting back into the swing of things is a little difficult due to the 3-hour time difference between here & Las Vegas.  It is going on 12:30 a.m. right now & I am wide away.  My body thinks it's 9:30 I guess   : )   Tomorrow we are picking up some meds, some groceries, & I'm hoping to maybe find a fresh turkey breast at this late date.  I would not have had the time to defrost a frozen one after getting home.  If I can't find one, we'll be having some spaghetti for Thanksgiving dinner   : )

Are you still being thankful?  I hope so! Today I am thankful that we were kept safe during our trip.  

I'm sorry this post is so long ... & probably so boring ... but there you have it.  I've caught you up   : ) 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Bye-Bye Computer

I just wanted to post a little note to say that I won't have the use of my computer for a few days.  I have no intention of using a library computer or anything like that, so if you email me & don't hear from me right away, this is why.  I know ... some of you are saying "We emailed you a long time ago & are still waiting for a response!"  I deeply apologize.  I have been trying to catch up as best I can.  Lots of stuff going on here, & of course I have been stitching away on Christmas exchanges & gifts.  I wish I could show you some of them but that will have to wait until they are received   : )

In the meantime, I can show you another photo of Sophie soaking up the heat coming from the heating vent.  She's actually sleeping on it here!  She looks like the picture of contentment, doesn't she   : )

I also took the following photos of Sophie a couple days ago.  When I get up in the morning, it is early, still dark outside, & John is still sleeping.  I brew some tea & then sit in my recliner to spend time in prayer & study. The very second I start to sit down, Sophie comes running over to snuggle on my lap even before I get comfortable!  Here she is wondering why I'm taking a photo instead of using her as a lap desk as usual.   
Now she's happy, fulfilling her morning purpose of being a lap desk   : )
I wish you all a happy weekend ahead!  Are you still being thankful for something each day?  Today I am thankful for being blessed with such a sweet & snuggly cat   : )

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Trip to the DMV

"...Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of satan, to torment me."
2 Corinthians 12:7

Thorns take the shape of many things.  Of course in this verse, Paul is talking about a thorn in the flesh which tells me he is referring to something physical.  However, I think thorns could be other things too.  A person's ongoing struggle to make a decent French knot, for example.  Or, for the purpose of this post, the thorn of unphotogenicness.

I renewed my driver's license this past Thursday.  When we moved here, I was quite impressed when the DMV clerk took 4 photos of me, grouped them together, & asked me to choose which one I liked best.  Like a proof sheet!  Back in the days when people used to take photos using cameras with film in them, professional photographers, especially those who photographed Hollywood stars, would use rolls of film during a photograph session & would then have the photos developed onto proof sheets, like this one.
Usually the photographer would then choose the photos he liked best for distribution. Note how only 4 of the photos on this particular proof sheet were deemed acceptable, but the photographer in this instance had no say in the matter.  This actress, Marilyn Monroe, had it stipulated in her contracts with photographers that she would look at the proof sheets first.  She would then mark a big X over the photos she thought were unflattering.  Per their contract, the photographer would not use them.

My license was due to expire next week. About 2 months ago I received a card in the mail reminding me of this fact.  I put the card where I could see it so I wouldn't forget.  I kept putting it off ... waiting for a time when the angels might possibly smile upon me so that I might end up with a decent photo.  Thursday was the day.  No marks on my face, my hair cooperated with my styling attempts, & my eyes were still sparkling with happiness due to the euphoria I was still experiencing from the snowfall earlier in the week.  I felt the time was right. I headed to the DMV. 

Marge, or whatever her name was (I'll call her Marge) called me up to the counter to confirm that my information was still the same & to get the 20 bucks the devil's playground charges for a person to renew their license.  She then told me to sit down in the chair across from the camera.  Her instructions were "Look at the blue dot & smile big."  I guess Marge has a quick trigger finger or something because no sooner than I began to smile, she took the photo. Because of this, I am shown not smiling big, but in the process of smiling big.  I look like some kind of mutant farm animal.  It doesn't help that the DMV ... or maybe it's just Marge ... decided that the photo should show nothing but my face.  A great, big, boxed closeup of my face.  

I looked for a photo online that would somehow convey to you what my photo looks like on my license ... the photo I am going to have to use for identification purposes for the next 4 years if this house doesn't sell & we are stuck here that long.  The best I can do is show you that on my driver's license photo, I look something like this.
The really sad thing is that now when someone asks me for my ID & I hand them my license, they will look at it, then look at me, then look at my license again, & then had it back to me saying "Yep, that's you!"  Sigh!

On a happier note, I took some additional photos of the snow God blessed us with this past Tuesday & here they are.  These are taken from the porch looking straight out at our front yard, then to the left, then to the right.

Makes me smile just looking at this scene again!  Of course the snow is all gone now, but hopefully it will come again.  If nothing else, it's been a bit on the cold side as Sophie shows us in these photos.

I think it's so cute how she curls up over the heating vent to keep warm   : )   

It's IHSW weekend (see link on sidebar).  It snuck up on me this month!  Like last month, I'll be stitching things I won't be able to show you, but I'll figure something out to share with you   : )

Have a great weekend!  

Friday, November 15, 2013

Ecclesiastes 3

"To everything there is a season...."
Ecclesiastes 3:1

This Bible verse has a special meaning to me. I was reminded of it a few days ago when a friend mentioned that she was a bit envious that I have uninterrupted moments of time when I can sit & read & stitch & do whatever else I want to do, whereas she has the responsibilities of taking care of a rather large family & therefore time for her to do these things is difficult to come by.  

When I was 28, John & I were living in Florida in our first home.  Our daughter Kati was 2-1/2 at the time.  I was a stay-at-home mom & making ends meet was tough.  My days consisted of taking care of Kati & taking care of the house.  This one particular summer my 18-year-old niece decided to come for a visit for 2 weeks.  Every day she went to the beach, went shopping, met kids her own age, went to parties in the evenings, etc.  Meanwhile there I was sitting at home with Kati, taking care of her & worrying about the mortgage & all the other bills.  I was feeling somewhat sorry for myself & also somewhat jealous I guess.  I had a very good friend back then who was 10 years older than I was.  I mentioned to her how I was feeling & her response was "Remember Shirlee, to everything there is a season."  She went on to explain that not so long ago I had been 18 & it was me who was going to fun places & doing fun things without any responsibilities to worry about.  I was now in a new season ... making a home & taking care of my family.  I had my season of being 18 ... it was now my niece's turn to have that season.  What my friend said really made an impression on me.  She was right!  It was like a light bulb went on in my head & it really turned my thinking around.  Over the years there have been times that I have needed to remind myself "to everything there is a season."  Not quite in the same way as back then, but it really helps to remember these words from time to time.  Many seasons are behind me but there are still seasons ahead. I'm sure these words will serve me in the future as well   : ) 

When I was a teenager, a group called The Byrds recorded a song titled Turn, Turn, Turn.  It was a beautiful song & very popular at the time.  Below is a YouTube video you can click in case you're not familiar with the song or if you'd just like to hear it again.  The lyrics are taken from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

"To everything there is a season, & a time to every purpose under heaven.
A time to be born, a time to die;
A time to plant, a time to reap;
A time to kill, a time to heal;
A time to laugh, a time to weep;
A time to build up, a time to break down;
A time to dance, a time to mourn;
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together;
A time of love, a time of hate;
A time of war, a time of peace;
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain, & a time to lose;
A time to rend,  a time to sew."

Are you keeping up with the 30 Days of Thankfulness challenge I issued at the beginning of the month?  Today I am thankful for that good friend of mine who once said to me "Remember Shirlee, to everything there is a season."

How about I have another giveaway?  This will be a Thanksgiving giveaway.  I will choose a winner on Thanksgiving morning.  To enter, simply be a current follower as of the time of this post & leave a comment telling me what you're thankful for today   : )   Comment no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Wednesday, November 27th.  If you comment, you will automatically have a chance to win the giveaway.  If you want to comment but do not want a chance to win the giveaway, make sure you tell me so in your comment.  Also, make sure I have some way to get in touch with you should you win.

Please do not mention this giveaway on your blog.  My purpose in having giveaways is to treat my followers, not gain more.  
What will you win?  A brand new hardback New Testament with Psalms & Proverbs in The Message translation!
NOTE:  This is not a purse-size book.
It is regular-size book with 816 pages.
Because of this, I regretfully cannot include overseas followers in the giveaway.
It would just be too expensive for me to mail the book   : ( 

Best of luck to all who enter!   

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

An Absolutely Fantabulous Morning!!!

"Look," says the Easily Influenced Stitcher! "Snow!"

"The Lord is my strength & my shield;
my heart trusts in Him, & He helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
& with my song I praise Him."
Psalm 28:7

Life is good   : )

Monday, November 11, 2013

Two Giveaways at Victorian Motto Sampler Shoppe

Nancy at VMSS has 2 simultaneous giveaways happening at this time!  One is for a lovely sewing necessaire.  Click here for a chance to win!  Drawing will be held on December 1st.

Nancy is also giving away one of her new Primitive Merry Christmas hanger patterns with trims!  Once again, the drawing will be held on December 1st.  Click here for a chance to win! 
If you mention that I referred you to the giveaway, I'll get some extra chances to win. Please do so if you feel so inclined   : )

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Floss Show & Tell, & a Cry for Help

Not long ago I posted how I store my DMC floss & showed a photo of my designer floss collections ... WDW & GAST ... hanging from large binder rings on a rod in an upstairs closet.  I made a reference to how I had once had these collections hanging from my dining room chandelier & someone said they would have loved to have seen a photo of that.  I had done a post about them in the early days of my blog but had no idea where it might be.  Well, this morning I was searching through some old blog posts for something else & came across those photos ... so here they are   : )

It was very convenient having them hanging there, but since we were planning to put the house up for sale, I had to go the closet route ... much less pizzazz.  
Incidentally, I have added a new list to my sidebar which I've temporarily titled Popular Posts.  As I go back in my blog from time to time & find posts that people have particularly enjoyed, I will add them to the list.  Right now there is only a link to the original chandelier floss storage post.  

Recently I have been delving into the unknown as far as my floss usage is concerned.  My favorite floss to use has always been DMC.  It's not very expensive & it's available at most craft stores.  However, I've been a bit disappointed with it recently because it has been tending to shed little bits of fiber.  By the time I've finished using a strand of 12" in length or so, it looks like I've got mohair threaded on my needle.  I decided that I'm going to give Sullivan's a try. I have ordered some but I have not yet used it.

I've read a lot of good things on blog posts about Nina's Threads & decided to give them a try.  Of course I couldn't just try a skein or two.  The posts I read were so complimentary that I bought an entire set.  I must say I am not disappointed!  I can't show you the project I tried them on because it's for an exchange, but I am more than pleased with them!  Beautiful color blending, very lustrous, & excellent coverage! While using them I felt like I was stitching with the threads of royalty or something   : )
I have also read a lot of good things about the floss that Nancy sells at Victorian Motto Sampler Shoppe so I ordered a couple red skeins to try for a project I was planning to stitch but have since scrapped, plus I ordered her Antique Christmas floss set & also her 1797 Sampler Floss Collection.  I haven't used any of this floss yet but I am planning to use some in my next project ... another exchange   : )   I will tell you that the colors are beautiful.  I will give you my thoughts on stitching with them in a week or so but I'm sure I will enjoy using them!
They don't look as impressive piled on my floor as they do in Nancy's ad for them   : )
While gathering up the sampler collection, I heard someone giggling & found Miss Pearl in my recliner playing pretty with a few skeins from the Antique Christmas collection!  Silly Pearl   : )
I have some no-longer-available floss I purchased a year or so ago that I have just thrown into a box to play with at a later time.  One of the brands is Six Strand Sweets. The other brand has a W in the name I think. Sigh!  My OCD got the best of me (it usually does) & I had to walk upstairs, find the box, & find the floss.  The name of this other brand is Old Willow Stitchery Floss.  I haven't used either of these flosses yet but I really guess it doesn't matter since they're no longer sold.

Now here's my cry for help.  I was informed not long ago that I am a total moron because I do not have the skill to swap out colors in stitching patterns like other stitchers do.  Lately I've been wondering if this is a skill I can maybe learn.  It sure would be helpful for those times when I see a stitching design that I love but the designer chose to have it stitched with colors that are not to my liking.  The designer floss skeins that I have on those binder rings up above are placed in alphabetical order.  Would it be better to group them by color families within each brand?  I'm thinking that this way, if a design is calling for a certain color of DMC (or any other brand of floss) ... let's say a red color ... & I'm not happy with the red color called for, I could easily see all the reds I have to choose from together in one area rather than having to flip through all the rings to find all the reds.  All the WDW reds would be together, all the GAST reds, etc.  Does this make sense?  Is this how it's done?  I'm not even going to consider the possibility of swapping out a red for a blue or some such thing.  Just the thought of that makes me feel the need to lie down with a cool compress on my forehead.  

How is everyone doing with their 30 Days of Thankfulness?  This morning I actually gave thanks for 2 things.  I woke up while it was still dark & noticed a huge amount of stars in the sky.  It's one of the perks of living out in the country ... no lights to distract from the stars.  How beautiful they are!  God gave us so many beautiful gifts for our eyes to see & one of those gifts would be the stars   : )   I was also thankful when the sun came up & I saw that the grass was covered with frost!  You know me ... I love cold & frost & snow.  Frost is not as good a snow, but it still makes me happy   : ) 

"He sends the snow in all its lovely whiteness, scatters the frost upon the ground,"
Psalm 147:16  (TLB)  

The unknown author of Psalm 147 praises God & encourages us to do so as well.  He also encourages us to sing out our thanks to Him.  He lists many things for which we should be thankful & offer praise, but I am most drawn by verse 16.  I think this unknown author & I would have been good friends   : )  
I wish you all a very happy & thanks-filled weekend   : ) 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

And the Winners are ...

Last week I offered a pocket New Testament with Psalms & Proverbs (NIV) as a giveaway. Although several people commented on my post & shared one of their favorite Bible verses with me, most already had a pocket NT.  Three followers, however, did not & wanted a chance to win one.  Since the number was so small, I decided all three of these ladies should be winners!  I have ordered two more pocket NTs & will send one to all three of you   : )

Congratulations to ...

Sharon - Shebafudge
Pam in IL - My Stitchin-n-Stuff
Dede (no blog)

Friday, November 1, 2013

30 Days of Thankfulness, Giveaway Winner, & Birthday Goodies

Good morning ... & Happy November!!!

Since today is the start of November, the month in which those of us in the United States will be celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday, I thought it would be nice to dedicate this month to thankfulness.  I invite you to join me in a month-long challenge ... 30 Days of Thankfulness.  You don't need to be living in the US to participate in this challenge ... it's open to everyone.  Each day, starting today & ending with the last day of the month, I ask you to think about one thing in particular for which you are thankful.  You don't need to post what you are thankful for unless you want to of course.  Just challenge yourself to think of one thing each day for which you are thankful.  That's it ... there's your challenge   : )

Today I am thankful for the good friends I've made through blogging.  We laugh together, cry together, support & encourage each other, share our hopes & dreams, & pray for each other.  Thank you, God, for placing these people in my life.  I treasure each one of them.

Now it's time to announce the winner of my birthday giveaway!  Congratulations to Pam in IL!  Pam's blog is My Stitchin-n-Stuff.

I decided to choose two more giveaway winners because you know what they say ... all good things come in threes   : )   Congratulations to both Sally (Stitchyangel's Treasures) & Vicki (Stitchy McFloss)!  

I now have some birthday gifts to share with you   : )   This first one is from cucki ... a little strawberry jam mat with crocheted edging & a very cute snowman ornament chart!
From Michelle ... a lovely handmade card, tea bag, Blackbird Sampler chart from Ewe & Eye & Friends, & various bird-related things. Michelle & I love birds   : )
From June ... all sorts of goodies!  Sachet, coaster, tea towel, bookmark calendar, tissues, & pretty ribbon on a butterfly holder : )
From Carol ... an Autumn Bird chart by Heart in Hand, rusty jingle bells, & a beautifully stitched La D Da bird design made into a little pillow with my initials on it!
From Vicki ... a lovely stitched cube featuring a very thoughtful Bible verse ... Proverbs 14:30   : )
From Myra ... one of her wonderful handmade project bags!  I'm even sharing a close-up photo of the creative zipper pull decoration she added to the bag   : )

Thank you again ladies ... you really made my birthday a treat   : )

Wishing all my followers a wonderful, thanks-filled November!