Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Exploring the Alabama Coast


There Dad, you have been warned.  And I'm sticking lots of photos in so that no one will be taken by surprise.  That said, I thought I'd share a few images from a trip Mom and I took to Mississippi and Alabama last month.  It was beautiful, cool and sunny weather for one day on our trip, and we took full advantage of the gorgeous weather to get out and explore the Gulf Coast.

We rented a car in Biloxi, and intended to drive to Mobile and check out some of the historic houses and museums in that city.  The day started off with a bang.  The rental agency had no cars of the class that I had reserved and offered us an alternative vehicle....  a sweet little black Ford Mustang.  No problem!  We cruised down the coast in our fabulous ride, but on the way decided to take advantage of the nice weather and detoured to Bellingrath Home and Gardens.  Since that's where the snakes were, we'll get to that later.

As we left Bellingrath, we saw signs for Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island, a mere 15 minutes from our location.  So we ditched the idea of going to Mobile and drove over a fabulously long bridge onto Dauphin Island.  We toured Fort Gaines, a Civil War Fort, and then explored the rest of the small island.  I have to admit, I was more excited to discover that Dauphin Island was a major bird refuge currently swarming with migrating birds than I was about seeing the old fort.  This is probably evidenced by the fact that I have no pictures of the fort itself.  But there were tons and tons of bird and beach photos on my camera.

I thought this old log right outside of the fort looked really cool.

And instead of taking pictures of the ruined boat hull outside of the Fort, I took a photo of this mockingbird? sitting on top of it.

By the time we finished exploring the fort, Mom had reached her walking quota for the day.  So she sat in a shady spot in the Dauphin Island bird sanctuary while I took a whirlwind hike through the area.  It had rained VERY heavily during the week leading up to our visit, so much of the paths were muddy, or completely flooded and impassible.  I did, however, find a low boardwalk over the swampy water that turned out to be absolutely fascinating.

I stood just a few feet away from this Green Heron and watched him fish.

 Meanwhile, above him in the trees, this brightly colored Prothonotary Warbler (I think) was flitting around.

There were lots of other birds that I did not get decent photos of.  Just a little bit away from the heron, I could see a otter/beaver/marine mammal gliding around in the water.  But by the time I was able to walk over to get a closer look, a group of LOUD people had arrived, and the little critter had disappeared.  I don't understand why people would walk into a bird sanctuary talking at the top of their lungs and crashing around like bigfoot.  You're not going to see anything if you're making that much noise, so why are you there?

Flashing back to Bellingrath: This place had acres and acres of beautiful gardens that are open to the public.  One of the prettiest areas was the rose garden.

I love roses.  I would love to have a garden just swimming with beautiful roses.

So what do you think?  Is this a nice friendly lion, or his he about to turn someone into a snack?

There was also a small area of the property that is considered a wildlife sanctuary.  It was interesting to walk through, but we didn't see any birds, or fish, or turtles.  But we did see....

A big old water moccasin!!!!  Don't worry, this closeup is due to my zoom lens.  I wasn't going to get to close this guy.  We were on an elevated footpath, and he was many feet below us, basking in the sun.  There was a lady next to us who really wanted to bonk him in the head with her empty drink bottle.  Thankfully, her husband talked her out of it.

At yet another location, I saw this tiny guy swimming through a pond.  Based on the shape of his head, I'm thinking he is also a poisonous snake (again, I was on a bridge, he was far away down below).  Maybe a baby water moccasin?

It was at this point that I invented a new game called "Snake!"  You walk through the woods and suddenly shout "SNAKE!" at your companion.  Their job is to guess whether you really saw a snake, or you're just kidding.  Mom really hates this game.  I guess it's a good thing she loves me so much.

That's all for now.  Hope you weren't too bored looking at more of my travel photos. I'm off to stitch a little.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Some stitching to share

Good morning world!  Today I thought I would share a few photos of some of the pieces I've been stitching on recently.  First up, a finish.  I pulled the kit for Isabella Cook out a month or two ago.  (we interrupt this post to say, "Whoah!  A giant bird just swooped past my window!"  No clue whether it was an eagle, hawk, or heron, since it was mostly out of the corner of my eye, but it was definitely startling to see.  Okay, back to stitching...)  This is an Essamplaire kit, and it's a very small sampler, so it stitched up very quickly:

I have also started working on "Summer at Hollyberry Farm" by Stacy Nash.  I stuck this in my bag and took it with me to Merlefest a few weekends ago.  What could be better than a long day sitting in the sun, listening to great music with my sweetie, all while stitching away?  Oh, but just in case I wasn't nerdy enough by stitching at a bluegrass concert, I decided to stitch this one over-one.  Why?  I think those exhibits at Woodlawn are having a bad influence on me!  Here's what I got done over that weekend:

And finally, I have been stitching on the Blackbird Designs stitchalong.  I think we're supposed to share our photos with them via Instagram.  I don't do Instagram.  So I'm sharing with you here instead.  I'm using belle soie silks on a 36 count linen.  Most of my colors are the ones that they shared on their blog, but not all of them.  I just used what I had available.

I am also working on 2 reproduction samplers from my own collection.  I'll share photos of those as I make a little more progress.  Til next time, have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A tisket, a tasket, a really fancy casket

Tuesday was not such a great day for me.  Late Monday night I forgot that eating rich chocolate late at night is a bad idea, and so I woke up with a severe headache.  I spent most of the day in bed, sleeping or being bored.  But there was a bright spot to the day.  This package arrived late in the afternoon:

The first thing I saw upon opening the big box was this:

My very own cabinet!  There was lots of padding to remove, and another box.  Finally, this sweet piece was revealed:

It took me quite a while to figure out how to open all the secret (and not so secret) compartments.  And boy, do I have a lot of work ahead of me to get this thing into finished shape!

I have learned recently that the last of our specialty threads have finally arrived and are on their way to us.  My plan is to work with those fibers on the miniature box we were provided last year, and practice applying papers and fabric to that box before moving on to work on this big one.  So this will be a long work in progress.  Still, I'm excited to have the casket itself with me!

In other news, the eggs that I shared about back in March hatched right around Easter.  I have to say, baby birds are kind of ugly.  I didn't take many photos, because I tried to disturb the nest as little as possible.  Here's one shortly before they were ready to leave the nest:

Doesn't the guy at the very bottom look like he's rather grumpy about being squished by the others?

A day or two after I took this photo, I saw one of the babies sitting in a bush near the front door, with his parents, or siblings, or both, fluttering around in the trees above, chirping away at him.  It took him over a day, but he finally flew away, presumably to live out a happy little bird life.

I love watching this aspect of nature in action!  I'm off to plot designs for my casket.  Stay crafty, my friends!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A needlework road trip

Back in mid-March, Mom and I loaded up my car and headed to Delaware for several days of cross-stitching fun.  Sadly, I took very few pictures of most of our excursion (what was I thinking?!?!?), so I shall bore you with words instead.

On our way north, we first stopped at the Woodlawn Needlework Exhibit in Alexandria, Virginia.  Woodlawn is a pretty colonial era home that houses a juried exhibit of needlework from around the country every year.  The house was full of beautiful works, and this year it included a special exhibit of items stitched by former First Ladies (and their daughters).  Talk about an inspiring exhibit!  There were so many amazing pieces of stitching on display there.  But no pictures allowed inside, so you'll just have to find the time to visit the exhibit next spring and see for yourself!

Just a few blocks away from Woodlawn was our next stop, In Stitches, the local needlework shop.  This was second visit to the store, and what a wonderful place it is!  Mom and I both picked up some 52/60 count linen thread.  I have a very specific use for that linen which I will share at a later date.  Of course, I also picked up a new pattern or two (even though I have my hands full with my own designs!).

We left the DC area and made it to Dover, Delaware not too long after sunset.  I had found our hotel online, and what a stunner it was.  It's a boutique hotel, with only 8 rooms, called the Dover Garden Suites.  The placed is lavishly decorated and very comfortable.  Mom and I were absolutely thrilled to have discovered this place.  It didn't hurt that it was less than a mile from the museum!

The next day we headed over to the Biggs Museum of American Art in downtown Dover for the first of our classes.  We learned a lot about antique sampler preservation that we intend to put to use on our own collections.  The class didn't take up the full day, so I headed over to Bombay Hook National Wildlife Preserve, while Mom chose to relax back at our hotel suite.

And here's where the pictures finally come in.  I had an absolute blast in the very short time I was able to spend in the Preserve.  The scenery there was beautiful, and there were so many birds:

 Great Blue Herons

 some sort of Swallow?

huge flocks of Snow Geese 

Mallards and many other ducks

There was also an 18th century home called Allee House at the end of one lonely road.  It was in sad shape, as were the outbuildings:

I really wish I could have spent more time in this beautiful space:

Sadly, I missed most of the lectures the second day due to a stupid migraine, but I hear they were great.  I was able to spend some time walking around the exhibit.  There were many beautiful samplers.  I got to see Susan Rambo's sampler in person (I know several of you have stitched a reproduction of it).  Although pictures were allowed, most of the photos I took were really crappy (surprise, surprise).  Here's the best of the worst:

And there was even a sampler with a possible North Carolina connection:

On Sunday, we drove to Philly and visited M. Finkel & Daughter for an open house.  What a wonderful shop!  It was like visiting another museum full of lovely treasures.  So many beautiful samplers for sale, and such interesting histories behind some of them.

We ended the trip as we had ended so many the first part of this year, fleeing ahead of a snow storm.  We drove down to Ocean City, Maryland, and paid a visit to Salty Yarns.  Once again, a fabulous cross stitching store that was a delight to explore.  

So there you have it, a short summary of a truly wonderful trip!

I hope I haven't bored you too much.  Stay safe my friends, and I wish you lots of stitching and crafting time in the coming days!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The best laid plans...

So I had plans for the blog this week.  Tuesday I was going to share my recent stitching, and then later in the week I was going to tell you all about my recent road trip to Delaware.  A stomach bug changed all that, and so I am just now getting around to sharing my recent finishes.  Which means that I have one more finish to share than originally planned.  : )

Stitching progress Chez Patrick has been good lately.  First off, I finally did the trimming and stuffing for a Little House ornament that I actually stitched over a year ago.

I used some Weeks felt for the side, and Crescent Colours rickrack in the recommended color.  The back is a piece of coordinating cotton, because I try to conserve my felt for when it will be seen (it's fabulous, but expensive, you know?).  I'm looking forward to putting this little beauty on my stitching Christmas tree in December.

I also finished Maria Selby Humphrey, the sampler that I started at the end of February.  I'll be taking this to Mom and Dad's next week to pick out a frame.

And finally, I finished the stitching on "Heaven and Nature Sing" from Country Stitches (or With Thy Needle and Thread.  I'm not sure which she has put this under).  I debated whether to go ahead and work on assembling the pillow, but have decided to put that off til closer to December.

I have also finished stitching the model for a Halloween piece I designed myself.  It seems a little early to share that, so I'll keep it for closer to release time (August, most likely).  I am currently still plugging away at charting some more reproductions, and I have started stitching on a small reproduction sampler from The Essamplaire, Isabella Cook.  I've had the kit for this sampler for years, but for some reason the pattern has really been on my mind for the past two weeks, so even though there are a million other things in progress that I could be working on, I pulled her out and have put a few stitches in her in the last two or three days.

Last weekend, my husband and I spent some time with my parents, and on our way home we stopped at my favorite garden nursery.  It's a bit early to buy my favorite flowers, but we did come home with two hanging baskets of blue lobelia for the front porch.  When I went to remove the baskets of dead ferns from last year, I found a little surprise sitting in one of them.  (Background: I intentionally left those baskets up because it amused me to watch the birds taking the dead fronds and fly around the baskets.  Now I 'suffer' the consequences)  There was a nest with a single egg in one of the baskets.  And to my delight, the bird who made the nest is a fan of fiber arts...

Do you see the green thread twined around the front of her nest?  So sweet!  Anyway, I discovered the nest on the first day that she began laying eggs.  Each day for the next 5 days, she added an egg, and now she sits on them for most of the day.  Two weeks from this past Tuesday, I expect to have 5 new hatchlings to admire.  She's a house finch, and so pretty tolerant of humans.  I watch her from the window, and plan to lower the basket a few times to see how things are going (but no touching!).  I am hoping that the cowbirds won't visit her nest this time around.

That's all for now.  Next time I hope to share photos from Delaware.  Til then, have many lovely days, my friends!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sampler progress

Hi all!  Just jumping for a quick update before I head out to the dentist (eek!).  For about a month, I've devoted the majority of my stitching time to working on "Maria Selby Humphrey - 1831" from Blackbird Designs.  I saw the original on display at last year's Nashville (or was it St. Charles?) TNNA show.  Humphrey is a family name, so I had to have it!

I've been stitching it mainly with the called-for threads, but I ran out of Heirloom Gold and decided that there were enough variations in brown on the sampler that I could get away with using some limited edition overdyed threads instead of waiting to order more Heirloom Gold.  I think it's looking fine so far:

I hope to finish this in the next week or so, and then I'm going to start stitching a reproduction Spanish sampler that I have charted.  I haven't settled on the colors for that one yet, so I'm looking forward to a trip to Mom's soon for a color consultation.

I also wanted to share a few more photos from the Pocahontas Jacket.  Here's a sweet little cat motif:

And I HAD to share those crazy mosquitoes:

This is the last photo of the section that I was working on.  Everything you see, except the rightmost flower and the round worm in the right corner is my accomplishment for our trip.  I feel like it was a decent chunk of work!  We have been promised an email showing photos of the actual ceremony in early April.  I wish I could be there in person, and I can't wait to see what the finished piece looks like!

That's it for now.  I'm off to the dentist, and this evening I shall comfort myself with stitches in my Humphrey piece.  Next week, I will share some photos from our trip to Delaware and the symposium at Biggs Museum.  Til then, stay crafty my friends!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Snowy Williamsburg

Good morning, strangers!  I came on here to blog about my trip to Delaware this weekend, and realized that I hadn't shared about our trip to Colonial Williamsburg two weeks ago yet.  I guess I posted so many pictures on Facebook that it just felt like I'd already blogged about it.  Soooo...

Continuing the trend we started with our Nashville trip, our travel plans were disrupted by snow.  Instead of leaving for Virginia on Monday, as originally planned, we left Sunday evening, ahead of the predicted snow.  Monday was spent mostly hanging out in our hotel room, although I could not resist bundling up for a two hour walk around the colonial site (which was around the corner from our hotel).  I basically had the place to myself.  It was a beautiful, if rather uncomfortable, walk around the snowy colonial capital city:

I always love seeing the palace, although the snow obscures this photo a bit:

This is apparently a permanent sign, and it really made me laugh:

It's a good thing this poor little guy had a nice wool coat to keep him warm!

We were in Williamsburg to work on the jacket that will be worn for the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the marriage of Pocahontas and John Rolfe.  You can read about it here.  Tuesday through Thursday mornings, we got up and headed over to the Costuming department for Colonial Williamsburg.  There were always several ladies there working, with several pieces laid out on various frames for us to work on.  Mom and I sat at the same piece every day, and it was like magic watching the piece come alive.  Here's some of what I stitched:

All of the motifs on the jacket represent animals or plants native to North America.  Mom worked on a tobacco plant for most of our time there.  Some of my favorite motifs included cats, dogs, owls, a big turkey, and a possum.  My least favorite was probably the mosquito.  It was cleverly done, but, you know, mosquito.  I thought I had some more photos taken, and I'll have to dig around and see if I can find them to share later.

Our wonderful week of 'volunteer' stitching came to a rather rushed end when we discovered that the forecast called for ice and sleet back home on Thursday evening.  So we cut our stitching short on Thursday morning, did not detour for one of our usual side trips on the way home, and rolled into Durham just as the sleet was starting.  Mom still had another hour to go to make it home, but thankfully did not have any problems.  My brother and sister both lost power for a few days thanks to that storm.  :(

That's all for now.  I will be back on in a day or two to share some of my personal stitching progress, and I also want to tell you all about our visit to the symposium and needlework exhibit in Dover, Delaware this week.  (I am writing from our hotel room before we head back home today, just ahead of .... another snow storm).  Take care and stay safe and warm, my friends!