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Saturday, December 4, 2021

Advent Calendar Blog Hop

Welcome! It's that time of year for Jo's blog hop, and today is my turn. I don't have any cross stitch to show off yet, although I've picked out a few designs; a challenging fall meant I'm way behind all things stitchy. 

But I do have a tree! Which is Jo's theme this year! 

This wooden tree was originally part of a hand-carved Christmas card holder my late uncle made for me years and years ago. At some point someone (I never found out who) knocked it over, breaking it; the only salvageable part was one of the trees. I painted it green with a little silver mixed in, giving it a nice sheen, and wrapped it with a bit of wire and some clear crystals. You can't tell from this photo, but it has a nice sparkle, and I'm quite pleased with it. 

Jo asked us to talk about Christmas trees. I grew up on what used to be a farm in western Massachusetts, and for many years we just trekked to the far part of our property to chop our own pine down. It was lots of fun, but because it wasn't a tree farm we ended up with some wonky trees. One tree was gorgeous on one side, but almost bare on the other, so that was the side we put against the wall. Another tree had a distinctive curve in its trunk. A third had two tops, so that year we put on two stars. 

Now I live in New York, so we get our tree from one of the temporary vendors who set up shop all over the city (real trees might be more work, but the smell is divine). I can't show you our tree, because we haven't bought it yet -- we generally wait until the middle of the month to get one. Once it's set up and the branches settle, we decorate it with lights and ornaments: old and new, handmade and purchased. Then we sit back and admire our work.

Whether you have a real or fake tree, or no tree at all, I hope you all have a lovely and peaceful Christmas!

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Book Round-Up

 Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner: Weiner's mystery is set in a very wealthy suburb of New York. One glamorous mother is killed, and another, not-so-glamorous mother tries to figure out who did it. The mystery itself and its resolution was interesting, but the narrator drove me nuts -- a very wealthy, white, educated woman who felt sorry for herself because she didn't fit in with the others, but she never really tried, she judged them just as much as they judged her, and she wasn't actually that different from them.

The Bookshop of Second Chances by Jackie Fraser: A delightful romance with grown-ups who (mostly) behaved like grown-ups, set in a bookshop, against the backdrop of Scotland's wild terrain. What's not to like?

Ombria in Shadows by Patricia McKillip: Another of her lyrical, somewhat unconventional novels. The various characters, and the city of Ombria as a whole, face a great upheaval with the death of the Prince, and lurking behind and underneath everything is a shadow city that may take over without anyone being the wiser. This last element reminded me of both Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere and China Miéville's The City and the City. But these three stories could not be more different in their interpretation of a hidden city.

Fossil Men by Kermit Pattison: my lone nonfiction read for Nonfiction November (not that I read a lot of nonfiction). In college I took a course in paleo-anthropology and read Donald Johanson's Lucy: the Beginnings of Humankind. This book served nicely to update me on all the advances, discoveries, and revisions since Lucy.

Friday, November 5, 2021

Book Round-Up: Darktober Edition

The Plague Court Murders by Carter Dickson: a locked-room mystery set in a creepy, gothicky house -- perfect for October! It was an enjoyable read, although the dialog was a bit much. Did people really talk like that in the 30s, or was it a literary convention?

Season of the Witch by Natasha Mostert: A corporate spy with a talent for remote viewing becomes entangled with two sisters who are witches. They weren't very witchy, though, as the novel focused on psychic powers, which was mildly disappointing. Nonetheless, it was entertaining enough, although the fetishization of the wealth of all the main characters got tedious. 

When Autumn Leaves by Amy S. Foster: This novel started strong, with each section devoted to a particular woman or two in a paganish, Stars Hollow-like town, but a couple of the later stories left a bad taste in my mouth. Apparently this was meant to be the start of a series, and I definitely would have read more -- I did enjoy most of the characters, and many of the story lines are unfinished in one way or another -- but the author (or the publisher?) changed her mind. As as stand-alone, then, the story might have been served better by integrating all the characters into a single narrative, rather than isolated chapters. 

Hide me Among the Graves by Tim Powers: I can't get enough of his blend of historical and supernatural fiction. This one is a kind of sequel to The Stress of Her Regard (which I have not read), and is about two vampires (a.k.a. the Biblical Nephilim) hunting the citizens of London, from mudlarks, former prostitutes, and veterinarians to the artists Christina and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. An excellent read, with a novel take on vampires.

The King in Yellow and Other Stories by Robert Chambers: The first few stories, quite spooky, have as a linking element a fictional play called The King in Yellow, which purports to induce madness in those who read it. However, the stories gradually transition away from any supernatural element into a more romantic style about artists and bohemians living in New York City and Paris; they were kind of a let-down, to be honest.

Those Who Hunt the Night by Barbara Hambly: Another vampire novel set in London, this time 1907, and it's the first in a series described as "for those who hate the Twilight books." James Asher is a former spy and current Oxford professor hired by a very dangerous vampire to find out who's been killing vampires. It's not as intricate as Powers's book, but very enjoyable.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Halloween Trick or Treat Blog Hop

 Boo! It's time for Jo's annual Halloween blog hop, and I'm here to give you the letter 

letter U


I didn't actually get a whole lot of cross stitching done this October (you can see what I finished in previous posts), because I decided to do the talented A.J. Pritchett's Stitchtober challenge on Instagram. I did mine as all one piece, with a fairy tale theme:

Some close-ups: 




"Overgrown" and "Concealed" (a twofer!)








"A Dark Power"

This was a fun exercise in creativity, and it was nice to do a little embroidery for a change.

On to the next stop! Which is An Arizona Stitcher. Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 29, 2021

13 Days of Halloween

 Is finally done!

That tiny one-over-one lettering took forever. I'm not crazy about those clay buttons popular for some projects, so I stitched all the motifs (with a few beads for good measure. One can never have enough beads). I also had to omit the surrounding lettering because a needle minder from a company that shall go nameless left a giant rust spot on the fabric. I tried all sorts of removers and home remedies, to no avail. Oh well, less stitching to do.

The design is by Praiseworthy Stitches, as you may recognize from the idiosyncratic lettering; I actually ended up modifying the As, Ns, and Rs to make them a bit more legible. 

Love it.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

A Cross-Stitch Witch

 Third in the Prairie Schooler Halloween series:

I say "series," but really it's my own little series that I've created from the designs in the Just Cross Stitch Halloween issues; the first one (the owl) had a checkered border around it, so I added that to the subsequent designs and made some thread changes to match.

 Only, now that I see the three together, apparently I used the wrong orange for the witch. Aaaargh!

Friday, October 8, 2021

Primitive Pumpkin!


This little guy is from a design by the Primitive Hare, in the Just Cross Stitch 2016 Halloween special issue.  The entire design wasn't my style, but this face kept catching my eye, so finally I stitched him. And he fits perfectly in a 3-inch hoop!