Monday, October 29, 2012

Spreading Contagious Happiness

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer 6 years ago, I had a wonderful group of friends that cooked for us, one who cleaned my house and one who took the time to come to a chemo session with me (these lasted about 6 hours each).  Mary Lou stayed all day and kept me laughing . . . the time flew by!  She had been my Slovak Language Class partner when we lived in Slovakia (our husbands worked together).  We didn't know each other in spite of living in the same small town outside Pittsburgh before US Steel sent us overseas.  We took Slovak lessons for about a year and a half . . . made it to Chapter 3 in the book.  Yes, only Chapter 3.  Katka, our Slovak teacher, said we were her worst class.  We may have been her worst class in the amount of Slovak we learned, but I'm sure we were her favorite class because we had the most fun!  Mary Lou is one of those people that you can't help but smile around . . . she exudes contagious happiness . . . yes, that's the perfect description of her.  She is affectionately referred to as my chemo-sah-bee.

While we were recently out of town, I received a message from her that there was something she had seen in a gift shop that reminded her of me and she had sent it to me.  I was thinking "gag gift" surely . . . maybe something Slovak . . . maybe an old language book.  Imagine my surprise at this gift:

Aren't they lovely?!  A stitcher can never have too many pin cushions and who doesn't need a beautiful scissor holder you'd be proud to hang around your neck!?

Thank you my chemo-sah-bee!  What lovely things to remind me of you . . . veľmi pekná môj priateľ!


Saturday, October 27, 2012

On The Road Again

We just got home last night from Pennsylvania.  First we went to the TCA Train Show in York, PA where we spent 3 days walking around a gazillion buildings at the York Fair Grounds . . . don't think my feet have ever hurt so bad . . . that walking all day on concrete is a killer!  It was a shopping trip for the hubs . . . for himself and his shop at the Tri-Cities Flea Market.  The back of the Yukon is nearly full.

Love this part of Pennsylvania . . .the Amish . . . beautiful farm country.   The weather couldn't have been better!

We took some time one morning to go to Shady Maple Smorgasbord in East Earl, PA for brunch . . . it's in the middle of nowhere.   This place is amazing!!  Not only is the food delicious . . . there's a  HUGE selection!

The Lobby is grand!  The dining room goes on forever!

There's an enormous gift shop downstairs from the enormous main dining room.  We just didn't have the hours it would have taken to see it all!  (See me taking the picture in the security camera?)

In another building there is a full grocery store and across the street, a dry goods store and a furniture store. 

We then drove to Allentown/Bethlehem, PA where the hubs had some work to do for an IT consulting job he's currently working on.   After dropping him off at work each day, I explored the area.

Bethlehem is a quaint historic little town founded by the Moravians in 1741.  It has a number of cute shops and restaurants . . . spent a little time and money there.
 Bethlehem Historic District Image 1

Drove to Reading one day to visit Stitch N Stuff, a well stocked cross-stitch shop and enjoyed meeting the owner Deborah.  They now have four of my designs!  Thanks Deborah!!
It was as good as stopping at a Visitors Center!  Deborah gave me brochures and directions to a number of other stops I might want to make.

After having a delicious lunch of pumpkin/apple soup and cornbread in Kutztown at Pop's Malt Shoppe, I only had time to visit Wooden Bridge Drygoods (fabrics, notions and quilting supplies!).  It's on a Mennonite family dairy farm and it was interesting hearing the woman talk on the phone in a mix of English and German.  Got some great fat quarters and pre-cut squares here! 

 Did a little shopping at The Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley one day.  Isn't it interesting that they are building "outdoor" malls now that look like small towns . . . why not just revive the small towns?

The next day I drove to Palmerton (just nothing but cute small towns in PA) to meet a "pen pal" who found me in "blogland".   I've been corresponding with Holly for quite some time about starting up a cross-stitch business sharing what I've learned so far.  She has progressed rapidly and her designs are available from Hoffman Distributing as well as her website! 
You'll have to go see all of her released designs (I got to see some upcoming ones too). . . here's a tease with two are my favorties:

        Check out her website:

Holly is a delight (as I knew she would be from our correspondence) and we talked a "blue streak" over a 3 hour lunch!  It's so great meeting another kindred spirit.

My last day, I drove to Lederach to finally meet Carolyn of Just Cross Stitch (she had ordered my designs finding me on Facebook through a mutual friend).  Lederach is not in my GPS so this was a little tricky.  Lederach is a very small town . . . just a bend in the road with a General Store. . . just darling!  (Love all the stone buildings in PA)  Carolyn was another delight . . . isn't it just that way with stitching friends?  She's got a small shop next to the Lederach Post Office . . . careful, don't miss this booming business district . . . I think there was hair salon there as well. 

Our last night we drove to Easton for dinner.  Yep . . . another cute town!  Easton is where Crayola Crayons are made.  We drove around and up and down the hills of this town looking for an intriguing place to eat.

This looked intriguing . . . it turned out to be a bar on the first floor and an Italian eatery upstairs.  Good lasagna!  Big "small antipasti" salad!

It was a long week and a half and it was so good sleeping in my own bed last night!  There's no place like home!!!


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Shepherd's Bush Retreat Banquet

I've dragged this out as long as I could.  All good things must come to an end . . . why?  I think I want to be adopted by Tina and Terri . . . or at least be their sister !!!

Saturday night September 29th was the final gathering of the Shepherd's Bush Retreat 2012.  We lined up outside the banquet hall in our Christmas finery waiting for the fun to begin.  We were greeted by "Natasha" (a friend of theirs that has done characters for banquets in the past) . . . she's very entertaining!  We found our table (there were sign-up sheets to reserve seats with friends the day before).  We couldn't fit all our friends at one table because small groups had signed up at each table and that didn't leave enough room for our group to all be together . . . didn't really matter . . . we enjoyed our table mates.

All the donated ornaments were spread out on tables and we were given our "claim number" and were to pick up our exchanged ornaments at the end of the night . . . they were all nice and some super cute ones!

The tables were all festive:
The salad was delicious as was the Pumpkin Soup!

There were gifts on the table and Christmas Crackers.  Our friend Caroline (from England)  gave a demonstration on the correct way to "crack" your crackers . . . very much like breaking a wishbone with someone.  They were filled with jokes,  puzzles, trinkets . . .
and paper hats!  We read our jokes out loud at our table. 

Then Tina and Terri wanted the men (some came with their wives on the trip and were able to attend the banquet) to come up to the front.  Terri told them that we wanted them to be included in the festivities.  So, they were to decide together which Christmas song they'd like to sing to us and sing it.  They were great sports and actually sounded pretty good!

There was an envelope on the table and we were to pass it around and pull out one thing that we must do and have our table mates figure it out . . . it might be a charade, or draw a picture, or hum a Christmas song, etc. 

When we finished that, we were to pick a table representative to stand with a provided tablet and marker to write down the answers to Christmas trivia questions read by "Natasha".  The table would discuss the question and come up with the answer in 30 seconds.  Terri timed it and Jeannette blew the whistle (which she got in her Christmas cracker) when the time was up.  If you got it right, your representative kept standing . . . and if you got it wrong, she sat down and your table was out.  There was a prize for the winning table at the end . . . we did well, but we didn't win  : (

Our friends from the Penthouse dinner got up and sang a song about R&R's Retreat coming up the first weekend in October of 2013 . . . it was quite clever.  A lot of the same designers and attendees from this retreat usually go to the R&R retreat since they have their retreat on the off year from Shepherd's Bush.  Can't wait for that one too . . . a little closer to home so I can drive!

    Dessert was also delicious and pretty! 

Then came time to open our gifts.  There were stitched paper stockings  at each place with boxes inside (again, the attention to detail to make it so special).    Inside, a darling pair of scissors with either a naughty or nice fob attached . . . how did I ever get the nice one!

The evening was over and we hugged and said our goodbyes to friends and our thank yous to Terri and Tina and all the designers.  We went to the ornament table and claimed our exchange number.

Hmmm . . . kind of looks like my number was changed . . . did someone want a different one?  . . .  it's cute . . . and it was about the donation to buy the sheep anyway. 

The ornament I made had not been picked up yet, so we waited a few minutes.  The woman that got mine had been in the shop the day before and I had spoken with her.  She had picked up the free chart for the biscornu and I told her that I had made it for my ornament.  She said "I hope I get that one!" . . . and she did!!  She was so happy which made me happy as well!



Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Last Day at Shepherd's Bush Retreat 2012

Could not believe that Saturday, September 29 had come so quickly!  The last day of the retreat . . . it really needs to be longer . . . I want MORE!!!!

First class this morning is Ann and Pat of R&R . . . LOVE these ladies!

Ann is warm, funny and as nice as she can be.  She nearly had a heart attack after the projects were handed out and we were ready to begin stitching when someone said there wasn't a chart in the packet!  She flew out of the room and returned several minutes later with charts in hand . . . whew . . . that was close!  Ann has been SO helpful with advice for my designing "career" since the last retreat. . . can't thank her enough!   Check out their new blog:

Pat is a walking history encyclopedia, FULL of stitching tips and a stitching MACHINE . . . she's stitched over 100 projects in the last year!  (I'm lucky to get 3 or 4 designs charted and stitched and maybe 2 or 3 other projects completed!) She wrote a book in 1992 called "Historic Samplers" . . . great book for anyone interested in the history behind the samplers featured in the book . . . it's still available on Amazon.  There are many other books in this woman crying to get out!  How 'bout "1001 Stitching Tips"?  Or "The History of . . . AMERICA".  I mean it . . . she's a wealth of knowledge!

Lousy picture of them . .  .really they are happy people!!!

Stitchin' away on the project and oops . . . can you spot my mistake?  (Don't know why the color is so off in this picture . . . that does not look like Jingle Java fabric to me!  Definitely going shopping for a new camera soon!)

I corrected my stitchin' mistake last night and I'm on my way!  I switched out most of the threads in their design from DMC to overdyeds . . . I just like the look better.  The design is so cute and so is the Liberty Hill thread holder and scissor fob . .  can you see the heart fob on the far left?

We dashed out during a break and pre-ordered some sandwiches at the little snack shop in the hotel lobby for lunch.  After class we grabbed our sandwiches and headed back to the suite.  Visited with a few friends and it's back to class at 1:30 p.m.

Our afternoon class was with Linda from Chessie & Me . . . she is the "Me" part . . . Chessie was her cat that was always there observing as she designed and stitched.  Check out her blog:

I copied this picture from Linda's blog (hope you don't mind Linda).  That's us (Caroline, Me and Jen) in the second row.  We had been sitting in the first row for our first two classes when . . .  low and behold . . . the "teacher's pets" took over our spot!  We really didn't mind . . . teased them and threatened to shoot spitballs at them.  Rabbit and Diane were behind us . . . we all had a great time teasing each other!
"Shepherd's Christmas" is so cute and I always LOVE the feel of stitching with silks.  The contrast between the three projects  (wool, overdyeds (or DMC) and silk) is dramatic . . . a different experience each night as I switch from one to another!

Do you see the little cat (Chessie) counting pin . . . is that not cute!

Each class we had a Shepherd's Bush "elf" come to class with a gift . . . again, these little touches make this retreat so special.
Some were wrapped in Christmas paper, others tucked in library envelopes . . . all with handmade gift tags . . . just darling!  The gifts were:  a folded paper ORT box, a holly magnetic needle minder and a needle threader with a heart thread holder . . . so cute and useful!

The classes were over . . . how can this be?!  We have two hours until the closing Banquet.  We just had to go back to the Red Tail Grill with friends and get some more of that guacamole . . . and Margaritas all around!!!

I'll save the banquet for tomorrow . . . I don't want this to end!!!!!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Shepherd's Bush Retreat - Friday

Friday, September 28th classes began!  Our first class in Track A-1 was with Jeannette Douglas.  How could you not love her!  She's so enthusiastic and obviously loves her work . . . as do we!  She's from Canada . . . eh?
Her band sampler has a variety of stitches: regular cross stitch, satin stitch, long arm, double herringbone, trellis, leaf, and Queen stitch.  There are bargello hearts at the top and bottom . . . she likes to challenge us.  Her charts are well organized with detailed instructions . . . easy to follow . . . thanks Jeannette!
I'm enjoying working on my first wool project.  I've only changed one thing so far . . . I know, I can't help it . . . but, I just wasn't feeling the light blue . . . "Soary" Jeannette.  Love the rest of the color palette.  I like the feel of the wool and the look of the stitches on the fabric.  She told us to scrunch up the fabric to help soften it . . . I did it but, just goes against my desire to keep it wrinkle-free!  Gotta get the iron out!

After class, we decided to take the Gondola up the mountain.  Someone said there was a restaurant up at the top.  We rode up . . . spectacular views!
There were daredevil bicyclist at the top in all kinds of padded gear that were riding trails down the mountain at breakneck speeds (there are a few behind us)!   I don't even like to ski at breakneck speeds and the snow would at least pad your fall a little bit!!!  The restaurant at the Red Pine Lodge left a bit to be desired . . . it was more of a cafeteria and we were looking for sit-down.  So, back down we rode . . . more beautiful views.
We decided on the Red Tail Grill in The Canyons Resort . . . good choice! 
Diane and Rabbit (from upstate NY), friends since several retreats ago and their new friend (and ours) Ann (from WY) were Jen and my Gondola/lunch buddies . . . the Cosmo got a thumbs up from Jen.  The guacamole got two thumbs up from everybody!

After lunch, I had to dash off to the SB Christmas Shop.  Tina and Terri graciously offered table space in the shop to 3 of us "new designers" to display and sell our wares and do a "meet-and-greet" from 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.!!!!

I sold lots of charts and talked to many stitchers.  I told and retold the story of how at the last retreat 2 years ago I had shown Barb and Alma (of  Blackbird Designs) some of my re-designs of their work.  Alma then looked at me and said I was ready to design . . . it was just the affirmation and "permission" I needed to give it a go!

That evening we were invited to dinner by new friends in the Penthouse Suite.  What a spectacular suite!

We had a delicious dinner of penne pasta, crusty bread and salad . . . and wine!  THANKS Mary and her suite (sweet) friends!

After dinner, it was back to the ballroom for dessert and an evening with Cece Striklin of the Thread Gatherer.  She and Teri collaborated on a felt/fabric stitching-necessaries project. 
Caroline (our English mate since Retreat 2008), Jen and I, seriously full after penne, crusty bread and salad, managed to do damage to the pretty and delicious dessert . . . it was mousse . . . it was light.

 Sisters Lancy and Tammy (sweet friends since Retreat 2010) and Lisa (our new friend) were our table mates for dessert and our project.  Meg and Miriam (not pictured - retreat friends from a while ago) were late-comers to the evening as their husbands, who had tagged along to go fishing, had not returned from their day!  They finally heard from them and joined us  . . . wish I had gotten their picture too.  Meg has had a very trying year fighting cancer.  With 4 out of the remaining 6 at our table being cancer survivors (me included), we were sending "survivor vibes" her way.  Meg wants to do a "words of hope" cross-stitch book and has asked me to do a design for it.  I'm thrilled to give something to those fighting this desease.  Thanks to Meg and we'll keep sending those survivor vibes your way!

All our creative juices were flowing redesigning and figuring out different ways of putting the project together.

This is the front of the project as intended.  It will be interesting to see how many different ways people finished theirs!
 I haven't gotten very far yet . . . every time I take a look at it, I have a different idea of what to do with it.  Think I'll think on it for a while.

Back in our room trying to sleep . . . knowing tomorrow is the final day . . . two more classes and the banquet . . . sleep, again, was elusive!!!  I don't do caffeine, so I'm guessing it was adrenaline I was running on!!!