Monday, May 21, 2018

Today's milestone...

Several weeks ago I spent a silly day on a photo shoot for Planet Fitness, one of my agency's clients. Silly because it was a fun day out of the office playing "model" for a day. In previous gigs I often went on photoshoots, but usually play the role of creative / brand... so being the "talent" was amusing. And, basically, I and a group of my colleagues hung out in a big gym all day, occasionally spending 15 minutes or so on a machine, in a locker room, walking through a door, high-fiving, etc. I can't show you any of the photos here yet -- they haven't been used on the store site or in their social media, so they are still embargoed -- but I'm sure I won't be quitting my day job. Still, a good day.

Eight hours is a long time to hang out in a gym, but I noticed how nice and welcoming the gym was. And then a few weeks later I decided that I liked it enough to join. So after I worked out that I could join online and hardly have to speak to a person (yeah, dumb, but there you go), I signed up on a Monday night and presented myself bright and early on Tuesday morning.

It's been 5 weeks since then, and I'm absurdly proud to report that I've gone every work day -- all 25 of them. As a little accountability project, every day I take a picture of my Tootsie Roll -- did I mention that Planet Fitness has buckets of Tootsie Rolls at the front desk??? -- and send it to Suz.

Nice, eh?

I am sure I won't keep it up forever ... heck, I've already decided not to go on Memorial Day. But it's been nice getting back into the swing of it.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Fox Stitch-a-Long, part 5

SPOILER ALERT: I finished the leaves! I finished the leaves!

There was a lot left to go at the last check-in ... still some green leaves, and almost all of the blue.

But then I finished the green leaves ... AND THE BLUE LEAVES.

Again, it's a little hard to see on the front, but you can see just how much has been filled in on the back!

Oh, and ... I started to stitch the background. I feel like background stitching is probably the most boring part of any needlepoint, but I love how it makes the leaves look even richer and brighter.

Here's a closeup of the top edge -- see how the leaves look brighter next to the navy blue background?

I can't wait to fill the rest of this in -- it's so satisfying!

All of this acanthus stitching and William Morris thinking reminded me of something I read in graduate school -- that the green dyes used in Victorian wallpaper and fabrics contained arsenic and that people were being sickened and even killed by their exposure to them.

I found a book at my library by Lucinda Hawksley, entitled Bitten by Witch Fever: Wallpaper & Arsenic in the Victorian Home.

It's a gorgeous book, filled with rich, full-color images of Victorian wallpapers.

Each chapter cited original sources from the time as they came to the conclusion that the arsenic in wallpapers and fabrics was dangerous, and detailed the eventual shift away from using these dyes. It also gave information on all the papers pictured -- who produced it and when, as well as whether or not it tested positive to arsenic. Again, spoiler alert: all of the papers in the book tested positive. 

The book even included one of my all-time favorite illustrations from Punch -- I had a copy of this at my desk all through graduate school:

I had always taken as gospel the primary source material I had read -- especially the growing outrage in the popular press of the day.

But here's the thing: according to a study in the Journal of Environmental Monitoring from 2004 (republished by the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2005), the "mass poisoning of Victorians by arsenical poisoning" was determined to be an urban myth. I had gotten caught up in "fake news" of the day ... as clearly, have many historians.

On another note, when we were up visiting the tulips two weeks ago, I picked up an acanthus of my own. Being overly indecisive (and planning some big garden work) I decided just to put it in a big pot for now. I look forward to watching her grow!

And speaking of things that are growing; my fellow stitch-a-long members are also working on their growing projects. I've loved seeing what they're working on and how much they are accomplishing! Check out their blogs here:

Avis,  Claire,  Gun,  Carole,  LucyAnn,  Kate,  Jess,  Sue,  Constanze,  Debbierose,  Christina,  Kathy,  Margaret,  Cindy,  Helen,  Steph,  Linda,  Mary Margaret,  Heidi,  JackieHayleyTony, Megan and Timothy.

Monday, April 30, 2018

(Every Day is) Halloween Banner

Halloween is six months away. I'm not the kind of person who decorates their house for every holiday, but I do love decorating for Christmas and Halloween. Especially Halloween.  

I have a growing collection of glass pumpkins that I add to every year, and a Halloween tree. But of course there's room for more.

I have been diligently working on my Fox needlepoint -- honest. But a few nights back I had the house to myself for an evening and I felt like getting out my sewing machine and making a small project. But what to make?!?

At some point last fall I picked up some random stuff in the post-Halloween clearance at my local Jo-Ann. I couldn't resist the skull-patterned burlap, even if I had NO IDEA what people do with the rolls of burlap that appear for every holiday. Turns out, most people make wreaths. Really lovely wreaths. Who knew?

image from burlap wreath tutorial on Little Lovely Leaders

But I already have a Halloween wreath for my door, and I wanted something to dress up the mantel... so I decided to make a banner. 

When I found the pre-cut letters spelling out "TRICK OR TREAT" and "HAPPY HALLOWEEN', I couldn't decide which to make... so I bought both sets. Hey, they were 75% off ...

Because the letters were purple, orange, and black sequin fabric, I wanted something to set it off from the black-and-white burlap. Enter lime green tulle on a roll ... another one of those products I always see at the fabric store but have never bought. I'm told people use this tulle for wedding decorations, party decorations, and making tutus. But I figured a few layers of it on top of the burlap would add a hint of color.

So I started by sewing 4 layers of the tulle on top of the burlap -- using the entire roll of burlap and most of the roll of tulle. Four layers was enough to add a definite green tint, while still being able to see the skulls.

Then I took the big combined roll and cut it vertically into segments. Originally I had thought I would make triangle sections, but that didn't really work with the letters and the size of the burlap. So I made little rectangles, and then cut little ^ shapes in the bottom.

I thought I might sew the letters on ... but then decided that tacky glue would work just fine!

I arranged the letters on some ribbon I had in the basement. True confession: I have had this ribbon for well over a decade. I think I bought this ribbon after my Mom and I went to the lavender festival in Sequim and learned how to make lavender wands. And it's just sat in my craft supplies ever since. Using it felt like a tiny win.

Sewing the "flags" onto the ribbon was simple; I didn't need it to be perfect, just to be together.

happy accident when the O lined up perfectly with the skull!

And voila! Halloween banners!

An amusing aside: you will no doubt note that I'm missing the initial H on my "HAPPY HALLOWEEN" banner. I have NO IDEA where it went. It was there, and then, poof. I decided to to ahead and "finish" the banner for now and I'll add the H later. After all, I've got a few months... And, no, I won't be leaving the banner in place until then. Honest.

"Making a Halloween Banner" is also part of my #101in1001 project, which is moving along... slowly.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Tiptoeing through the Tulips

The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival takes place every April. Somehow Wil had never been -- though one year we drove north on the first or second of May, thinking that there would still be *some* tulips in bloom, only to find that they had all been cut down.

We magically woke up early last Sunday, somewhat unplanned, and decided to jump in the car and head north. The first 45 minutes was fast with little traffic -- we even pondered what might prompt the "EVENT TRAFFIC: EXPECT DELAYS" road sign a few miles before we left the freeway.

We turned off the freeway and drove through Mount Vernon, hitting our first traffic -- but it was more "driving through a small downtown" rather than "thousands of cars on two-lane roads" slowing.

We continued for a few miles until we reached Roozengaarde; one of the two big tulip farms in the valley. We joined a small line of cars -- maybe 8 or 10 -- to get into their very well organized parking lot. With Disney-style organization, we parked pretty quickly. I had expected to pay for parking, somehow, but never saw a person to pay. Then we joined the line of several dozen people waiting to get in. While we waited, we got our first tulip fix: really beautiful mixed beds. My favorite is the orange, fuchsia, and purple mix above, but I also liked these purple and red:

and dark purple Queen of the Night and pale pink:

The line to get in moved quickly -- at least for those of us with cash! -- and we were in. First we looked at some of the show gardens. Just look at all these tulips!

and I do love a fritillary!

But we didn't linger with the building crowds.

What we really wanted was to see this ... FIELDS OF TULIPS IN BLOOM.

These tulips are being grown for bulbs rather than cut flowers. And seeing hundreds of thousands of flowers blooming in a field is... well... worth the drive.

I could look at these beauties all day.

These orange ones are my favorite:

There's a sign right next to Wil asking people not to walk between the rows of tulips, but to stay on the big path. Wil is following instructions... but a lot of people weren't. Sigh.

We wandered around the fields for a long time -- just kept admiring all the rows, the tulips, the colors. But when we looked up even the fields were starting to feel crowded.

We considered buying some bulbs for delivery in the fall -- but the gift tent opened late and no one had yet arrived to take bulb orders.  ("They're probably stuck in traffic.") So we decided we could wait and place our order online.

The exit was, surprisingly, not through the gift shop ... but back through the show gardens, where we admired some of the plantings. A star made of tulips and grape hyacinth:

a red and white tulip heart:

and my favorite color blend, again:

We headed out of the gardens and back to the car, where the two-lane road showed traffic stretching for miles, moving at a crawl. Oh dear.

We wondered whether we'd be able to get out ourselves, but then realized that we were going exactly the opposite direction. Win!

Because traffic was essentially stopped, we were easily able to turn out of the parking lot and make our way away from the fields. The one busy intersection ("CROSS TRAFFIC DOES NOT STOP") that I was a bit nervous about turned out to be staffed by a police officer, who waved us across. Win!

We made a stop at a nursery for a local arts and crafts show, and on a whim I went looking for an acanthus. Sure enough, I found one -- the variety I wanted, and for less than at the nursery on Whidbey. Win!

We then headed back -- again, with no traffic, but watching the people crawling in the opposite direction. We made a stop in Mount Vernon, scored free parking half a block from their street fair / market, and then wandered around there for a while. Yet another win!

I love this mural:

and this sign:

It was one of those brilliant days where everything just works. We even bought some local hard cider, which we spent the evening sipping in our own back garden. 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Fox Stitch-a-Long, part 4

So. Much. Foliage. I honestly thought that I would have been able to stitch all of the green leaves during these three weeks. But I was wrong...

I did get the great big green leaf on the right-hand side of the fox stitched, so that's great. And last night it turned a corner -- literally -- and started stitching the green leaves in the center of the piece.

that big leaf on the right? all stitched!
I really love the way the leaves curl, just like real acanthus. Here's a bit of curling leaf:

And a gorgeous specimen of acanthus I spotted today while we were on a day trip.

However, when I attempted to buy a plant at the swanky garden center, they only had the "spiky" and the "white-tipped" varieties. But what's good enough for William Morris is good enough for me: give me the bog standard kind!

There's still so much to stitch here ... given how vividly it's printed, it's easier to see from the back. Here's the backside of the piece with my work light shining through it. So much left to go!!!

By next time I really hope to have the green leaves stitched, as well as half of the blue. To keep me motivated I've joined a stitch-a-long, where my fellow stitchers are making great progress on some spectacular projects. You can see what they're working on on their blogs:

AvisClaireGunCaroleLucyAnnKateJessSueConstanzeDebbieroseChristinaKathyMargaretCindyHelenStephLindaMary MargaretHeidiConnieJackieHayleyTony, and our two newest members, Megan and Timothy!