I found Chocolate

For three months I have been looking for a picture I cross stitched 35 years ago. I had gone through boxes and bins in our storage room several times, an exercise that always ended in frustration and anxiousness when it didn’t turn up. John was a good sport and checked boxes in the garage again, even though we were both pretty sure that the picture wasn’t there.

Lasts week I found it—and as you would expect, it was right in front of my nose. I had stored it in one of the upper laundry room cabinets before our move to keep it safe—too safe, apparently.


I found it by accident as we were putting stuff away in the laundry room after the builder finished resizing one of the cabinets in order to make room for our refrigerator—which means we were oblivious to it when we took it out of the cabinet (it was wrapped in clean newsprint). How embarrassing is that?

Here is Chocolate’s companion:


I was new to cross stitching way back then and thought they were so cute. I had visions of them in my first apartment and they have hung in the eating area of every place we have lived since John and I got married. I still enjoy them and would never consider replacing them.

As much as I wanted to hang them, instead, John and I took them apart.



After our experience with John’s grandmother’s needlework, we decided to fix these two and one other—and be done with framing issues.

Sure enough, the same damaging techniques had been used: staples, masking tape and strapping tape.


The framer used masking tape around all four edges of the cross stitch fabric, most likely to keep them from raveling.


Holding the masking tape in place was strapping tape with a killer adhesive—one that did not fully come out after soaking and washing.




Skeptical, I applied some stain remover to the edges and then washed them in a mild dish soap and cool water, followed by lots and lots of rinsing (until the water was clear) to make sure all soap residue was gone.

The stain remover didn’t improve much, but I had to try.

The stain remover didn’t improve much, but I had to try.

I refrained from pressing anything because the framer will want to try her magic first. Here’s Chocolate ready to go:


Close up of stitching.

Close up of stitching.

Here’s Ice Cream:


Close up of stitching.

Close up of stitching.

After un-framing Chocolate and Ice Cream, we tackled one last picture: a sampler I stitched 19 years ago which was framed by someone other than the framer I use now. We uncovered more physical damage than expected due to heavy duty staples driven into the fabric, which had a loose weave to begin with:



The sampler was mounted on a piece of foam core which had been covered with a piece of polyester batting.


The batting was stuck to the foam core with spray adhesive, something my framer would never use anywhere near needlework. Instead, she secures the needlework to an acid-free board by lacing it across the back. This is a more labor intensive (and costly) technique, but much better for longevity.

Framing points were used to hold the board mounted with the sampler inside the frame, and one of them cut a nice sized hole in the fabric:


So much for the tedious hem stitching I did to keep the project from raveling while I worked on it.


The other surprise cropped up when I washed it. The picture doesn’t show the true depth of the color, but the water turned seriously yellow, like someone had peed in it.


Then John came in to show me the glass, which had a nice imprint of the stitched design on it, an indication that no spacers were used to keep the needlework from touching the glass.


Here is the sampler soaking in the washtub. You can see 19 years’ worth of fading here, showing how important it is to select a glass that offers UV protection.


When John saw the yellow water and examined the glass again, he wondered if the framer had starched the sampler. We’ll never know, but it might explain why this piece always looked so faded to me so early on. I always thought it was because of light exposure, but now I’m not so sure.

As bad as all this seems, I take comfort in the framer’s statement to me when she was working on John’s grandmother’s needlework: “I’ve seen worse.”

I’ve been off and on mopey since we had to leave Colorado and move back to Houston, but when stuff like this comes up, I am very grateful to have a reputable framer in my back yard. It will be a comfort to know that when these framing mistakes have been corrected, barring a fire or natural disaster, no more harm can come to these family heirlooms.

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Colorado trip

We saw the boys a couple weeks ago when we drove up to Colorado for our niece’s wedding. They were well, the wedding was fun and the weather was perfect.

Fall was in full swing


and we took advantage of our time there to catch up with family friends and Colorado friends, including an extra long walk up the Bitch Hill in our old neighborhood with my friend/walking partner.

We hauled a bunch of stuff up to the boys that they asked for like a book case, a small drawer storage unit, clothes, shoes, camping gear.


We also took a cooler full of food. Eric had asked if I would bring a meatloaf when we came up so I made four of those, four batches of pizza burger filling, meatballs, lasagna, pulled pork, ravioli casserole, and three loaves each of apple bread and pumpkin bread.


Cooking all that food took all of Labor Day weekend, one day of the next weekend and both days the following weekend, but it was worth it because I will do just about anything to keep my sons from ingesting Ramen.

While there, we made a grocery run and stocked the pantry with canned soup, beans, pasta and other staples with the hope that they might eat something better than Ramen.

Our last night there, Ross cooked dinner for us before we headed to the airport for a late flight home.


It was very tasty and I was proud to know that at least one of my sons can function well in a kitchen.

It was good to be back in the land of cooler temperatures and lower humidity, and maybe someday we will return; but for now, we’ll have to get by on visiting.

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What NOT to do

In 1985, John’s maternal grandmother and uncle collaborated to make us a one of a kind Christmas gift that has graced our home for more than 30 years: A beautifully hand embroidered picture in a custom made frame.

A close up of the frame. It’s fairly heavy with a craftsman look to it. The employees at the framing place raved about how cool they thought it was.

A close up of the frame. It’s fairly heavy with a craftsman look to it. The employees at the framing place raved about how cool they thought it was.

We were finally ready to hang some more pictures in the new house, but stopped for this one when we noticed some grayish/white spots under the glass at the top.

Uh oh.

I took the whole thing over to the framing place I love and trust 1000 percent. I waited while they carefully took it apart and nearly had a stroke when they uncovered this:

The framer said the spots on the glass may have been acid from the wood.

The framer said the spots on the glass may have been acid from the wood.

No-no #1: The needlework had been mounted to a piece of plywood.

No-no #2: The needlework had been secured to the back of the plywood with heavy duty staples from a staple gun, making their removal slow and tricky to avoid further damage to the fabric.

No-no #3: The excess needlework had been secured to the back of the plywood with masking tape.

Here it is, all restored—back in its original frame, properly mounted and now protected by  conservation glass, which offers UV/light shielding properties:


There was some concern over whether the frame would be salvageable, and thankfully, it was. In the interim, though, we had told the framer that of the two components, John’s grandmother’s handwork was more important—you can get another frame, but if you lose the needlework, the frame is irrelevant.


Now that it’s properly framed, I just hope we saved it in time and that no further deterioration will occur. For now, though, we’re so happy it’s back with the family.


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Button wreaths

There is no better activity in life than making something. I ignored fabric and thread last weekend and played with three generations of buttons: mom’s, grandma’s, and mine. I found some cute ideas online and made four new ornaments for the Christmas tree:





I started with a package of four 3½-inch diameter plywood circles from the craft store.


John cut a 2-inch diameter circle from the middle of each one, leaving a ¾-inch rim for the buttons.

First, all the buttons got a quick bath in dish soap and warm water. Then I sorted them by color, setting aside the most interesting ones for the top layer of each wreath.


Instead of hot glue, I used a size 4 flat/shader paint brush to apply tacky glue to the underside of each button.


The tacky glue dries clear, plus I didn’t want to deal with globs and strings of hot glue on such small pieces, some as little as ¼ to ⅜ of an inch.

For the first layer, I used a combination of large and medium sized buttons, generally picking the less attractive buttons or ones that I had a lot of since they were going to be covered anyway.


The bottom layers generally needed between 25 to 30 buttons.

The second layer was created by covering the gaps between buttons in the bottom layer. As much as possible, I tried to evenly distribute the buttons by size, value (light/medium/dark), and finish (shiny vs. matte).


The tacky glue always came up through the holes in the buttons, but it dried clear, so it wasn’t an issue.

I used a wire cutter to clip off the shanks from buttons that had them.



It was fun to go through all the buttons and see the prices on the cards, and recall clothes my mom made for me in junior high and high school. I also enjoyed my grandma’s notes. She would write on the card where she bought her buttons and when:



I hope you’re having fun making something, too!

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Cross stitch planning

With the window coverings installed, John and I finally hung some pictures. It got me motivated to start working on the cross stitch piece in honor of my next milestone birthday in 2017. I stitched this sampler 20 years ago:


I stitched this design of a Baltimore Album quilt 10 years ago:

When I’m not making quilts, I’m cross stitching them!

When I’m not making quilts, I’m cross stitching them!

For 2017, I chose this:

It’s called And A Garden Grew, designed by Karen Kluba of Rosewood Manor. I found it online when hunting for a sampler project and fell instantly in love. It’s a large piece, with a stitch area of 18″ x 18″.

The recommended ground cloth for it is 32-count Belfast linen which has been hand dyed to achieve a mottled look:

Belfast linen

The pattern for it is contained in a 24-page booklet divided into 20 sections and calls for 121 unique floss colors—which is why I need to start it this year if there is any hope of finishing it next year.

One aspect of the design that I did not care for was the text:

Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made and forgot to put a soul into.

by Henry Ward Beecher.

I wanted a poem instead, and found this one written by 19th century English poet Thomas Hood.

‘Tis like the birthday of the world,

When earth was born in bloom;

The light is made of many dyes,

The air is all perfume:

There’s crimson buds, and white and blue,

The very rainbow showers

Have turned to blossoms where they fell,

And sown the earth with flowers.

Over the weekend, I spent time with a mechanical pencil, eraser, and 10-to-the-inch graph paper in an attempt to chart it, after searching through my cross stitch books and magazines for a suitable alphabet that would fit in the space both vertically and horizontally.


Lines 5 and 7 were super long, so there was some serious kerning to do. I finally got them fitted into the space, although I will have to move or remove some of the bees, butterflies and other creatures in that section, which I’m okay with.

Last night I finished kerning the other 6 lines, which included modifying the descender on the letter f, dotting the letter i instead of using the slanted line, and looping the descender for the letter p in line 4.

poem revised

Can’t wait to start stitching!

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We finally have window coverings! They arrived at the end of July

drapery truck

and took three days to install; they are beautiful. Here is the living room:

living room

Dining room:

dining room

dining closeup1

dining closeup2



It was cloudy today, which made it hard to get a decent picture with true colors. Here is the plaid and the accent color used for the kitchen valances:

kitchen fabric

Master bath:

master bath

Master bedroom:


The white smudge to the right of the middle at the top of the photo is not in the drapery panel. Something's wrong with my camera....

The white smudge to the right of the middle at the top of the photo is not in the drapery panel. Something’s wrong with my camera….

Here is a close up of the master bedroom fabrics:

Floral: valances Wavy stripe: panels Leaves: throw pillows for bed

Floral: valances
Wavy stripe: panels
Leaves: throw pillows for bed

Have a good week and thanks for dropping by!

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Mining for floors and counter tops

It’s been a while since my last post. We continue to plow through moving boxes and get our home life in order. More than two-thirds of our boxes have now been emptied, collapsed and donated to friends and neighbors. Most of our papers and documents have been attended to, with the result being more available floor space and empty counter tops—definitely a sight for sore eyes.

It’s taking a long time for several reasons:

  • When you have a hobby, which we both do, you have a lot of stuff that is dedicated to it.
  • When you’ve been married for 30-plus years with two kids, you have a lot of stuff.
  • When you live in temporary housing for 19 months (with most of your stuff still packed in moving boxes) while you are building a house and working for a start-up, the organization of your personal affairs slides into a deep chaos, requiring archaeological skill to dig out.

We had been putting off the nagging task of that last item mentioned above, but we finally gritted our teeth and devoted the better part of two weekends to organizing, purging, filing, labeling and shredding. In the process, we found two portable file bins containing tax returns, check registers, pay stubs and bank statements dating back to 1984. Four bags of shredded paper later….

John came across my very first paycheck:

Check the $1.30 hourly rate and the whopping net pay of just over $20. Still, I felt rich because that was more than the 50¢ per hour I made babysitting back then.

Check the $1.30 hourly rate and the whopping net pay of just over $20. Still, I felt rich because that was more than the 50¢ per hour I made babysitting back then.

So we finally emptied all the boxes with files, shoveled off John’s desk,


and filed every last sheet of paper worth filing, including all the booklets and documents that came with the building of the house.

I know, a photo of your personal files is quite boring, but that’s some serious work product there, baby!

I know, a photo of your personal files is quite boring, but that’s some serious work product there, baby!

Meanwhile, John has been emptying more boxes in the garage to make room for at least one car and he finally got there.

One down, one to go.

One down, one to go.

On the fun side, we are excited about the installation of all our window coverings next week. Here is a sneak peek at the fabrics we chose for the living room:


The large print with red background looks very bright, almost too bright, and you may be thinking, “What is she thinking?” But inside the living room, which has east facing windows and overlooks a covered patio, the colors deepen and the print looks rich and more subdued. We also appreciated the fact that the blue in the print doesn’t appear black in that room like so many of our other options did.

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“It’s always somethin'”

Remember the original Saturday Night Live episodes where Gilda Radner played Roseanne Roseanna Danna whose signature quote was, “Well, Jane, it just goes to show you…it’s always somethin’. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.”

That’s where we are with our house this week. Since we moved in May, we’ve had two visits from window service techs and they’ll be out countless more times because the efficiency concept eludes them. Nor does anyone seem to comprehend the screen dimensions for a single bathroom window. We’re going to ask Santa to bring it.

In addition to still lacking a bathroom screen, three downstairs windows were replaced with tempered glass to bring them up to code. I remember confirming the required locations for tempered glass with the sales rep, and yet, none of our windows were manufactured with it, which goes down as another mystery of the building trade.

Tempered glass is much heavier than regular glass, and when I opened one of the windows with it, it slid almost shut. You would think they would know this and bring with them the balancing mechanism appropriate for the new window weight, but that is too logical, and besides, there is always time to make another trip because it’s what they do and we’re supposed to be grateful for it.


Now here’s where It’s always somethin’ crops up again: In the last two weeks, the latch in the kitchen patio door wouldn’t budge, which meant we couldn’t open the door. A service tech (who came out yesterday to replace the glass in one of the windows) found that when the low voltage crew wired the house, they drilled too far into the side of the door to install a motion sensor and damaged the lock mechanism.


A piece of the lock mechanism had become lodged inside, causing the latch to stick.


The tech pulled the piece out and got the latch working again, but now I’m worried:

Me: Isn’t the lock mechanism compromised?

Tech: Yeah, and while it may be working now, if you have trouble in a couple years—because it’s been damaged, it’s no longer under warranty. I can get you a quote for a new one.

Me: No thanks. This is going back to the builder.

Not said: Now where in the *bleep* are my new balancing mechanisms?????

And if it’s not one thing, it’s another: While the tech was checking the latch, he noticed that a whole lot of hardware was missing from the hinges. There are four hinges supporting the door, with each hinge containing four screw holes. Two screws were missing from every hinge.

Also not said: Uh, didn’t your company install the door?????


Just shoot me now.

We’re about to wrap up our post move-in punch list. I’d better brace myself for another large dose of It’s always somethin’.

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A cross stitch tip

Activity at work has been slow so I took a couple days off to finish cleaning out our other house to get it ready to sell. Yawn.

Throughout our move and over Memorial Day weekend, I still made time for cross stitching, so I thought I would show you the progress on my latest project.

cross stitch1

I finally figured out how to organize and keep track of floss colors for a project that requires a lot of color changes. It’s so simple and easy, I wonder why it took so long. It’s worked really well, so I’m sharing it today with the hope that it might work for you.

You will need

  • ordinary copy/printer paper
  • a pen
  • needles (one for each floss color)

Cut a sheet of paper into rectangles, roughly 3″ x 4″. The number of rectangles you need depends on the number of floss colors required for the project. For my project, I needed 21. Take the chart supplied for your project and copy each symbol, color number and description onto your paper rectangles, one color per rectangle.

Gather all your floss skeins, cut a 12″ to 18″ length from each one, separate the strands, thread a needle with each color and stick it into the paper rectangle marked with that color.

cross stitch2

With all your needles loaded and ready to go, you can easily find the paper with the color you need and start stitching.

One advantage has been no more needles lost in the arm of the sofa. But the biggest advantage is no more confusion over shades (light, medium, dark) of a particular color because the needle with each shade always has a place to live when you’re not stitching with it and it’s always labeled.

The two colors marked P and N look different enough in the photo but when they are stitched right next to each other, it is almost impossible to see the difference.

The two colors marked P and N look different enough in the photo but when they are stitched right next to each other, it is almost impossible to see the difference.

Have fun today, whatever you might be doing.

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Unboxing a life

We are slowly getting unpacked. It’s been slow for two reasons:

1) John is back to working long hours during the week and has also worked every weekend since we moved (sometimes both Saturday and Sunday) and

2) locating parts and pieces essential to progress has been like searching for a needle in a haystack.

John putting the legs onto the worktable for my office.

John putting the legs onto the worktable for my office.

You can’t keep unpacking your books or tools if the shelves for them aren’t put together. We finally found the brackets to the shelves for the sewing room, all the components for the kitchen light fixture


and the stereo cables, but are still hunting for the shelf brackets for John’s workshop and the rest of the ceiling fan parts.

In the meantime, I did what I could while John was working overtime and finished the kitchen, butler’s pantry, master bedroom, bathroom and closet, but there is still a lot to tackle.

Rhonda was over this Memorial weekend to crack the whip help figure out where, exactly to place the tables and shelves in the sewing room. I’m really glad she was insistent that this get done as I’ve been feeling pretty overwhelmed and in need of advice.

She also started loading up my pegboard, which was something I was not looking forward to doing. She wasn’t able to finish because we didn’t find all the cutting mats until it was getting late and I didn’t find all the rulers until after she had gone home, but it’s closer to done than I would have gotten it.

While we were working in the sewing room, John installed the TV in it.


I am confiscating the TV we had in our living room in Colorado, and we will get another one sometime in the future for our living room here. For now, he is pretty happy finally having his stereo system up, adjusted and running. We have missed music that doesn’t come out of headphones or earbuds.

I don’t have many pictures because things are still very much in chaos, but I wanted to show you the depression pink glass knobs John installed for me on the closet doors in the sewing room.

close up pink knob

fabric closet doors

I think they will look great with this fabric I found for window coverings:

sewing room fabric1

It’s a woven fabric that looks embroidered, which I thought was perfect for a sewing room, plus I loved all the colors and funky flowers.

sewing room fabric2

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