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Stitching catch-up

I didn’t realise it’d been so long since I’d posted!  Obviously just been really busy living life and the day-to-day humdrum that that brings.

I’ve managed to get a couple more very small finishes under my belt, the first one after I finally received a stash order from back in November last year.  As soon as I received my thread order it meant I could finish the following beautiful piece of canvaswork:

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“Blue Birds” freebie by Laura J Perin (on the Rainbow Gallery website)
Stitched on 18ct mono canvas with recommended threads
(I even managed to track down the discontinued Tiara thread!)

This was the rest of my stash order – the first I’ve had in a very long time!  It means a couple more projects are now able to be fully kitted up, which is great considering one of them was in my  Crazy 7 group of projects, and already started!

Since the Crazy 7 challenge kicked off, I’ve actually been doing really well at keeping my stitching going regularly each week.  While I may not have too much to show for it, my excuse is that I’ve started my very first HAED – Daisy Blue by Jo Lynch.  Considering I’d always called my dear friend Nicki a crazy woman for her love of over-one stitching, and hating over-one stitching myself with a passion, it seems I’ve caught the craze myself!  I’m stitching my HAED one-over-one on 28ct Lugana and I just can’t seem to put it down!  I think in a couple of months I should see this one finished … and I’ve already got a couple more in line to be started immediately afterwards 🙂  The crazy thing is that I have Noah’s Ark by Teresa Wentzler as a seriously mistreated UFO because I couldn’t handle the one-over-one stitching … perhaps it may be time to give it some love and get it finished now!

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This weekend, though, I really had to force myself not to pick my HAED back up again, and instead caught up on a monthly SAL I’m going of JCS Christmas ornaments from the 2015 issue.  So far I’ve managed the first three months, with Feb and Mar ornies hot off the Qsnaps this weekend (I managed the blackbird one in its entirety today!).  Here are the three ornies to date so far (they’re being stitched in order of popularity in a group vote, with January being the most popular).

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“Snowmates” by Blue Ribbon Designs (2015 JCS Ornament issue)
Stitched on 40ct Silkweaver hand-dyed linen (can’t find the details just now)
with mostly recommended threads

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“Winter’s Eve” by The Prairie Schooler (2015 JCS Ornament Issue)
Stitched on 32ct Permin linen ~ colour French Blue
with my own choice of Carrie’s Creation threads

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“Merry Christmas” by Samplers Not Forgotten (2015 JCS Ornament issue)
Stitched on 40ct Silkweaver hand-dyed linen (can’t find the details just now)
with my own choice of Belle Soie and Gloriana silk threads

As well as stitching regularly again, I’ve also joined a group of fellow stitchers to do a weekly cooking challenge.  I think my health struggles over last couple of years had really shaken my confidence in many areas of my life, and cooking was one of them.  It’s been really nice getting back into the kitchen on a regular basis and cooking up some healthy (and not-so-healthy) meals.  Even though I may not always like the ingredients chosen each week, I still make sure I give it a try and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the results so far.

Looks like life is finally getting back on a bit more even keel … hopefully it’ll continue the same way for quite some time to come! 🙂

 

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November visit home & stitching finishes

In November it was my best friend’s birthday – she’d begged me to fly over for the occasion, and after selling my shares and having a wee bit of a windfall I managed to get there for the big day.  It was wonderful hanging out for a few days with my bestie at her home just outside Nelson – we’ve been best friends since we were 10 years old, and even though we rarely stay in touch these days with visits and phone calls, it feels like the years disappear when we do manage to catch up again.  I love her dearly.  Here’s a photo of the two of us with her (and my adopted) Mum, Doreen.  That’s one huge piece of my childhood history in that one photo! 😀

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In November I also FINALLY finished my wedding gift for my dear friend Elie and his bride Caroline … their wedding was in 2012, so it was only three years {{cough}} overdue!! 😉  While I’m not 100% happy with it, Elie adored it when I gave it to him (but unfortunately forgot to snap a photo of it framed).  This was a very personal gift, as Elie’s favourite author is Kahlil Gibran, so I chose some pieces of his work for the top two quotes.  The colour of the roses was to match the wedding invitation, and the bottom quote is directly from their wedding invite as well.  The Arabic wording means “a thousand blessings”, and as they are both Lebanese it was another bit of personalisation (I charted that up myself).  I have to admit, though, that I’m really glad this is one is finished now, and even more so that all the effort was appreciated by the groom 😀  Sorry for the poor photos, for love nor money I couldn’t get a decent shot of it!

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Finally, I joined in a “Winter/Fall” Exchange with a Facebook group.  Following is the item them I sent to my exchange partner.  It’s been on my wishlist to stitch for myself, so I’ll definitely be doing this one again for me some time in the near future while the chart is still out … just need to decide on the fabric to use for my one.

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“Winter Needle Roll” by Heart in Hand Needleart
Stitched on 32ct hand-dyed Belfast linen by Countrystitch (colour TBC)
using mostly recommended threads

A male work colleague flew home to NZ for a flying visit, and ended up in a charity shop of some sort – he came home with a couple of little treats for me as he knows I love to stitch … I was a bit gobsmacked at his kind thought, and think I’ll leave these in the desk drawer to do a spot of lunchtime stitching in the office in the New Year 🙂

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Over the last month or so I’ve also been taking part in a Facebook ingredient cooking challenge – it’s been great fun trying to find recipes for the weekly main ingredient, and it’s been giving me a lot more confidence getting back into cooking again.  That’s something I want to do a lot more of in 2016 – cooking from scratch!  I’ve always enjoyed cooking when I’m in the mood, and oh my goodness food tastes SO much better when it’s cooked from scratch … so 2016 will see my cooking progress continue as I do the weekly challenges, if nothing else!

And the last photo I’ll finish this post with is me dressed up for a bit of fun in the office – I dressed up in my old Christmas tree dress outfit and handed out sweets/lollies at work … including calling into my favourite coffee shop where I have a great laugh with one of the baristas (who’s in the photo – and the photo is his, so you can blame him for the caption on it! LOL).

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Ah Manu …

For my birthday in February I decided to go to L’etoile Restaurant & Bar (in Paddington) as my ultimate treat … mainly because I’m a bit of a Manu fan and that sexy French accent! Anyway I bought Manu’s cookbook and left it for him to sign for me as he was away on holiday – this weekend I was finally well enough to drive over and pick it up 🙂

The traffic was hideous all the way there so I decided to splurge and stay for dinner as an additional celebration for starting to feel better … including my favourite dessert of creme brûlée … ah bliss!!

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I have to say I’m also really really impressed with my signed book as well – I expected just a quick signature squiggle but Manu kindly took the time to really personalize it for me … makes me like him all the more! 😀

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Photo Hunt: Greasy

 

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This week’s theme is ”Greasy” and this meal from a favourite el cheapo dining place in Auckland (“Kiwi Country”) should taste greasy with that deep-fried chicken, but it never ever does.  One of the things I miss from working in Auckland city centre is picking up the occasional lunch from here.  It’s located in a little side street, downstairs below street level, and is a real little goldmine – my Mum keeps up the family tradition now and occasionally visits with a dear family friend, and of course we pop in ourselves when I’m visiting Auckland.  My mouth is salivating already at that chicken dipped in chilli sauce and that succulent crispy salad – yum!

On cloud 9 … but slowly returning to earth

I just had to post again while I’m on this ridiculous high that I’m currently on!  I’ve just returned home after spending the afternoon at Jeffery Deaver’s book launch/signing … and oh what an exceptional day it’s been!  I can’t tell you just how amazing it was – I signed up for this day on a whim, as I only found out about it on Friday morning and only just barely managed to gain a spot at a table, I think because I was going on my own.  Anyway, I’m so very glad that I did!

I used to do so many things on my own when I was in Auckland, and to some extent in Melbourne – I was always on the go out and about seeing new sights and experiencing new wonders, and really appreciating my surroundings.  The last 12-18 months, however, I’ve been in a bit of an emotional bubble for many reasons that I won’t go into here.  Today, though, it reminded me of the days that I used to hop in the car and go out and do things that were new … and oh my goodness did I love it!  Perhaps it’s been the kick in the pants that I’ve really needed, a reminder that I shouldn’t hold myself back from doing things I enjoy just because other people don’t share the same interests – I actually enjoy my own company, and am finding my self-confidence once again … watch out world, I think she just may be back again!!

Today I dropped my car off at our work car park so I could avoid at least one bus trip, then hopped on a train into the city – on arrival I popped quickly up to the nearest Dymocks bookstore to pick up a new copy of The Bone Collector, and also picked up a copy of Jeffery’s new 007 novel (Carte Blanche) as it was on sale (yippee!).  I then wandered back to the awfully swanky Four Seasons Hotel at Circular Quay and immediately jumped into the queue to have my two books signed by Jeffery.  What a true gentleman he is – he spent quite a lot of time chatting to each person while signing books for us all – I felt like a little schoolgirl at her first concert, and was quite awe-struck to be in such a literary great’s presence!

After the books were signed, I grabbed a glass of champagne and watched the crowds for a few minutes before heading into the ballroom to my table.  I sat next to a lovely older (retired) lady called Pam (I actually may have been a good candidate for the youngest member of the audience in my middle-aged ‘youth’) and we chatted throughout the whole meal.  Lunch was delectable, and the main course consisted of pan-fried barramundi (fish) on a bed of roasted kipfler potatoes with green beans and fresh tomato salsa, followed by dessert of cognac white chocolate log with raspberry coulis, and finished off with freshly brewed coffee and hand-made chocolates, and washed down with a further glass of McWilliams Semillon Sauvignon Blanc … ah bliss, I do love me a good gourmet meal!!  Sadly I hadn’t learnt how to use my iPhone camera yet, and totally screwed up my mains photo … oh well, c’est la vie!

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While dessert was being served Jeffery was introduced then spent the next 50 minutes enthralling us with his wonderful tales on how he writes his books, and the joy of bringing James Bond’s character to life in his latest book.  He really is a very witty presenter, as you would expect from such a literary genius, and we were kept entertained the entire time.  At the end of his speech he returned to the foyer for more book signings, and I decided to purchase one final book and have it signed (greedy little git that I am!), and asked if I could be awfully rude and have a photo taken with him.  He was a real sport and found one of the assistants to help us out, then I crouched down next to him for a quick photo – and that was the final touch to an already exceptional day, with photographic proof of this historic event.

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In my teens I used to read the old Mills & Boons romance novels and other such books (mainly because I could read an entire book during a good soaking in the bathtub), but as I matured I very quickly moved away from the ‘girlie’ books and became a fan of such authors as Wilbur Smith (mainly the Courtenay family novels), Stephen King, and the like, before finding a love for Patricia D Cornwell novels … since then I’ve never looked back and often pick up a thriller or forensic book ahead of other genres.  A work colleague and friend loaned me The Bone Collector about 11-12 years ago to try reading, and I was hooked!  The Lincoln Rhyme series of books are second to none in terms of fast pace, wonderful characters, and multiple twists at the end of the book that leave you guessing right up until the last chapter, and often the last pages – if you haven’t tried one yet, and enjoy thrillers, I can certainly recommend this series … mind you, I have some of  his Kathryn Dance novels as audiobooks to try those out too … and of course I now have two standalone (ie non-series) books to read too – “The Edge” and “007 Carte Blanche” 😀

Wow, I think it’s been a long time since I’ve written on here with a feeling of such enthusiasm – let’s hope it remains … even if I’m not stitching 😉

Practising the art of Procrastination

 

Today I heard from the recruitment coordinator that I have passed the first culling stage of applicants for the job I applied for a few weeks ago.  I also heard today that I have to complete my interview either today or tomorrow – considering I have to travel into the city for it, I opted for tomorrow … a bit crappy that they give an entire 24 hours notice, me thinks.  Oh well, tonight I’ve decided to fine-tune my understanding of the word “procrastination” and trying not to think about it, because I know when I do I’m going to get myself into a tangled stressed little knot and stuff up the interview tomorrow … the best interview I’ve ever done is one I went totally unprepared for and did everything off the cuff.  Not that I’ll be quite that bad tomorrow, but I’m seriously not going to do much prep whatsoever – I’d like the job, but I’m quite happy where I am on the whole, so I’m not stressing out if I don’t get it (and actually doubt that I will get it – perhaps another reason I’m not tying myself into knots!).  I guess one thing is that if they’re in a rush to complete all the interviews this week, that perhaps we’ll be put out of our miseries quickly too and get the results promptly … one thing I do know, though is … “que sera sera … whatever will be will be …” 😀

In the meantime I’ve been chasing away the wintry weather blues with a nice big pot of home-made Minestrone Soup … especially warming and inviting with 1 1/2 cups of red wine poured into it haha.  It is truly very rich, and truly very delicious, and a recipe I ended up having to copy for Mum ‘cos she loved it so much when she was here … I have to admit with all the cold weather we’ve been having this week it was perfect to come home to a pan of soup that just needed heating through, and will continue to keep me happy for the rest of the week! 😀

If anyone’s interested, here’s the recipe – along with a piccie of tonight’s dinner bowl:

MINESTRONE SOUP

Minestrone-Soup

1 cup dried kidney beans (I actually use tinned kidney beans instead)
3 rashers bacon (I sometimes omit totally and use a bit of olive oil instead – and sometimes I chop the bacon up and add to the soup after it’s cooked)
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
7 cups beef stock
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup olive oil
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 small carrots, scraped and diced
½ cup courgettes, sliced
½ cup celery, chopped (including some of the leaves)
1 tablespoon dried basil
4 large tomatoes, peeled and seeded (this batch I cheated for the first time and used a tin of crushed tomatoes)
1 cup shredded cabbage
1½ cups red or white wine
½ cup macaroni or star pasta
salt and pepper
grated lemon rind
parsley
grated parmesan cheese

Soak the dried kidney beans in 2 cups water overnight.  In a large saucepan fry the bacon until crisp.  Remove the cracklings and reserve them (this is actually in the recipe, but nowhere in the recipe does it state what to do with them after they’ve been reserved … in fact it doesn’t say what to do with ANY of the bacon, so sometimes I plop them into a sandwich to make an old-fashioned British “Bacon Sarnie” and at other times I chop it up and leave it in the soup for some added goodness).  In the fat remaining in the saucepan gently fry the onions, coarsely chopped, until they are golden.  Add the beef stock to the onions, add the soaked and drained beans together with the crushed cloves of garlic.  Simmer beans gently for about an hour or until cooked (or obviously less if you’re using tinned kidney beans).

In another saucepan heat the olive oil and add the potatoes, peeled and diced, the carrots, scraped and diced, the courgettes, sliced, the celery including some of the leaves, chopped, and the dried basil.  Cook the vegetables for a few minutes, stir in the tomatoes, peeled and seeded, and the shredded cabbage.  Mix well.

Add the vegetables to the beans and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes.  Stir in the wine and the macaroni or star-shaped pasta and cook a further 15 minutes.  Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle it with a mixture of grated lemon rind and chopped parsley.  Serve with grated parmesan cheese (truthfully I never bother with the lemon rind, parsley or parmesan cheese, as it’s rich enough without it).

Serves 10-12

Profitable day and gifts

I’ll start the post off by showing off some exquisite knitting that I received from my beautiful and talented friend Nicki as my birthday gift – and I totally adore it!!  How could I not?  The knitting is perfection itself, and the colour is so very “me” – it’ll be perfect for our Sydney winter for that extra bit of neck warmth.  Thanks again Nicki 😀

Also, I just realised that I haven’t posted my earlier birthday gifts yet – they arrived while I was flat out at work in February, and didn’t realise I hadn’t uploaded the piccie yet!  That doesn’t mean I love the gifts any less, ‘cos I absolutely adore everything … they’re all duckies!!!  I can’t believe Tessa found all these little lovelies on her travels – they’re fantastic additions to my duck collection, and they really put a smile on my face.  Thanks once again Tessa, for your beautiful and thoughtful gifts – I especially adore the framed duckie button, that’s an awesome idea, it’s just wonderful 😀

Both Nicki and Tessa were initially online friends, but then became real-life friends after meeting face-to-face (Nicki in Auckland, and Tessa in Melbourne) … life is a much brighter place with friends such as these lovely ladies 😀

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Now, before I get on to today’s achievements, here’s the latest stitching update of Merry Xmas by Prairie Moon – not sure if they look more like aliens rather than skeletons with those big eye sockets haha … alas I need a skein of Old Crow before I can fill those eyes in, so I’ll have to continue sticking with the white, cream, pink and red for a while longer 🙂

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After spending the day yesterday blobbing out playing computer games, watching TV and doing a little bit of stitching, today was a different story … partly helped by the extra hour in bed thanks to the clocks going back last night.  Today there has been no stitching to be had, but instead plenty of time spent in the kitchen … baking of all things!  Trying to use up some cupboard stocks (why on earth I have two big bags of coconut, etc I do not know!), I opted to bake items where I had to buy next-to-nothing and came up with the following (I know, Mum, this is ME … baking … whatever next?!!!):

Cinnamon Ginger Cake ready to go into the oven

Cinnamon Ginger Cake keeping company with Caramel Walnut Slice

The ultimate sin … cutting the cake before it’s 100% cold … but oh so scrummy!!!  😀
Another 1/4 of the cake went to my elderly downstairs neighbour as a treat

Then another quick trip over to the supermarket for some ‘odd’ items I didn’t have in stock, I sliced up some rump steak and whipped up some Asian-style marinade so it can stew in the fridge overnight … which means I’m having stir-fry tomorrow night – yum (admittedly the pre-mixed beef doesn’t quite look so yummy in the photo thanks to lumps of lemon grass and garlic LOL) 🙂

I can’t wait to cook this up tomorrow night!!! 😀

And to top the kitchen chores off, I pulled my finger out and prepared a couple of salad lunches for work Mon/Tue this week, and also chopped up some honeydew melon and rockmelon … hmmm, me thinks that a good start to eating more healthily this week! 😀