Gypsy Ways 2014

My gypsy ways are returning…

Both new and returning readers to this blog may have noticed that my blogging has slowed a bit lately. This is due to a fantastic travel opportunity that is coming up very soon! From roughly May through October, my husband, dog, and I will be in motion.

gypsy ways - what remains of my printed photosFor the past few months, we’ve been concentrating on getting some personal projects done before we hit the road. We remodeled one of our bathrooms, and I finished up a massive project – scanning, organizing, and backing up all my printed and digital photos. This photo is of all that’s left of the printed photos and scrapbooks – a reduction of about 80% of the volume of what was before… heavy awkward scrapbooks begone!

More recently, I’ve been designing cross stitch projects, picking floss colors, and getting all the necessary supplies together to take with us. There are some wardrobe requirements for the trip, so I’ve had to work on that as well. I will say that the purchase of these two pairs of fabulous shoes was necessary (thanks to the sales at Macy’s for not breaking the bank, and man I just love that clear lucite platform!).

gypsy ways - orange strappy platform heelgypsy ways - black patent and clear lucite platform heel

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most of the time, we will have regular internet access. But on similar trips we have stayed in some remote villages where the neighbors were what you see in the video below and internet access was in the nearest library 20 miles away. If that scenario arises, I hope to regularly post some quick updates and photo highlights.

My Etsy shop will continue normal operations, thanks to my Mom who graciously agreed to help with shipping. I’ll be releasing new patterns as I finish stitching them from my current backlog of nifty designs, and as always, I’ll be working on creating new designs. I find a lot of inspiration along our gypsy ways!

So for a short time, my blogging will slow down, but it definitely will not cease. I count myself as one of the truly fortunate that I get to make this trip, so I hope to appreciate it in the moment and not only when I look back in the photos. As many have said, it is not the destination but the journey that really matters.

[Update: The adventure starts here!]

New Projects – Floss, Remodeling, and Old Photos

Some big new projects have kept me incredibly busy lately!

dmc variegated floss 4210First and foremost, my variegated floss sales on Etsy have been picking up considerably, which is great news. People are discovering that my pricing is very competitive, so I’ve spent some time filling orders. The most popular colors thus far are DMC 4210 (Radiant Ruby) and 4255 (Orchid).

 

 

dmc variegated floss 4255The Ruby floss (above) is gorgeous, so I understand why it’s popular. And Pantone declared “Radiant Orchid” to be their 2014 Color of the Year, which may help explain why DMC’s lovely Orchid variegated floss is selling well.

With the increased sales, in the last week I’ve created a few more metrics and tools to help me keep track of inventory. These take some time to set up, but once that is done, it’s a matter of maintenance.

ancora crafts projects bathroom remodelAside from Ancora Crafts, I’ve got two big projects underway. First, one of our two bathrooms is being remodeled. A corner shower stall is going away and making way for the whole end of the room to be tiled and a glass wall and door installed. The room is pretty small, so it’s not an enormous project, but it’s substantial enough that we have a contractor doing the work. My husband and I have been running around for a couple of weeks picking out new tile and plumbing fixtures. Much fun but much time consumed!

 

 

ancora crafts projects photo organizationRemember non-digital photographs? Like many of you, I have a ton of ’em, and I’ve just started the process of putting them in chronological order, tossing out 75% of them (how many photos of a graduation or a family picnic do you really need to keep?), and then scanning the photos that remain.

I’m also going to dismantle nearly all of my scrapbooks (you can see a few of them in the photo at top left). I really don’t look at them very often, they’re heavy and take up a lot of space, and most of them use those sticky sheets that just aren’t good for the photos. The photos reside in an earthquake and tsunami zone, so if the big one were to hit, they would be destroyed. At least if I have them digitally, I can put them in the cloud and I know I won’t lose them forever to become part of a huge Pacific floating trash island.

ancora crafts projects first stitching projectA benefit of digging out all my old photos is that I found a few of my old stitching projects from years ago. Someday I’ll make a proper post about my old projects, but for now I’ll just share a couple highlights. At right is the first stitching project I ever made, with a ton of help from my Mom. I’m sure she threaded the needle and started and stopped the threads for me. She sewed on the cute trim and put the bell at the bottom. This thing hung on the door of my bedroom for years.

 

 

ancora crafts projects plastic canvas boxesNext are a couple of boxes made from plastic canvas and yarn, made when I was in my tweens and early teens. I made oodles of these little boxes but these are the only two that I still have. They’re cute, and I like the diagonal pattern I created on the box on the left.

 

As usual, I have more commercial ventures underway, including my compass rose needlepoint project and a series of fun cross stitched sayings that will appear on the blog and on Etsy soon. Staying busy is a happy place to be!

Intro to Blazing Saddles and other Projects

Blazing Saddles Project

First up, I wanted to share the first WIP (work in progress) of my latest project – a needlework tribute to Blazing Saddles, one of the funniest movies ever made. The stitching is of a list that Harvey Korman dictates; a list of the worst scum and scoundrels he wants Slim Pickens to round up to attack the town of Rock Ridge.

This scene has two genius performances. The first is Harvey Korman dictating the list and making it seem effortlessly spontaneous. The second is Slim Pickens desperately searching his pockets and only at the last minute finding his paper and pencil.

Here’s the cross stitch thus far:
Blazing Saddles WIP #1I’m having some fun with this project! I’ve started from the center and am working my way out from there. Some of the words will be just one color – like you see with “murderers,” “con men,” and “hornswogglers.” However, a lot of them will have some fun elements – like the nits on “nitwits” and the rug pattern through “Indian agents.” Stay tuned to my Twitter and Flickr feeds for more updates!

Digital Conversion

The second project I want to mention was more of a personal project rather than a stitching project, but I’m proud of it all the same. I just finished converting all my old videotapes and cassette tapes to digital. Now some of you may be thinking “WTF is she still doing with that old crap?” Good question. Let me give you a little of the backstory.

Anchorage skylineWhen I was about 12, my parents divorced, my Mom moved me from Anchorage, Alaska, to Colorado Springs, Colorado, and my Dad became the best long-distance father EVER. As Mom couldn’t afford cable TV, Dad would send me care packages with videotapes filled with the best stuff to cheer me up – Dennis Miller Live from HBO, Sifl and Olly from MTV, Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Mystery Science Theater 3000, and lots and lots of standup comedians from HBO and the early days of Comedy Central.  I watched these tapes religiously. They provided a great distraction from all the drama of being a teenager. So there’s some great comedy and some great memories on those tapes that I was just unwilling to simply throw away.downtown

[Gee, do you see any similarities between the two cities? One does happen to be 5500 feet higher than the other one, but aside from that…]

I could have taken these tapes to a company that would have just converted them to DVD for me, but I had some issues with that. First, the shows that were taped were all jumbled up. Dad would record stuff as it hit the TV – he wouldn’t have one tape for each show. Second, there were some advertisements mixed in that I wanted to edit out. Third, some of the tapes were six hours long (remember Extended Play recording mode?). Fourth, I really didn’t feel like paying a lot of money for this service.

So I did a little research and ended up buying this little dooflatchie. I read the Amazon reviews, and took the chance that it would work out. For roughly $30, I figured I’d give it a shot. It took some doing to get it to work (and like other reviews state – their user manual and customer support are pretty much useless), but once I got the hang of it it worked fine. My biggest complaint is that the longer the tape, the more the video and audio would get out of synch. I managed to work around it by splitting the rips into 15 minute chunks and then having to edit them back together using Windows Movie Maker. Pretty tedious work.

Beckwith Box 1But the good news is that I did it. I started ripping tapes to my hard drive on January 27, and finished burning the last DVD and ripping the last cassette tape on Monday, May 27.

I’M DONE!

This was a major job – I must have spent a couple hundred hours working on this. But the relief is profound – I was able to save some great comedy and some great memories for my Dad and myself with this project.  Also, I was able to recycle two and a half book boxes full of videotapes and cassette tapes and streamline my life just that little bit. This is what I call progress!

Are any of you tackling similar major streamlining/memory projects?

Blog Every Day in May Days 12 – 19

Further topics for Rosalilium’s Blog Every Day in May Project! Today I’m covering collecting, go green, food, pampering, walk to work, best friends, and traditions.

Collecting

Fabric stash or dog bed?I’m actively trying NOT to collect anything anymore. My biggest weaknesses are movies and fabric. I’m one of those people who can watch movies over and over again. So I see a great deal on a DVD I know I will enjoy and it’s tough to resist. And there’s nothing better than finding a beautiful cotton print and buying a half yard of it. [Note: this is not my dog or fabric stash, but it’s adorable and I can totally see my dog doing this]

With that in mind, my husband and I are tackling some big projects to get rid of STUFF! DVD cases – chucked out! CDs – digitized and jewel cases chucked out! Old videotapes and cassette tapes – digitized and chucked out! Up next – the challenge of sorting, filtering, organizing, and digitizing old photos. That’s a big one.

Too much stuff can just weigh you down, physically and emotionally. Patricia Herr at GirlsOnTheWay puts it best: “You don’t need all the stuff you possess, and having all that stuff only leads you to believe you need even more stuff. Before you know it, you’re spending money to maintain the piles of stuff you don’t need, and then you’re spending energy coveting the shinier stuff your neighbors own (but don’t need).” Read her whole post – it’s worth your time.

Go Green

Solar PanelsThere’s a few small things we do – no paper plates, walking when we can. There’s a few small things I’d like to look into – replacing paper towels with washable rags, some vertical gardening on our patio. Recycling is handled by our city. However, our biggest green contribution is the house. We remodeled it 10 years ago and this puppy is tight! We’ve got solar panels on the roof that generate most of our electricity. The windows are all double paned and the walls and ceiling are heavily insulated. We’ve got high efficiency appliances (I LOVE my clothes washer) and low water use fixtures. And for the States, our house is pretty small – about 1300 sq. ft. That means much less space to heat, cool, furnish, and keep clean. Yes.

Food Glorious Food

Mexican Chocolate Cream Pie RecipeI’m so lucky – my husband does all the cooking. He likes to cook, whereas I’m more of a forager if left to my own devices. But I do like to bake. My favorite things to bake right now are a Grapefruit Pound Cake and a Mexican Chocolate Cream Pie. They’re both from Cooking Light magazine and thus lower calorie than regular recipes for pound cake and chocolate pie.

Do I have a favorite food? Not really. I will say, though, that when we were living in Europe, I sure did miss having Mexican food once in a while. Whenever we would come back to the States for a visit, one of our first stops would be to go get a shredded beef taco and some good salsa.

Pampering

yogaTo me, there’s nothing better than a serious deep-tissue massage by someone who really knows what they’re doing.  Second to that is a really good yoga session where you KNOW that the next day, you’re going to feel it. Fabulous.

Walk to Work

I’m so happy that I work at home. I’ve got a desk that is surrounded by windows, and the view is always good.

Best Friends

I am fortunate enough to have some really good friends and family, and sometimes it makes me a bit sad that very few of them live near me. But I move around a lot and they move around a lot, so that’s the way it is. I am grateful for my friends because even if we only talk a few times a year, we know we would be there for each other if necessary. We don’t over-analyze and get defensive if someone doesn’t email us back right away – it’s OK – people are busy – we understand that.

Favorite Tradition

Interview Q7My husband and I don’t have too many traditions. As we’ve moved around, we’ve had to create new events on the go.  From Thanksgiving to Christmas, though, I really do enjoy being home, putting up the tree, baking, wrapping presents and the like. And I will always make my Mom’s recipe for apple pie. [Note: This is my Kitchen-Aid mixer. His name is Bruce]

Favorite Books – Crafty and Otherwise

When I was young I was a voracious reader, and I read some books I probably wasn’t quite ready for at certain ages (reading Orwell’s 1984 at age 9 was a bit mind-blowing). I still love to read, but now most of my non-computer time is taken up with stitching. Unless I make the heavy investment in audio books, my reading time is limited these days. The last book I finished was Ender’s Game, shortly before I knew it was going to be a movie. Now I’m slowly reading The Devil in the White City, which has some great history about Chicago (probably my favorite city in the States).

Here are some of my favorite books and some reasons why they’re on this list:

Fiction

  • DUNEDune – It’s incredible what Herbert imagined would be possible for people to do with their minds and bodies. From a Guild Navigator’s ability to fold space, the strategy, control and timing necessary in a knife fight, to the Bene Gesserit’s ability to control their own metabolisms and use “the voice” to control others actions, it’s interesting to think if any of it is really possible.
  • Jane Austen – Aside from the obvious attractiveness of the male leads in the movie versions, her books show some of the status of women and the slower pace of change at the time. She also shows how being a selfish and inappropriate douchebag like Lydia Bennett can hurt yourself and others.
  • Dorothy L. Sayers – Her four book series from the 1930’s, Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, Gaudy Night, and Busman’s Honeymoon, are an unusual romance set in mystery novels. The author and her two lead characters are smart and tough, making these anything but pulp fiction.

Non-Fiction

  • 67picGonzo: the Art – Ralph Steadman’s art speaks to me like no other. But he’s not for everyone…
  • Creating the Not So Big House – Smaller houses and minimal stuff in them is GOOD.
  • Essentials of Geology – It seems to me we get into a lot of trouble when people don’t understand the scientific method. Geology is everywhere and it’s a great way to start understanding how real science works.

Craft and Design

Needlepoint Stitch Sampler - 1996

  • 101 Needlepoint Stitches and How to Use Them – I made this fabu sampler using this book. The text has clear diagrams and tips about how to use and how to perform each stitch.
  • Design and Make Your Own Contemporary Sampler Quilt – I made my first quilt using only the instructions from this book. It’s a great place for new quilters to start.
  • Altair Design (now called Images and Images 2) – When I was growing up, as soon as I had markers and color pencils, I had Altair Design books, and I can say that the effect was profound. As you can see from some of my pieces and inspirations, I still have a strong inclination toward geometric patterns. You can see all kinds of different shapes and possibilities in the lines. These books can really let the imagination open up and the creativity flow!
  • This Persian Flower Needlework is based on a very small element from a historical design book.The World of Ornament – THE resource for historical design inspiration. Covering design from the Ancient Egyptians through the mid 1800’s, this massive tome is colorful, fascinating, and idea-generating. Ancora Crafts Persian Flower pattern and kits are based on a tiny flower on one of it’s pages

Humor

  • Bloom County – A very funny comic strip that was both sweet and cynical at the same time. It was highly influential on my current vague mistrust of politicians and the media. I still have my Opus and Bill the Cat stuffed animals 30 years later.

Bill the Cat for President

  • A Fistful of Fig Newtons – Jean Shepherd is probably best known for the short stories that combined to make the movie A Christmas Story. Stories from his books In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash and Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories and Other Disasters were combined to make the movie script. And while I love these books, I love his book A Fistful of Fig Newtons even more. His takes on summer camp (“The Mole People Battle the Forces of Darkness”), dorm life (“A Fistful of Fig Newtons or the Shoot-Out in Room 303”), mess hall duty on a troop train (“The Marathon Run of Lonesome Ernie, the Arkansas Traveler”), and algebra (“Lost at C”) are hilarious. Shepherd always weaves a vivid and funny tale.
  • Scary - Gallery Of Regrettable FoodThe Gallery of Regrettable Food – I about wet my pants from laughter when I first read this book (at work, no less – a coworker had brought it in the office). James Lileks is a funny writer, and he found inspiration in some of the most disgustingly photographed food of all time.

 

Have any of you read these books as well? Do you have any suggestions based on what I’ve recommended above?

 

Disclosure: Ancora Crafts is an Amazon Associate – your purchases from the links above will help support Ancora Crafts. I own every linked book and product in this post with the exception of the geology book as I already own a heavy duty geology textbook. I will only endorse products that I believe, based on our personal knowledge of the products, are worthy of such endorsement.

The Benefits of Traveling

I’ve led a charmed life when it comes to traveling, and it just keeps going. I’ve been in 47 of the 50 States (Michigan, Wisconsin and Alabama remain), and I’ve done some extensive traveling through Europe and Asia. Another trip to Europe is in the planning stages, and currently on my list of places I want to go (and haven’t been before) are Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

benefits of traveling - fantastic french patio tile patternOne of my benefits of traveling is that I’ve gathered some great inspiration for craft projects from traveling. I’ve got patterns ready to test stitch based on this patio from a hotel near Toulouse, France:

 

 

 

benefits of traveling - colorful geometric floor of a bar in spainThis floor could inspire some great designs someday. It’s from a bar in a tiny town in Spain:

 

 

 

 

benefits of traveling - italian tiled wallThis gorgeous wall from a hotel near Norcia (pronounced Nor-CHA), Italy is full of potential:

 

 

 

 

newton needlework pattern - inspired by the entry tile of the Hunter mansion in Newton IowaThis project is based on a tile pattern in the entry of a house in Newton, Iowa (you can read more about it here):

 

[Wow, does anyone think I like geometric patterns yet?]

 

benefits of traveling - portion of the ceiling of the Piccolimini Library, Duomo di Siena, ItalyAnd don’t even get me started on the Piccolimini Library of the Duomo in Siena, Italy:

 

 

 

 

One of the other benefits of traveling, REAL traveling, is that it’s one of the best ways of learning about yourself and the world. When I say REAL traveling, I don’t mean cruises or all-inclusive resorts. I mean going somewhere off the highways and motorways, finding your own way from town to town, ordering food in restaurants where you don’t recognize anything on the menu, and buying groceries where you don’t speak the language.

This short post by Trish at GirlsOnTheWay is one of the best accounts I’ve read about the benefits of traveling and what REAL traveling can teach you. I’ve traveled with a backpack in a similar way and I agree with her post one hundred percent. I especially appreciate her third point: “Material goods don’t matter. At all.” This is so true. There is very little you NEED. Everything else is just icing on the cake. Read Trish’s post – it’s worth every second of your time.

benefits of traveling - portion of the ceiling of a church in Oloron Sainte MarieThese days I’m fortunate enough that I can take my crafts with me as I travel. If I’m not stitching, then I’m collecting inspirations or designing future projects. This is a portion of the ceiling of a church in Oloron Saint Marie, France. I’d love to design a project with these gorgeous motifs someday…

 

 

 

 

Have you seen the benefits of traveling in ways that Trish has mentioned? Are you able to take your crafts with you on your travels? We’d love to hear about it! Please comment and share your experiences…