Sunday, September 30, 2007

My Favourite Layout

The first "dare" has been posted on the Circle of Scrapping Friends blog asking for everyone's favourite layout. I made this layout a year ago, using Basic Grey and Dream Street papers and Quickutz raindrop die cuts. This is my favourite layout simply because I love the photos and I was very pleased to find papers that enhanced them so well. The photos were taken by Todd, of course. He thinks he isn't a good photographer, but out of the many photos he takes, there are frequently some really stunning ones.

Sunday Craft Update -- September 30

Didn't get much done this week, except for a couple of hours on my cross-stitch projects. However, I finally got Julia to model the short socks I made for her with Plymouth's Sockotta yarn. This is a cotton/rayon/wool blend available in lots of bright colours.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

News from the Blogs

A few interesting items from the blogs I read:
  • Todd and Mark have almost finished their amp. They've been doing the final tasks in our basement, including covering it with a cool material called tolex. I'll be the first to admit I'm not really into amps, but this creation truly is a thing of beauty.
  • Laura has started blogging! She wrote about an excursion with shopping expert Chantelle.
  • Kirsten has ventured into digital scrapbooking. Her first few layouts are on her blog and they are gorgeous!
  • Jill continues to write interesting things about Singapore, and we're all awaiting another update from Joe.
  • There's a new blog called Circle of Scrapping Friends devoted to combined digital and traditional scrapbooking. This one was started by several local scrappers and I'm looking forward to trying some of their challenges.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Settlers of Catan

I was away earlier in the week on a business trip and am finally getting time to write in the blog again. The highlight of the trip, apart from those very exciting meetings, was a 6-person Settlers of Catan game one evening with my colleagues. It was the first time I'd played the game with that many people and it was interesting to see how the dynamics changed with more players.

Jill and Joe introduced us to the game years ago when they lived in Toronto and we'd play when they came to visit us on weekends. Jill comes from a serious board-game-playing family. According to her, they play quickly and they really pay attention. I thought it was the greatest compliment when she finally said, "You'd be able to keep up with my family."

These days, we have the occasional game with Mark and Sharon. It's very popular with a number of people at work, and a few years ago, we even had a co-op student who was the reigning Settlers of Catan champion of Canada!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Sunday Craft Update -- September 23

I'm still learning and experimenting with Photoshop. Here's a layout I did using a couple of Todd's photos, with some colour adjustments. That's my cousin Wing walking in front of Julia on the Great Wall. The layout is in my new scrapbook gallery, which is still somewhat incomplete as I've not finished adding all the credits.

Apart from a couple of digital layouts, I also continued working on Chatelaine's Japanese Garden and Mirabilia's Adia this week. I'm also making progress with my new sweater ... only one sleeve left to knit!

Friday, September 21, 2007


Todd turns 42 today, and we all know that 42 is a very special number. Here is a photo of him with his beloved guitars and amp. Kate spent an hour making a beautiful hand-made card for him that said, "Got you this instead of a new guitar. Knew you'd like this better." Happy Birthday, Todd!!

Joe and Jill are also celebrating their anniversary today.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Visit from Nana and Opa

Here are some photos from last weekend, when Todd's parents came over for a visit. Unfortunately, I was stuck at the office trying to meet an upcoming deadline, but the girls had a nice time with them while Todd made a lovely prime rib roast for dinner. The weather was beautiful, and Kate spent lots of time out on the patio with Nana working on their painting.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Rotation Stitching and Time Tracking

In a comment to my previous post, Jill asked me how and why I track the time I spend on my stitching projects. "How?" is easy to answer. I use Google spreadsheets for tracking many other aspects of my life, but I have a low-tech system for stitching hours: a notebook in which I record the time spent each evening, rounded to the nearest quarter-hour.

"Why?" takes longer to answer. Tracking hours accomplishes several things:
  • It helps me predict how long it will take to complete a project.
  • It helps identify certain projects that are being neglected and are deserving of attention.
  • It provides a sense of accomplishment when I see a certain number of hours completed.
  • It is one way of setting goals (e.g. "complete 10 hours" as opposed to "finish the front piece of the sweater").
  • It is a good way to impress people. I usually get a stunned look when I tell someone I'd spent 200 hours on a cross-stitch project. This could be interpreted as, "I am impressed by your dedication!" or "You need to get a life!"
At work, we do time-tracking of our software projects for many of the same reasons. However, stitching projects, and cross-stitch projects in particular, have some characteristics quite different from those of software projects. Cross-stitch projects tend to take a large number of hours, many of them quite repetitive. (As one knitter has said, "I love the thrill of starting a new project and I love having the completed item. It's all that knitting in between ....") Unless you're doing a round-robin project, you work on them on your own. Unless projects are planned as gifts, they have no deadlines. Thus, it is a challenge to remain motivated long enough to finish a large cross-stitch piece. (There is nothing like an impending deadline or a frustrated customer to get me moving at work!)

For these reasons, there are a great number of on-line forums for cross-stitching, more I think than for most other hobbies of this sort. One really needs support groups for this activity. Where else would one get loads of praise and encouragement for an uploaded photo of a project that's only 5% completed?

My favourite forum is Rotation Stitchers. This is a long-running forum totally devoted to management of multiple stitching projects. Topics covered include time-tracking methods, styles of rotations, stitch-along (SAL) groups and even meta-discussion about whether rotation stitching or one-at-a-time stitching is best. If there's anything I like more than stitching itself, it's examining and analyzing the process.

For the record, I have about 10 cross-stitch projects on the go, with 5 of them "active" and the other 5 at some risk of becoming UFOs (Unfinished Objects). I have been pretty good the past two years about not starting new projects and consequently am not yet at the SABLE (Stash Accumulation Beyond Life Expectancy) point.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday Craft Update -- September 16

I've been busy catching up at work, coping with the start-of-school rush and playing with Photoshop in my spare time. So there is not much to report for the week. I did a few hours of knitting on my various projects. The one bit of exciting news is that I decided to pull out Chatelaine's Japanese Garden again. I'd put in over 100 hours and completed about half of the project, but I stalled at the end of last year. The photo shows where I'd left off. Laura is also stitching this piece, on a different piece of hand-dyed fabric from Sugar Maple Fabrics.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Final Digital Layout

I'll bet some of you are tired of hearing about the digital scrapbooking course and wishing I'd get back to writing about "normal" things. So here's a final digital layout ... for now. I'm hoping to take Jessica Sprague's advanced digital scrapbooking course in October.

These photos were taken by Todd when we visited the Roman Baths museum in England. He took a great photo of a Gorgon head carving and I used this for the title, cutting it into a circle and adding a bit of a drop shadow. I also used the colour editing tools in Photoshop to enhance the photos, like toning down the distracting red shirts a few of the tourists were wearing. The background paper is from Jessica Sprague.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Week Four Layout

I'm at week 4, the final week of my on-line digital scrapbooking course, and this is the layout for the weekly assignment. This is, again, a design by Jessica Sprague, but I can at least claim credit for the photo. I really love these papers; they go so well with any sepia-toned photo. The photo is from our walk through the Bath Circus, which I wrote about in an earlier entry.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Geeky Yarn Creations

I stumbled across this awesome site recently: The Top 10 Geekiest Yarn Creations on the Web. You really must scroll down to view the crocheted Yoda hat and light saber.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Sunday Craft Update - September 9

I'd missed the last two Sunday craft updates, but I hadn't done much other than knitting while on vacation. I've been working on socks for the girls using a new cotton/wool/nylon brand from Plymouth Yarns, called Sockotta, as well as continuing on a sweater for myself using Kabir from Needful Yarns. I love the designs from Needful Yarns and will have to get more patterns from this company.

Since returning from vacation, I've been working on my digital scrapbooking course, and above, I've added another layout. The design is by Jessica Sprague, and I'm using papers from her Echoes of Asia kit and a "sanded overlay" by Katie Pertiet. This overlay gives the weathered look at the edges of the background paper. The photos were taken by Todd when we were in Beijing.

I also made a trip to the Kitchener-Waterloo Knitter's Fair yesterday. This is a huge event, with many vendors and visitors, some of whom are bused in from other cities in large groups. In past years, I've bought freely but I had to show some restraint this year, as my current yarn stash will keep me busy enough for the next two years. I did pick up more Addi Turbo circular needles, though. These are expensive, but well worth the cost.

Friday, September 7, 2007

The First Martin Layout

Here's the very first layout featuring my newest nephew, Martin. He's such a cutie, isn't he?? I did this layout for one of the assignments in the digital scrapbooking course, but this time, I didn't use a template so the design is my own. The white paper is from Amy Teet's Whities Tighties kit, the blue paper is from Jessica Sprague's Echoes of Asia kit, and the stamp is from Katie Pertiet's Stamped Moments brush set.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Digital Scrapbooking Course

Earlier, I'd bought a short tutorial on digital scrapbooking from Jessica Sprague and found it extremely useful, so I decided to sign up for her on-line introductory course on how to do digital scrapbooking with Photoshop Elements 5.0. This is a four-week course that includes four 30-40 minute videos. For $40, I got the videos, several digital kits, a daily e-mail newsletter with additional Photoshop tips and access to the course on-line forum. Definitely a terrific deal!! Jessica offered the course for the first time earlier in the year, and both times, it sold out in a matter of hours. She's planning to offer it again in December or January, and if you are interested, you'd better get on her mailing list.

The three layouts shown in this post are ones I created for the first few assignments. The first two basically involved using prepared page layouts and adding photos, text and embellishments, but I learned how to do a number of operations more efficiently in PSE (the sort of thing I would have learned had I had the patience to read the documentation). The last layout required using the elliptical marquee tool and a "digital brush", similar to the stamps used in traditional scrapbooking.

Todd took some great photos of my three beautiful nieces when we were in England, so I used them as the subjects of my layouts. The designs were created by Jessica Sprague and are not my own, but hopefully by the end of the course, I'll be more prepared to create my own designs.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


Today was the first day of school, and after a seemingly interminable amount of time filling out the first-day forms, I am finally able to finish off my vacation posts. We spent the final days of our vacation in Montreal.

We had several relaxing days at my parents' place. They cook seafood magnificently, and we had two excellent meals there that included lobster, crab, oysters, braised mushrooms and greens from their garden. Mom and Dad had devoted lots of time and energy to their garden, as they do every summer. Kate was very impressed by the "melon tree" and tried to pick some of its fruit, with Gong-Gong's help. We were also treated to snails ("escargot" for the refined) in two forms: small ones in a slightly spicy sauce, and a giant snail, cut-up and simmered in soup. Kate, always the picky eater, had to be cajoled into trying a few new things, but Julia enjoyed almost everything that was offered. Todd loves my parents' cooking too, especially when it's washed down with one of Unibroue's beers.

We ate dinner one evening at the Furama, accompanied by a number of family friends, and we were treated to an excellent dim-sum there by my cousin Teresa and her husband Leo. We had a brief visit with their family earlier, which was fortunate as their kids could not join us for dim-sum. Quebec kids went back to school a week before Ontario kids did. The Furama is my parents' favourite Chinese restaurant, and we've never had a disappointing meal there.

On our last day in Montreal, my cousin Beryl invited us to her house for a barbeque lunch. At left is her husband Rob, the barbeque master, with their twins Olivia (in blue) and Amanda (in orange). We had a great time seeing all the kids, including Emma, who is very tall now. My cousin Basil and his wife Kathleen were there too, with their kids Nicholas and Evelyn. Next year, we need to have a longer vacation in Montreal, so that we can enjoy more time with all the family members!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Last Day in England

On Wednesday, we left England and arrived in Montreal for a few days' visit with my parents. At their house, there is no Internet access, so we had to content ourselves with eating, relaxing and socializing, but now I am trying to catch up with the blog entries.

We spent our last full day in England visiting places close to our London hotel, The Hart House in Marylebone. Our first stop was Madame Tussauds. This was the kids' treat, for putting up with hours in cathedrals and museums, not to mention having to stand in the wind and rain to look at a circle of large rocks. Kate loved posing with Albert Einstein and the Royal Family, while Julia was photographed with a selection of singers and movie stars. I got my picture taken with Michael Caine, whose wax figure did not draw the crowds that Leonardo DiCaprio's did. I can't understand why. My favourite photo is this one of Todd with one of his guitar heroes, Jimi Hendrix.

Staying with the guitar theme, we next visited the Beatles store, where Todd and Julia found very cool T-shirts. Kate, strangely enough, asked for a guitar pick as a souvenir, to use with the cardboard dulcimer she'd made in a Kindermusik class or "in case Daddy buys me a guitar one day". The shopping trip was followed by a tour of the tiny Beatles museum, in the basement below the adjoining Elvis store. The museum "curator" seemed very enthusiastic, though she did confess that listening to Beatles tunes eight hours a day can be tiresome.

Finally, we stopped at the Sherlock Holmes Museum, located at 221b Baker Street of course. I admit it is strange to have a museum devoted to a fictional character, but having read all the stories in my youth and seen many of the film/TV adaptations, Sherlock Holmes seems pretty real to me. I'm not sure the kids got the point, but they willingly trudged along after me and were intrigued by the various wax corpses lying about the house.

We returned to Tim and Kimberly's house for a final farewell dinner. Kimberly had the marvelous idea of hosting a big group birthday party for everyone, as the distance had made it difficult to celebrate individual birthdays together this year. She made us another of her fabulous dinners, and we celebrated with champagne for the adults and a hedgehog cake for the kids. The photo below shows Julia with Teaghen, in all her party finery.

Everyone got up at 6am the next morning to send us off, and we said our sad farewells. Kimberly and Tim were such gracious and generous hosts that I wasn't sure how we'd ever repay them. However, I did have an opportunity to perform a bit of sewing surgery on Alexandra's stuffed pony right before we left, and I received the warmest hug from her in return. We had such a wonderful time in England that I'm already thinking about the next visit!