Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My favorite artist is...

my daughter Sarah Wain!  I just picked up this framed original today and hung it in my kitchen...isn't it delicious? (Please ignore the bad photography and glare from my funky chandelier.)

These beautifully realistic chocolate-covered strawberries are actually an oil painting (on canvas) that I just had framed at my local needlework shop, Heart's Desire in Wichita, Kansas. We added a neutral mat and frame, and glass, since it's hanging in my kitchen. I'm so thrilled to have it in the busiest room in our house!!

Now my kitchen has a smorgasbord of dessert art, with this cupcake print hanging over my stovetop. This frame and mat used to hold a rooster print, but I de-poultried it and popped in the cupcake print. Easy!

Want to see more? Check out Sarah's website at www.sarahewain.com. She has originals and high-quality prints available at really reasonable prices. The cupcake above is a custom-order she just painted for my sister-in-law Donna, who chose the colors to complement her kitchen.  Sarah is currently an under-employed art teacher (unable to get a contract) working as a special ed para at an elementary school in Bloomington, IN.  While she would LOVE to get an art teacher position (anyone have a job out there?), the para job gives her lots of extra time to paint!

Yes, life is just a bowl of cherries!!!

Friday, July 22, 2011

6 Fat Men = Major Desk Piles!

Remember the 6 Fat Men?  No, not THOSE chubby guys...the 6 fat snowmen Flip-its we're working on this summer!

But, those men are really keeping me busy! It's hard for a girl to ignore these 6 chubby fellas...they're everywhere on my desk and all over the office.

Paperwork??? Lots of it!  Gotta keep things organized when you're working on 6 projects at once.  Here's what's in those colorful clips... color charts I used to stitch the models with supply lists and stitching notes, scans of completed projects, text and all the info that will appear in the printed material...important stuff!!

Since the last sneak preview post, everyone is asking questions, so here are a few facts about our 6 favorite men!

1. There are 6 individual designs - all different shapes and sizes - all SNOWMEN!
2. Each design comes with a white snowflake button
3. All the designs use the same color palette - pinky red, aqua, teal, navy, forest green, chartreuse, gold, brown, yellow, and WHITE...lots of white!
4. The 6 designs are great separately...but they also fit together to form a big snowy puzzle!
5. L*K will provide FREE designs to tie the 6 patterns together - to fill in the gaps!
6. Look for the first 3 designs in your local needlework shop in mid-late August.
7. Stay tuned to this blog for more sneak peeks!

Today I picked up the 6 individual framed designs from my local shop and made the field trip to the photographer. Extra thanks to Debbie from Heart's Desire, who whizzed through my projects and framed them all in one day!  She said that working on snowmen during this summer of record temps was a "cool" experience.

I returned from the photographer with a disc with all 6 photos and immediately copied it into my computer for future reference. Then I'll send the photo disc, the 6 stitched models, and all the other info to the graphic designer.  Janice will get to work over the weekend and we'll collaborate to make our 6 Fat Men look fabulous in print!!

We're also busy putting thousands of snowflake buttons in tiny 1" x 1" zip bags, then putting them on the strips with the Glu-Dots...all ready to attach to printed material soon.

Even during a crazy busy week, these roly poly guys MAKE ME SMILE!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Judy and Linda Show

I just returned from a whirlwind weekend in Chicago...what a trip!  In addition to traveling to markets on business, sometimes I get invitations to visit needlework shops and be the guest teacher at a weekend event. This weekend I was pleased to visit some of my long-time, faithful customers...Pam and Kim from Tomorrow's Heirlooms in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. The other teacher at the event was Judy Whitman, from JBW Designs...also known as my BFF in the needlework biz!

Here we are at the end of event...still smiling...from left to right...Kim, Pam, Judy and Linda (me!).

Q.  What do cross stitchers do when they get together?
A.  Laugh, talk, eat, stitch, stitch, stitch!

On Friday night, about 50 of us gathered at the lovely Doubletree for a casual Meet and Greet event. Judy and I were there to chat with the ladies, but I think they were more interested in our products than us!  Pam and Kim created a beautiful "road show" with tons of Lizzie*Kate and JBW Designs models and products, as well as other select goodies from their shop. The gals could shop to their heart's delight, while munching on snacks.

The next morning we met in a large sunny room for a full day of class. Judy taught in the AM, introducing the class to a special kit created just for the event. While the gals started stitching, Judy talked about her business and did a slide show about her life and JBW.  Judy is a super teacher (lots of notes), and answered lots of questions and offered great advice.

We took a break for lunch and headed out to a Chicago favorite, Portillo's, where we had genuine Chicago HOT DOGS!!! Yes, there's a dog hiding in there, under all the yummy toppings.  I forgot to photo the luscious chocolate layer cake, which was the perfect finish to our power lunch!

We returned to the hotel for the "Linda Show" after lunch.  I also presented the gals with an original design and kit.  While they stitched the afternoon away, I chatted about life at L*K...how I started, the production process to get a design from sketch to publication to distribution, showed some family photos, and all that!  Yes, Judy and I were both pleased to get our audiovisual presentations to actually work!  We were a little worried to manage all that technology without my faithful husband/geek Alan, but we succeeded in style!

After the class concluded, we returned to the hotel suite for more shopping and chatting, and finally wrapped things up.  Before dinner, we took a detour over to Norden Crafts, one of our distributors, also in Chicago. Norden is a wonderful family-owned business, and we were pleased to meet owner Dave Stott and daughter Katy Fong for an after hours warehouse tour.  Katy also attended our event....extra fun, because we remember her at market when she was just a teenager, and now she's all grown up, super-efficient at her job, and a delight to be around.  Here is Katy posing in front of a beautiful wall of Weeks Dye Works fibers.

Every time L*K releases new designs, in addition to shipping to needlework shops all around the world, we also ship to our distributors. I've always wondered how they store and organize all that stuff!  Here is a portion of the L*K corner of the warehouse.  What a job to organize all those patterns, especially when we continually release new products!

After the warehouse tour, we detoured for some YUMMY Mexi-food - my favorite thing! We were joined by another needlework exec, Sharon Crescent from Crescent Colours (2nd from left). Sharon flew into Chicago to be a participant in our event...just one of the gang.  But Sharon's irrepressible spirit is hard to contain...she is a blast to hang with!

After we finished our Mexi fiesta, we did a twilight tour of the Tomorrow's Heirlooms shop.  I forgot to take pics.  Maybe I was in a Mexi-food stupor, maybe I was overwhelmed by all the lovely MODELS in the shop, maybe I just forgot. So, if you're in the Chicago area, stop in to see the shop for yourself!  They will be happy to see you!  

Many thanks to Pam and Kim from Tomorrow's Heirlooms for a great weekend getaway! Now I'm sweating it out in Kansas with another 106 degree afternoon, catching up on EVERYTHING that happened while I was gone...back to work!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Too HOT to blog!

It's too HOT to do anything, except hibernate in my air-conditioned office, with the granddog parking himself in front of the fan.

The only rays of sunshine in this horrible, hot drought (yes, while the rest of the country is flooding, we are having a terrible, sad drought) are my sunflowers! After a slow start (and late planting) they are finally blooming!

A couple years ago I realized the importance of planting "pollenless" sunflowers.  In addition to not making you sneeze, they don't drop that toxic yellow pollen all over everything. They're perfect to cut and bring inside and enjoy!!!

The sad side of my garden ): contains the most pitiful tomatoes in years. Look at these beauty-challenged little specimens!

They are so ugly, I may have to enter them in the annual "Ugly Tomato Contest" at the local extension office. They are cracked, oozy, pecked...and remarkably, still delicious!  After you cut out the offensive parts, they taste great. Obviously the birds thing they taste good, because they have been doing a number on them. Maybe I need a scarecrow?

If you have suggestions on tomato growing, write me a comment. We call ourselves "faithful gardeners", because we basically plant and pray! We're not too good at the maintenance part of gardening...we just want the results!

Meanwhile, I am moving into my annual summer meal strategy...tomato intensive meals. Everything has tomatoes in it or on it!  Toe-may-toe....toe-mah-toe...either way you say it, summer is here! 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Meet me at the fair....

FYI - I live in the CITY!  But...the "country" is only a couple short miles away, and it is endless entertaining! For our Friday night activity, a group of friends drove to the county fair in Cheney, about 25 miles from Wichita. Somehow, in my 55 years of living, I have never been to the county fair.  To make up for that, my friends (many of them grew up on a farm) guided me through a variety of classic and quirky fair experiences and we had a blast!

First on our list...fair FOOD!  We chose the Cheney Methodist Church building because my friend Vicki's sister helps there every year, and because we know those church ladies can really cook! The building is permanent - read the sign - they've been serving fair food for 125 years.  But it isn't air-conditioned - more like a giant screened-in porch, but we happily worked our way through chicken and noodles, taco salads, and beautiful pieces of pie.  I can't imagine how hard these ladies (and men) work to serve food all day for 4 days - that's a marathon church dinner!

After dinner, we strolled past the "Fair Idol" contest and listened to a couple aspiring singers...country music, of course. Then we headed for the large animal barns, where my friend Marlys insisted I pet a cow.  Admittedly, I was a little nervous about this large animal, altho this one wasn't full grown. Marlys told me stories of her 4H youth days, when she showed cows and had to style their tails as part of their whole body grooming process.  What a hoot!  Yes, when cows come to the fair, they are unusually clean and well groomed! I'm not showing a dairy cow pic...I'll leave that sight to your lactose imagination!

On to the pigs, which were a mystery to me. They put 8-10 pigs in the ring at the same time, and their hapless owners (who are all dressed up!) try to herd them around with little sticks. It was hilarious, until a couple pigs decided they didn't like either other, and they had to break up a pig fight!

Then onto the goat pins, where one little goat decided he was "king" of the pin, and tried to rule from his bale of hay, keeping out challengers with his little horns.

In the small animal barns, we saw chickens of ALL varieties, ranging from classic chickens to the weird and wonderful. This little gal looked like she was having a bad hair day, or is it a good look for poultry? Whatever...she won a purple ribbon for her efforts!

And then the bunnies...again, all shapes, colors, sizes...all equally CUTE!  You really want to stick your fingers through the cages and pet them, but there are signs everywhere warning that the bunnies BITE!

Finally, we checked out all the fair rides.  Notice, I didn't say we rode the rides...we checked them out.  Our conversations went something like...

"WOW...I used to love that ride when I was young!"
 "Yea, but I think that would really upset my stomach now." 
"I used to be able to ride those things all day." 
"I think that would really make my back and neck hurt now."  
"Don't these portable rides that go from place to place make you a little nervous?"
"And look at that guy running the ride - he is so scary, can we trust him with our lives?"

We skipped the big grandstand event (you had to pay for this) which was bull riding. But I must mention one of the MOST entertaining events at the fair...watching the people...OH MY! 

Friday night at the fair was so much fun, we decided to return Saturday AM for breakfast with the church ladies. We got up early and rode our bikes and greeted all the unsuspecting church folk in our geeky bike gear.  My husband Alan was a happy camper with his biscuits and sausage gravy, homemade cinnamon rolls and watermelon.  Look out cows and random farm critters, I'm coming back next year!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

My FROGGY Fourth!

What did you do on the 4th of July?  Watch fireworks, hang with family and friends, relax?  Yes, we did all of that, too!  But did you have a giant FROG encounter???

This friendly fellow was relaxing by the pond at Trail Creek Farm, where we have our annual Fab Fourth Family bash, hosted by our farm relatives, Susan and Harlan. You probably know Trail Creek Farm from their beautiful cross stitch pillows, banners and designs. The designer, Susan, is my sister-in-law. 

She is also the gracious hostess for our annual pyrotechnic extravaganza at the farm, where (almost) every kind of firework is legal. For many years, we have gathered at the farm for food, fun and fireworks!!! Sadly, neither of our daughters were able to make the drive this year (from out of state), so we did our best to celebrate in style without them.

Harlan took little Noah on a tractor ride, which he LOVED! Noah also enjoyed visiting the young chickens in the barn. Their fuzziness is fading quickly, as they mature, but they're still cute! 

Henny and Penny, our favorite chicken footstools, were hanging out on the front porch to greet us!  These mega-sized chickens are actually sturdy footstools, and are handcrafted on the farm by my niece, Sally, and Susan.  They have beautiful bronze feet and beaks, and are wrapped in cozy hand-dyed and felted wool. If that's not enough, their heads BOBBLE!  Check them out at www.thecitygirlfarm.com

And all that excitement was on Sunday, the day BEFORE the official holiday!  On Monday morning, we put on our hair-wrecking bike helmets and rode to a fun Wichita tradition, the Riverside pancake breakfast. We met a group of friends there, found more friends once we got there, and had a tasty and fun morning. After the breakfast, the neighborhood kids do an old-fashioned parade with decorated bikes and the whole nostalgic thing. 

Where am I in this pic? That's me in the middle foreground with my back to you, using my hands to tell what must be an amusing (or embarassing) story, judging from the looks on everyone else's faces! Afterwards, we biked back home to counteract the effects of our pancake/sausage fest!