Thursday, May 31, 2012

HAIL, no!!!

I think I've posted about this before, but it bears repeating...I hate HAIL!!! We've been hoping and praying for rain because we are so DRY, and yesterday we finally got a big thunderstorm. Loved the thunder, lightning, flickering lights and all that. Alas, we also got HAIL!

I'm still in my office about 5 PM and I start to hear rain and think "great, finally!". Then I hear the telltale pitter- patter of hail on the roof and I think "OH, NO!".  Then the pitter-patter turns to clunk, crash, clunk as the hail gets bigger and more frequent.

So I did what every good Kansan does...I grabbed my camera! I took this shot out my upstairs office window. That's my backyard under a blanket of frozen hail.

After about an hour of on again-off again hail and rain, I escaped to my house with my faithful dog, Henry, and my nightly stitch project in hand. I snapped the photo below as I passed through the wet patio. I guess we'll have a few less grapes (those little green balls in photo) in July. The birds, who feast on them every summer, may be disappointed!

I just texted my sister-in-law on the nearby family farm and found out they didn't get nearly as much hail and rain as we did. Thankfully the wheat is still standing up (not shredded into bits, laying on the ground) and ready for it's big date with the combine!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial memories

What did you do over the long holiday weekend? Was it relaxing? Was it fun? Did it all end TOO soon?

We squeezed in as many activities as possible, while still maintaining the very important element of "relaxation".  This is best achieved by staying as far as possible from our home office!

We started with a 4th birthday party for our great nephew, which was also a thinly disguised family get-together. Small people abounded, and enjoyed all the usual birthday stuff, including one of those giant blow-up bouncy things which occupied a big part of the backyard. We ate and chatted the afternoon/evening away.

Casual and comfy was the dress code, as evidenced by the charming relative above. Eating popsicles is SERIOUS business when you're two years old!

We bid the birthday kids goodbye, and the adults took a turn in the bouncy toy. Is there a prohibition against gray hair in these things?

Is there a 55 year old age limit? If so, we broke a lot of rules!

The next day we traveled to the family farm to see more family and visit the cemetary. The beautiful Kansas wheat is golden and ALMOST ready to cut. In a couple days, the farmers will spring into action as the annual harvest begins. Here's a patch next to the farmhouse.

We visited the 23 baby chickens and checked out their newly updated roost. My brother-in-law demonstrated his "chicken whisperer" skills amid much laughter and doubt. Is it really true that you can put a chicken to sleep by swinging it gently to and fro? Warning: Don't try this at home...he is a professional (he's really a veterinarian, but usually hangs out with dogs and cats!).

While on the farm, we visited the studio at City Girl Farm, where my talented sister-in-law and niece produce all kinds of beautiful chicken-related products (and other goodies). Check out their beautiful giant chicken footstools (upper left), chicken pillows, and chicken aprons at

We also took time on a very windy day to visit the beautiful old cemetary where my husband's parents and a host of other relatives are buried. My husband, Alan, is in the middle, flanked by some of his sibs.

We also squeezed in the movie "Men in Black 3" (mindless FUN!) and a big outdoor dinner on our patio with fam and friends. Alas, the Memorial Day weekend is over, but I have more sweet memories. Gotta get that scrapbook up to date!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fond thoughts of Santa... MAY!  I know, even Hobby Lobby doesn't have their Christmas stuff out yet. (I'm sure it's coming soon, though).

Here at Lizzie*Kate I'm in the full Christmas swing! The air conditioner is on, and I'm working on my annual holiday designs. Every year I do a Snippet Santa and a collection of small Christmas designs we call Tiny Tidings. Last year I also added a new project to the mix - Flora McSample's Ornaments - so I'll add to that collection, too.

How do I think about Christmas in May? I keep a notebook of ideas as I explore new projects. Some of these ideas make it to publication, some don't. So to begin, I flip back to previous year's notes on Christmas projects. I am looking for cool sayings, motifs or ideas I haven't used yet, or I want to explore further. Note my 3 favorite desk tools - the mechanical pencil, the BIG eraser and pretty clips (pretty clips really do help with productivity!).

I decided to tackle the Santa design first, so began by pulling previous Santas from the shelves to remind myself what Santa has already done.  Santa has ice skated, posed with woodland animals, rode his sleigh, come down the chimney, held a tree (several times!), posed in his PJs, and more.  Then I start to wonder..."what new thing can Santa do this year?"

I found a saying I liked, and got to work graphing the 2012 Santa Snippet. The next day, when I was satisfied with the design, I rounded up the usual Christmas colors (red, green, white) and added some fun accent color possibilities (aqua, light blue, chartreuse, pink), and found the fuzzy Wisper fiber I always use for Santa's beard. I'll figure out some embellishments later - I have a couple new ones in mind.

Last night I started stitching Santa, as I watched the farewell FINAL episode of House that we had recorded. I don't know if any of you are House fans, but I confess now that I have a major crush on Dr. Wilson (swoon). I remember him (real name is Robert Sean Leonard) fondly from the movie "Dead Poet's Society" when he was the tormented teen with the overbearing father. 

Alas, Santa will live forever in our hearts, but House is television history!!! Or is he?? 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Summer mystery unfolds...

Friday seems like the perfect day for another "Mystery Sampler tease" here goes! If you missed our first Mystery Sampler post, just scroll back to Friday, May 4 and you'll be caught up.

So...we are working on a cool, unique project this summer...a MYSTERY SAMPLER!  Already we're getting bombarded with tons of questions and inquiries, so here are a few basics. For more specific info, contact your local needlework shop or fave online shop. They have received very specific ordering info from our friends at Norden Crafts, our distributor and partner on this project. If your shop doesn't know about the L*K Mystery Sampler, tell them to contact Norden or visit their website.

We'll call it the Mystery Sampler for now, because we haven't named it yet!  OOPS! Kinda forgot that it should have a real name, so we're working on that. Those pesky details!!!

*The Mystery Sampler will be published in 3 parts. These 3 parts fit together into one big, Halloween/autumn design.

* Each part will come with a portion of the design, but won't include designs for the other 2 parts (duh). Each part will also include embellishments (beads, charms, etc.) and a BONUS design. I really had fun designing the BONUS projects. They are all the same size, can be stitched separately, or combined into another Halloween design.  Yes, more MYSTERY!! We may have a L*K blog contest for everyone to show off their cool finishing skills on the bonus projects.

*The 3 parts of the design will be released during the months of June, July and August...perfect for summer stitching. I think they will arrive in the shops at the very end of each month.

*NOW is the time to order to get shipped in the very first round. We're working really hard to assemble all the pieces for the first round of shipments. Our pals at Weeks Dye Works are super busy dyeing the beautiful linen and all the threads needed for the project. We've even created a cool new color, just for this project! We're busy working on the printed materials, and assembling embellishment packs. Those things don't sack themselves...darn!

***I just found a Facebook post from Weeks Dye Works with tons of SNEAK PEEK info out there. Inquiring minds want to check them out!

I'm off to my LNS, Heart's Desire in Wichita, to deliver the finished stitchery this morning. The frame is waiting and I can't wait to get this baby in it's final resting place - a beautiful blackish frame from Eastside Mouldings. Above is my project, ready to leave the desk, destined for Mystery fame!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Graduation for adults!

Maybe I should say "Graduacion para adultos". This is the time of the year for graduation ceremonies, but the one I attended last night was really was FUN and energetic...not always the norm with graduation ceremonies...right?)

My church has a wonderful partnership with Park Elementary School, one of our downtown neighbors. We do lots of things for the school...send 35-40 tutor/mentors every week, help with special events, help the nurse, and generally do anything the principal or social worker requests.

Several years ago the church ladies began a ministry with the Moms from school that attend an Adult Literacy program. Originally funded through a grant, these women attend school 4 days a week. They spend part of the time in their own classroom with a bi-lingual teacher, and visit their children's classroom the rest of the time. For our program, we invite them to our church every month for a lunch and conversation!

I've been the co-chair for our monthly meetings for a couple years, and it is a joy!  I often coordinate a craft activity - they love hands on projects. Below are some tasty gingerbread houses we managed to build, as we eagerly sampled the "building materials". That's my good friend and co-chair, Deb, on the right.

We made some teeny little bunnies for Easter. These little rabbits sure looked a lot bigger on the Martha Stewart craft page when I spotted them! The cute lady on the left, Gaby, is their teacher.

Usually the church ladies provide the food, but sometimes we get treated to some yummy Mexi-food. Below we worked together to make gorditas! We made about a thousand gorditas, stuffed them with assorted fillings the ladies brought, and ate them all. !Que rico!

So what's the point of all this? We provide a safe and inviting place for the ladies to practice their English and  interact with English speakers. I enjoy decorating the tables, making pretty treats, and generally making the ladies feel special.

And...we LAUGH!  We laugh when we struggle to communicate effectively, we laugh when we finally DO communicate, and we laugh at all the things women laugh at, no matter what the language. We'll all take the summer off and, thankfully, the funding is in place for the program to continue next fall. 

And did I mention I enjoy practicing my limited Spanish skills? It's just irresistible to throw out the bits and pieces of Spanish that I know and watch their faces. I know lots of words (nouns, verbs, adjectives), but am not too skilled at that pesky grammar (think indirect object pronouns and subjunctive - ick). Whatever?!

!Tenga un buen verano, mujeres amables! (Have a good summer, sweet ladies!)

Friday, May 11, 2012

What? Me? Change my mind???

Yes, it happens. And at work, it happens ALL The time. Designing new products at L*K is the best part of the biz - so fun, spontaneous and a real creative high (most of the time).

But the designing process doesn't stop when I finish the design on the computer. The real creative challenge begins when I stitch the model. And yes, I do stitch my own models. Sometimes a model goes together flawlessly. I choose the colors and fabric and whiz through my stitching. Honestly, I can't remember the last time this happened, though. Most of the time it's a trial and error process involving lots of stitching, taking out, restitching...maybe even starting the whole thing over again after the fabric is getting thin and tired.

My selected thread palette (above) always starts out beautifully organized, but rapidly descends into chaos!

My motto is "I only have to get it right ONCE, even if that takes forever!". And I've learned it's wise to keep on trying until I'm satisfied. If I'm not satisfied and proceed to publishing, every time I look at that design I think "Wow, I should have made more changes".

The past few weeks I've been working on the next set of Inspiration Boxers. These little kits have been phenomenally popular, and I am very grateful. I have pored over dozens and dozens of inspirational sayings, trying to choose the ones that speak to me, and hopefully to my customers. Last week I selected the sayings (a couple of them are frequently requested) and did the designs on the computer. Then the fun part started...or did it?

I had barely began stitching, when I realized I wasn't happy. So I chose some different threads, took out sections and restitched. And did that over and over until I was really pleased with the results. But it took me a couple days to be "happy" and put me behind on my self-imposed schedule. Whatever...the design and it's matching BONUS designs are really "sweet and simple" (that's a clue to the saying I used!). Below is a pic of the BONUS designs that go with 2 of the new Inspiration Boxers. I found a beautiful little snippet of lace that I'll have my finisher add to one of the projects.

So armed with my recent success and more confidence, I started on the 2nd Inspiration Boxer, sure that I wouldn't encounter a similar color scheme problem. No, not a similar problem, a worse one! I stitched areas again and again, took sections out, laid out new threads and nearly drove myself crazy. So I decided a "consultation" was in order - maybe an intervention!!! I went to my local needlework shop to meet with 3 experts for their advice. And...WOW! Maybe I should consult more often. They had lots of helpful ideas, we traded some colors, even moved around some motifs. Several hours later...with lots of stitches removed and replaced...and more time making design adjustments on the computer...I was finally finished and HAPPY!

I am most grateful to Sherre, Debbie and Carol for their consultation/intervention that allowed me to finally finish this inspirational design. Ironically, the saying on this one is "LIFE isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain". How appropriate is that???

Friday, May 4, 2012

Mysterious summer of 2012!

It's going to be a "Summer of Mystery" at L*K, and we are SO excited to finally talk about it!!! Yes, we've been keeping a BIG secret, and it's finally out...WHEW!  Norden Crafts contacted us this spring and asked us to work with them on a Mystery Sampler and, of course, we said YES!

This project has been such a fun and unique challenge. When you've been designing for 16 years, it's wonderful to have an interesting, new needlework riddle to solve. I've been chatting with Katy Fong from Norden almost daily, bothering her with details, questions, thoughts and ideas. The process has been so exciting, I've lost sleep dreaming about it (or is that menopausal sleep loss?). Whatever...Katy  has been really flexible and helpful, and I'm so excited to reveal our joint project!

I decided on a Halloween theme, since stitchers are CRAZY for this holiday and I love Halloween colors and motifs! Summer is the perfect time to work on a Halloween project, too. Norden Crafts has just sent details to your local needlework shops, so check with them for specifics and pre-ordering info. Below is a portion of the promo card we sent to shops and they can forward to stitchers. You can catch a black/white glimpse of the actual project in the lower left corner.

The Mystery Sampler will be revealed in 3 parts, one each month this summer. There won't be the usual project photo on the front...hence, the MYSTERY sampler. The three designs will fit together to form one, tall spooky stitchery! Each design will come with it's own embellishments and a BONUS design (more about these later!). 

While looking through the piles of paperwork I've generated while working on this project, I found some original sketches I made. I always begin a design with a pencil sketch, before moving to the computer and the design software. Sometimes the finished design actually resembles my original sketch! It's interesting for me to look back on my original ideas and see how they evolved.

That's enough MYSTERY for now....stay tuned for more details and check with your local needlework shops for additional info. 

BTW, bacon lovers...the winners of the BACON contest were notified at the close of the contest and prizes were mailed. Thanks to ALL of you who participated in the blog contest. May your days be filled with happiness and BACON!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Is May Day an official holiday?

I loved May Day when I was a kid! The first day in May was a yearly celebration of May baskets, surrepticious door ringing and rapid running. Every year on May Day we got out the construction paper and stapler and created some cone-shaped baskets with little paper hangers. Then we raided the neighborhood flower beds for whatever flowers were blooming. We artfully arranged them in the paper cones (tossed them in), then the fun part began.

After you selected the May basket recipient, you snuck up to their house, hung the basket on the door handle, rang the bell, and RAN! We retreated to a nearby bush or other vantage point so we could see the perplexed neighbor answer the door. Hopefully they would smile as they found the flower basket. That's assuming we hadn't deflowered their own prize roses!

I remember a next door neighbor boy who was a constant source of torment for the girls in the hood. We loaded his May basket with dirt and rocks. It was meant to be an insult, but he probably thought they were "neat" supplies for his next annoying project.

Here's my version of a grownup May basket. I bought these beautiful flowers at the local Farmer's Market last weekend. The peonies are getting a little tired, but the scent is amazing.

So ...while my desk at L*K is overflowing with Halloween motifs, I'm firmly rooted in the beauty of spingtime in Kansas!