Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It's good to be Santa!

My church has a very cool partnership with a nearby elementary school. If you lived at our church, you could easily walk to school!

Park Elementary is a downtown school in a beautiful historic building with a newer addition. The student body has a 96% poverty rate. Our fabulous Christian education director, Libby, thinks of a zillion ways to involve as many members of our congregation with Park Elementary as possible!

We tutor and mentor in the classrooms, help with enrollment, send treats for the teachers, help the nurse and office staff, and generally try to meet (or exceed) the requests and needs of the students and staff. Every week 30-40 of us are in the building, hanging with kids and teachers, and re-entering the world of elementary education! Did I mention that most of the kids at Park are bi-lingual? Almost 90% of the students are Spanish/English speakers...I'm so envious! Below are some smiling 4th graders I tutored at Park.

Earlier this week, we hosted the annual school Christmas Program at our church. The sanctuary was overflowing with students, staff and families...what a blessing!

So...when our Sunday School class was looking for a family to help at Christmas, we asked the Park social worker for a suggestion. This year we're excited to help a lovely family with 6 kids, including one special needs child. After some cajoling, we got a small list from them, and the pile of presents is growing, along with my Christmas MY house! We've taken their minimal list and expanded it!

I'm the coordinator for this year's effort, so it's looking a bit like Santa's workshop in my piano room. I am piling the presents in here, so they don't get mixed up with our family gifts.

 Today is the big day for us to deliver the's SO fun to play Santa every year! This morning I went to Sam's Club with Libby and we shopped for food staples....GIANT bags of rice and beans, laundry soap, TP, soap, cooking oil, etc. My little sleigh (car) was full!

Later a few friends showed up to help me load gifts (I needed another car trunk!) and we delivered to our family. After we stashed all the gifts under the tree and into the frig, we took a picture with the smiling Mom and her darling 2 year old daughter.

As my friend Deb and I rode home, we chatted about our experience. We both agreed it was the highlight of our busy holiday season...and the real spirit of the!  It was a delight to help this family and make their holiday season merrier.  What a blessing!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Freaky Friday!

WARNING!  Do not proceed to read if you are squeamish about MINOR medical procedures!  Just close this post and wait until the next one appears. The next post will be about something sweet and holiday-ish and probably needlework related!

If you dare to continue, I wanted to share about my recent adventure at the dermatologist. To make a long (potentially boring) story short, I had a suspicious brown spot on my arm. I thought it was a freckle, my doc thought it was a big freckle and the derm wanted to have a closer look. After a little biopsy, and inconclusive lab work, they decided to take a bigger bite out of my arm...just to be sure.

I seem to be more and squeamish about medical stuff as I get older, so when I came home from the derm a week ago with this icky stitchery on my arm, I wasn't too thrilled!  And it is my STITCHING (translation - working) arm! At least I didn't have to cut any fabric all week. I wasn't supposed to put pressure on it, or lift stuff.  That rotary cutter takes a bit of muscle as I propel it through several layers of linen. Unfortunately, no one else cut those giant bolts of fabric this week, either!

Anyway, just returned from the derm, got the scary (very itchy!) stitches out, and I am good to go. The lab work came back good (praise the Lord!) and I'm anxious for the little stitchy marks on my arm to plump up and fade away. 

All I want for Christmas is...stitches on my new cross stitch designs...and not on my arm!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Stained Glass Cookies!!

I took a "personal day" off from L*K today. Sadly, I absolutely cannot remember the last time I took a (almost whole) day off during the middle of the week!  I hopped on the turnpike, in the rain, and drove an hour to nearby Winfield, KS to spend a day baking with my good friend Julie. We've been friends since our college days, so that is a very long time!

Just to get an idea of what fab personal style Julie has, here is a pic of her charming house! Isn't it looking classically wonderful, all decked out for the holidays? Julie has a great kind of charming, homespun style that makes you feel welcome. I always admire all of her special touches at Christmas, especially her baking!  So I went for a hands-on tutorial on her famous Stained Glass Cookies.

The first step was smashing the Jolly Rancher candies that would be the "glass" in our cookies. Armed with a hammer, we smashed 5 different colors of candies. 

Then we mixed up the cookie dough,(similar to sugar cookie dough), rolled it out and started cutting out shapes.  The tricky part is, you need 2 sizes of cutters for each shape. One for the outside shape of the cookie, and a smaller cutter to remove the inside shape. While Julie rolled and cut, I filled each cookie with the crushed candies. You don't have to be too neat, but you need enough to "fill" the cookie. If you plan to hang the cookies, like Julie does, you need to put a little hang-hole in the top of the cookie with a toothpick.

After about 10 minutes in the oven, we pulled the little masterpieces out and let them cool. After we removed them from the cookie sheets, we inserted ribbons and hung them in Julie's windows. She has a very organized system of curtain rods and ribbons she uses every year.

Here are the finished cookies, ready for viewing now and (Julie tells me this happens) eating later! I'm still trying to figure out how to hang my cookies in my kitchen windows. I don't have any clever window treatments to hide the curtain rods - maybe those little plastic suction cups?

Whatever! It was an awesome day away from my desk and into the small town world of Winfield, Kansas. I also got to see several other Winfield girlfriends when we went to the weekly Wed. lunch gang - what a bonus! After lunch, we made some cinnamon pecans - quite yummy and refreshingly quick after our stained glass adventures. After all of this baking,  I returned home in time to BLOG and cook dinner!  

It was a great day to breathe a little in the midst of the holiday busyness. Julie's faithful dog Sam wasn't feeling ANY holiday stress as he kept us company in her cozy kitchen! 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Out the (snowy) door!

YEA! The auto ships left the office yesterday afternoon!  Alan trekked overflowing US Mail totes to the post office, and piled UPS boxes on the driveway. We felt sorry for the UPS if he wasn't busy enough! We'll have to make sure Santa puts something extra in his stocking this year.

Henry, the grand-dog, thought this was some sort of game, so you can catch a glimpse of him racing through on the left side of the pic.

THREE NEW DESIGNS are whizzing their way to needlework shops near you (or maybe slogging through the holiday shipping rush)!  Here's the new lineup - the final L*K products for 2011.

*Faith Inspiration Boxer (see Dec. 5 post for preview)
*A Good Marriage Kit (see Dec. 2 post for sneak peek)
*Flora McSample's 2011 Ornaments - below!!

Our sampler girl Flora decided to do a set of ornaments at the last minute - you know how busy she is!  These little guys turned out so cute, I took them in the house and photographed them on my little kitchen Christmas tree. If you don't have time for more Christmas stitching this year, no worry....Christmas rolls around this time every year!  Just put them in your stocking now, or add them to your list, so you're ready when you have time (next summer?). 

I don't know about you, but my calendar is CRAZY between now and Christmas. This week I have an event every evening! On the coming weekend, I have to choose between some double-booked times, with 2 things I really want to do at the same time (both out of town!). To cope with all this holiday busyness,  I'm aiming to adopt a positive attitude...embrace it, not fight it! I'll keep you posted on how this works...meanwhile...

Here's wishing you all a very Joyous Christmas season!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday,'s just that day

Ah...the refrain from the old Mama's and Papa's song...if you're old enough to remember that classic melody! We need a weekend to recover from our uber-busy weekend.

*watched 2 important football games on TV - KState Wildcats WON!!
*watched 1 basketball game on TV (attempt to see local high school BB game was unsuccessful - sold out!)
*attended winter outdoor decor workshop (I'm enjoying my new wintry porch pot, pic below)
*toured 3 historic homes, all decked out for Christmas
*wrapped my first Christmas presents
*went to church, Sunday school, dinner with friends afterwards

AND...made almost a thousand of the new Faith Inspiration Boxer kits! We toted pre-assembled kit materials to the house and set up a couple temp tables in the family room, so we could watch TV while we worked. We kitted through ballgames, our favorite shows and even a episode of the Tudors from Netflix. Is anyone else watching this series? I feel a little smarter just for watching this historic account of the life of Henry VIII!

Now the finished kits are in our office and we're packing orders for shops all over the US and around the world. We do about 10% of our biz outside the US...who knew? We'll ship everyone on the same day - Wed. - but there's a lot of work between now and then.

Below is a SNEAK PEEK of the new B36 Faith Inspiration Boxer. Now that you can see the bottom of the verse, can you guess the top part?

Each Inspiration Boxer comes with a BONUS design inside. Here is a pic of the sweet little bonus design for the Faith kit. It echoes the colors I used in the main kit project - they are yummy! The kit includes the patterns and embellishments for both projects, including heart charm and beads on photo above. was nice to sit and do this post...but it's back to work at the shipping table! 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Busy Weekend!!

What are you doing this weekend? Christmas shopping? Cleaning the house? Hanging with the family? We have exciting plans here at L*K world headquarters...we're kitting and packing boxes. WOO-HOO!!!

Next week is our final new product release for 2011. It's a small one - 3 products - but we're excited about all of them. Just in case you need something new to stitch over the holidays, or want to "drop some hints" about what you want in your stocking on Christmas morning, we're happy to provide the designs!

Today we're kitting the new "A Good Marriage" kit. Scroll back to our Nov. 18 post for another preview photo of this kit.  Now we have the printing in hand, and the elves (Alan, Linda and Carmen) are busy putting all the pieces together. Here's another sneak preview of the bottom of the design! This kit will come with full skeins of beautiful overdyed threads, and DMC threads to fill in the small spaces. You choose your favorite fabric, whatever count you like, and start working on a real heirloom piece! This design would be awesome for Valentine's Day, or any day you want to honor marriage...your own, or maybe some relatives or friends.

Tonight we're taking a break in kitting to go to an old-fashioned Friday night high school basketball game.  Our kids graduated years ago, (one of them teaches high school!) but it's great, cheap entertainment. And you get to YELL and stomp your feet...very therapeutic!!!

Check back tomorrow and we'll update progress on another new product and post a sneak peak photo. Happy Weekend!

Monday, November 28, 2011

How I beat the "back to work" blues (plant therapy!!)

UGHHH! Who wants to go back to work after a long weekend? We barely had time to rest, between hosting the big turkey feast at our house, then traveling to hang out with tons more family in KC.

And then the pressure is starting to build in my head, along with the lists on my desk. We're working hard at L*K to ship a new product release next week, so things are in high gear around here. At the same time, these nagging messages flooding my brain...need to decorate house for Christmas, need to shop, need to make sure everyone has the BEST CHRISTMAS EVER!!!

When I feel overwhelmed, I indulge in a little plant therapy!! Lots of gals like to shop for clothes. Me, I like to shop for plants! I brought home the first 2 poinsettias yesterday (I'm sure there will be more) and my kitchen instantly brightened.

I bought a new baby fern for my desktop terrarium. It's a lot of happy for $2.99. I bought this terrarium a couple years ago when I was in Franklin, Tennessee for our annual February market. I hope to snag another one at the same cute store next year. It's low maintenance, no worry, happy desk material! Just keep the lid on and leave it...all that photosynthesis stuff you learned in 7th grade biology!

For some inexplicable reason, my Christmas cactus from last year is gorgeous...again. I tucked it outside this summer and nearly forgot about it until we had freezing temps at night. When I found it, there were flower buds forming. Who knew such bad care was just what it needed for a beautiful show of fuchsia flowers? And nestled next to the cactus is my shamrock plant from last St. Pat's day...also putting on an unseasonal show of snowy white flowers.

My upstairs studio/office has windows on four sides, so it's quite a greenhouse effect in here. I LOVE sunlight!  In addition to my plant menagerie, I'm babysitting a dozen plans for a friend who is working in Haiti. I'm determined to keep her plants alive, as we eagerly anticipate her return. And I just brought in a batch of outdoor plants to winter inside, so it's positively GREEN in here!

I hope all of you have a very merry, green holiday season!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A "Tail" of Two Turkeys!

In between all the cooking, eating and napping...I decided to BLOG!  And since it's Thanksgiving, I have "turkey on the brain"...and in my stomach!

We had 2 turkeys on our table this year!!  Woohoo!

Our first gobbler came out for appetizers while the big bird was still in the oven. He's a pretty popular guy - this was his 3rd appearance this week!  I made him with a honeydew melon, red pear, red pepper, red fruit rollup, raisins and a cheesy nose. He was really fun to make and take to various events. I just restocked his feathers with whatever was in the fridge - fruit, cheese, summer sausage - and he was ready to travel!

The main event turkey was prepared by my "turkey novice" husband Alan, with assistance by daughter Ali. He was the star of the meal. I'm not crazy about handling that big raw bird, so they graciously cleared me of that responsibility. The best part was, I didn't have to touch him until he was golden brown and headed for the table...and my mouth!


Friday, November 18, 2011

Who wants A Good Marriage?

Really? How? We're not marriage therapists here at L*K, but we're busy working on a cool new kit called "A Good Marriage" and we're excited to give you a sneak peek! The text is an adaptation from a longer work called "The Art of Marriage" by Wilferd Peterson. We've shortened it, changed the language a bit, and added lots of L*K fun and flair.

The model is all stitched and framed (in a beautiful vintage-look frame from Huneywood), so now we're busy with publishing and production. Above is a SNEAK PEEK of the top part of the design.

For the "publishing" part of the project, I've been working with my awesome graphic designer Janice to make everything look beautiful. Janice did the color backgrounds on the front and back cover, and arranged all the important info I gave her to look nice. Above are some of our proofs, with corrections noted. We'll send files back and forth several times until we're happy with the changes and the finished look. In the middle of this, I send the files (and the actual model) to my proofer Debbie, so I have an extra set of eyes to look for problems. 

"Production" is actually L*K slang for BUSY WORK!  Most of the thread included with the kit will be beautiful skeins of Crescent Colours overdyed thread. But we also are using 3 DMC colors for some of the less-used colors. This helps keep our costs down...our yours, too!  We order DMC on big cones which each have 2100 meters of thread. Making thread packs is a job best done in front of the TV...note the remote in the photo!

After the DMC thread is measured, wound and sacked, we toss them in a big US Mail tote. These big totes are useful in a hundred ways around the L*K office, including their intended use to carry the mail. The tote only has a couple hundred thread packs so far, so it needs to be full before we start assembling kits. There's a big football game party at our house this weekend, so...maybe more thread packs will appear!

Have a happy weekend!  TGIF!!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Talkin' turkey!!

I hope you all know that Thanksgiving is NEXT WEEK...whoa! I'm in charge of dinner for 12, so I'm busy making lists and assigning food for family to bring. I'm not planning to do it all myself - horrors! I'm a little nervous about the turkey because usually I assign this slimy task to my daughter Sarah and son-in-law Jeff. They handle that (gross) raw bird, fill him full of who-knows-what and babysit his lengthy stay in the oven. They can't come home this year, so I'm plotting to assign this task to someone else. If I have to handle the icky bird, (before it's roasted to golden perfection), I will lose my appetite!!


Speaking of turkeys, my daughter Sarah sent me this cute photo of some colorful turkeys that her K-2 students made this week in her art class. These gobblers are now decorating the halls of Medora, Indiana Elementary School!

As you continue to stroll the halls of elementary academia, these tasty looking corn stalks were provided by the talented 1st graders! I'm pretty sure these rural Hoosiers are well acquainted with corn! 

Being in a turkey mood myself, I made these cupcakes for a women's group I attend at church. I found the "recipe" for these gobblers online and tried to duplicate them. If you want to make them, here's the shopping list for the goodies on top: I started with chocolate frosting (from the can!), then used candy corn (for feathers and a little white tip for the beak), red fruit rollups (for waddle thing), mini vanilla wafers (head) and black frosting (eye). GOBBLE, GOBBLE!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

New York, New York!!!

Be a part of it....New York, New York! And we were! Our long-time friends Julie and Greg recruited us to join them to watch their son Luke run the New York Marathon, and we were happy to round out the Luke Thompson fan club.

Of all the pics I took of Luke running, not a single one captured this speedy young man (you know that delay between pushing the button and the photo actually shooting?), so here is our hero after he finished. That's Luke wrapped up in 2 blankets, wearing a stocking cap, and still shivering to keep warm. The weather was gorgeous, but after you run 26 miles and suddenly stop, you can get really cold. Luke finished his 26.2 miles in 3 hours, 3 minutes and 3 seconds...what a guy!

Like crazed Kansans, we chased Luke all over the city, hopping on and off subways, hoping for a glimpse as he ran by. And...amazingly...we saw him 3 times!  When you consider the probability of finding Luke among the 47,000 runners, we felt really fortunate.  As we navigated the crowded subways wearing our purple Kansas State University gear, we made lots of friends. (It turns out their are lots of former Kansans living in NYC.)  Other marathon fan clubs were more "professional" than us, and pulled out notebooks of calculations and maps, carefully plotting their runner's paths. We relied on the marathon route map, the subway map, and luck!!! Greg had purchased an official marathon phone ap that was supposed to send us periodic updates on Luke's progress, via a chip on his bib. Sadly,  we never got a single email update, so we tracked him the old-fashioned way.

The old subways are full of beautiful (underground) tile work and I snapped this photo of a really cool tile mural. The subways were crowded and a little confusing (and sometimes not too clean!), but we encountered so many friendly people. Lots of people offered to help us navigate and gave us lots of good advice...who knew New Yorkers were so friendly?!

After the race day, we got down to business exploring the city. We've done all the usual tourist destinations in the past, so we revisited some of our favorite sites, and boldly ventured into new territory. We walked so much each day, I felt like I'd run a marathon! Above, Julie and I are hanging around Times Square, with about a zillion other people. 

We planned ahead and got tickets for one Broadway show. Before the usher told the man behind me that ALL photos (before, after or during) are prohibited I shot this great photo of the stage and set. The old theater was amazing and beautiful, but the seats were so (charmingly) small and cozy!

One of our favorite activities was a Walking Food Tour of Greenwich Village. I had booked this in advance after our daughter Ali had enjoyed this tour earlier this year. We took the subway to meet our tour guide and other food-tasters in Greenwich Village. Then we spent 3.5 hours walking through the lovely village, away from the noise of the city. We sampled food at 8 different restaurants, and got a wonderful narration about the history and architecture of Greenwich Village along the way. Above is one of our stops, a charming little bakery called Milk & Cookies. I would definitely return to tour a different part of the city with this tour company...we met great people and ate yummy was even educational!

Back in the city, we happened upon an iconic little business. Does anyone remember the "Soup Nazi" character from Seinfeld? Yup, he's still there dishing out!

After dark, we were excited to walk by Macy's and find their giant tree already up and the cute "Believe" clock ticking it's way toward Christmas. 

The skating rink at Rockefeller Center was in full swing with lots of eager skaters. Alas, we packed our bags and winged our way back to the "Land of Oz" and back to work. NYC was really a change of pace and alot of fun. But, as our favorite film character Dorothy says..."There's no place like home!"

Friday, November 4, 2011

Before the freeze...and after I love thee! After our hideously HOT summer, autumn has been such a sweet relief. The plants that survived the summer, like the sweet potato vines, have thrived and look all fat and lovely again. The mums are blooming, and the kales are funky and colorful.

Above is a little pic of the daily commute from our house to our office - almost 50 steps away!

And right by our back door is perhaps the largest mum known to mankind, hanging out with a giant purple kale and some asparagus ferns that are sighing in relief at the cooler temps.

But you know, this "fall bliss" doesn't last long. We've had several frosty nights this week and I had to put the little coat on granddog Henry for our walk early this AM - it was 28 degrees!

Alas, after last night's freeze the beautiful sweet potato vines looks more like slime. Bunches of semi-frozen leaves are falling like rain in the yard. But the sun is shining and we're looking forward to a fun weekend. It's great to live where we experience all 4 seasons...sometimes they're even in the right order!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

More "inspiration" on the way!

People are always asking me where I get the "inspiration" for all of my designs. Sadly, I don't have a great answer. Here, there and everywhere! I keep files of sayings and am always happy to add those that you all send me to the lists. I also try to keep track of color trends in decor and fashion. Mostly, I just do what makes me happy at that moment...and what I hope will make all of you smile, too!

With that in mind, I'm busy working on a new series of Inspiration Boxers. We recently released the last in a 3-part Inspiration Boxer series, and these designs have been so popular...we've been surprised!  All 3 designs make their way into our daily shipping to shops around the world, so we're constantly restocking around here.

Here's a quick photo (above) of the already released designs. They are all sayings from Mother Theresa, or her adaptation of sayings from other wise people. We decided to include a bonus design with each Inspiration Boxer, so those are the small projects you see included on the photos. You can see better pics and full descriptions on our website at  Check out B33 I Know God (left), B34 When We Do (upper right) and B35 Not All of Us (lower right). Contact your local needlework shop to order!

So...I've been poring over lists of inspirational sayings and have finally narrowed it down to 3. I've been graphing all 3 designs, including the 3 bonus projects. Before I can begin stitching, I have to locate and order enough fabric for the whole series. You have to work backwards!!!  While I'm waiting to finalize that info and receive some fabric for model stitching, I decided to pull prospective threads for the series. Aren't they gorgeous? The graph on the right is one of the "bonus" designs...a little sneak peek! I'm going to stitch it tonight, because I can use a bit of fabric from my stash for the bonus project.

It's really important to eat well to "fuel" all this inspiration, so I'm working on leftover Halloween candy. I followed the important rule for selecting Halloween candy...always buy what YOU love to eat, in case of leftovers!  We had a great crop of trick-or-treaters at our door last night, probably increased by the balmy, warm weather. 

Above is a pic of our granddog Henry, ready for a busy evening greeting kiddos in his Kansas City Chiefs sweater. The Chiefs were conveniently playing during the evening, so we had a crowd of friends over to help hand out candy (the women) and focus on the game (the men!).  It took us until 11:30, but the Chiefs finally pulled out a victory!