May 31, 2010

Our weekend

DH and I went up to Dallas to visit our relatives there this weekend.  We had a very nice visit with my parents, Bro, DSis-IL, and nephews.  We got caught up on all the family happenings (and gossip).  

Our oldest nephew is now reading "real books" and I had fun talking to him about the Narnia books and the one "Little House" book he has read so far.  He was also astounded to learn that his uncle speaks Spanish.  (DH lived in Ecuador for two years while in junior high and learned the language then.)  

Oh, and I sang "Motorcycle Policeman" for him.  I remember this song (it is indelibly engraved in my memory) because my Bro played the record over and over and over and over and over and over, etc., etc., etc. when he was a kid.  Of course, he has no recollection of this record, but I sure do!

Our youngest nephew is nearly two and is learning to talk.  He is also learning to tolerate Emma who has a penchant for licking any kid's face she can reach.  He would scream like a banshee when she came near him, but them he would gleefully holler, "Emma!" to get her to come back, and then scream again.  The kid is an adrenaline junky for sure.  ;-)   Emma finally figured out how to get her lick in as the adults were always shooing her away from her screaming target; she snuck up behind him while he was playing on the floor and gave his ear a good bath.  This made him dissolve into giggles.

Today, DH is nesting in his shop.  He put stuff back against the wall I finished painting last week and reorganized some other stuff.  He hopes to get the other three walls done today, but I figure two is more realistic.  He has to run electrical wire, insulate, and then hang the plywood, all the while moving stuff out of the way.  And then I'll get to paint the plywood.  Whee.  Here's the 20' long wall I already finished:

Due to our wet winter, we've had TONS of wildflowers this year.  I have no idea what these yellow flowers are (they kind of look like Black-eyed Susans), but they are all over our property.  They're so pretty, I hate to mow them down.  I may leave this patch that sprouted near DH's shop unmowed for awhile.

And I'm stitching on the BAP again.  I hope to stitch on it between laundry and doing the monthly budget today.


May 28, 2010

A happy hump day

Wednesday, I and Shannon, a stitching buddy, went down to Houston to 3 Stitches, a cross stitching shop and went wild.  Okay, not really, but we did have a lot of fun and enjoyed ourselves immensely. 

Shannon ended up driving and she has a GPS unit.  I must say that I thought it was the coolest gadget I've seen in awhile.  She typed the address into the unit and it showed a little map with arrows that told her when to turn and where.  It calculated the best and fasted way to get there.  (All you gadget people stop rolling your eyes and thinking I'm old-fashioned and behind the times.)

Yes, I've known about GPS units for years.  No, DH and I don't have one for three reasons: 1) we know how to Google for maps of places that we don't currently know how to get to, 2) both of us have superior map-reading skills, and 3) we're tightwads and won't buy a gadget unless we know we will use it extensively (so that it essentially pays for itself).  We wouldn't use a GPS unit all that often.  But I must say that I was drooling over Shannon's GPS unit and thought it was very fun and convenient!

We spent a lot of time in 3 Stitches.  I could spend days in there.  Pam, the owner, is branching out a bit with needlepoint, so she's added a lot of new and interesting fibers.  I could be a fiber floozy if I let myself.  Pam also carries a lot of fabric that she will custom cut if you need her to.  I did a lot of fiber and fabric fondling.  Pam has tons of shop models and I enjoyed looking at all of them.  There is a nice stitching area in her shop and there were a bunch of "crazy stitching ladies" there stitching away and bantering back and forth.  (Yes, it was fun to eavesdrop!)

Shannon ended up with a nice pile of patriotic patterns and floss.  I ended up with a nice pile of EZ-Bobs (I store my specialty floss on these), some NPI silk floss, and a patriotic pattern.  There was some mutual enabling going on as Shannon ended up with a skein of silk floss and I ended up with a patriotic pattern; neither of us had these items on our respective lists.  ;-)

Spending money and acquiring stash made us hungry, so we got in the car and "asked" the GPS unit for nearby restaurants.  We were in the mood for Mexican food so we scrolled through the GPS-provided list until we found one we liked.  Los Cucos is more California-style Tex-Mex to me, but I like that they have more salad-oriented dishes which is what I was in the mood for.  For example, I ordered chalupas which traditionally is a tostada with beans, beef, lettuce and tomatoes piled on top.  Los Cucos chalupas have shredded chicken cooked in a traditional Mexican tomato sauce with shredded cabbage, goat cheese, and avocado and tomato slices piled on the tostada.
All in all, it was a fun day!


May 25, 2010

Yippee skippy! A finish!

If you copied the recipe for the Sour Cream Pound Cake, please note the correction for the amount of sour cream - it should be a 1/2 pint (or 8 oz.), not a full pint.  My apologies.

I finished the patriotic Santa last night after frogging half the beads I'd attached and redoing them.  Here he is, all washed and ironed:
This is one of four patterns from "2000 Collection of Santas,"an OOP Homespun Collectibles leaflet that a kind stitching buddy lent me.  I stitched it on 32 count Latte linen by Wichelt with DMC floss and Mill Hill beads.

Now, back to my regularly scheduled BAP.


May 24, 2010

Lawn demons reign supreme

DH and I went happily to work on the new bathroom on Saturday.  We were going to install the bathroom sink cabinet and sink top we bought back in the summer of '08.  DH spelunked in his shop and found them still in the box buried under a window and brought it to the porch.  We got them out of the box and began installing them in the bathroom (with Emma's help).  

Then we decided that we didn't like the cheap particle board construction of the cabinet; we didn't think it would hold up over time.  Plus, DH would have had to be "creative" with the sink top installation.  So we decided that DH would make a sink cabinet from scratch with plywood instead of particle board.  As DH's shop is a disaster area right now, that may take some time.  *sigh*  One step forward, two steps back.  Oh well.

And the lawn demons are back.  I went out this morning with the full intention of taming much of the outside (the fence) yard and the driveway with the riding mower.  This happened:

We've always had trouble with the tires on this mower.  They are "tubeless" and once they get low on pressure, they go flat practically instantaneously and then the tire falls off the rim.  I am unable to wrestle it back on the rim AND blow it up with the air compressor at the same time, so I must wait for DH to get home.  At least I got the inside (the fence) yard mowed with the push mower.

I noticed signs of an armadillo digging in the inside yard.  This explains why Emma has spent most of the day "hunting" under the house and bringing in all sorts of yucky stuff in the house and leaving it on the floor by trapping it in her fur.  Silly dog.

I am nearly finished with the patriotic Santa I am working on and should be able to post a picture tomorrow; I just have a bit of backstitching to do and a few beads to attach.


May 21, 2010

Sour Cream Pound Cake recipe

Today is DH's birthday and he always wants me to make this cake for him, so I thought I'd share the recipe.  Be aware that this is NOT a healthy-to-eat cake (but it tastes SOOO good!).  Try it topped with strawberries and whipped cream (the real stuff, not the junk in the freezer).

3 c. sugar
1/2 lb. butter (two sticks)
1/2 pint (8 oz.) sour cream
3 c. flour
1/2 t. baking soda
6 eggs
1 t. vanilla

Have all ingredients at room temperature (no substitutions).  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  

Spray a bundt pan with Baker's Joy or equivalent.  Cream butter, sugar, and sour cream together.  Add flour sifted with soda alternately with eggs.  Add vanilla.  Turn into bundt pan and bake for 1 1/2 hours.  Cool and invert on cake plate.  Enjoy!


May 19, 2010

Shakes, rain, and Santa

Monday night, DH and I planned a leisurely evening that included a trip into town for a Shakes frozen custard, a bit of stitching for me, reading for DH, and a bit of TV watching for us both.  We went to Shakes (a fresh homemade frozen custard establishment for those of you not familiar with it) and ordered our usual treats.  When we went to pay for it, the young man serving us said that they were giving it away free as they had to close down in twenty minutes due to the 60 mph winds, rain and hail that were due in about an hour.  (The Shakes building has a lot of windows.)

Uh huh.  DH and I went home and thankfully the rain didn't start until we got there.  Then boy! did it rain!  And then the power went out.  It was raining so hard it was blacker than pitch and it was still daylight out.  So no stitching, no reading, no TV watching.  We sat and watched the storm until bedtime - thankfully, there was no hail.  With no power, I had to drag out my portable battery to power my CPAP machine; I'm glad I invested in the silly thing.  

Tuesday dawned bright, sunny, and sodden but with the power back on.  We finally have all the mowers and the tractor working again and it's too wet to mow anything.  Yes, the tractor was down as DH got it out to mow and ran over something that caused a bolt to break.  It took him a few days to find one locally.  It wasn't expensive or hard to replace, you just have to go to a tractor store to find it.

I'm coming along on the Santa.  It's a fun, easy stitch.  It's a good thing I love DMC 930 as I'd say over 80% of the design is stitched in this color.  Here's what it will look like finished:

Here's where I am with it.  This one of four patterns from an OOP leaflet by Homespun Collectibles called "2000 Collection of Santas."


May 16, 2010

Skippity jigging - another WIP page finished

I can't really happy dance as the entire piece isn't yet finished, but I did get another page finished.  Running the working copy of that page entirely filled in with highlighter through the shredder was immensely satisfying.
I'm taking a short break from the BAP to stitch a little Santa.  I saw the completed piece on a message board and liked it.  The pattern is OOP, but a kind friend offered to loan me the pattern.  I want to get it stitched quickly so I can get it back to her.    
I'm still working on painting and caulking in the bathroom.  What a bore.  

DH has spent the weekend working on his shop.  He's been insulating all the walls with fiberglass and had planned to put sheets of OSB (oriented-strand board) up on the walls.  Sheetrock isn't a good thing in shops as a careless elbow or an unwieldy piece of wood can knock holes in it too easily.  

We went to Lowe's yesterday to buy OSB.  We'd last bought it in the summer of 2008 and it was about five or six bucks for a 4' x 8' sheet.  It's gone up a bit.  It was nearly fourteen dollars a sheet!  DH ended up getting plywood sheets for about a buck less.  Plywood is stronger anyway.  

Right now, DH is doing one side of the shop.  He has run all the wires for plugs and electricity, has installed all the fiberglass, and is putting up the plywood.  After he gets done, I'll roll a couple of coats of primer and a coat of white paint over the plywood.  White paint will make the shop seem brighter.

He can only do one side of the shop at a time as he has to squoosh all his tools, stuff, etc., etc. into the center of the shop to have enough room to work on a wall.  Doing this doesn't give him a lot of room to work.  Hopefully, once all the walls are done, DH can get more organized.  I, for one, will be very glad to have all my painting and finishing supplies in one place where I don't have to go spelunking to find things.  Vexing.  


May 13, 2010

An early morning encounter

I took a walk this morning.  As I went down our long dirt driveway, I encountered a coral snake.  I took me a second or two to remember the mnemonic "red and yellow, kill a fellow, red touch black, venom lack" - this refers to the order of the band colors on this snake.  If the red band is next to the yellow band, it is indeed a poisonous coral snake.  If the red band is next to the black band, it is a non-poisonous milk snake.  Anyway, the snake was about two feet long.  I enjoyed watching him wend his way across the driveway into our neighbor's pasture.  

I like snakes.  I generally don't mess with them, but I enjoy watching them.  I think their skins are very beautiful.  And they are beneficial as many of them eat rodents and other such nuisances.  When we lived in our 100+ year-old house in a small town in Kansas, we had a black snake living in our basement.  Now, this basement was unfinished and more of a dugout with dirt and field stone walls interspersed with concrete rather than what most of you think of as a basement.  I never went down there as there were too many spiders for my tastes.  One spider is too many for my tastes.

The black snake was about six-feet long.  Twice a year, he would climb up the downspout outside our kitchen and shed his skin.  He was non-poisonous and didn't bother us.  He lived in the basement; we lived in the house.  We had lots of wheat fields around us as we lived near the edge of town.  We were the only house on our side of town that did not have problems with mice and rats.  

Now, I would have had a problem with him if he had come up into the house, but he never did so we coexisted harmoniously.  It's not that I would have been scared of him, it's just that running across a snake in your house unexpectedly does tend to startle you.   It would have been different if he had been a pet, but he was more of a friendly neighbor.  I wouldn't have killed him for venturing into the house, I'd have just blocked his access after taking him back to the basement.  Yes, I will pick up non-poisonous snakes.

Once, when were were having foundation work done, our contractor came bolting up out of the basement and exclaimed to me, "Did you know you have a huge snake in your basement?!!"  I said, "Jack! You didn't bother or worse, kill my black snake, did you?"  Poor Jack was perplexed as he expected me to respond by screaming hysterically or running for the shotgun.

He asked, "You don't mind that there's a six-foot-long snake in your basement?!!"  I told him that the snake never came into the house and that if he'd noticed, there were no mice or rats in our basement.  He admitted that he'd noticed that - unusual as we lived so close to a wheat field and in such an old house with a very varmint accessible basement.  

We stood around for a minute and discussed our critter/varmint phobias.  Jack didn't like snakes because they had no legs, though he said he'd leave them alone if they left him alone.  I said I didn't like spiders because they had too many legs; anything with more than four legs should be dead.  Jack said spiders eat bugs, so they are beneficial.  I retorted that a spider was welcome to eat all the bugs it wanted as long as its web was located where I wouldn't run across (or through) it.  If a spider broke this law, I would kill it by whatever means was at hand.  And woe be unto any spider that dared to venture into the house.

I've been getting a lot of stitching done and hope to have another page finished on the BAP soon.  I've also been doing touch-up painting and caulking on our new bathroom.  These tasks bore me out of my mind and I dislike doing them, but someone's got to do it so that the bathroom will get finished.



May 7, 2010

Customer service ISN'T dead yet (but has to be prodded)

Golly.  I never though yesterday's post would do anything other than give me an avenue to vent.  Apparently, Other World Computing (OWC) uses some type of Internet search program that alerts them whenever they are mentioned in cyberspace.  They read my blog post and even left TWO comments on the post (or at least their computer program did).

They contacted us and and are refunding the restocking fee.  They made it as right as they could.  I give them four out of five stars and I will give their store another try.  I'm not a loyal customer yet, but I'm certainly willing to purchase from them again and give them another chance.

Why didn't I give OWC five stars?  Well, in my mind, if a customer returns something to you and says it doesn't work (and they state in writing what process they went through to determine that the product does indeed not work) and asks for an exchange, you give them the exchange no questions asked.  

You do not tell tell them that you found nothing wrong with the product and imply they are too stupid to connect things properly.  You don't tell them you'll send the same unit back to them because it works fine.  And you don't argue with them over it.  Your goal in customer service should be to fix the problem, not rile up the customer, especially if you state that you pride yourself on providing excellent customer service.  So OWC gets four stars. 

I finally got "The Alamo" framed and hung on our bedroom wall yesterday.  I frame all my pieces myself.  I'm too much of a tightwad to pay someone else to do it, so I taught myself to frame needlework and do it to the best of my ability.  I'm told I do a good job of framing.  Usually right after someone tells me I'm a good framer, they tell me I should go into the framing business.  For the record, for me, framing needlework ranks right on up there with cleaning the bathroom.  I do it because I need to and I do a good job, but I don't enjoy it.  

I've been really enjoying my trips into town these last few weeks as the wildflowers in Texas are absolutely beautiful this year.  I wish I were an artist (or that I'd at least remember to bring my camera along), but I'm not.  So I'll just enjoy the riot of color that means springtime in Texas.

May 6, 2010

Is customer service dead?

I recently converted from a PC to a Mac (and I love my Mac!).  My CPU is a Mac Mini, a tiny little thing with a lot of power.  I found the best price for it and bought it from Amazon.  While there, I saw a cool little Mac Mini mounting bracket with extra USB ports on it (the Mac Mini only has five USB ports).  If you want to look at it yourself, here it is: Mac Mini Hang With Mi.
While I found it on Amazon, I had to order it from Other World Computing (OWC).  It arrived quickly and I happily got out my drill, mounted it on my old ratty computer desk, stuck my Mac Mini in the bracket, and hooked up all my peripherals.  
Due to the touchy nature of my GSM "air" card - the gadget I use to connect to the Internet out here in the boonies - I planned to plug it into one of the USB ports on the front of the bracket.  The GSM card doesn't like being buried under the desk; it slows the connection down a lot.  So, after getting everything ready to go, I plugged the GSM card into one of the bracket USB ports.  Nada.  Nothing.  Nicht. 
I tried several other things, my trackball mouse, my keyboard, my camera cord - nothing worked in any of the USB ports on the bracket.  Grumbling, I sent it back to OWC for exchange for a working bracket. 
OWC contacted me and said their tech department had checked the bracket and that it was getting power, so they were sending it back to me as nothing was wrong with it.  They implied that I was too stupid to connect everything correctly and admonished me to make sure the power supply was plugged in.  When asked, OWC admitted that they had not actually plugged anything into the USB ports themselves to see if they worked.   They would not exchange the unit for a new one.  So I got a refund less a 15% restocking fee because I returned it (even though I really just wanted an exchange).  
Gee.  What do y'all think?  If you were OWC, would it have been better to send me a brand new working unit and thereby secure my loyalty through excellent customer service?  Or would you do what they did and lose me as a customer?  They have a really nice online store with a lot of products, but they won't get any more of my business. 

May 5, 2010

A WIP update

As I've been getting in a goodly amount of stitching lately, I thought I'd show you my WIP.

Here it is the last time I posted it (2-25-10):

Here it is as of today:

This is "Wild Things, " an OOP limited-edition pattern by Cross Stitch Pattern Gallery.


May 3, 2010

Another great weekend

We had absolutely gorgeous weather this weekend - highs in the 80's and sunny with a light breeze.  

Georgia and I headed over to Austin for the I35 Stitchtogether.  We had a great time and had a big group.  There was lots of laughing and eating and yakking and eating and I think we did get a bit of stitching done.

While the two of us were in Austin, our DH's went to the gun range and and played with their man toys.  They had a lot of fun, too.  DH spent the evening cleaning the guns he had used and man! does the cleaning oil smell weird.  DH likes the smell, but to me it smells like sour apples mixed with axle grease.  Next time, DH will clean his guns outside on the porch.

Sunday afternoon, we took the day off and puttered.  DH planned out how he is going to install electricity in his shop, and I got a lot of stitching done.  Emma played a lot with the new toy her Auntie Gloria gave her.  It's a yellow rubber ball with a squeaker that she killed after about two hours.  We were kind of glad as this squeaker was a bit shrill and more annoying than usual.  And of course, toys must be taken and placed in the food bowl while you are enjoying a bit of kibble.  Silly dog.