Sunday 31 January 2016

January WIPocalypse

January is almost over, so I really need to get my WIPocalypse introdction post up now! If there are any among you who don't know it yet, WIPocalypse is a SAL hosted by Measi over at Measi's Musings. You know that I love low maintance SALs, and WIPocalypse is the lowest maintanance of them all - just about whatever you've been working on, every month or just some of them, doesn't matter. Measi also gives optional subjects to talk about each month, and January is traditionally the month to Introduce yourself, your projects, and any goals you have for the year!

So for any newcomers we might have here: Hello, I'm Leonore, 26 years old, from Germany. I'm a computer scientist, got my Master's degree last year, and now I work at university to get my PhD eventually. I live together with my boyfriend of almost six years, Felix, and the beautiful town of Freiburg in southern Germany, near the blackforest. I love cross stitch, which I taught myself at the age of about seven or eight, crochet, which my grandma taught me around the same time, and knitting, which I just picked up recently. I'm also trying to get into sewing and quilting, but haven't found the time to get very far yet. Most of my crafty projects so far have been gifts for other people - my grandma is my favourite 'victim' to receive said gifts, but I'm happy to craft for everyone who appreciates it. Besides crafting, my hobbies include reading, watching movies/shows, and video games.

Now for my projects, I have collected quite a few WIPs and, I'm afraid, also a few UFOs over the past few years. Here's a (probably not complete since I tend to forget about stuff) list that I hope to reduce a bit by the end of the year:
  • Cross Stitch Angel by Joan Eliott
  • Game of Thrones bookmarks by blacklupin
  • Lady and the Tramp by Candamar Designs/Thomas Kinkade
  • Cut Thru' Cottage by Bothy Thready
  • Peacock Tapestry by Teresa Wentzler
  • Dark Force by Tilton Crafts
  • Ornaments of the Month by Magical
  • Kitsune by Unconventional XStitch
  • Red Velvet Cake by Glendon Place
  • Things Unseen Sampler by Lizzie*Kate
  • A Perfectly Kept House by Lizzie*Kate
  • Autumn-Colourd Half-Granny Square Shawl by Gemacht mit Liebe
  • Fun coloured Easy socks by Ewa Jostes
  • Baby Suprise Jacket #4 by Monika Eckert
There are also a few projects I haven't worked on in years and that I may or may not get back to, so I'm not listing them here.

Now my long-time reads might have notices a few projects on there that I have not yet shown here, but don't worry, I will get to those soon-ish! (hopefully). In fact, one of them is right here: I started yet another Baby Suprise Jacket as a friend of my grandma and mind is going to be a first-time grandma soon, and I really, really love those colors! The gradient between the different blues is sooo pretty:

 The other thing I have been working on is Lady & The Tramp - I've finished the section I showed you last time and I am now ready to move the hoop up to the upper half of this half-page:

 For now, though, I'll have to put her aside since I just yesterday got some lovely supplies from Joydri...this is for a gift for my grandma, and I'll get stitching right away so I can finish before her birthday in mid-March.

 My other immediate plans are mostly knitting related - I need to get that jacket done, and also start the second sock. As for plans for the year, I have decided to spend less time planning and more time actually stitching! I don't have as many deadlines as I usually do...Cut Thru Cottage should be finished by the middle of the year, I have to big-ish starts planned (both presents for round birthdays with a ~2 year deadline), a pattern my friend Pinky made for me that I'm itching to start, and lots of other stuff that is calling to me...but I'd mostly like to finish some stuff, especially something for myself as our walls are sad and empty and in terrible need of pretty stitched pictures!

Saturday 23 January 2016

January Gifted Gorgeousness

So after much lazyness (last weekend was a bit busy, so was the week before it), I'm finally getting around to  a 'regular' blog post which also doubles as my entry to Gifted Gorgeousness. I've worked on three pieces and coincidentally, those fit perfect the three categories of GG :)

First, the shoehorn: I've stitched another one of the free ornament patterns that Magical has done last year. This oneis Peridot, the birthstone for August, and it had a TON of backstitching - they all do, but this one in particular - but it turned out oh so pretty!

Only four to go for the first batch now, until I can think of what I want to do with the duplicates (there are more than one for some months) - I have several ideas but not yet decided.

Next, things that are going to be gifts. No stitching here, but I did a bit of knitting on my first sock; finished the heel and did a nice bit of the foot already. Actually I've been a bit lazy with knitting lately, I need to get that up and hopefully finish the first one this weekend.

And lastly, stitching on stuff that was gifted to me - when we went to Felix' parents for a funeral last weekend, I took Lady & the Tramp fom the Disney Dreams collection with me. I got it all neeatly packed in a bag, so it's kind of my go to piece when traveling. I made some progress over the weekend which made me realized that I could make some *serious* progress if I was to focus on this for a few weeks, and since I don't have any finishing obligations right now, I just kept at it once we were home. Didn't have a lot of time again this week, but it's still coming along nicely:

I'm pretty busy at the moment, but there are a few big chunks to fill in so I'm still making progress :)

And that's it for today - I hope I can make some good progress over the weekend and show you the results soon!

Thursday 21 January 2016

Strange German Holidays #13 - Christmas

Now before I get to my next regular post, hopefully later in the week, I want to get one of the posts I still owe you out of they way. Only one more holiday to go after this one!

Now, for me, personally, Christmas is usually my favourite time of the year. I love the lights, the smells, the atmosphere, giving and receiving gifts, all of it. Of course the magic has decreased since I'm no longer a child, but I hope that years like the last one - where there were several factors contributing to being really stressed out before Christmas - will remain an exception. So anyway, where do I begin...

In Germany, there are three days of Christmas, from the 24th to the 26th. The 24th - Christmas Eve or 'Heiligabend' in Germany is, however, not an actual holiday - although some companies are closed and lots of stores are only open until around noon. But that's okay, since celebrations only start in the afternoon and evening as well!
In my family, we used to go to church at 5pm - that's the family mass which is kept short and fun, with many well-known songs, and instead of the sermon there is a nativity play by kids from the local kindergarten. For the past two years,  I went there alone with Felix, since my grandparents can't sit comfortably for that amount of time, so they volunteered to stay at home and prepare the food.

We always had food shortly after returning from church - our traditional Christmas Eve meal was ham and potato salad, the ham cooking while we were away and the salad prepared in the morning or even the day before. We're also doing different foods occasionally, like fondue. This year, we had a quite lovely filet of pork in puff pastry. Many families will also have goose or carp as traditional meals. 

After dinner, at least at our house, it's time fore presents! The act of gift giving on Christmas Eve is called 'Bescherung' in German. Now, there are two differnt traditions on who brings theses gifts in Germany: The Christkind and the Weihnachtsmann. And as far as I know, the distribution goes like this: When the reformation first happened in Germany in the 16th centuary, giving gifts on Christmas was not yet a common thing. It first started in Protestant areas, where the gifts where said to be brought be the Christkind. Then, as the Catholics started to adapt, the Protestants switched over to the Weihnachtsmann. So today, you will find the Christkind tradtion predominantly in areas with lots of Catholics, and the Weihnachtsmann tradition in areas with lots of Protestants. As the region I live in is mostly Catholic (although I'm not), we are a Christkind-area, and I honestly don't know much about how the Weihnachtsmann works - I think he is mostly like Santa Clause, like depicted by Coca Cola. If he also brings the presents overnight and the Bescherung is shifted to the 25th I frankly don't know.

The Christkind is a bit of a different story, and I can tell you about that! The Christkind, in the original version, is actually the little baby Jesus. However, over the years this interpretation has changed a little, and on most pictures (there are a lot of children's books covering this) the Christkind looks a bit older, an actual child rather and a baby or infant, and - I don't know why - mostly female, also it could still be a rather feminine looking boy as well. Now, the Christkind lives in heaven, and together with all the little angels it takes care of the Christmas workshop. In early December, children will write a whislist and place it in an envelope outside the window, where the postangels will collect them and carry them to the workshop, where the actual toys are made.

Then on Christmas Eve (or shortly before), the Christkind and its angels will decend, carrying all the toys, visiting every home and setting up a christmas tree with the presents underneath. In praxis, in my family at least, the living room used to be closed of for me starting a few days before christmas - there was an ornament with a bell hanging on the door, which meant the angels were at work in there! And when it was time for the Bescherung, a little bell would ring to indicate that it was okay to go in now. In some families, one parent will go out with the kids the afternoon of Christmas Eve so the 'angels' can work while they are gone, and I know that in Felix' family, they used to set up the Christmas tree all together in the morning, so the Christkind only put the presents underneath later.

Some families will sing Christmas carols together before opening presents, or even play them on instruments if they are musically talented, but we usually just put our favourite Christmas CDs on, then spent a lovely evening with presents and family and sweets :) When I was younger we also had the tradition to watch a specific music show that was broadcast on Christmas Eve, but that was canceled many years ago.

No for the Christmas tree - I noticed from the blogs I read that apparently many people in the US have fake Christmas trees, but in Germany it's still the most common thing to get a real tree. As we only put them up on Christmas Eve or a few days before, and usually leave them until January 6th (Three Kings Day) they will look great for the whole time. Some places and Catcholic churches will leave their trees until Feburary 2nd, and by then they loose quite a lot of needles. But fake trees are up and coming here as well - my grandparents just got one shortly after Christmas (for a reduced price) because going out to by a tree is getting more and more exhausting for them, and they do make some pretty fake ones nowadays.

Besides the tree, the nativity scene is also an important part of German living rooms on Christmas. The most basic version is just the crib with the child, Mary and Josef, but there are also elaborate display that include more characters - the donky and ox, shepherds, lots of sheep, the Magi with ther followers, elephants, camels, other animals and people that have some to see baby Jesus. Some families will just place the figures under the tree, some have a little stable, bought or selfbuild, and some displays include a lot of landscape around the stable as well. Felix' grandma has a HUGE display, about four metres long and at least half a metre wide, with hills and a lake (a mirror) and a bit of sand as desert, a stable with real lights and a flickering fire, many little tools and stacks of wood and a TON of figures. She used to collect those, her husband would always give her a new one every year, and he build a lot of the setup himself before he passed away. I wish I had thought of taking a picture for you guys when we were there on Christmas, it's truly amazing!

After so much blahbing about our first day of Christmas, there's not so much to day about the other two. December 25th and 26th are holidays, called the First and Second Christmas Holiday (very inventive, I know), so everyone has them off. Most families will use the time to visit relatives - for example, you might spend Christmas Eve with your parents, then 25th and 26th with one set of grandparents each. Or you might spend them with friends - Felix and his best friend Frank have started that tradition of a party with punch and old Christmas movies on the 26th. Or you could just stay at home - basically, those are just two more days to be lazy, eat good food and play with your presents!

Please excuse the novel-length text on this post, but there IS a lot to say about Christmas. Just one holiday to go - hopefully a much shorter one - and we're done!

Thursday 7 January 2016

Last finish of '15, first finish(es) of '16

It seems that this year I finally get to make posts again that are no desperate attempt to catch up with one SAL or the other (although there ARE some posts I should catch up on...and I will, in time in time!), but because I have something to show that I am proud of :)

My friend finally received her Christmas present today, so I get to show you my last finish of 2015 - Lizzie*Kate's 'Promise Me', in a purple colour swap (I changed the lettering, then adjusted some of the other colours to fit in better) on Slightly Lilac Evenweave by Sparklies. My friend has had a rough time lightly and has been fighting with depression; I think the sentments really fits her and she agreed with my and say she loves it, so I'm proud and happy :)

Framing once again by Felix - not sure how well it shows in the picture but it's nice dark blue frame; it wasn't easy to find one with the right measurements.

I can also proudly present you with my first finishes of the new year. For one, after christmas I started working on the Halloween SAL again that Carla, Nancy and I had going on in September/October. I had two more blocks and a bit over a quarter of the border left to finish - and I did! I really enjoyed stitching this one and I'm looking forward to my next project by the Pumpkins. For the finish-finish, I'm thinking about making this into a pillow, and I've already set my eyes on a few really cute fabrics, so I'll just need to figure out the details :)

And as I'm currently waiting for the supplies for my next semi-big start, I decided to revisit Magical's ornaments of the month that she released last year. In June, I was missing two of the colours for the Pink Alexandrite, but now I had them so I stitched it up. There are actually three more designs for June that I want to do eventually, but for the moment I have a special finish in mind that will need exactly one ornament per month, so I'll get back to that later.

Not much progress to show on my socks though - I got right up to the heel, which is supposed to be super easy, but the instructions sure aren't - apparently, the publisher forced the designer to severly shorten it and take out a lot of the pictures. It took my about an afternoon but I think I got it figures out now, though, so I should have some progress to show soon. But for now, I think the year is off to a good start :)

Monday 4 January 2016

January - Plans?

So, it's the start of January - a new year, a new slate. Everywhere around me I get to read blog posts about exciting new plans and starts and 'to do' lists for the year, and a huge part of me is screaming to do the same - but I will not, for this year my only plan is - to not make any plans :D Don't get me wrong, I love making plans and checking off todo lists, but they never work out and I always end up stressed because they don't. And for my stitching, it usually means that if you can't finish something within the set timeframe, I won't finish it at all or at least not for a long time. So this year, no lengthy plans, no to do lists, just me, my stitching, and hopefully lots of finishes!

Of course I do have some plans after all...but I'll keep them in my head. Somehow, as long as they are only in my head, plans feel more like guidelines than strict goals and that's okay by me. I won't even tell you about what I'm about to work on - I'll just pick one thing at a time and work on it until I get it one, no matter how long it takes or what might distract me along the way. I'll try to avoid deadlines, and be less strict with myself if I do miss any. At least that's the theory, let's see how that'll work out :)

So for SALs, I'm also focusing on the low maintenance one's this year. I'll still finish up my holiday posts (two more to go) and round up DESIGN. And getting all your comments answered, I've been superlazy at that lately. I'll try to keep up with the Alphabet Club, and I'll keep doing WIPocalypse and Gifted Gorgeousness since some of my projects always qualify for it - and I'll try to keep it at that ^^

Now, enough of the lengthy text - of course I spent me time doing more than just making non-existing plans! However, after the pre-christmas stitching marothons I didn't feel like cross stitching much, so I mostly turned to knitting over the holidays. My grandma has problems with cold hands and wrists since her carpal tunnels surgeries, so I made her a pair of Jacoby fingerless mittens. It was my first project using double pointed needles, and a really pleasant one too :) Grandma loves them and wears them all the time now, which makes me really happy!

After that, I started my first set of socks for a colleague. I'll be doing the easy sock which is supposed to be much less complicated than the usual ones in the heel area, but I'll talk about that some more once I get to it.

In the meantime, I've also gotten back to stitching - currently I'm pushing for a finish on the Frosted Pumpkin Halloween Sampler, and Felix is framing my last finish of 2015, so hopefully I'll have some new pretty pictures to show soon. No promises on the time, though ;)