Tuesday, April 30, 2013



I’m a big fan of zebras.  I just love seeing the contrast between the white skin and the black stripes, and thinking about how the patterns on zebras are as individual to them as fingerprints are to us.  I love to see the alternating stripes of black and white in the hair of their manes.   While very striking to look at, I will admit that zebras are a little boring to stitch.  I’m working on a very large needlepoint canvas over 5 feet tall—it is a zebra standing in tall grasses, looking at you from over her shoulder, with a brightly colored bird perched on her back.  It’s taking me a long time to make my way up those long black and white legs, only to be followed by a big expanse of black and white rump!  Stitching the colorful bird will be my reward for getting that far up the canvas.

But I digress.  Baby zebras or foals are born with brown and white stripes which turn to black and white as they mature.  There are three species of zebras in Africa, and the striping patterns vary somewhat among the species, particularly the width and length of the stripes.  All species have a triangular shape to the stripes on their forequarters. 

 The form of camouflage created by the black and white stripes is called “disruptive coloration” and breaks up the outline of the body.  This serves to make them look less distinct during times of low light when their predators are most active.  The stripes also serve to dissipate heat and help the zebras handle the intense solar radiation of their environments.

I find the origin and role of a zebra’s stripes interesting to think about, but mostly I just love to take in their beauty.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Y'all Come Back Now

Y’all Come Back Now

As the 2013 A-Z Blog Challenge draws to a close, I want to thank all of you who visited my blog.  Back at letter “A” I was ambivalent about doing the Challenge but ultimately chose to do it, and promised to do my best to make my posts worth reading.  I hope I did not disappoint.

It was through your visits and comments that I met many of you, which continues to be the highlight of my participation in the Challenge.  Oh, how I have enjoyed reading your blogs!  Wonderful pictures, beautiful crafts, unwavering faith, incredible travel destinations, lots of nostalgia, and interesting history lessons—just to name a few of the things I experienced through you.  I plan to return to your blogs between now and the 2014 A-Z Blog Challenge.

I’m going to make every effort to blog more regularly in between the Challenges than I did last year.  I know it won’t be a daily blog, but surely monthly, and perhaps weekly.  We’ll see where it takes me.  At this point I am planning to take on the 2014 Challenge and sure hope y’all are planning to do so too!

Thanks again for the encouragement and do come back and visit!

Saturday, April 27, 2013



X-stitch is another way of communicating “cross stitch”.  This is a particular embroidery stitch involving the creation of a simple cross.  X-stitch is often assumed to be synonymous with “counted cross stitch”, in which counting fiber threads helps guide the placement of the cross stitches within your design.  Good technique demands that the cross stitch is created the same way for all your crosses.  My stitching style is to stitch the bottom arm of the cross first, going from lower left corner to upper right corner, followed by stitching the top arm of the cross going from the lower right corner to the upper left corner. 

Counted cross stitch involves transferring the pattern chart onto your fabric by counting and placing the individual stitches.  On the pattern chart, each different color of thread is indicated by a different symbol.  Stitchers often find it helpful to use a highlighter on the pattern chart to indicate which stitches have been completed, because it’s very easy to lose your place as your eyes move back and forth between pattern and fabric.  I like to have my design centered on the piece of fabric I’m working with, so I start from the center of the design and work out to the edges as I stitch.  Other stitchers like to start at the upper left hand corner and stitch across and down the design.

The detail of design one can achieve with counted cross stitch is remarkable.  Some x-stitch projects use 40+ colors for the whole design, and those subtle shifts in shades lead to a picture that can have amazing depth and detail.  The size of the fabric and how many threads of fabric you cover with each cross stitch can also enhance the detail of the final design.

Many stitchers find X-stitch more affordable than other embroidery techniques.  Charted patterns are not as expensive as handpainted needlepoint canvases.  You can keep the cost of a cross stitch project down by using regular cotton floss which comes in a vast array of colors, though I will admit I like the look and feel of stitching with silks or overdyed fibers which cost more than cotton floss.

Mostly I enjoy counted cross stitch because the rhythm of making the crosses relaxes me.  I work counted cross stitch projects in hand rather than on stretcher bars or frames, which allows for greater portability.  I almost always have a project tucked away in my purse in case I find myself faced with a waiting period of some kind.  Large, complicated X-stitch designs can take a while to complete, so every bit of progress helps me get to the goal of the completed project.  This Long Dog sampler took me 9 months to complete.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Where's George?

Where’s George?

‘Where’s George?’ is a United States Currency Tracking Program.  I first became aware of this program when I noticed some red printing on a dollar bill I’d received as change for a purchase.  The printing read:  Track this bill at www.wheresgeorge.com

So I went to the website.  You create your account and enter the bill’s serial number and denomination into the tracking system.  You can add a few comments such as the condition of the bill and/or where you received it.  Once entered, go ahead and put the bill back into circulation.

If the bill you entered was already in the tracking database you’ll see the history of its travel, at least as documented by previous entries.  Most of the bills I’ve entered travelled up and down California; the $10 bill was at one time in Las Vegas.  You’ll see the distance it has travelled and how much time it took to get there based on the previous entry (a bill can travel around quite a bit before a new entry is made that grounds a location for the bill in the tracking system).  You can also sign up for email notification any time a bill you’ve entered gets a subsequent entry made into the system.

A currency tracking program provides some interesting data to look at, but it does depend on everyone circulating the bills.  Check your wallet; if you have any marked bills enter them in the system and then go spend them on something fun!

Thursday, April 25, 2013



Wikipedia defines vice as “a practice or a behavior generally considered immoral, depraved, or degrading in the associated society”.  In more minor usage, vice can refer to a fault, a negative character trait, a defect, or a bad or unhealthy habit. 

The poet Dante Alighieri identified these as the seven deadly vices:

Ø  Pride/vanity
Ø  Envy/jealousy
Ø  Wrath/anger
Ø  Sloth/laziness
Ø  Avarice (I had to look this one up—it means “greed” or a desire to possess more than one has need or use for)
Ø  Gluttony
Ø  Lust

There’s been some newer thinking about what constitutes a vice.  Those identified above are character traits expressed by actions.  The newer definition of vices looks at emotions that are felt and gives examples of hate, greed, vanity, envy and cruelty (you can see the overlap).  The notion is that these emotional vices are overcome not by suppressing them but rather by feeling and cultivating the opposite virtue.

I’m surprised that none of these examples of vices include criminality.  Maybe that’s because different “associated societies” have different definitions of what constitutes criminal behaviors.  I think people also use the term “vice” in a more casual fashion, such as when they describe their enjoyment of chocolate, or coffee, or even stitching.  I certainly wouldn’t call any of those depraved or immoral!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013



I am not a fan of unemployment.  It tears at your self-esteem as well as your wallet.  Sometimes, life circumstances throw obstacles in your way—things like over qualification, transportation issues, or medical limitations.  Despite daily searches, the right job doesn’t reveal itself.

That daily let-down feeds into pessimism, which adds to the frustration of the job search.  You write off potential jobs without applying for them, convinced you won’t be compensated commensurate with your experience, or your pay check will bounce, or some other negativity will manifest itself.  The cycle feeds on itself, taking you farther down the spiral.

Unemployment can suck the soul out of you.  I wish that everyone who wants or needs a job could find one that provides a decent living.  I sure hope the folks who have jobs—in whatever form it may be—are grateful that they have that.  Mostly, I hope that the job seekers don’t give up hope in their search or lose the passion of their dream while they seek gainful employment.  I hope.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013



There is no dearth of quotes about “today”—a Google search brought up numerous motivational and/or inspirational websites.  Here are a few that jumped out to me: 

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” –Charles Dederich

“Never let yesterday use up too much of today.”  --Will Rogers

“This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.”  --Psalms 118:24

However, it was this quote, attributed to Dale Carnegie, which was my favorite of the ones I read this morning: 

“Today is life—the only life you are sure of.  Make the most of today.  Get interested in something.  Shake yourself awake.  Develop a hobby.  Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you.  Live today with gusto.”

I like this quote.  Too often, I allow my “to-do” list to drive how I experience my day, rather than my desires.  While I can’t just ignore the responsibilities of daily life, I could find ways to better weave more enjoyment into my individual days by spending time each day pursuing the things that give me passion.

I like it because it reminds me that today is indeed the fabric of life I have to work with.  Yesterday has passed and tomorrow, though promised, is never guaranteed.   I like it because it challenges me to be involved, be engaged, and keep active—intellectually as well as physically. And I believe the reward of living today with enthusiasm and passion is the joy that is returned to you.

Have a great day!