Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The To-Be-Read Challenge 2015

I'll get back to the blog posts I intended to write and publish after the break. :D

At last! I've been looking for a book challenge rather desperately recently! Last year and the year before I did the A-Z book challenge, and the actual completion of the challenge was posted up over here. And I read a further four books after that post, leaving me with a grand total of 74 books read between January and December of 2014! Alas, the last book of the Fablehaven series shall have to be a 2015 finish. Can't win them all I suppose. XD

After getting the challenge done at last (having failed miserably the first time, in 2013), I wondered what to do with myself next year.
But another quick search online turned up the fabulous To Be Read Challenge. It consists of reading the books that you have had on your shelves for a while, and always intend to read "someday." And that was very much along the lines of what I wanted to be doing anyway. I want to get all my books read, every single one that I own (including the 14 new ones that are arriving at my house - thanks Grandma for the gift card! :DD). So - I'll be going for it. They have it all broken down nicely:

and while I don't know if I'll be able to match 2014's 73 books this time around, I'll be shooting for the 50+ nevertheless! There were a lot of small, or at least easy-to-read books in my challenge this last year - Artemis Fowl series, the Twilight saga (all four of which, plus the guide, took me three days over a quiet weekend), the Sisters of Isis series was very simply written, and on and on. They were books I was interested in reading (for the already have it purpose and for many of them because they were my childhood), and so I don't regret reading them. But this year, I want to read the longer and more intelligently written tomes that I have around. Quality, not quantity, for 2015!

I do have something of a book list written up, but nothing hard-and-fast as yet. I do want to get through my series of books on modern-ish Chinese history - biographies on Madame Chiang Kai Shek and Madame Mao - as well as the various other historical biographies I own, of which there are way too many, and read through a few more older style books. I devoured Wuthering Heights over the course of a few days when I picked it up on a whim while at school, and I'd like to give the Austens and other Bronte books another go. Don't hold your breath for any Dickens, though.

Got it in before the bell! Still an hour to go before the New Year! Have a great evening everyone, and happy 2015!

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Christmas Wrappings

'Furoshiki' or the Japanese art of wrapping with fabric - wrapping 9 books!
I was pretty proud of my wrapping this year. I did some wrapping in fabric, and some diagonal style wrapping. It was a lot of fun to take a break from the normal, especially as I was assigned wrapping duty this year! Well over 12 various sized boxes and soft items to get packaged up for the holidays, and then extras that I'll have to find the time to sneak into stockings unsuspected before Christmas morning! Boy has it ever been fun trying to keep stacks of massive boxes and bags away from inquisitive, present-happy little brothers, and inquisitive, claw-happy cats!!

Luckily I can schedule posts, and get these written before the day. This post is largely written on Christmas Adam, with some additions after the fact. At some point or another, everyone in the family will get on the internet and post some version of Happy Christmas on their Facebook accounts, and surf around, but for the most part it's a day of messing about with the new stuff we got from under the tree. Which is better.

I made some gluten free Shortbread cookies, a mix from Bob's Red Mill. Definitely have to add a LOT more liquid than they call for, it was about half a cup extra for my recipe, but they taste delicious. As the only holiday cookie I could eat this season, I was even more excited they came out so well!! I pressed the dough out flat and just cut it all into strips and squares, the way you do dumplings for chicken and dumplings. Came out delicious. XD

And now it's down to six days - New Year is coming!! Leave your lights up everyone, it'll make January a lot more cheerful!


Tuesday, 23 December 2014

8 Days Remaining

We're down to nearly a week, people! The New Year is coming soon. I spend so much time enjoying the anticipation for Christmas, that I always forget that another year follows soon after. Anyway, lately it's been all outlining for me. Backstitching Winter Wonderland is an eye-strainer!! The blue on the trees is the worst, and I can't even see the backstitched sections after I've done it anyway. >:\ The leaves look excellent now though!

The outlining is all worked on the left side, from the centre of the arch and down toward the foxes. The deer's eye is done, and the last stitches around the horns on the tree are making their painful progress. It's a lot more difficult to start three strands of thread for a single stitch than using two after being familiar with loop starts. Hopefully nothing will start unravelling!

I finished the third Fablehaven book, and began the fourth! This is an additional four books on top of those that I have completed already this year. :DD This book feels different compared to the first three, and for a while at the start the two main protagonists, brother and sister Seth and Kendra, are separated instead of together in their adventures, as well as this book beginning in winter around the Winter Solstice (fitting for the current season!). All of the previous books have taken place over the summer holidays, each including the Summer Solstice. Though I haven't reviewed the other books, this one confirms the evilness of the character known as the Sphinx, and the introduction of the dragon preserves rather than generic magical-creatures preserves as Fablehaven is. I do love them, but re-reading them I wish there were more non-Greek based creatures: lots of the typical satyrs and centaurs, dryads and nymphs about. The brownies, house-spirits of Eastern European, and what is commonly known as Slavic, lore make a few appearances. The rest are generic 'fairies' and a smattering of heavyweight demons.

Today in my family, thanks to my Grandfather, is known as "Christmas Adam," since the 24th is called "Christmas Eve." It's the calm before the storm, as the last-minute panicking for cooking starts kicking in, and tomorrow is the time for us to have a family gathering, which for some reason seems to make the wait for Christmas Day even longer. Family gathering days feel like a week in and of themselves. Being around so many people at once is draining. You basically end up sitting there with a plate of food and waiting for the day to be over. I love how everyone has this story too, but then they're the ones talking to all and sundry and having a great time. Dx

Anyone made any resolutions? A few members of the cross stitch groups I'm part of on Facebook have written up official lists as to what they will [hopefully] stick to over the coming year. One of the groups is working on everyone having 15 projects as it's 2015 - and none of them are picking easy projects! Lots of Heaven and Earth Designs, and pieces as big and detailed as the Yuu patterns - there aren't even enough months in the year now to accommodate working on each by month, how on earth does anyone expect to anything completed?? XD I made a big program for myself a little while ago, all in a frenzy over a new moon, which is good, though I'm thinking about reviewing it and changing a few points still before the New Year. I don't know that I'll put in cross stitch, as I'm doing alright with that, and the Yuu projects will take a long time - which will overpower the interest in working on other UFOs.

Right, that was a bit of a post. See you on the flip side of the holiday!


Sunday, 21 December 2014

End to the Woodland Sampler

BEWARE: Link Heavy!

I never posted the finish of my Woodland Sampler!

Last this blog saw of it, the last two blocks were in progress. Since then, December and the year block have been added, and all the outlining finished for the whole project. Unfortunately, it's still not quite 'finished' since I haven't completed the sparkly dandelions in the July block, though I finished everything else in that block.

I really loved working on this piece. I wish there was another like it to work on next year. The sampler they did this year was too busy for me, though I liked the idea of the fairy tales. There's another one for next year (of course!) that they've been teasing this month in their Facebook group, this one called "Story Time" depicting characters from 'favourite literature.' I hope it isn't as busy as this year's was in the execution or it'll be another skip. :\

Another stitchery I found this year is Cloudsfactory, who I discovered through their Facebook group. They have a lot of extremely simple designs that generally focus around a lot of well-known images, such as Disney and popular television. I especially liked some of the blocks from their block-a-month club, Magical Creatures Calendar. It was posted one block a month as the Frosted Pumpkin does with their works. I really like January, the centaur, March's Phoenix, June's dragons, and especially December's Yeti/Abominable Snowman! But the rest of it. . . . not so much. I also like bits and piece of the Halloween-themed piece "Whacky Witches in Stitches" but not as a whole. Again - :\.

Friday, 19 December 2014

80 Skeins of Thread

Okay, 82. Plus one. Enough threads to get my Yuu Season Spring/Autumn done, and finish off the Winter Wonderland! Ran out of one colour before the end, and now I can get the last of the sky and leaves finished. I also got the Whisper thread, that I was supposed to use for the Winter Maiden in the Mirabilia project I gave up on a while back. I honestly don't know what to do with that thing. Perhaps I'll take out all the outlining on the face and try to figure something else out. At least she'll have a fuzzy cloak.

All this lovely thread came with a sad price though: the Piddlin' Patch, the place where I've gotten all my cross stitch supplies, has given their notice. The owners are going to retire, and are looking to sell. It's the only place anywhere nearby that sells much of what my Mother, sister, and I need for our crafts. Hoping for someone to buy it and keep it going!!

And here is the lovely updated Winter Wonderland. Such a huge difference stitching in the rest of the blue around the star makes!! The lesser, white stars have yet to be sewn in, but the blue is about done - just have a few leaves on the right-hand side to get finished. The entire left side is completed but for outlining, and the snow needs going over with the sparkly thread that keeps trying to worm its way back out of the project as I work on it. >:\ Not much further to go at all!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Tilton Crafts, Christmas, and Fablehaven!

My Mother got me an awesome stand from a thrift store a little while back. I believe it's supposed to be a 'smoking stand' of some variety, where you would put newspapers/magazines on the racks and cigarettes at the top. Now it's a sewing stand, and holds all the patterns and threads while I stitch!

The Winter Wonderland project is tucked in the magazine there at the bottom, and the circle at the top perfectly holds a little Christmas themed box that I stick all the threads for a project in.

On top of this, I found the most amazing site ever: Tilton Crafts. I love their RAK option (Random Act of Kindness) that lets a person buy a download/PDF pattern and have it sent to the email of another person as a gift! My Father made use of that option, and sent me two of the patterns on my wish list: Our Seasons and In Her Room by the artist Yuu. I've already begun work on the third in the sequence of the seasons!

Our Seasons by Yuu
My sister, Mother, and I are in a bit of a disagreement as to which season it portrays. Obviously the last one is Winter, the second one is Summer, but which one of the remaining two is Autumn, and which one is Spring?? The first one could be Autumn, with the chrysanthemums, but so could all the pink. But if Autumn is first, then the seasons are a little bit out of whack - Autumn, Summer, Spring, Winter?? I don't know. XD But they won't be all on the same fabric, anyway, so I'll enjoy them even if I don't know what season it's supposed to be. Dx

First three of In Her Room

Last four of In Her Room
In Her Room, also by artist Yuu, is all one piece, though I broke it apart in the pictures here. I loved the colours, and what I could see of it on the website, but they really do need to give closer shots on their website. I didn't even realise it was the sequence of the girl's life until I opened the PDF! It was that small! This'll be another that is one section at a time, and I'll probably leave the bath scene out of it, but the rest of this, and the seasons, I can't wait to get stitching on! Of course there are so many threads I'm short on, so there'll be another shopping trip in the near future for them, but until then, I'll be happily stitching well into the new year for a few years to come! XD

And another update on the Winter Woodland! I'm getting a lot of the snow done - so much white!!

A new feature of my cross stitch updates is the introduction of the book I'm currently reading! I finished the second book in the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull late Monday night, and started the third one - Rise of the Shadow Plague - Tuesday morning. It has been so long since I last read these books. There are a couple of points where I start to recall things, but it's basically like reading a brand new book. Luckily I've got all five to bust through as quickly as I please! XD They're very simple reads, but I enjoy them nonetheless. I'm not sure how much I should describe or not, so I'll leave it at that and remember to give a better description than the cringe-worthy snippet on the back when I'm finished reading it!


Monday, 15 December 2014

Winter Wonderland

I've not posted about this project at all, and now it's getting near the close! It's "Winter Wonderland" from a UK based cross stitch magazine, The World of Cross Stitching. Picked it up in November, and got started nearly right away. I'm getting to use some of the fabric my Mother got me a while back at last!

The fabric count is so BIG. It drove me nuts at first. I'm having to stitch with three strands of thread, and I have lost my needle so many times!!! Seriously, the needle has abandoned this project three times. Lost one needle just sitting down - flew off the thread and disappeared. Lost the second needle over dinner - left it woven in the fabric, went to eat, and came back to a missing needle. The first needle reappeared a little while after that, and thankfully it's stuck around since then (knock on wood), but I'm hoping to get this one finished quickly so I don't have to worry about it anymore!!


Saturday, 13 December 2014

70 Books in a Year!

This year I read through the alphabet - a book beginning with "A," a book beginning with "B," etc. - and ended up reading an additional 44 books! I'm pretty happy with this. I haven't counted the number of books I've read in a year before, but the past couple of years I haven't been reading much at all. So this is definitely much more than I have been reading!

There were a couple of unexpected sticking points. Finding an "X" was difficult as predicted, but so was - oddly - the letter "C"! There were so many Es and Ls! Both "X" and "Z" technically begin with author's names, as they are translations and the translators helpfully named their finished products after the original writers, otherwise I'd never have gotten all these done!

With the exceptions of 8 books, these are all copies that I own. The reading through 26 books by letter sort of morphed into reading all the books I own, as I absolutely love Friends of the Library anywhere we go, and I am constantly buying books. I've not read half of all the books in my room. Hopefully next year I can continue to knock them out!

Articles (A, The, Etc.) don't count in titles, nor do names of series. Titles of books in descriptions are generally from the bottom to the top and left to right.

A - C

Alix and Nicky by Virginia Rounding
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Artemis Fowl: Arctic Incident by Eoin Colfer
Artemis Fowl: Atlantis Complex by Eoin Colfer
Artemis Fowl Files  by Eoin Colfer

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
By Fire, By Moonlight by Mary Stanton

Castle in the Mist by Liz Kessler (see what I mean about desperate for a "C"?)

D - F

Darkwood by M. E. Breen
Divine One by Lynne Ewing

Empress Dowager Cixi by Jung Chang
Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer
Ever by Gail Carson Levine
Artemis Fowl: Eternity Code by Eoin Colfer
Eon & Eona by Alison Goodman
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Enchantress by Lynne Ewing
Emperor Mage by Tamora Pierce

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R.Tolkien
Fairest & The Fairy's Return by Gail Carson Levine
G - I

The Golem's Eye by Jonathan Stroud
The Haunting by Lynne Ewing
The Horse & His Boy by C. S. Lewis

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
In the Stone Circle by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

J - L

A Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

A Kingdom Far & Clear (The Complete Swan Lake Trilogy) by Mark Helprin
Korean Folk Tales by James Riordan [not pictured]

The Last Days of the Romanovs by Helen Rappaport (highly recommended!)
The Last Emperor by Edward Behr (highly recommended to avoid, lousy book)
Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer
Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony by Eoin Colfer
The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis

M - O
Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan
Magician's Nephew by C. S. Lewis

Nicholas II by Marc Ferro (loved this one)
New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

Official Illustrated Guide to Twilight by Meyer (I was desperate for an 'O')
Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception by Eoin Colfer (then I remembered this book was also an 'O' Dx)
Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper [not pictured]

P - R

Peony In Love by Lisa See (don't read unless you fancy being sick to your stomach)
Ptolemy's Gate by Jonathan Stroud
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis

Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart by John Guy (I love this book and this Queen so much)

Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
Realms of the Gods by Tamora Pierce
S - T

Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis
The Summoning by Lynne Ewing
The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson

The Two Towers by J.R.R.Tolkien
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (it's sort of sacrilegious to put these two books side-by-side in a photo)
Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox by Eoin Colfer
The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine
Tales from China by Cyril Birch [not pictured]
U - Z

Utopia by Thomas More

Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S.Lewis

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Werewolves by Nancy Garden
Werewolf of Fever Swamp by R.L.Stine
Wild Magic & Wolf Speaker by Tamora Pierce

Xenophon's Anabasis by W.H.D.Rouse (boringest book in the history of boring)

Year of the Griffin by Diana Wynne Jones

Zauzich's Hieroglyphs Without Mystery

Also J.R.R.Tolkien's little volume, containing "Smith of Wootton Major" and "Farmer Giles of Ham."
26 Books - first read in each letter

All 70 books in one shot - lots of stacks in the back too!

 So there we go - getting near the end of the year again! Love the month of December. I've got several projects to post about, so they'll be here very soon. Don't stop reading!