Sunday, December 23, 2007

the Holiday monkey stories

So, just as I promised I've checked in to share a few Holiday monkey tales. I hope you enjoy these short tales and that you're all having a great holiday!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Fiona's story

Fiona’s favorite day is the day before Christmas. When the whole world is painted in bright reds and greens, gingerbread men dance in windows, and the nights become frosty. She grew up in a huge Victorian home in Cape May, New Jersey, with her parents, prosperous monkey merchants who sold goods and operated a ferry bringing rich tourists to port.

Each Christmas her parents Ansel and Greta would gather the children together near the fireplace and roast bananas flambé and toast marshmallows. Ansel, in addition to his skills as a merchant, was no slouch as a knitter – and each year he toiled away on chilly evenings to present Fiona with a treasure for the new year: a knitted dress.

So every night before Christmas, without fail, Fiona would creep down the tall 3rd story setps to the candlelit tree, find the white box tied with red and white baker’s twine, pull out the dress and dance around in it while eating the banana and chocolate chip cookies left for Santa.

Then, as morning approached she’d replace the dress carefully, run upstairs and tuck herself tightly into bed so that when her father appeared with the long white box she could look extra sleepy and surprised…



Fiona Likes:
Lima beans

Mutton pies
Paisley ties
loud noises

Alice's story

Alice knows winter is coming because that’s when her ears begin to tingle. Being an all-white (and extremely rare and unphotographed) tailless monkey, she creates quite a stir wherever she goes. But make no mistake: she loves the attention!

She had a very normal and unglamorous parentage, born to 2 monkeys of median age in the deep Congo. Yet her all-white coat made her famous from birth and she was passed from monkey aunt to monkey uncle as they all scratched their heads in amazement.

It was concluded that Alice must be a descendant of the fabled snow monkeys of Mount Kilimanjaro, who haunt the icy slopes, often pelting unwitting climbers with snowballs just before they reach its crest.

Alice, for her part, was content with jungle life, but something within her searched for…something more. With this in mind, she began a friendship with a local Dutch explorer, Vim Weederens, who had studied the monkey colony from his cabin with much curiosity.

After much careful thought she decided to join Vim on his worldwide travels, and after a tearful goodbye to her parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, she boarded Vim’s schooner, headed for a world of endless adventures.

Though their adventures were numerous and manifold, her favorite had to have been their caper on the icy uncharted islets south of Africa. It was there that she learned to ice-skate, befriended her first penguin, and celebrated her first Christmas with Vim and the crew.

Vim and his crew of old sea dogs had been lured southward by tales of the Peppermint Narwhal, who could only be seen on Christmas Eve. Alice and crew had knitted festive elf-stockings to keep them warm and cozy during their Christmas Eve vigil on the deck. It had been a long, frosty day that mellowed into a white, milky darkness and they celebrated with occasional jigs to warm up.

Suddenly, a cry from Vim brought the drowsy crew to its feet – Alice leaped onto Vim’s shoulder and saw, just past the bow of the ship, the candy-cane horn of the Peppermint Narwhal.



Alice Likes:
the films of Ingmar Bergman
sleigh bells
cherry popsicles

naughty schnauzers
brussel sprouts

Sunday, December 16, 2007

current happiness

Christmas pudding!

So, just as my flu was wearing off late this week, I came home from work to find 2 lovely packages awaiting me in my mailbox - both were complete surprises from sneaky sweetheart crafters... First, was a cute little Panda note from Sally, who sent along chocolate Santas and even the Christmas pudding you see above! :) I had to back out of an ornament swap late last month due to way too many things going on at once - Sally was a sweetheart and sent me this little ornament anyway - thank you so much - it really cheered me up! :)

And from Claudia, look at these beautiful embroidered ornaments:
Claudia's beautiful snowflakes

I oohed and aahed - turning them over and over - her handiwork is amazing. She also sent along crafty supplies which I can't wait to use up:
crafty supplies from Claudia

Floss, felt, buttons, stickers, tiny birds, and a mix CD with familiar tunes. I was beaming - I'm sure it's the reason I got better so quickly - there's something about sharing music with people that has always touched me in a way I can't explain. People who are moved deeply by music, I just feel like we understand each other - or at least we understand that part of each other... I'm strange about gifts - the things that really "do it" for people never really do it for me... diamond rings - meh, expensive clothes, dinners, etc, meh - but floss, felt, buttons and a mix CD? Cloud nine. :)

Also making me happy are a pair of crochet gloves:
gloves make me happy

I've been coveting the crochet gauntlets Kalurah makes for a month now - you know where you stare and stare at a picture and you get this hungry feeling like you're craving a taco? Ok, it's a weird allusion, but I've been wanting these gloves big time - so I finally buckled under the pressure and bought them last week. She is a sweetheart and they're so beautifully made - you must check out her shop and see what's she's up to...

fabric tree

And finally, here's an image of the only craft I made when I had the flu. The bug I had was dreadful - I had no energy, felt so run down and when I wasn't coughing, sneezing, or blowing my nose I had this awful headache and stuffy head. I churned out two of these fabric trees and hung some of my vintage buttons on with straight pins. I hope you're all keeping warm in this icy weather!

Monday, December 10, 2007

sick update

I'm awfully, miserably sick with nothing new to say. And yet I just felt I had to share something with you, so instead of taking a picture of my miserably sick self for proof, I'll share a chipper picture of Horace:


Getting a flu in the middle of doing my first sale on Etsy has been a bummer - each evening I've dragged myself over to the computer to see if there's been a purchase and I must admit I'm half hoping there is no sale because then I don't have to walk to the post office! ;) I'm a wuss, I know, but seriously this is a bad bug that's made me miserable for days. I even got my boyfriend sick so we spent the weekend inside, only going out to get soup and buy tissues.

But the good news is Fiona is on her way to a new home... right here in New York! That means all 3 monkeys in stockings are still up for grabs - Mr. Horace, pictured above, and Alice the snow monkey and Edgar:
Alice the snow monkey cute
And I promise they are carefully boxed away in a germ-free environment so they won't catch this nasty flu. If only I was so lucky. Stay healthy, friends!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

hello to the long nights

lunchtime painting - Happy Holiday

A few days ago the monkeys invaded my moleskine a second time, this time as a lunchtime painting. I've had monkeys on the brain big time... including plans to make a few Holiday monkeys to sell. Would you like to give a good home to a monkey? Stay tuned, and I plan to unveil that in early December!

november nights

Just a couple of weeks ago was the time change (or was it last week?) In any case, the earth tilted and seemingly very quickly, it got dark much sooner than usual. Now it's dark by 5 o'clock, the world plunged in a poetic blueness, getting deeper and darker and colder as the winter goes on...

I like the change and I don't like it - it's just change, just one of those things. The daytime is as dramatic as the evening - the sun seems to shine even more intensely when it is around. I must say November is much more dramatic in New York than it was in Texas...

november mornings

Thursday, November 15, 2007

it's that time again...

it's that time again...

Pull up a pink plastic plate and have some cake - if we're in luck its my mom's white cake with homemade lemon frosting. (Ok, I can't remember what cake I had, but that is my favorite). Late 70's t-shirts optional.

Warning: if you don't feel like smiling you might get tickled just before they whip out the camera:

I love this so much
I have lots of happy birthday memories, although as you get older, you tend to not want to think about it more and more... The weather is always crappy, even in Texas I usually got a gray or rainy day. It always seems to be a busy time at work or (back in the day) at school. But something always happened to make me feel special, sometimes big things, sometimes small. My mom usually began the day singing me "Las Mañanitas" and my dad (an operatic tenor-bass) would typically chime in. Even as a grown-up they still leave singing messages for me.

My sister always sends me parcels of goodies - she knows me very well, and all year long hoards little things she knows I'll love. As a kid, one of my favorite memories is of a surprise party my mom threw me in the 2nd grade - she'd called up my teacher and found the names of all my classmates and I was delighted as the doorbell rang all afternoon and familiar faces swirled around.

But my favorite (and only) party as an adult was my 27th - my best friend threw me a huge party at her house, and I got to hear "Happy Birthday" sung by many drunken revelers whose names I did not know. (I still owe you for that one, Steph). In short, I am blessed, and every time my birthday rolls around I am reminded of how many beautiful people and things can be found in this world. Pull up a chair, have some cake, and may all your birthdays be as great. :)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

cuteness experiments

Some of you may remember my last monkey experiments, and that I was thinking of making some monkeys to sell. le Carotte remembered, and was getting pretty impatient... But I was really uninspired by my efforts - they just weren't cute enough!

Don't believe me? Take a look:
before cuteness modifications

Okay, I know people tend to say nice things on blogs, but even I can't say anything nice about these two... they were just... weird looking... like scary old men... and not the nice kind. :)

Even le Carotte wasn't happy with his new cousin:
totally unrelated

Frankly, he had serious doubts they were related. I was so bummed about le Carotte's cousin until... the cuteness modifications!

before:not cute after:cute

Isn't it amazing the difference a few tweaks on a face can make? Ok, maybe it's just me, but before he looked like a grumpy old man and now he looks like a cute little monkey. I was so pleased I also made "cute modifications" on the other monkey:


Now le Carotte is much happier with his new cousin, Edgar:

What do you think? Were the cuteness experiments successful?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I've been busy...

El cielo esta llorando

Well, I've been busy, even taking into account the slowdown due to my hand issues. Overall, I've been very good, have switched all my mouse use to my left hand, and have spent a lot less time online, and stitching. I focus more on sketching and planning projects and hold myself to time limits for working, which actually helps me get less frustrated and burnt out.

Above is a small embroidered artwork that took me a month to finish very slowly, an hour here, an hour there. I used a light blue shirt as the fabric, stretched it over wooden bars, and used felt to add colors and textures. It's much smaller than the Sad girl, but I like how the extra color makes it very expressive. The words in Spanish read "El cielo esta llorando", or "the sky is crying", which happens to be one of my favorite Stevie Ray Vaughan songs. It also reminds me of the odd way, when you are going through an extra tough time, it is usually raining. Has that ever happened to you?

However, the slowdown has made things a bit tense around here. le Carotte is pretty impatient nowadays:
le Carotte is sulking

He seems to remember I was planning to make a few monkeys to sell, and wants to know what the holdup is! In particular, he requested a monkey that looked cuter (ie, looked more like him).

I was all tapped out for ideas, but he seemed to have one....
le Carotte has an idea

Which led me to some experiments I'll be showing you very soon....

Thank you

piensa en mi

First of all, I want to say "thank you" to everyone who commented on my last post on the Sad girl and the murdered women of Juarez. I'm not often moved enough to speak like that, but it is a situation that affects me very deeply... A special thank you to Kate, who stitched a beautiful tribute to the women of Juarez on her blog.

To find more background on the situation in Juarez (and the increasing violence towards women in many Latin American countries), visit:
Amnesty International: Justice for the Women of Juarez
WOLA (Washington Office on Latin America)

Also, I'm really interested in an embroidered art project being done by Lise Bjorne called "Desconocida" in which she assembles labels embroidered with the names of Juarez women. She is currently working on a project in Juarez, you can find out more on her blog.

Again, thank you for your kind words and for the moments you took to remember the women of Juarez!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Dia de las Muertas

Sad girl embroidery complete

I've been wanting to show you the finished Sad girl for some time, but I never found the right moment. Now, with Dia de los Muertos upon us, I think this is the perfect time to show you Sad girl.

As you can see I pulled the fabric tight over wooden stretcher bars and stapled it in place (thank you Staple gun - a fabulous invention). I added little details here and there, like filling in the dress completely with chain stitch, filling in the roses, and adding French knots around the pajaritos:

pajarito on the left pajarito on the right

I also added lots of white French knots to the bottom of her dress:

me duele tanto!

Why do I think this is a good time to show you Sad girl? Right after I began stitching her, I began reading books on the Juarez murders, one of which I recommend to all of you called Daughters of Juarez by Teresa Rodriguez. It's a sad book, with no happy ending, but what is sadder is that terrible violence toward women is still occurring every day in Juarez, unchecked, and it is spreading to other cities in Mexico like Chihuahua City. Very young, poor women are abducted in broad daylight, are raped and murdered, and their bodies dumped in public places. Families who try to find their children are met with indifference from the police and organizations who try to help them receive death threats. Worse still, Mexico has a 14 year statute of limitations for murder convictions, so since these killings began in the early 90's the 14 year date is approaching and unsolved cases will be closed.

I know it's a heavy topic for my otherwise happy crafty blog, which is why I waited for Dia de los Muertos. I would like to suggest, if any of you have time, to think of these women on this day when in Mexico we think of all our loved ones who have passed on. These women were loved and cared for, and many of them made the TV remotes you use to change channels or put together your stereos.

I'd like to offer this little bird design as a free pattern for anyone who opposes the Juarez violence, or violence against women in general. The words in Spanish are "Piensa en Mi", or "Think of Me" and you are welcome to embroider this or place this image on your blog in remembrance of the women of Juarez and all the mothers who are still searching for their children:


I wish you all happiness on this day and may all the memories you have of your loved ones bring you joy and not sadness. I promise more happy posts very soon!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Spooky Halloween Owl pattern

Spooky Halloween Owl little owlet
Remember that owl tutorial I said I was working on way back in July? Well, I've finally gotten over my shyness enough to share it with you in honor of Halloween, along with a free pattern over on Feeling Stitchy. So pop on over and get your free pattern!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

lunchtime painting - woman reading on the train

lunchtime painting - woman on the train

Just finished this one at lunch - I did a quick, rough sketch of a woman reading on the train yesterday morning. By the way, do you like how when you draw in public places people always crane their necks around to "eavesdrop" on what you're doing? I had an eavesdropper yesterday morning for my drawing, which I'm sure did not look very glamorous. :)

I really love the orange I used, which is orange straight from the tube, mixed with a bit of yellow and tea...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

thinking of abuelita


What with my hand issues (bump update: still there, at least not bigger :) I've been searching for non-computer and non-sewing related things to keep me occupied. Which brings me to this picture of my abuelita that's been occupying my mind lately, which I scanned the other day...


So I started off with the little drawing above, which is roughly thumbnail-size. My creativity works in strange ways - when I draw I'm always trying to balance a tendency to be very very detailed and realistic and a desire to just be artistic, experiment with color and have fun. So I did my first few thumbnails without looking at the photo, just trying to remember the general lines and colors:

a few sketches

I photocopied the original sketch and filled in colors- the whole point was to have fun and not drive myself crazy getting it perfect (which does drive me crazy!) Then the next day I did a lunchtime painting in my moleskine, without the sketch or the photo to guide me:

lunchtime painting - abuelita

I'm not a huge fan of the painting, but it was fun trying to remember and mix the colors. That night I finally looked at the photo, and sketched looking at it - it was interesting seeing what I did and didn't remember...


By the way, if you're wondering what she's holding in her hands, it's a Bible. She was a very sweet, serious person who I'm sad to say I didn't know very well. She lived with us a short time when I was in the 2nd or 3rd grade but I only remember a few things about her, one of them being that in every photo she took, she insisted on holding a Bible. And these photos were among the rare occasions that she smiled. I loved the fascinating way her eyes would brighten when she smiled in photos, as if she was revealing a mystery...

And finally, my last lunchtime painting - I just doodled this while thinking of her, the picture, and her little house in Mexico:

pensando en mi abuelita

I thought what it would be like, to stand by that window with the bars and her Bible, thinking of her. Things which I can only do now in my mind, and on paper. So far I like this one best...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

me and mami

me and mami

Nothing much to say, just a sweet picture of me and my mom. I went back to scanning more family pictures, as I've done every Fall before Christmas. It always coincides with the time I miss my family most. Lately I've been thinking of my grandmother a lot, and doing a few sketches here and there...

Friday, October 12, 2007

left-handed sketches and so forth

left-handed sketch

I'm still here! Just trying (very hard) to stay true to my self-imposed 1 hour of internet per day and resist the urge to point and click. :) Ever since I hurt my hand (I got a weird fleshy bump on the back of my hand and it really aches) I've been taking an internet rest. That's not easy since my job involves heavy computer use and coding, but I'm trying. When my hand and arm were really aching last week, I experimented with drawing with my left hand, which you can see above.

Is it just me or is there a different personality in the left-handed faces? I like them more. :) The blue marker soaked through to the second page, so I did another left-handed sketch:

drawing with my left hand

Her face is my favorite. Mostly, I've been drawing, reading, and trying to just relax (hard for me to do). I have so many ideas I want to make or embroider:


The bad news is sewing and embroidery make my arm hurt too. I'll do a bit more self-imposed rest and if that doesn't help I'll see a doctor, but they give me the willies. :)

Nevertheless I'm enjoying the new fall weather, the leaves trailing down from the trees, new pairs of shoes and wearing tights and jackets again... A few days ago I bought some gray shoes and a black shirt from H & M that I'm in love with:

gray favorites

Ever want to wear the same shirt over and over and over again? That's how I feel about this shirt. :) Hope everyone is having a wonderful return to fall. Again, please bear with a little slowness to respond, but I appreciate every comment and email you leave.... Happy Fall!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

scaling back on ye olde computer time...

sweet tiny bird

Well, I've been aware that I need to scale back on the computer time for awhile now but haven't found anything that forced me too. Unfortunately, now I've found it - between working 8+ hours a day on a computer, and spending all my free moments on the computer I think I've injured myself. I've got a swollen right hand and carpal-tunnel-ish pains in my arm. So I’ll be drastically scaling back on the computer time - my goal is less than an hour per day. What this means is I won't be able to respond to comments - even though I’ve always been bad at that. If you have a question for me, please email and be patient if I don't get to it right away...

Above is a cute little bird seen on a walk in Central Park two Sundays ago. It was so tiny and brave – swooping less than a few inches above our heads, fishing for gnats… :) Last Sunday we tried out the Central Park zoo, and although I salute them for cramming so much into so small a space – if you’ve never been there before, don’t expect much… It was definitely one of those places where the people act more like animals than the animals do but I must say there’s something sweet about street-wise, elderly New Yorkers getting really excited about a polar bear scratching his nose. As for the rest of the zoo, let’s just say I had strollers shoved into every part of my body, and was almost flattened by 2 double-wide ones. Okay, don’t get me wrong mamas and babies, I love you and respect what you’re doing. But why would you push a stroller head-on into a person who clearly cannot move to the right or left? I call that stroller road rage. :) Especially cute were the alpacas, llamas, and sheep in the petting zoo. I had a huge sheep almost scale the fence to get at some food I was saving for an alpaca.

final photo session goodbye

And here's my last pic of Paisley and Joaquin, snapped just before they left to happy homes with Olga and Claudia. The apartment is looking a bit bare without them - if my hand allows I'd like to sew a few successors, maybe even Halloween themed? We'll see, we'll see...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Virgencita tea towel

virgencita tea towel

It's been awhile since I did embroidery - I've been so busy making monkeys instead. So it was fun and relaxing to pick it up again - Carolina sent me a few sheets of patterns she just started selling on her blog, and I was amazed at the beauty of this virgencita pattern:

close up of the virgencita

I enlarged the pattern about 170% so it would fill more of the middle of the towel. As usual I had some frustrating moments with the colors - overall I chose light shades and dark browns. If you're looking for Halloween patterns pop over to Carolina's blog for a sugar skull freebie, and have a look at her Halloween patterns for sale. As a former tattoo artist, her patterns are amazingly intricate.

By the way, if you stitch any Halloween patterns (of Carolina's or any other Halloween pattern you find) be sure to join the Halloween challenge at Feeling stitchy! :)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

in my moleskine


I was flipping through the latest Vogue and not liking most of what I saw. My favorite was Shalom Harlow, who is one of the most gorgeous women on earth. I was listening to "Angel Baby" when I pasted these together...

a few days ago, another lunchtime painting:
lunchtime painting - my old room

I think a lot of this room I lived in years ago - a tiny apartment in an old house in Texas. It was truly a dump when I moved in, but I was strapped for cash and it was the cheapest I could find. I painted the walls red to make it cozy but that winter was still very cold. I remember feeling lonely at that time, so I'd surround my bed with books to feel less lonely...

And of course, more monkeys:
graph paper, colored index cards, post-its
This is what happens when I'm left alone with scissors, graph paper, colored index cards, and post-its... :) Thank you to everyone who responded to my last post - reading the things you love filled me with a happy glow - I wish you all lots and lots of things you love this weekend... :)