Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas Everyone!!


I hope you are all having a lovely and loving Christmas day.  This Christmas didn't turn out exactly as we had planned.  We were planning on traveling to Michigan so that we could spend Christmas with our families.  However, my health put an end to that plan earlier in the week.  So instead, the four of us are home enjoying each other's company and looking forward to sharing our Christmas dinner with a dear friend and neighbor, Jean.

Although Christmas has not gone as we had planned, we are all very happy and holding our family in our hearts.  I know that I feel truly blessed for more things than I can count--and all of you are in that count as well.  May you all feel the warmth and blessings of the season.

Happy Christmas!
Heaps of Hugs,
Cheryl

Friday, December 16, 2011

Using a Locknut Joint

I recently received a question about how I joint my bears, so I thought I would share this with all of you just in case some of you might find the information useful. Okay, now for the confession. I'm going to just cut and paste a portion of the text from the directions to Sammy's pattern. So here it goes!
I generally chose to use locknuts and bolts to joint my bear’s limbs.  Unlike cotter pins, the limbs will be stuffed after the joint is tightened.  Place a metal washer and then the appropriately sized fiberboard disk onto the end of a bolt.  Insert into the limb, and push the end of the bolt through the joint hole....  Slide the end of the bolt through the corresponding hole in the body.  From the inside of the body, slide a fiberboard disk and then a metal washer onto the bolt and finger tighten the locknut onto the bolt.  With a locknut, the all silver side will be facing away from you and the side of the locknut with a small plastic “donut”in it will be facing towards you.  Note that you will only be able to make a couple of turns on the locknut by hand.  Repeat this procedure for the remaining arms and legs.
After all of the limbs have been loosely attached to the body, tighten each joint using a screwdriver and pliers.  You’ll want each joint to be able to rotate using about the same amount of effort. The joints should be a little difficult to turn, but not so much so that you can’t move them or that you feel like you could rip the mohair.
I wish I had photos to help explain this more clearly, but, alas, that will have to wait for another day.  Also, don't forget to trim any fur that would be caught in the joints over the fiberboard disks.  This is especially important if you are using longer mohair.  Be careful to stay within the width of the disks. I do this for all four limb joints.  However, I don't tend to do this for the head joint because I generally use wobble-joints for the head and the extra fur is helpful in hiding the heads of the cotterpins.

Hope this helps! 
Warmly,
Cheryl

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

We Have a Winner!



Congratulations to Sheryl of Gone to the Dogs!!
Sheryl of Gone to the Dogs was the lucky number 144 in my Bingle Bears' St. Nicholas Giveaway.
 

I've already emailed her to tell her the good news.  Benvolio is just quivering with excitement!

Thank you to all of you who participated.  All of your lovely and supportive comments just melted my heart.  I truly wish that I could send each and every one of you something to show you how much I appreciate you.  You are each a lovely gift to my life.  Thank you so much for reading my blog.

Heaps of Hugs,
Cheryl

Monday, November 28, 2011

Unbelievable Gingerbread Houses

Can you believe that this is a gingerbread house?

 A traditional English garden complete with a water fountain and gazebo.

Or this one?

The onion domes in St. Petersburg.

How about this one?

A Gnome's House

To celebrate the beginning of the Christmas season, we visited a local exhibit of gingerbread houses made by individuals, families, and professionals.  All of the houses are made entirely of things that are edible--we saw peanut brittle used for everything from steps to fences to walls.


The variety of work always astounds us and makes it rather difficult to choose our favorites.

The little red an white things are gnomes.

Canal boats going through villages on the Erie Canal was a popular theme this year--appropriate considering this area's heritage.



So, as you can see, there was quite a variety of "houses."  Of course, there was also the occasional traditional gingerbread house, but always with a twist.


Mrs. Rabbit's house was very sweet!  It even had stockings hanging on the fireplace mantel in her kitchen and draperies decorated with green wreaths in the family room.  And, of course, a proper snowman stood guard in the front yard.


 Welcome to the Christmas season!  It will be St. Nicholas's day before we know it!

Warmly,
Cheryl

Friday, November 18, 2011

Finally Some Bears to Show You!

Here are the two latest bears that I just sent to Teddies of Mt. Holly.  However, before I could show them to you, they were adopted!  So, alas, I still do not have any available bears to share with you.  I'm hoping that I'll be able to remedy that after the New Year.

Xavier 13 1/2"


Aurora 13 1/2"

I'm really pleased with how they turned out--especially their little paw pads!  Now I'm off to complete a big boy that's destined for Silly Bears.  He has his caramel-colored silk vest, but I really think he needs a silk cravat to complete his look.

Warmly,
Cheryl

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sweetest Little Ornaments

I found a pattern from Gingermelon Dolls for the sweetest little ornaments.  I just HAD to share them with you.

from Gingermelon Dolls

I recently bought a copy of the pattern for these Babushka Bunnies and all three girls here (including me!) can't WAIT to start making these.

from Gingermelon Dolls

If you, like me, just can't resist these sweethearts, pop on over to Gingermelon's Etsy shop to get a copy of the pattern for yourself.  Shelly makes wonderfully detailed patterns.  Everything you might possibly need is in them--including all sorts of different embroidery patterns to embellish your little Babuska Bunny.

Warmly,
Cheryl

Monday, November 7, 2011

Blogger is finally letting me see the names of my blog followers.  But please still note if you are a follower in your comment to the giveaway post below just in case Blogger decides to act up again.

Also, I have been AMAZED at the response I have received on this first day of my giveaway.  Thank you all SO much.  I'm really glad that you all like little Benvolio so much.  I thought he was rather sweet, but I wasn't sure if I was just biased.  Thank you!

Heaps of Hugs,
Cheryl

Sunday, November 6, 2011

My St. Nicholas Giveaway


I'm so pleased to tell you that I've finally finished all the details for my little giveaway.  I've been wanting to design a mouse for a long time and I'm so, so pleased with how my little guy turned out.  Tiny, little Benvolio is 3 1/3" of sweetness.  A tiny mouse with a big name!  He's fully jointed and made of soft upholstery velvet with Ultrasuede ears, onyx bead eyes, white whiskers, and a satiny tail.  I hope you like him as much as I do.



He will be accompanied by a mug that I designed on Zazzle.  Some of you may recognize the bear on the front of the mug--it's a stylized photo of my vintage Chiltern bear, Chester, with an antique toy top.



I've designed the back of the mug with a quote dear to my heart:
"You really don't have to be young to find a friend in a teddy bear." --Rachel Newman



We have a set of these mugs and I think I can safely say that they are probably our favorite mugs in the house.


Benvolio was quite curious about the mug.  He was pleased to see that his buddy, Chester, is right up front and center.  However, he thought that there should be something in the mug and was quite disappointed to see it empty.  He listened intently as I explained to him all about St. Nicholas and how the deadline for my giveaway is December 6th--St. Nicholas Day.  He wasn't quite buying that St. Nicholas would leave a little something in the mug because a mug isn't a shoe or a stocking.  But after some reassurance, he agreed that St. Nicholas will probably be very happy to leave a little something for our giveaway winner.

So, if you would like to be entered into my giveaway for a chance at winning Benevolio and the mug, please leave a comment with your name and your email address--all comments will be private and unpublished. Your email will only be used for this giveaway and will not be kept afterwards. However, if I don't have your email, you won't be entered. Oh, I sound like such a meanie! But, really, I can't risk hurting little Benvolio's feelings.  It's just much too hard on a little mouse's heart to be unsure where his new home will be! 

There's also a few ways that you can earn some extra chances at winning litte Ben.  First, you might want to consider becoming a follower of my blog. All followers of my blog (new and old friends alike) who leave a comment (with their email!) will get an extra entry. 

Second, if you follow me on Facebook by "liking" Bingle Bears ( https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bingle-Bears/395221956616 ) you'll get another entry.

And third, you don't have to have a blog to enter my giveaway. However, if you do have a blog and you post about my giveaway with a link back to my blog, I will put an extra entry in the hat for you. Just remember to let me know!

Goodness, some of you could have a total of FOUR (4) chances to win little Benvolio and the mug!  I will be accepting comments (in other words, entries) until December 6th at 9:00 am Eastern Daylight Time (think New York City time). 

Remember, don't forget to put your email address in your comment!  Also, please, please, PLEASE let me know if you follow my blog, follow me on Facebook, and/or posted about my giveaway on your blog (Blogger currently won't let me see who follows my blog.).

Good luck everyone!  I wish I had hundreds of little Benvolios to give to all of you!

Warmly,
Cheryl

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Wonders of PanPastels

Earlier this year, Joanne Livingston of DesertMountainBear was sharing her method of using pastels for hand-shading her bears.  I was spellbound.  I have been looking and looking to no avail for a way to easily hand shade my bears that would be permanent and light fast.  And, lo and behold, Joanne led me right to what I needed.  She is SO generous with her information and insights.  So, taking a page from her book, I decided it was high time to tell you what I found out late this summer.

We have a marvelous art store in our area--quite marvelous.  Even my Mom (who is an abstract artist) likes to take pilgrimages to The Art Store when she visits us.  So, finally, this summer I made my way there to search out appropriate hard pastels that I could sand into a fine dust and apply to my bears.  However, my plans detoured after talking to one of their amazingly knowledgable staff.

She told me that, yes, I could make a dust from hard pastels, but that using the new product, PanPastels, would be easier and extremely effective.


Well, she sold me!  They truly are fabulous.  They are kind of like pastels that have already been ground up into a fine dust.  There are special foam tools (like the one above) made for using with them, but, as time has worn on, I find that I prefer to use a VERY short and stiff brush to apply the pastels around the eyes and foot pad details and a big, fluffy one to apply a dash of colors on the fur (like around the ears).  I just couldn't get the foam applicators to be precise enough in tight corners.  Oh, and I also frequently use my fingers to mix and apply the pastels, as well.  One should never forget the convenience of the finger tips!


I just lightly tap the brush in the pastel and then dab the brush on a piece of paper towel to remove the extra dust so that the pastel isn't applied to dark and thick. Removing the extra pastel works quite nicely for being sure that the color doesn't rub off onto anything else (like clothing) when hugging a bear--it's nice and permanent (kind of like how one uses a stencil brush and removes most of the paint to get an even application when stenciling).


PanPastels come in lots of lovely colors and the pans twist onto each other so you can store them in a neat and tidy stack--very nifty and convenient.  I've since bought a few more colors like ivory, pink, and lilac and am never disappointed in how lovely they look on the bears.  How more perfect could they be?!  They are lightfast, permanent, and have dense beautiful colors.
 
If you are interested in trying them yourself and you don't have an amazing art store in your area, Dick Blick carries all of the colors.
 
Heaps of Hugs,
Cheryl

Friday, October 7, 2011

Some Silly Bears

I don't think I've shown you the three bears that traveled to Scotland early in August so that they could attend the Hugglets festival this September with Silly Bears.  I'm glad to say that they have all found loving homes--two during Hugglets and one (Owen) just this past weekend at the shop.

Abigail (14 inches)

Owen (16 inches)

Sheldon (12 inches)

I'm also glad to say that I've slowly, slowly gained a few more spoons (code word for energy) in the past few days.  I'm hoping this trend continues because I've enjoyed being able to work a bit more on my bears.  My latest bear is a snow fairy and I'm quite pleased with how she's coming along.

Thanks for all of your support and kind wishes--it's meant the world to me!
Heaps of Hugs,
Cheryl

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Note of Gratitude

I want to thank you for your kind, supportive wishes--it really has meant the world to me.  I'm still low on "spoons" (see my previous post for an explanation), but your comments have helped me to make a very difficult decision.  I have decided to pull out of the Teddies Worldwide online Christmas Treasures show in November in order to try to gain a few more "spoons." 

It's hard for me to say "no" to things in life, especially when it's something I really want to do and had paid for.  However, I have felt lighter since making this decision.  I have only completed one bear and sewn up another in the past six weeks.  Obviously this is not the bear-making rate I needed to be at if I wanted to stay in the show (I also have commitments to fulfill for two shops).  This has been nagging and stressing me every day for the past several weeks--and stress takes up a lot of "spoons."  Now my schedule is 4 bears lighter and I feel more confident that I can live up to my commitments.

As a way to thank all of you, I'm going to have a giveaway.  I have to think about it still and figure out what is feasible for me to do (I don't want to add more stress to my life after having just erased some!), but I should have things in place within the next six weeks or sooner.

With that, I'll leave you with one of my favorite bear photos that you may have seen before (I wish I could give credit where credit is due, but I truly don't know who took this sweet photo).


Thanks again!
Heaps of Hugs,
Cheryl

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Spoon Theory

I so appreciate all of the support you give me.  I know it can be hard to understand what it's like to live with a chronic illness, but I also know that many of you cope with it too.  This story by Christine Miserandino of ButYouDontLookSick.com is quite lovely in explaining what it's like.  Right now, I'm still a bit low on spoons.

The Spoon Theory
by Christine Miserandino www.butyoudontlooksick.com

My best friend and I were in the diner, talking. As usual, it was very late and we were eating French fries with gravy. Like normal girls our age, we spent a lot of time in the diner while in college, and most of the time we spent talking about boys, music or trivial things, that seemed very important at the time. We never got serious about anything in particular and spent most of our time laughing.

As I went to take some of my medicine with a snack as I usually did, she watched me with an awkward kind of stare, instead of continuing the conversation. She then asked me out of the blue what it felt like to have Lupus and be sick. I was shocked not only because she asked the random question, but also because I assumed she knew all there was to know about Lupus. She came to doctors with me, she saw me walk with a cane, and throw up in the bathroom. She had seen me cry in pain, what else was there to know?

I started to ramble on about pills, and aches and pains, but she kept pursuing, and didn’t seem satisfied with my answers. I was a little surprised as being my roommate in college and friend for years; I thought she already knew the medical definition of Lupus. Then she looked at me with a face every sick person knows well, the face of pure curiosity about something no one healthy can truly understand. She asked what it felt like, not physically, but what it felt like to be me, to be sick.

As I tried to gain my composure, I glanced around the table for help or guidance, or at least stall for time to think. I was trying to find the right words. How do I answer a question I never was able to answer for myself? How do I explain every detail of every day being effected, and give the emotions a sick person goes through with clarity. I could have given up, cracked a joke like I usually do, and changed the subject, but I remember thinking if I don’t try to explain this, how could I ever expect her to understand. If I can’t explain this to my best friend, how could I explain my world to anyone else? I had to at least try.

At that moment, the spoon theory was born. I quickly grabbed every spoon on the table; hell I grabbed spoons off of the other tables. I looked at her in the eyes and said “Here you go, you have Lupus”. She looked at me slightly confused, as anyone would when they are being handed a bouquet of spoons. The cold metal spoons clanked in my hands, as I grouped them together and shoved them into her hands.

I explained that the difference in being sick and being healthy is having to make choices or to consciously think about things when the rest of the world doesn’t have to. The healthy have the luxury of a life without choices, a gift most people take for granted.

Most people start the day with unlimited amount of possibilities, and energy to do whatever they desire, especially young people. For the most part, they do not need to worry about the effects of their actions. So for my explanation, I used spoons to convey this point. I wanted something for her to actually hold, for me to then take away, since most people who get sick feel a “loss” of a life they once knew. If I was in control of taking away the spoons, then she would know what it feels like to have someone or something else, in this case Lupus, being in control.

She grabbed the spoons with excitement. She didn’t understand what I was doing, but she is always up for a good time, so I guess she thought I was cracking a joke of some kind like I usually do when talking about touchy topics. Little did she know how serious I would become?

I asked her to count her spoons. She asked why, and I explained that when you are healthy you expect to have a never-ending supply of “spoons”. But when you have to now plan your day, you need to know exactly how many “spoons” you are starting with. It doesn’t guarantee that you might not lose some along the way, but at least it helps to know where you are starting. She counted out 12 spoons. She laughed and said she wanted more. I said no, and I knew right away that this little game would work, when she looked disappointed, and we hadn’t even started yet. I’ve wanted more “spoons” for years and haven’t found a way yet to get more, why should she? I also told her to always be conscious of how many she had, and not to drop them because she can never forget she has Lupus.

I asked her to list off the tasks of her day, including the most simple. As, she rattled off daily chores, or just fun things to do; I explained how each one would cost her a spoon. When she jumped right into getting ready for work as her first task of the morning, I cut her off and took away a spoon. I practically jumped down her throat. I said ” No! You don’t just get up. You have to crack open your eyes, and then realize you are late. You didn’t sleep well the night before. You have to crawl out of bed, and then you have to make your self something to eat before you can do anything else, because if you don’t, you can’t take your medicine, and if you don’t take your medicine you might as well give up all your spoons for today and tomorrow too.” I quickly took away a spoon and she realized she hasn’t even gotten dressed yet. Showering cost her spoon, just for washing her hair and shaving her legs. Reaching high and low that early in the morning could actually cost more than one spoon, but I figured I would give her a break; I didn’t want to scare her right away. Getting dressed was worth another spoon. I stopped her and broke down every task to show her how every little detail needs to be thought about. You cannot simply just throw clothes on when you are sick. I explained that I have to see what clothes I can physically put on, if my hands hurt that day buttons are out of the question. If I have bruises that day, I need to wear long sleeves, and if I have a fever I need a sweater to stay warm and so on. If my hair is falling out I need to spend more time to look presentable, and then you need to factor in another 5 minutes for feeling badly that it took you 2 hours to do all this.

I think she was starting to understand when she theoretically didn’t even get to work, and she was left with 6 spoons. I then explained to her that she needed to choose the rest of her day wisely, since when your “spoons” are gone, they are gone. Sometimes you can borrow against tomorrow’s “spoons”, but just think how hard tomorrow will be with less “spoons”. I also needed to explain that a person who is sick always lives with the looming thought that tomorrow may be the day that a cold comes, or an infection, or any number of things that could be very dangerous. So you do not want to run low on “spoons”, because you never know when you truly will need them. I didn’t want to depress her, but I needed to be realistic, and unfortunately being prepared for the worst is part of a real day for me.

We went through the rest of the day, and she slowly learned that skipping lunch would cost her a spoon, as well as standing on a train, or even typing at her computer too long. She was forced to make choices and think about things differently. Hypothetically, she had to choose not to run errands, so that she could eat dinner that night.

When we got to the end of her pretend day, she said she was hungry. I summarized that she had to eat dinner but she only had one spoon left. If she cooked, she wouldn’t have enough energy to clean the pots. If she went out for dinner, she might be too tired to drive home safely. Then I also explained, that I didn’t even bother to add into this game, that she was so nauseous, that cooking was probably out of the question anyway. So she decided to make soup, it was easy. I then said it is only 7pm, you have the rest of the night but maybe end up with one spoon, so you can do something fun, or clean your apartment, or do chores, but you can’t do it all.

I rarely see her emotional, so when I saw her upset I knew maybe I was getting through to her. I didn’t want my friend to be upset, but at the same time I was happy to think finally maybe someone understood me a little bit. She had tears in her eyes and asked quietly “Christine, How do you do it? Do you really do this everyday?” I explained that some days were worse then others; some days I have more spoons then most. But I can never make it go away and I can’t forget about it, I always have to think about it. I handed her a spoon I had been holding in reserve. I said simply, “I have learned to live life with an extra spoon in my pocket, in reserve. You need to always be prepared.”

Its hard, the hardest thing I ever had to learn is to slow down, and not do everything. I fight this to this day. I hate feeling left out, having to choose to stay home, or to not get things done that I want to. I wanted her to feel that frustration. I wanted her to understand, that everything everyone else does comes so easy, but for me it is one hundred little jobs in one. I need to think about the weather, my temperature that day, and the whole day’s plans before I can attack any one given thing. When other people can simply do things, I have to attack it and make a plan like I am strategizing a war. It is in that lifestyle, the difference between being sick and healthy. It is the beautiful ability to not think and just do. I miss that freedom. I miss never having to count “spoons”.

After we were emotional and talked about this for a little while longer, I sensed she was sad. Maybe she finally understood. Maybe she realized that she never could truly and honestly say she understands. But at least now she might not complain so much when I can’t go out for dinner some nights, or when I never seem to make it to her house and she always has to drive to mine. I gave her a hug when we walked out of the diner. I had the one spoon in my hand and I said “Don’t worry. I see this as a blessing. I have been forced to think about everything I do. Do you know how many spoons people waste everyday? I don’t have room for wasted time, or wasted “spoons” and I chose to spend this time with you.”

Ever since this night, I have used the spoon theory to explain my life to many people. In fact, my family and friends refer to spoons all the time. It has been a code word for what I can and cannot do. Once people understand the spoon theory they seem to understand me better, but I also think they live their life a little differently too. I think it isn’t just good for understanding Lupus, but anyone dealing with any disability or illness. Hopefully, they don’t take so much for granted or their life in general. I give a piece of myself, in every sense of the word when I do anything. It has become an inside joke. I have become famous for saying to people jokingly that they should feel special when I spend time with them, because they have one of my “spoons”.

© Christine Miserandino

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Introducing George Alvin and Molly!

You'll have to forgive my long absence--I can't quite believe it's been over three weeks since I last wrote.  I'm still not tip-top and am now convinced that it's going to take a total of 2 to 4 months to recover from overdoing it in August.  Ah, well.  I guess it's another life lesson.  I just didn't think my health was still that fragile.  I'm still planning on going to TBAI next year (it was just TOO much fun to miss!), but I'm going to make sure I don't schedule the Renaissance Festival and a busy, busy vacation before and after it.  Enough of my whining--on with some photos!

I haven't told you yet that my parents surprised me this year with a birthday gift certificate for one of Ginger Brame's adorable bears.  So while at TBAI, I had the additional fun of choosing a bear just for me!  Ginger had SO many adorable bears that it really was a challenge choosing just ONE, but I finally found that little George Alvin had stolen my heart.  Our eldest daughter, Corinne, joined me in looking at the bears on Ginger's table.  Sweet Molly, spoke to her and also had to join our family. I think it was a lovely use of some of Corinne's high school graduation money--it certainly will always be a treasured reminder of her accomplishments.



Here's George Alvin taking a quick break in the kitchen at Hancock Shaker Village.  Poor dear, he was whisked away on a long road trip before he could even settle into his new family.  Thankfully, he seemed to roll with it fairly well.


Molly seemed ready to check out everything in the Shaker kitchen.  She's a curious little bear.  She was raring to go anyplace on our schedule.  So she was quite excited to hear that after Hancock Shaker Village, it was on to Portsmouth, New Hampshire to visit the Strawbery Banke museum.
  

George Alvin and Molly had quite a lot of fun seeing all of the old houses.


I was also glad to see that the Hitty dolls (I carved them out of wood many, many years ago) warmly welcomed the two newcomers into the fold.


The four of them became fast friends and particularly enjoyed meeting Samantha, the witch of Salem, Massachusetts.


I must admit though, that they both seem quite relieved to be at home now.  True, they had exciting adventures, but when it comes down to it there's really no place like home.  


George Alvin has adopted Chester (the vintage Chiltern bear) as his father-figure and rarely wants to leave Chester's lap. He hasn't admitted it, but I think he likes the high vantage point so that he can see all the comings and goings in our living room.  It's where all the action is.



While Molly prefers the quiet solitude of her own little chair next to Corinne's bed.

Take care everyone!
Warmly,
Cheryl

Monday, August 29, 2011

TBAI Has Come and Gone


Alas, it is true.  It really was a fabulous show and just SO much fun.  I'm already looking forward to attending next year! 

I'm very thankful that dear Darlene Allen came to my rescue when I didn't even know that I needed rescuing.  While I was setting up my table, I was getting more and more anxious and stressed.  Right at that time, Darlene came up, put her arm around me, and gave me a gentle pep talk.  It was just what I needed exactly when I needed it.  I can't thank her enough.  She helped me to put things back into perspective and relax--exactly what my body needed.


In the end, I was quite pleased with how my show table turned out and I couldn't be happier with how the whole show transpired.




Here's my gallery piece for the show, Benedict and his Illuminated Manuscript.  Matt did a fabulous job on the writing desk--don't you agree?!
  

The whole room just sparkled with amazing bears on the day of the show.  It really was spectacular.


I also meet up with many friends including Ginger Brame and Michele Seraphim and, of course, the famous Sebastian (if you don't know about Sebastian you really must visit Ginger's blog--just click on her name above).




Just look at all those buckaneers!  How are they going to top that next year?!!


And I can't forget our "field trip" to the Bundy House Museumin Binghamton. It really had some spectacular architectural details.




Unfortunately, I didn't get to take photos of all the tables and people at TBAI that I had wanted to show you. I was just plain too busy. And then, when things finally did slow down for me, my legs decided it was time to go on strike. Thankfully they waited until there was only one hour left.  Now I just have to be patient until they decide to start work properly again.  They did hint to me today that they are considering cooperating in the near future, but they just haven't committed to it yet. (sigh)
 
Heaps of Hugs,
Cheryl