Well, I've finished my green & purple "fun" project: the Happy Birthday sampler from Blackbird Designs.
I've made a few changes to the pattern (slightly changed the verse, shorted the overall length, moved the little houses at the bottom) as well as employed a few easy needlepoint stitches to complete the piece quickly, rather than working the whole design in cross stitches.
Here's a close-up so you can see what I've done:
Instead of cross-stitching the zig-zag border around the verse, I just used diagonal long stitches, then filled them in with little straight stitches in the variegated floss - so the border had a bit more color (well really, I just wanted an excuse to show off more of the yummy variegated colors of Waterlilies' "Hyacinth".).
You can also see what I did to my FAVORITE part - the thistle flowers. I just made them with diagonal long stitches, to give them a bit more puffy dimension and color.
And the rest of the piece was stitched with fast and easy half cross stitches - or a variation of the tent/continential stitch.