Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Small finishes and daily smiles

Finally! That long month of March is over... And how are my stitching friends feeling on this, the first day of April? Hopeful, relieved, renewed? All of the above? After more snow on Sunday and then highs in the 50s yesterday, March certainly lived up to its rollercoaster of a month reputation, didn't it? I get very bad headaches on the left side of my head with any major weather change so you can imagine how my head has been feeling lately--ugh! But, April will bring daffodils, nest-building, the blessings of Easter, and, most certainly, warmer days than we've seen in months... 

I have one spring finish and two Christmas ornaments to share with you today. Which shall I start with? Well, let's go with the spring one which was stitched and sent to a friend for her birthday. This little Just Nan bunny  called "Dewdrop" (love his name!) hopped all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to France to help my friend,  Valerie, celebrate a very special birthday.

I finished him into a little pillow using shades of purple and white for a very spring-like finish. Aren't you loving stitching with the pastel shades right now? Little Dewdrop is stitched on 40ct. pearl gray Newcastle using the suggested DMC colors. I did change a couple of the egg colors, though--omitted the blue eggs and replaced them with purple and pink. I don't know if you can see them in the photo, but there are tiny pink bead in the border. I don't stitch many Just Nan charts and when I do, it always surprises me at how many colors are used even in a tiny design like this one. I'm so pleased that dear Valérie loves Dewdrop--I think I may have to stitch him again for myself.

I'm proud to say I'm keeping up with my Christmas "ornament a month" stitching this year and I have March's and April's to share with you today. For March, I stitched a darling kit by one of my favorite cross stitch designers, Chessie & Me. I love the way simple cross stitches are combined with specialty stitches in these designs. The roof and the center of some of the snowflakes are finished in satin stitching and the berries and "Noel"  are done in Smyrna stitches.  And how cute is that tiny "over-one" stitched reindeer. This was done on the fabric included in the kit--36 ct. Vintage Exemplar linen  (which I wasn't crazy about--found it to be very floppy and difficult to stitch on) using the Gloriana silks that were also included. I rarely buy kits, but I'll tell you it was so nice to just pick this up and begin stitching as soon as it arrived in my mail box--no waiting for threads or searching for substitute colors.

I used a piece of the lovely fabric that I won from Laurie, in her fabulous giveaway last month. The colors were a perfect accent for this piece which I finished as a flat mounted ornament.  I added a couple of green wooden beads to the cording as an accent. Overall, I'm pleased with it, but it's quite a bit bigger than my typical Christmas ornament.

"Noel" by Chessie & Me

Here is a closer look so you can see how well the fabric accents the finish. Thanks again for all of that gorgeous fabric, Laurie--I'm already planning another finish with more of it!

My April ornament is from an older Just Cross Stitch Ornament magazine (1997) and is called "Nutmeg Santa" by Schoolroom Samplers. I really love how this one turned out and I think it is mainly because stitching it on the 32 ct. black Belfast linen gave it a totally different look than the photograph in the magazine. The colors show up so much better and I also changed the date on the ornament at the bottom to the word "Noel." I am not a big fan of dates on the front of ornaments for some reason--they make me feel old when I see them years later. How do you all feel about them?

This was finished as a simple pillow with an ecru bow and hanger to match the ecru in the snowflakes and the wording. I also added a few more snowflakes than were charted. The backing fabric is the dusty green shown in the background (a cloth napkin that I picked up on sale at Kohl's). What do you think? It's hard to believe that I'm one-third of the way through my annual ornament stitching--2014 is flying by for sure!

Nutmeg Santa finish

I'm positive that  all of you are familiar with the generous Nancy over at Victorian Motto Sampler Shoppe. Nancy has giveaways galore throughout the year offering her beautiful threads, trims, and charts and I was lucky enough to win these five luscious spring shades recently. Thank you so much, Nancy--I'm already using the green on a new WIP that I'll share later this month. It is a pleasure to stitch with your beautiful threads!

Beautiful floss won from Victorian Motto Sampler Shoppe

MY DAILY SMILE JOURNEY...I'll have to admit that the past few months of our horrid winter weather have really gotten me down. By mid-March, I was really frustrated and looking for a way to pull myself out of the slump that was starting to set in. So, I decided to start keep a small journal and write down one thing that made me smile each day. I found this little blue (of course!) notebook at Target with the quote "Light tomorrow with today" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning imprinted on the front cover that I thought would be perfect for my latest venture. After all, the purpose of it is to look back on my daily "smiles" for years to come, especially in times of sadness; in other words to "light my tomorrow" with the things that make me happy each day.

A smile a day...

I have neither the time nor the inclination to write a long journal entry and the few sentences that make up each daily entry are so quick and easy to achieve. They range from things I've seen (four horses grazing in a snow covered field thoughtfully covered with heavy wool blankets) to things I've smelled (the return of spring when I opened the window last week) to things I've felt (my mom's hug which soothes all hurts) to things I've heard (my dementia-riddled father telling me, "I know who you are" when I visited him last month) to things I've tasted (some fabulous soft pretzels made by my oldest son). In other words all five senses can--and do--bring smiles. I'm anxious to see how long I can keep recording these thoughts--what fun it will be to look back at them when I'm on old (older!) lady and recall the happiness that a simple smile brought each day. Some days are harder than others, but I guarantee if you keep your eyes open you will find your special smile for the day :)

It was so nice of you to visit me today--a special thank you to all who leave me comments each time I post. I know how busy all of us are in our daily lives and the fact that you take a moment to say "hello" means so much to me. And I want to wish a warm welcome to my new followers, too--so glad to meet you! I'll be back with some spring stitching soon and photos of another RAK that was sent out yesterday. Bye for now...

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ah...Tis Spring!

Happy (almost) Spring, my friends! Yes, I know Spring doesn't officially start until tomorrow (March 20th, 2014 at 12:57 PM to be exact!), but I won't be home to post tomorrow so I'm rushing it a bit. I think all of us are anxious for spring to make an appearance after the winter we've suffered through, but I do see signs of life popping up everywhere. Last week, not only did all of our snow finally melt, but we also saw the first robin of spring and some tiny green daffodil shoots poking through the earth. The birds are joyfully singing again and the pale green leaf buds will soon appear on trees and shrubs to brighten this dull post-winter landscape. Ah, 'tis Spring!! I don't think it's ever been as warmly anticipated or welcome as it is this year, do you? 

In honor of the season, I've stitched one big blue bunny! Isn't she the cutest? I just love her giant body balancing on those petite black-heeled feet with her lacy pantaloons peaking out from beneath her dress.  This design ("Ah... Tis Spring" by Notforgotten Farm) is stitched on 40 ct. flax Newcastle linen, but I changed almost every one of the suggested colors.

"Ah...Tis Spring" finish

This is one of those designs where the photo on the front of the chart didn't resemble the suggested colors at all. In the photo below is the actual chart and the suggested color of the dress. To my eye, they look nothing alike. I preferred the pale blue of the photo on the front of the chart so I had to do some experimenting to find a close substitute. I wanted to use mostly overdyed threads in this piece, so I finally settled on GAST "Banker's Grey." It's a thread that contains both slate blue and grey in the skein so I leaned toward using only the blueish part and I think it turned out very well. There were times when I thought I would never finish that big dress, but you all know what a lover of all things blue I am, so that made it a bit easier.

For the bunny's fur, I used Crescent Colours "Stepping Stones" and am very pleased with how it looks. I wanted it to resemble the soft brown of our local bunnies. The inner ears and whiskers were stitched in Crescent Colours "Rosy Glow." For the flowers, I used both the darker and lighter parts of CC "Clay Pot" (the darker on the outside, the lighter on the inner portion).

Obviously, I changed the color of her pocket to DMC ecru to match the cuff, collar, and buttons. I wanted her to look a bit less primitive and even though I stitched the pocket in several different colors, the ecru is what finally won me over. I also added the design to the pocket to mimic the design on her pantaloons and that in the basket that she's carrying. Rather than having three colors for the grass, I used GAST "Dried Thyme" with carrots in GAST "Burnt Orange" and stems of DMC 3051.

The basket is stitched with GAST "Picnic Basket" with accents in CC "Stepping Stones." Don't you love the striped socks? They are stitched with the lighter part of CC "Clay Pot" and DMC 612. And what is a proper bunny without black heels?

Thank you, Lori, for such a delightful design! I will probably frame this one at some point... I am really bad at getting my few larger pieces framed, but she is too cute to leave stowed away in a drawer for too long. Below is a collage of my finish that you can click on if you want to see it in more detail.
"Ah...Tis Spring!"

My other finish is a pinkeep from With Thy Needle and Thread's "Valentine Sampler" leaflet. I just love this chart so much--it contains so many lovely designs! For this finish, I used 40 ct. raw natural Newcastle linen with the suggested threads. Since this one was being sent off as a RAK to my sweet friend in Canada, Anne, I wanted to personalize it a bit so I did make some changes.

As you can see, I added her initial in the upper left corner instead of the ABCs that were charted. I also added the button and changed the kitty in the lower right to resemble her darling brown and white cat, Titus. I neglected to take a photo of the back, but it is a pale green leafy material--very soft and pretty. The little wooden spools are wound with the same green thread that is in the design--aren't they adorable? I'm very pleased with how this one turned out and Anne seems to love it, too--you can see more photos on her beautiful blog if you want to take a peak...

"Valentine Sampler" pinkeep finish

I can't help think of Spring without being reminded of my oldest son's birth. He was born on March 21st, 32 years ago (now that makes me feel very old!) on a sunny warm day in the mid-60s. A perfect spring day in every way and I hope his birthday on Friday will be the same for him. So ♫♪♫ Happy Birthday ♫♪♫ to my oldest--I wish you every happiness in the year ahead...

I've done more stitching, but since it is for gifts, I can't show you quite yet. I'm leaving later today to go to New York to visit with my parents for a few days so I may be a bit out of touch, but I'll be sure to catch up with all of you when I return next week.  I wish for each of you sunshine and warmer days and the hope that our long, cold winter may soon be nothing but a distant memory. Bye for now...


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Snow, snow, go away...

Good morning all! I hope this post finds you doing well with signs of spring popping up in your part of the world. I wish I could say they were here, but our ground remains snow covered and the temperatures very chilly. I've been feeling particularly unmotivated lately when it comes to both my stitching and blogging and I'm honestly blaming it on the weather we've experienced this winter. It just beats you down, doesn't it? People are starting to lose patience and are even getting a bit mean about being stuck in this endless snow, freeze, ice cycle. Just the other day at the library a friend stopped by while I was working at the reference desk. Our first discussion was, naturally, about the weather and how we were both so tired of it. Now, this was a private conversation--or so we thought. But, from behind us came a man's voice saying, "Oh, quit whining!" We quickly turned to check and see if he was just joking around with us, but no--he was truly being a mean, eavesdropping curmudgeon! If whining about the wicked weather helps us get through winter, so be it, I say... Thirteen days until spring and it can't come soon enough this year!

My husband was skiing in Colorado last week and I thought that would translate into all sorts of free time for stitching, but that wasn't the case... I ended up working more days than normal and when I was off I just couldn't focus on my needle and thread. But, I do  have my first two Christmas ornaments for 2014 stitched and finished which I'd like to share with you today. (I also sent out another RAK to some unsuspecting friend, but won't show that until it arrives at its destination).  First up, is a very cute freebie which you can find on this French blog. This Noel Snowman was stitched "over one" on 32 ct. dark gray mystery linen using the following DMC colors:  white, black, 304, 801, 936, and 3826. The colors weren't charted so I just picked what I thought worked well together.

Noel Snowman freebie

To finish my January ornament off, I used a combination of two cheery red and white fabrics, a bit of mini black ric-rak and a black satin ribbon hanger. The little metal snowflake charm is one I've used many times before--I love these things because they don't look cheap... 123 Stitch sells a pack of four for $3.50. Time for me to order some more! The backing fabric is the red and white fabric in the lower right edge. Changes I made to the chart: I stitched "Noel" in black rather than white and I changed the color of the ribbon the striped ornaments are hanging from and omitted the bows that were charted due to the small size of the finished piece. How do you like him? He's a real cutie, isn't he?

Noel Snowman freebie finished ornament

My ornament for February brought back such special memories of our three boys playing outside in the snow when they were growing up. We have the perfect back yard with a little hill down one side for sled-riding. This is called "Snow Day" and can be found in Prairie Schooler's Book No. 177 titled "January." Again, I stitched it "over one" on 28 ct. blue Monaco (a hand-dyed piece from Sassy's Fabrics called "Winter Blues"--thanks, Robin!) with the suggested DMC threads. The color of the fabric is much more blue than is shown in the photo. 

Prairie Schooler's "Snow Day" 

Boy, did this piece take a long time to stitch, but I'm so glad I kept at it and finished.  With all that is going on in this design, I kept the finish very simple--just added a blue cording. The blue checked fabric laying to the right is what it is backed with. The blue color of the pillow in the finish is much more true-to-life in this photo.

Prairie Schooler's "Snow Days" finished ornament

I like to think of the above winter scene as depicting our family of five enjoying a fun afternoon romping in the snow (well, if you added one black cat in place of the two dogs!). But when I told my middle son that this was us and I was the little one on the sled was me, he immediately said, "What do you mean, mom? You never came out with us in the snow." Yep--he's right!! I hate the cold and was more likely watching their antics from my cozy kitchen window as I made hot chocolate and baked cookies for the guys when they came inside all shivering and rosy-cheeked. I was always the family photographer, though, so I at least ventured outside enough to capture these scenes... I've been recently been sorting through old photos and came across this one from 1990 of my little guys aged 8, 5, and 2. See what I mean about the rosy-cheeks?

Snow Day in Pittsburgh! December 1990

And here is the trio at various ages enjoying our winter weather long, long ago: my youngest son (at age 12 in his treasured Mario Lemieux hockey jersey) shooting a few pucks on our backyard pond in 2000, my oldest son in 1987 (at age five) impishly aiming a snowball at me, and my middle son helping clear the ice on our pond (at age eight) in 1993. Really nice to look at these and enjoy the memories they bring back...

 Winter memories

GIFTS AND A GIVEAWAY WIN...  Wow, the past few weeks have been filled with mail coming in from around the world. I think my mailman is beginning to wonder about all of these international deliveries! I'll start with two special deliveries from the U.S. First of all, I won a truly fabulous giveaway from Laurie (My Little Corner of Iowa blog). She was giving away a large box of her fabric scraps left over from quilting and finishing projects and I was the lucky winner. Oh, my--I was absolutely thrilled with what she sent and I know many of them will be making appearances in my pillow finishing projects. In fact, I have the perfect one picked out for my March ornament (which is stitched, but not finished). I layed them all out on the kitchen table and have had the best time "playing" with them! Thank you so much, Laurie--I am really excited to add these to my fabric collection.

Fabrics from Laurie

From my friend, Shirlee (The Easily Influenced Stitcher blog), came another package of treats. I had admired this blue Jobelan fabric that Shirlee had stitched one of her ornaments on last year and she kindly offered to send me a piece. When I opened the package, I discovered she not only sent the fabric, but also a pretty Cedar Hill flower chart and her favorite needle threader--"just because." Shirlee, you are such a generous soul... thank you so much for your wonderful gifts!

Fabric, chart, and needle
threader from Shirlee

From Canada, Dani (Black Belt Stitching blog) sent this cute Lizzie Kate Christmas chart. I had admired her finish on her blog and she offered to send me the chart--how kind!! I will definitely keep the kindness going, Dani--after I've stitched it, it will be offered to another stitcher. She also included a card made from one of her photographs of an old shed--she is an excellent photographer. If you haven't visited her blog yet, you're in for a treat when you do. Not only beautiful stitching, but beautiful photography as well! Thank you again, Dani... I look forward to stitching this later this year.

LK chart from Dani

And from across the Atlantic came two more surprise gifts... From my friend, Gabi (no blog) in Germany, came two beautifully stitched hanging ornaments. Isn't the spring scene with the nesting birds and their parents adorable? This is a freebie available here  (if you want a copy of the chart, you must contact the designer--her email address is in her blog's sidebar under "Contactez l'auteur"). Gabi also sent the prettiest little Valentine ornament which will make a great addition to my bowl of Valentine pillows.  Thank you so much, Gabi--I've really enjoyed our long-distance friendship and I'm honored to have some of your beautiful stitching in my home!

Gifts from Gabi in Germany

And from Nia (Caixinha de Pirlimpimpim blog) in Portugal came a sweet little crocheted Christmas tree. She said it was a thank you for a small gift I sent her at Christmas time, but I think it might also be an early Christmas present. Nia is expecting her first baby any day now, so I think she may just be too busy to make Christmas presents for too many this year! I love it, Nia, and will think of you each time I display it on my Christmas tree... Thank you so much for thinking of me--your work is beautiful!

 Christmas ornament from Nia

And, I've saved the best present for last--chocolates from my dear husband. As I mentioned earlier, he went skiing for five days last week in Colorado (where, ironically, it was so warm that the skiing wasn't very good!) and he brought me this yummy box of chocolates from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. I've been rationing them--just one a day (really!!) and they are such a special treat. Of course, I still have a bit more chocolate each day from my not-so-secret chocolate stash drawer. How about you--how many of you admit to having your own personal "stash of sweets" hidden away from your family? Chocolate definitely helps beat the "winter blues." Plus, I'm working off the calories by all the shivering I've done this year, I'm sure :)

The perfect cure for the "winter blues?"

I've so enjoyed seeing the signs of spring that many of you have been showing in your blog (although I'm very envious!)... Thought I'd leave you with this photo of the only bright spot of color in a field of white in my backyard...the red berries on my holly bush. I doubt if too many of you are envious of this frigid looking scene, are you?
Ice on the holly bush in March--
will Spring ever come?

I am hoping that the next time I post, birds will have begun returning to western Pennsylvania, crocuses will be poking their little green heads through the soil, and the sun will slowly be heating up the air. I know this may be wishful thinking, but I can still hope! I'm sure the extra hour of daylight that starts with Daylight Saving Time this weekend will bring smiles to many of us, though. Thanks so very much for visiting me today and taking the time to say "hi." And I want to wish a warm "welcome" to my new followers--so glad you're here! Think spring, everybody!! Bye for now...

Friday, February 14, 2014

A cute cupid and words of love...

Happy Valentine's Day! And how are all of my stitching friends this fine morning? I know we're all sick of the snow and ice in the U.S. and the flooding in the U.K. It sure has been a winter to forget. We managed to escape the latest storm that hit the southern and eastern states this week--only got about an inch of fresh snow. Our ground has been continually covered with the white stuff since late December so I am more than ready for S-P-R-I-N-G! Oh well, only 33 days left...

I have a couple of cuties to share with you today--just in time for Valentine's Day. First up is a very sweet freebie from Brooke's Books which you can find right here. This little guy is called "Stupid Cupid," but I don't think he looks dumb at all--maybe a bit mischievous as he aims his heart-tipped arrow of love at some unsuspecting soul. Just look at those chubby legs--don't you just want to pinch them?  He is so tiny! I stitched him "over one" on 28 ct. black Monaco using the suggested colors although I changed the color of the strings on the bow to a lighter brown so they would show up better on the black.

Brooke's Books: "Stupid Cupid" freebie

I originally planned on a round finish, but I had a bit of this lacy ruched ribbon left from a previous project and thought it would be the perfect accent to add to a tiny pillow. I've placed the finish next to my scissors so you could see how truly small it is. I love it-- you know me and my love of anything miniature. On top of the bow, I glued three red beads in a  heart shape--not sure if you can see it well in the photo, but I think it's a cute accent. Mr. Cupid is backed with the red and white heart fabric shown in the background.

"Stupid Cupid" finish

And, I've stitched another of the monthly Word Plays: February. This one was much more enjoyable to stitch than the other two I did last year for some reason. I just love the charming scene of the man presenting his sweetheart with a Valentine flower and I think the tiny birds are so cute. Again, I stitched this "over one" on 28 ct. gray Monaco because I wanted it to be small enough to fit into my bowl of February finishes. I used the suggested colors, but did change the two little birds to the blue color. The suggested color just wasn't showing up well against the gray fabric.

February Word Play

I finished the February Word Play in the same way as January and April with a mini ric-rak border. This finish takes so long for me for some reason--I think it is exhausting trying to get the ric-rak lined up so perfectly. I debated between white and red for the border, but ended up with the red since I'd chosen white for January. My camera is horrible at portraying the actual red in pictures for some reason--it is not nearly as bright as is shown. What do you think?

Finished February Word Play pillow

So, I have an overflowing bowl of February smalls which I've stitched over the past three years. Would you like to see? (You can click on the photo for a larger view). I'd say I need another bowl if I do any more next February! I do love seeing the reds and pinks this time of year--such a nice change from all the white outside... Do you have a favorite? I think mine is still the little bluebird carrying the love letter on the far left--such a sweet design!

February bowl of smalls

A while ago, my mom gave me some of my grandmother's vintage handkerchiefs as she thought I might enjoy using them in my blog photos. Among them were these three sweet Valentine's hankies. I think it was common back in the 1930s-1950s  for women to have handkerchiefs for each of the different holidays. The first is bordered in a raised red heart design, the middle has a beautifully embroidered large heart surrounded by tiny hearts (that must have been grandma's favorite because it shows the most signs of use), and the third has one large heart with a sparkly "gem" in the center and a cupid and his bow and arrow sitting above. Such wonderful reminders of a by-gone era...

Vintage Valentine's Day handkerchiefs

You'll notice some cards and letters sitting on the hankies--these were also from Grandma. I have kept a  box through the years of cards and letters that have special meaning to me and I brought it out yesterday to read through them for the first time in years. What a treasure trove... Most are from the 1980s and early 1990s--before the days of email and twitter and blogs. Letter writing today is a lost art, I'm afraid. When was the last time you received an actual letter from someone? Oh, emails are nice, but they tend to get lost in the hundreds and hundreds of other emails, messages, and files on your computer. You don't take an email out of a drawer or box, carefully unfold it, and read it time and time again like you do a letter. There is something substantial about a letter--the words almost seem to be more meaningful because they are handwritten.

I'll have to admit I cried a few tears as I explored my box of letters--most of the writers are now dead... my grandmothers, my husband's grandmothers, a favorite aunt of ours. But, there are also cute notes from my sons from camp (one telling us that he must have killed 50 daddy-long-legs spiders that day!), sentimental anniversary cards from my husband, and long letters from old college friends during the years when we were all young mothers trying to figure out just how to raise our kids. There are even a few short notes from my dad who can no longer sign his own name due to his struggle with dementia--these especially touched my heart. I add to my box from time to time, but it is becoming rarer and rarer. Times have changed and these handwritten greetings are fewer and farther between...

So, does anyone have any special plans for Valentine's Day? We're planning on just eating in and then watching Captain Phillips (not exactly a romantic movie, but one we both want to see!). I did make these heart-shaped banana-chocolate chip muffins last night which were quite yummy. I had some very ripe bananas and decided to do something a bit different than make my usual banana bread so I found this recipe and they were very easy to put together. They're small enough that they aren't terribly high in calories, but they offer a quick burst of sweetness when you need a little pick-me-up.  

Heart-shaped mini Banana-Chocolate Chip Muffins

Well, that winds up my post for today. I want to thank all of you for your wonderful comments and I'd like to say a special "welcome" to my new followers. I hope your day is filled with chocolates, flowers, smiles, and laughter! Happy Valentine's Day my sweet friends! Bye for now... 


Monday, February 3, 2014

Gifts and goodies!

Good February evening to you, my sweet friends! Who else is cheering the end of January? What a long, cold, miserable month--at least for those of us in the midwest and east (and many of you in the south, too). We received 20 inches more snow than in an "average" January...and I know I'll never forget all those sub-zero days. I'm sure hoping that February will be a bit nicer to us. But, a bright spot within that cold first month of 2014 was my birthday! I can't thank you enough for all of your birthday wishes on my last post. I'm so glad that many of you shared my recollections of childhood memories--it really was a wonderful time to grow up in so many ways, wasn't it? I do worry about the fast pace of life that children face growing up in today's world. I guess that sounds "old-fashioned," but it is so hard to see what kids have to deal with today in what should be a fun, simple time in their lives.

I've done a bit of stitching, but only have two things to share with you today--both were sent off as gifts. I stitched my first LHN "Little Sheep Virtues" and thoroughly enjoyed it. This one, "Peace," was sent to my friend, Cindy, for her birthday last month. I stitched it on 40 ct. pearl gray Newcastle using most of the suggested colors, but I changed the greens to DMC 3051 and 3052. I also added a few more leaves to the tree branches on the right.  A simple ecru handmade cording finished it off into a sweet, little pillow for Cindy to set on a bookshelf or place in a basket.

 Birthday gift stitched for Cindy

Another Little Sheep Virtues design, "Love,"  caught my eye and I thought it would be perfect for Valentine's Day stitching. This was sent as a Random Act of Kindness (RAK) to my friend, Lisa over at The Inspired Stitcher. I hope to do quite a few RAK's this year--just want to bring a smile to the faces of some of you wonderful stitching friends. Nothing is expected in return--I just enjoy surprising people now and then...  For "Love," I again used the 40 ct. pearl gray Newcastle (although it seems to appear blue in this photo for some reason) and the same threads that I chose for the "Peace" pillow. I added two more small red hearts above the heart near over the "V" rather than add the suggested button. Both Cindy's gift and Lisa's RAK were backed with the pale green and ivory fabric you see in this photo. I think I'll be stitching this a second time to add to my bowl of Valentine's pillows...

 RAK stitched for Lisa

I've also stitched both my Christmas ornaments for January and February, but want to wait until I'm done with the finishing to share them with you.  Another RAK is in the works and will be winging its way to another stitching friend very soon, too! 

BIRTHDAY ROUND-UP... Several of you asked what my sons cooked for my birthday dinner. I'll tell  you... it was such a treat to just sit and be waited on that evening! I'm not used to others cooking for me and I honestly didn't quite know how to just sit and relax as they bustled around the kitchen cooking and doing the dishes... The main dish they prepared was called Pasta all'Amatrice and was prepared with a new-to-me pasta called bucatini. It was like a thick hollow spaghetti--have any of you had it before? Very, very tasty and quick to prepare. They also served roasted vegetables (not a green one in sight, thank goodness!!), garlic bread, and ended the feast with a selection of little cheesecakes for dessert. It was an almost-perfect evening--if only my youngest son could have been there with us, too. But, he surprised me by sending this simply gorgeous flower arrangement. Hydrangeas, lilies, iris, daisies, and white roses--such a perfect bouquet for me!

Birthday flowers from youngest son

Two wonderful gift certificates from 123 Stitch arrived from my oldest and middle sons and my middle son and his girlfriend also gave me this pretty blue and white bowl filled with the most fragrant hyacinth. It's been such a pleasure to enjoy a bit of spring as the snow flies outside!

A breath of spring!

And, guess what? More birthday gifts arrived from stitching friends. It took a bit longer to get them from overseas, but they were both well worth the wait. My sweet friend, Valerie, sent these all the way from France. Just look at this adorable blue and white needlebook that she stitched for me! I so love the little girl on the swing and the beautiful "C" monogram--just perfect! (This is from a French design called Toile de Jouy Alphabet Chart). She included a pretty handmade card and some floss as well. Thank you so much, my lovely friend--your thoughtful gifts are so special!

 Birthday gifts from Valerie

My dear friend, Lois in Northern Ireland, sent another fabulous package of goodies. She made a lovely floss tag (her first ever--and it looks perfect!) in the prettiest shades of blue and green. As you can see, it is monogrammed with my initials and the year and finished with a lovely blue/gray cording. The gift box also included a sweet chart called "Maddie Button" (I know I'll be stitching this one soon!), a lovely decorative bow, some silk floss, and a package of tea. Lois, your gifts put a huge smile on my face--thank you so very much!

Birthday gifts from Lois

And I was also treated to another 123 Stitch gift certificate from my sweet friend, Donna (no blog) who lives in West Virginia. I know just what I'll be ordering with it, Donna! Thanks so very much for making my birthday so special!

It's a tradition at the library where I work that whoever is celebrating his or her birthday brings a treat for our monthly meeting, so, with my January birthday, I'm first each year. This year, I treated my co-workers to this plate of cookies... Oh, my--the aromas of butter and sugar were amazing as they baked.  Along with the peanut-butter kiss cookies you see on the left, I also made White Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut Cookies, Raspberry Brownies, and Pecan Pie Bars. Needless to say we were all on a "sugar high" after that meeting...

Birthday goodies made for work

I also wanted to share with you this bowl of cheery snowmen that I have on the sideboard in my kitchen. Honestly, just seeing their smiling faces has helped make this long winter a bit more bearable. Just look at those cute little grins--I dare you not to smile! My husband bought this long (22 inches!), narrow wooden bowl for me for Christmas and it is a perfect depth for displaying a row of my little pillows. These are actually Christmas ornaments that I placed in the bowl after we took our tree down last month. Cute, eh?

 My bowl of jolly snowmen

Well, that's about it for my first February post. I plan on doing some Valentine stitching over the next couple of weeks--how about you? I hope you each have a great week ahead with lots of stitching time! There is nothing more therapeutic than curling up with our fabric, thread, and needle on these cold winter days, don't you agree?  Thanks again for your delightful comments and emails... you always manage to make me smile!  Bye for now...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

My final year...

...in my fifties begins today!  Although, based on the letter I got in the mail yesterday (mixed in with birthday cards from friends and family), you may think it begins my final year ever! Yes, I received a letter from a local funeral home wanting to introduce me to their new "funeral preplanning program." Now, if that didn't make me feel old, I don't know what will... But, it's true, my friends--today is my 59th birthday. It's made me quite nostalgic, especially when I found this old photo of me dancing with my dear father on my very first birthday, Raggedy Ann doll in his hand.

My first birthday: January 16, 1955

The Raggedy Ann doll made me recall other old memories of growing up in the fifties and sixties and I found myself lost (for hours!) on Pinterest boards amidst some wonderful old images that I hadn't seen in years. I thought I'd share some of my favorites with you. This post probably won't mean much to any of you who aren't in your forties, fifties, or sixties, but for all my younger readers, you'll glimpse a little part of how many of us "older" stitchers grew up...


Learning to read with Dick and Jane. Boring, but effective!

Pledging allegiance to the United States of America...
remember when it was your turn to hold the flag?

Putting our heads down on desks for rest periods after lunch
 or to quiet a noisy classroom. I remember this so well when
the news of JFK's assassination reached us on 11/22/63.

 Vintage Barbie dolls...
my sisters sold mine at a garage sale!

Does anyone remember playing this Barbie board 
game? My biggest fear was that I would end up with
"Poindexter!" I preferred the more brainy guy, "Tom."

The Easy-Bake Oven--one of my best
Christmas gifts ever! I think my love of
baking may have started with this...

45 rpm records--I wore many of these
 right out I listened to them so much! 

Old wooden Bingo tokens--loved that game!
 We had one just like this.

Vintage roller skates with a key to resize them.
Remember wearing your key around your neck
on an old shoelace or piece of string so you
wouldn't lose it?

Metal loom to make potholders--perhaps
my first foray into being creative!

Yikes! I still remember screaming when I ended
 up with the "Old Maid" at the end of the game.

OK--who can ever forget that smell?

Didn't we all want hair like "The Breck Girl?"
This is Cybill Shepherd in 1969!

Another scent that brings back 
very, very fond memories!

Smocked dresses on little girls--my grandmother
stitched the most beautiful ones!

Doctor Scholl's Original Exercise Sandals--I lived 
in these things in my teen years.

We had this exact cookie jar! I was so excited when I
saw it appear in an episode of "Mad Men."

How many of you used to buy, wear, and then eat 
these colorful candy necklaces?

Remember putting these Christmas
stencils on your windows each December?

"The Wonderful World of Disney" had kids across
the country glued to their TV sets each Sunday night. And
when color television appeared, it really became magical!

And who didn't love Annette the most on 
"The Mickey Mouse Club?"

Ahhh... "My Three Sons"--one of my favorite
TV shows. Little did I know that 20 years later 
I could have starred in my own version of it! 

I still remember how excited we all were the day
 my dad brought home this "Meet the Beatles!" album.
The entire family was dancing around the living room!

But, along came "The Monkees" and Davy Jones
stole my heart. How about you?

And another sixties heartthrob of mine--Leonard Whiting
in the 1968 version of "Romeo and Juliet." Who didn't
 want to be that lucky Olivia Hussey?! At least I had her
same "long straight hair parted-in-the-middle!"

Yes, life in 1955, the year I was born, was very different!

I hope you've enjoyed my walk through my childhood and teen years. What other memories pop out in your mind from that era? I think it was a great time to grow up--a time of rapid change, not all good, not all bad. But, those years made me what I am today. So, I enter my last year in my fifties with hope and thankfulness. I'm not sure how I'll feel when I turn 60 next year, but as my husband always says when I complain about getting older, "It's better than the alternative!"

I was so lucky to receive some lovely birthday gifts from my stitching friends which I'd like to share with you. My first gift arrived from dear June all the way from England. She sent me a pretty Jardin Prive chart with the threads, a peony and jasmine fragrant scent, and some cheery blue and white checked ribbon. Thank you so much, my friend--I look forward to using all of your wonderful gifts.

Birthday gifts from June

I also received a wonderful package of fabrics and trims from my sweet friend, Robin, in Virginia. She was so kind to include two hand-dyed packages of Monaco (because she knows how much I enjoy stitching "over one" on that particular fabric) and some lovely champagne colored chenille as well as a supply of navy ric-rak. I love receiving finishing supplies, Robin--thank you so much! I know I'll enjoy using these on some future finishes.

Birthday gifts from Robin

From my lovely friend, Valerie, out in San Francisco, I received a generous gift certificate to my favorite on-line stitching shop, 123 Stitch. I know I'm going to have a grand time perusing the site to choose some new charts or finishing materials. Thank you so very much, Valerie! Who doesn't love getting a gift certificate?!

123 Stitch gift certificate from Valerie

From, my sweet friend, Cindy, in Tennessee, I received the most beautiful snowman ornament for my snowman tree that I have in my kitchen (I keep it up until the end of January). She mounted him in a pocket watch case, a technique that the talented Vonna shared with us in this post. I just love him, Cindy... the blue fabric you used is perfect for a winter scene. I know I'll be trying this type of finish myself in the future (along with most of you, I'll bet!).

Birthday gift snowman ornament from Cindy

In addition to the snowman, Cindy sent me a cute felted piece of birthday cake and not one, not, two, not three, but TEN fabric pieces for me to use in my finishing! I was so thrilled as we have very few places around here to get unusual fabrics... Aren't these wonderful? Thank you, dear Cindy--I know you'll be seeing these pop up on some of my future ornaments and pillows.

Birthday gifts from Cindy

And finally, from my dear friend, Myra, came a box load of goodies! Just look at this little handmade coin purse she made! I'm in awe--I have no idea how she comes up with these creative ideas, but her work just keeps getting better and better. On the end there are two small charms--a "C" for Carol and a small heart engraved with the words "Made With Love."  As you can see she used three different fabrics in shades of blue: two on the outer part and one inside--just perfect for me!  

 Handmade purse from Myra for my birthday

Myra showed some of these mugs that she had printed at Staples from some of her samplers on her blog last month and little did I know that she would send one of them to me as a gift. My photos aren't the best due to the glare (we actually had a bit of sunshine yesterday--gasp!!) when I took them, but I think you get the idea of how wonderful the mug is.

Birthday mug from Myra

But, that's not all! Myra also sent me a bar of chocolate, some cozy stitching socks, two ribbon spools in blue, a bar of juicy peach shea butter soap, a darling vintage themed needle card, and some greenery that will be perfect for finishing Christmas ornaments. Whew!! Thank you, you generous soul--I love each and every gift, Myra!

Birthday gifts from Myra

And, while not a birthday gift, I did receive one more special delivery from England. Christine sent me this tiny bottle filled with bits of sea glass... How did that come about? Well, I admired her big collection of it on her blog and commented that I had never seen it in real life before. The next thing you know, Christine offered to send me some. I was so excited to get some real Cornish sea glass and will add it to my seaside display in my bathroom. She explained that the dark blue is quite hard to find and is often a piece of an old poison bottle. It's fascinating to imagine how old these pieces of glass are and how they found their way into the sea. Thank you so, so much, Christine for sharing a piece of your world with me--I love it!

Cornish sea glass from Christine

Wow! I was thoroughly spoiled and a couple of you have told me there are more gifts on the way. How blessed I feel to have so many thoughtful blogging friends from around the world--you are so very special and I hope you know how you've touched my life...  Thank you all and thank you to those of you who sent cards and emails my way--I appreciate each and every "Happy Birthday" message.

I had planned on showing you a couple of my recent finishes, but, honestly, I'm worn out--I've been working on this post for a few hours and I will just have to save them for next time. I'm so looking forward to Sunday as my two oldest sons have invited us to their apartment for my birthday dinner--only the second time we've been there for dinner in the five years they've lived there (hint, hint--boys!!). The middle son's girlfriend is helping with the cooking so my worries about food poisoning are gone (just kidding, guys!). 

I'm behind on blog visiting and commenting, but will be around to say "hello" to you all soon. I also want to wish a warm welcome to my new followers--so happy you've decided to visit. Thank you again for making my birthday such a special one and happy stitching, everyone! Bye for now...