Friday, August 21, 2015

Late summer finishes

Ten more days left until September... Where did our summer go? I heard the summer of 2015 described as "The Tale of Two Summers" yesterday on a local news program--a perfect description of the season here in western Pennsylvania. Until mid-July, we had nothing but rain, rain, rain--over 10 inches! But since that time we've had nothing but sun and humidity with just a bit over 2 inches of rain. Things are drying out quickly here and it's looking like late fall--the yards are all turning brown as many of the leaves are crinkling up and falling way before their time. The big tulip tree outside of our kitchen window has dropped so many leaves, we actually need to go find our rakes and get busy!

In many ways, I look at this as "our lost summer," due to my husband's broken neck and all the things that we never got to: the paint can that sits, unopened, in a bedroom we intended to renovate, the mulchless garden beds, the many weeds popping up in places I've never seen. But, thankfully, things will return to normal next summer as my husband's neck is healing beautifully. He still has to wear the neck brace when he drives and has the problem with numbness in his fingers, but he can deal with those issues... Thank you, again, for all your prayers and well-wishes--we will feel forever blessed that he had the outcome he did!

With the busyness of our family weddings and all the cookies I made, I have had little time to stitch, but I do have a few late summer finishes to share with you today. Of all the seasons, I have the fewest things stitched for summer, so, in an attempt to help remedy that, I stitched this peaceful harbor scene from Prairie Schooler's "Weather Wise" (Book No. 145). It is stitched on 40 ct. white Newcastle with the suggested DMC threads.

I found a perfect fabric which mimics the flying birds (or, I suppose, the design could be interpreted as waves) in a Moda charm pack that I had purchased called "Lakeside Gatherings." I just love purchasing charm packs to use in my finishing and this gray fabric didn't disappoint. The only bad thing about charm pack cuts is that they usually aren't big enough to cover the back of the pillow or ornament--I use them more for little accent pieces. Luckily, I came across this lighter gray fabric that has what look like bubbles on it and I am so pleased with how it turned out. I was inspired by my sister's wedding invitation, which had a nautical theme, to make a reef knot (commonly known as a square knot) for the front of the pillow and I was really excited to see that it "tied up" this finish quite nicely!

Drawn Thread is another of my favorite cross stitch designers due to, not only her beautiful designs, but also the use of specialty stitches which add so much to a finish. This one is "Free and Brave" and is stitched on 36 ct. summer khaki linen. I used the suggested overdyed threads, but substituted the suggested green with Needle Necessities 142. Isn't it pretty? I truly love everything about this one from the patriotic colors to the sweet birds to the winding vine.

I really struggled with the specialty-stitched red flowers! Yikes--I must have ripped them out three or four times before I got them to look acceptable. But they, along with the Rhodes heart and the satin-stitched leaves help make this design even more special. I plan on framing this one and am thinking a rustic looking black frame would be nice. Here is a closer look of the specialty stitches for you:

The Prairie Schooler Santa Sunday SAL that I had been doing with Melissa in Canada and Hilda in Austria has fallen by the wayside this summer. We just don't seem to have any free time on Sundays to stitch! I did finish up a fourth Santa, though, way back in May which I had forgotten to show you. This one is from Prairie Schooler's "Old World Santas" (Book No. 80) and is stitched on 40 ct. raw natural Newcastle.  

And here is a shot of the four I have stitched this year for February, March, April, and May. Melissa, Hilda, and I hope to get back on track and resume our Sunday Santa SAL this fall. I don't know when I'll have time to finish these guys into ornaments, but I'm determined to have them hanging on my Christmas tree in December! Which is your favorite?

I had admired a beautiful finish on Marie's blog and she kindly offered to send me the chart. I just love all the little motifs and I can't wait to stitch it. Just look at how beautifully Marie's finish turned out! Wow!! Thank you so much, my friend--I will certainly pass along the chart to another stitcher when I am done and keep the kindness going...

And all the way from France came a surprise package from my friend, Nathalie (no blog). She stitched me this darling patriotic ornament and included a lovely French cross stitch magazine along with some sweet treats. You spoiled me, Nathalie! Thank you so much for your beautiful package and your friendship...

I've been busy preparing my dinner for our upcoming trip to the beach in Corolla, NC. Each family takes one night to cook and I always make lasagna ahead of time. This time I made 2 1/2 large pans of it along with 3 dozen meatballs, and an assortment of cookies (yes, more cookies!!) to take down. I freeze everything and then by the time we arrive at the beach it is mostly thawed and ready to heat up for an easy dinner... just have to make a salad, garlic bread, and dessert. Everyone prepares such yummy meals--we eat very well on this trip, let me tell you! The hard part is juggling the timing and serving 24 people when I am only used to our small family. Wish me luck...

Changes... I have been in the same job as a librarian at the same library, for my entire career. I'm coming up on almost 28 years there (having taken 10 years off when my sons were young). But these days, it's rare to find a young person staying in the same job for his or her entire career. My youngest son recently made the decision to leave his job at the Department of Justice to go study abroad in Argentina. He leaves in September and will return to the U.S. in December. It was a hard decision as he truly loved (most parts!) of his job, but he, as part of his studies for his Master's Degree in International Affairs, wanted to better his Spanish speaking ability and decided that to be immersed in a Spanish-speaking culture and take classes at the The Universidad Torcuato Di Tella would be his best bet. I am, as a mother, both nervous and excited for him... Argentina is so, so far away. We are thinking of trying to visit him in late fall. Have any of you ever been there? I hope this new chapter of his life is fulfilling in every way...

Well, that's about it for today... I thank you for your kind comments and lovely emails as always and I hope what remains of the summer is enjoyable in every way! Thanks for visiting. Bye for now...

Thursday, July 30, 2015

And a good month was had by all!

It's hard to believe that almost a month has passed since my last post! July is always our busiest month of the year with two family birthdays (my youngest son turned 27 and my husband celebrated his 60th--he finally caught up with me!) and our wedding anniversary (38 years on July 23rd). But, this July we had a big family wedding thrown in as well--my younger sister was married on July 25th up in New York. All were very happy occasions--but the happiest day of all? That came this Tuesday, when, after 10 weeks of wearing a hot, uncomfortable neck brace after he suffered his broken neck, the doctor told my husband he no longer needs to wear it except when he is in the car! We feel so incredibly blessed that that potentially crippling fall down our front stairs left him with only one lingering injury... The numb / tingly feeling in his fingers on his right hand has never improved since his accident on May 21st. Luckily, that does not affect his ability to use his hand--it is just a slight lack of feeling (for instance, he can't feel the little nubby bumps on the "F" and the "J" on the computer keyboard). So, we truly had some grand things to celebrate in July, don't you think?

In between all of these celebrations, I actually have found time to stitch a bit. Having fallen way behind on my monthly Christmas ornaments, I decided to concentrate on them and got all caught up (of course, since August begins soon, I will be behind again--oh well!). My choice for my May ornament was an obvious one--it had to be an angel, for I truly believe my husband had an angel on his shoulder as he fell down our stairs that night. This little LHN design "Joy to the World" had been in my stash forever so I decided she would get the honor of being my husband's angel.

For this ornament, I used 40 ct. gray Newcastle and good old DMC threads. Ivory colored Mill Hill Beads were used for the snow. The fabric shown behind the ornament is used as the backing and the green and cream gingham ribbon is ruched and used as the trim and hanger. A simple finish for a very special little angel!

Little House Needleworks: "Joy to the World"

My June ornament is another LHN design called "Deer Valley Inn." I was a bit unsure about this piece as there was so much brown in it (not a fan of stitching with brown threads!), but I do love the way it turned out.  I used a mixture of the suggested threads--both overdyed and DMC--and a few of my own choosing with 40 ct. raw natural Newcastle for this finish. The main change was the color of the door--I changed it from brown to red! I especially love the pretty tree in this one and the regal looking buck standing beside it.

The ornament was made up with a combination of two fabrics, some ivory ric rac, and an old-fashioned gingham ribbon. This is actually one of my favorite ornament finishes ever! The colors in the stitching and the finishing fabrics just came together so nicely--don't you love it when that happens?

Little House Needleworks:  "Deer Valley Inn"

And finally, my ornament for July is a tribute to my favorite designer: Prairie Schooler. I, like many of you, feel so sad that they are retiring, but luckily I have accumulated a wonderful stash of their old charts which will last me well into my 80s (do you think I'll be able to even thread a needle by then?!). I've written, many times, of the comfort these designs bring me when I stitch them--and, of course, anything with a small boy always captures my heart...

The chart for this small lad bringing home his Christmas tree, along with a sprig of holly, is from Prairie Schooler Book No. 143 "Button Up." I used most of the suggested colors, but changed the green to DMC 520. Two red fabrics and two buttons, along with some handmade gold cording finish this one off quite well.

Prairie Schooler's "Button Up" finish

Here is a photo of all three together... do you have a favorite? It's so hard to believe that Christmas is in just five short months, isn't it? At least my tree will look good!

Finished Christmas ornaments for May, June, and July
I also had a wonderful surprise earlier this month when I received this beautiful Chessie & Me chart from sweet Maggee. I had written in a previous posts about how much I loved Linda's designs and the specialty stitches that she uses so Maggee immediately thought of me when she was de-stashing and sent "The Breath of Autumn" my way. I just love it, Maggee--thank you so much for thinking of me. I can't wait to stitch it!

Random Act of Kindness sent from Maggee

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, my next younger sister got married last week. It was a lovely, casual wedding held at her home on the shores of Lake Ontario. We held our breath as the rain fell that morning, but it passed by the time the late afternoon ceremony was held and it couldn't have been nicer. Since my sister and her husband had been married previously, they didn't want any wedding presents, but suggested a gift to our favorite charity (I gave to the Lewy Body Dementia Association in memory of our dad). They also welcomed what they called "gifts from the heart." So, we all pitched in: my youngest sister acted as the official photographer, my mom purchased the flowers, my brother-in-law made the music playlist for her wedding reception, and I made the cookies--of course!

I've written before on my blog about the popularity of the cookie table at weddings here in western Pennsylvania (you can read that post here, if you're interested). I ended up making eleven kinds of cookies (35 dozen, if you're counting!) for the wedding and here they are all displayed on the dessert table. What kind do you think was gobbled up first? Well, it was the Reese's Cup Cookies shown second from the left in the front row. Most of them were devoured before dinner even started! I've used a recipe very similar to this one for years (I just use 1/2 tsp. of vanilla, though, and roll the dough balls in sugar before setting them in the muffin pans).

35 dozen bites of sugar and butter!

Since the wedding had a nautical theme, I made these cute blue and white cards with the cookie names on them. They added a nice touch and pulled the whole look together on the cookie table at the recption. My sister said they were a big hit although I didn't eat a single one--after weeks and weeks of baking (and tasting!), they just no longer appealed to me!

Since there were the five of us from my family (plus two girlfriends) attending the wedding, you can imagine what it would have cost us in hotel room fees! Luckily, my sister came to the rescue and gave us the use of her whole house (since she was staying at her lake house) for those days. It was so nice to be able to relax and spend time together while not having to go out for every meal. I wanted to find some way to thank her so I made her a gift card bouquet... Have you seen these on Pinterest? You simply cut out some flowers printed on cardstock, glue them onto skewers, and then glue another piece of cardstock on the back to hold the gift card. I chose to write little words of appreciation on the flower heads.

Then you simply place the skewers into a pretty purchased flowering plant and voilà... you have an easy, fun thank you gift. My sister was just thrilled with it and immediately called to tell me so. It really was the least we could do for her for opening her home to the seven of us...

Gift card bouquet for my dear sister and new brother-in-law

Whew! And so ends my busy month of July--in looking at August, things won't be slowing down much. We have yet another family wedding up in New York (with more cookies to be made, but not nearly that many!), extra work hours for me, and our annual family trip to the Outer Banks. It will be a different kind of trip for my husband this year as he is not allowed to boogie board or be in any waves that may hurt his neck. He is also not allowed to ride his bike which has been the cruelest form of torture for him throughout his recovery. Riding a bike for him is what stitching is to me--a passion and something that he can hardly bear to do without. He is hoping the doctor gives him the okay to return to biking in September; I am hoping it's not until next Spring. The thought of him falling and injuring himself again just scares me to death. But, you can't simply stop doing the things that bring you so much joy, can you?

Thanks so very much for your kind comments and emails--especially throughout my husband's fall and recovery. I can't tell you how much your supportive words, positive thoughts, and prayers meant--to both of us. It truly is a miracle, in our opinion, that he will be okay--not perfect, but perfectly "good enough!" Bye for now...

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Heartfelt thanks and patriotic finishes

Happy July, my stitching friends!  Can you believe 2015 is half over? Before I show you my stitching finishes, I just want to send each of you a huge "Thank You" for your many comforting emails and thoughtful comments on my last post. They meant so much to me--and to my husband. When he first broke his neck on May 21st, he didn't want me to post about it on my blog. But, I explained to him that I need support from my friends as we go through this recovery period, just as much as he needs support. And I couldn't ask for better friends than all of you who read my blog, could I? Even though I've never met 98% of you, I feel so very close to you--we've been through a lot together since I began my blog in early 2009. We've celebrated each other's success--not only in our stitching, but in our lives. And we've been saddened by losses of each other's family members and worrying health challenges. But, through all the ups and downs of life, your kind and thoughtful words have continued to mean so much to me. Thank you, my friends...

Since this is still mainly a cross stitching blog, I want to begin with two new finishes just in time for the 4th of July. Many of you know how much I love Chessie and Me designs because of the fun specialty stitches the designer includes in each chart. The grass is satin stitched, the border is done with Smyrna stitches, and the doors are done in Rhodes stitches. There is even some "over one" stitching in the ship and the date! This came in the form of a kit which was so very handy--I loved being able to just sit down and get started right away and not wait for the correct fibers or fabric to arrive if I had had to order them online.

This finish is called "1776 Harbor" and is stitched all in Gloriana silks--just wonderful and soft to work with! Don't you love the giant American flag waving across the harbor--so whimsical... I finished this piece quite simply as a little pillow with some star-strewn burgundy fabric, handmade gold cording, and an attached star button. It will be a perfect addition to my bowl of patriotic pillows, don't you think?

Chessie and Me "1776 Harbor" finish

Along with Prairie Schooler pieces, I consider Little House Needleworks designs to be my favorite form of "comfort stitching." Easy to read charts, no backstitching, not too many colors--just what I need as I go through the worries with my husband's health this summer... I bought this LHN "Old Glory" design last summer, but am just getting around to stitching it now. It is done on 40 ct. raw Newcastle with a variety of overdyed threads. I didn't have each one that was suggested, so I substituted a few and am very pleased with the result.

For this little pillow, I used a blue star-filled fabric along with some burgundy fabric, white ric rak, a red and white striped ribbon, and a stack of buttons. It is backed with the solid blue fabric shown behind it. This photo isn't the best due to our complete lack of sunshine lately, but it really looks quite cute!

LHN "Old Glory" finish

Since I try to stitch at least two new patriotic pieces each year, I now have quite a collection--in fact it has outgrown my original bowl. Here it is when I took the photo last year--see, already "bursting at the seams" so to speak!

So, I've had to spread out my little creations and luckily, my new kitchen corner cupboard is the perfect place to display some of them.  Here it is all ready for the 4th of July in all of its red, white, and blue glory...

Patriotic corner cupboard in kitchen

On the top shelf, I have my two little Lizzie High characters proudly waving their pinwheels. In their opposite hands they are holding tiny hotdogs--so cute! Next to the little boy, I've place a tiny crock of blueberries (thanks, Mom!).

The middle shelf contains several pieces of my stitching: Chessie and Me's "Love Liberty," a Prairie Schooler design from Book No. 13, "A Prairie Year," and an old freebie from Prairie Grove Peddler which you can still find right here.

And the on the bottom, you'll find this cute Williraye figurine holding an American eagle and nest in his right hand and waving the flag in his left hand. Next to him is another freebie from The Stitcherhood that I stitched last year. This freebie is still available right here. As always, I'd like to thank the designers for sharing their talents with us through their generous free designs! And way over on the right sitting in the little blue bowl is an old patriotic design from Homespun Elegance.

Here's one last look at the whole display. It's really brightened up the corner of my kitchen and I plan to leave the patriotic shelves up through late August when I'll switch things up for a more autumn look. 

Hooray for the red, white, and blue!

Gifts from a new friend... I've made a special new blogging friend named Shirley who just happens to reside way across the ocean in Cape Town, South Africa! Shirley just began a new blog called The Artfull Place and I hope you'll go say "hello" and welcome her to our blogging community. She is so multi-talented and she sent me this darling Christmas ornament and hand-painted tag. I told her the tag will be a part of my annual spring display on my corner cupboard--it is just so sweet. 

Gifts from Shirley, in South Africa

Here is a close-up of the little tag so you can see the marvelous detail. Shirley has just started her own Etsy shop and you can read all the details on her blog. Thank you again, my new friend--I will treasure your gifts!

Gift tag painted by Shirley

Medical update... Well, I had hoped to have better news for you regarding my husband's broken neck. He had an appointment yesterday and the hoped-for switch from the hard neck-brace to the soft collar didn't happen. The surgeon wants to keep him in the hard brace for at least another month to make sure the vertebrae that aren't quite aligned have not shifted. As I mentioned in my last post, there is no way to tell if this misalignment is something my husband was born with or if it happened after his fall down the stairs in May. So, unfortunately, surgery has not been totally ruled out as we previously thought...

Our spirits were flagging yesterday after the doctor's visit, but there is nothing we can do except try to be patient, wait, hope and pray. I've been having a lot of trouble sleeping lately as I just keep ruminating about that night six weeks ago when my husband fell down the stairs. I sure hope this passes soon as insomnia can really take a toll on your health over time... Anyway, keep praying and thinking positive thoughts, please; we're not out of the woods yet!

I'd like to leave on a cheerier note so I'm share this very addicting recipe for granola that I've gotten "hooked" on. They sell a treat called "Kimberley's Bakeshoppe Granola" at Sam's Club and I made the mistake of buying it one day. Oh, my!! Amazingly delicious and just filled with everything I love--lots of nuts, grains, and dried fruits. I stumbled upon a recipe online for a copycat recipe from Yammie's Noshery which you can find right here. It is fabulous--but addicting (don't say I didn't warn you!!). Hope you enjoy making (and eating!) it along with your other picnic foods this 4th of July weekend...

I dare you to eat just one bite of this tasty granola!

Wishing all of my U.S. friends a fabulous Independence Day! Thanks again for your kind comments and supportive emails--they mean so much to me. Bye for now...


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Life's unexpected turns

Good morning, my friends--and it truly is a good morning. The past month has been one giant "bump in the road" and I'm honestly so thrilled to be back with you today with a smile on my face. Things could have turned out so very differently...

Four weeks ago tonight, my dear husband fell down the entire flight of stairs in our home (13 uncarpeted solid oak stairs) and broke his neck. Yes, I can hear many of you gasping as you read this... He broke the C7 vertebra--at the very bottom of the neck, the one that sticks out the most. As I lay in bed that night, I heard him fall (I was having a hard time falling asleep) and the sounds of his body thudding down the stairs will haunt me forever. He didn't cry out or yell which leads us to believe that he was either sleepwalking (although he had never done so in the past) or only partially awake. We spent the rest of that night in the local hospital's Emergency Room (where I prayed harder than I have ever prayed in my life!). He was then transported to the trauma center of a larger hospital in the city where he spent the day and another night and was then released with instructions that he must not drive and must wear a hard neck brace--24 hours a day, even in the shower and in bed.

My husband certainly had an angel on his shoulder that night as he came away with limited injuries. There was no paralysis as his spinal cord was not compromised! Unbelievable, isn't it? A true miracle in my opinion... I can't begin to tell you the horror stories that we've heard from others about the outcomes of friends or relatives who had similar falls. He suffered cuts and bruises all up and down his left side (face, shoulder, elbow, knee), but it is his right arm that seems to have come away with the longer lasting effects. In the beginning, he suffered horribly painful stinging sensations going up and down the arm through the median nerve. Thankfully, they seem to have ended, but the numbness and tingling sensations in two fingers on his right hand remain. The doctor says that could be permanent or could eventually clear up--there is no way to tell. But, if that is the only residual effect after suffering a fall like that, I consider him to be incredibly blessed!

My oldest son moved right in with us for the month and was a true godsend... I really could not have managed without his help--both the physical aid and the emotional support he gave were priceless. He drove my husband into work a couple of days, made a few delicious suppers along with some tasty mint-chocolate chunk gelato, helped with any lifting or chores my husband couldn't do, and just lifted our spirits with his presence. Since he can work remotely from anywhere in the world, my son's job wasn't affected, either. I was able to continue to go to work knowing my husband had my son nearby, too, and my fellow librarians were a huge source of comfort and support.

An accident like this takes you through every emotion imaginable--fear, anger, sorrow, hope, and just plain gratefulness that it wasn't worse. Every time I walk the stairs in our home, I'm reminded of how just a few seconds could have possibly changed our life together--forever. And I've learned to hold on tighter--not only to the stair railing, but to my dear family members, as well...

My husband returned to work this week (he is allowed to change out of the hard neck brace into a soft collar for his drive to work) and it appears that he won't need surgery. The heat of wearing the neck brace (which he will have to endure most of the summer) is driving him crazy with this hot, humid weather, but he realizes that is just a small inconvenience in the scheme of things. The vertebrae in his neck are not quite aligned, but the spinal surgeon isn't sure if that is a result of the accident or if he was born that way. The long-term outlook is positive and I'm finally able to breathe again... 

Baby raccoons exploring our pond

Unfortunately, that wasn't the only scary thing that happened around here last month! When all three sons were visiting the last weekend in May (helping out with gardening and other chores my husband couldn't do) we spotted a pair of baby raccoons playing out by our pond. Oh, they were just adorable and on that Saturday night, the guys were out taking photos of them while my husband and I watched from our kitchen table indoors.  (My oldest son took these wonderful raccoon photos and gave me permission to share them with you). My animal loving (and ever-trusting!) middle son, reached out to pet one of the little creatures and it bit him! Just a teeny nip, but we couldn't take a chance that the raccoon carried rabies so off they all went to the hospital's Emergency Room for the first in a series of rabies shots. 

Don't be deceived by these sweet faces--they bite!

It's a good thing he took the safe route of getting the shots as that same baby raccoon appeared in our yard, strolled right up to the patio in broad daylight, and acted a bit "off" just three days later. He was stumbling as he walked and we weren't sure if that was because he had rabies or if he was just young. Anyway, the police came and took him away and we never did see the other baby again... The fact that the mother was never seen at all makes us believe that there was a very good chance that they were all infected with the rabies! I doubt my sons will ever try to pet a wild animal again after that experience...

Then the following day, my oldest son came downstairs and asked what was on his back. Yikes!!! It was a tick--the head of the tick had already burrowed into my son's back and the arms and legs were sticking out. So, so creepy... Lyme Disease has been on the increase in our area and can have truly debilitating, long-lasting effects and with the number of deer we have in our area, there was a good chance that this was a deer tick that carried the disease. So, once again, off to the urgent care clinic went my sons to have the tick removed and receive the recommended dosage of antibiotics. Thankfully, my youngest son escaped with no mishaps and safely took the bus back home to Washington, D.C. that evening!

They say "bad things happen in threes." Are we done now? I sure hope so...

One thing that kept me going throughout those first few weeks after my husband's fall was checking on the progress of this cardinal's nest that I spotted right outside our family room window. Three beautifully speckled eggs with the mama cardinal sitting so patiently on them day in and day out.

And then I got to watch the babies hatch--one by one. They were so funny looking in the beginning with those big, bulgy eyes and pale featherless skin... I would mimic the mother bird's chirp and they would actually open their little mouths in anticipation of being fed. So adorable!

Feed us! Feed us!!

Sadly, the "circle of life" took charge and a hungry cat discovered the nest... Well, you know how that story ended. And yes, I cried... I've cried a lot this month.

I haven't looked at blogs or stitched much since my husband's fall; I've just been too unsettled and too busy. I will be taking a quick trip to New York to visit my mother this weekend and to attend my niece's bridal shower (my son will stay with my husband to make sure he doesn't push himself!), but I hope to start visiting all of your blogs/replying to emails next week when I get back home.

Throughout this ordeal I've witnessed firsthand the fragility of life and I recently came across this quote which certainly made me think about how I want to live my life... how about you? Leave no regrets...

Life is fragile--leave no regrets...

I hope to be back soon with some actual stitching to share with you. I've really missed each of you over the past month... Until then, my friends, treasure life! Bye for now...

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Gifts for three (and a few for me!)

Happy mid-May morning to you, my friends! The turn of the calendar page to May changed our weather into summer-like conditions almost overnight--I love it! Warmth and sunshine have abounded this month and with temperatures near 90, we have been having weather that is more like that of July. It did dip down into the 30s last night, but we'll be back up in the 80s by the weekend. Some people are complaining that we had no spring here in western Pennsylvania, but after that horribly long, frigid winter we endured, I couldn't be happier to feel the warmth of the sunshine again...

Most of my stitching lately has been sent away as gifts and now that the recipients have received them, I can share them with you. First of all, I sent this little pillow to my friend, Melissa, in Vancouver, Canada. I had been planning on sending her a RAK for some time now, but since she celebrated a birthday in April, this gift turned into a birthday/RAK! The chart is from With Thy Needle & Thread's "Valentine Sampler" booklet and is stitched on 40 ct. raw Newcastle using most of the suggested threads (with a few substitutions, of course!).

With Thy Needle and Thread's "Valentine Sampler"

Now, you'll notice I made a few changes to the original chart (which you can see right here). I wanted to make this special for Melissa so I changed the swans that were charted on both sides of the flower pot to kitties--her kitties: Julius and Daisy! I was so pleased with how they came out--I know the coloring isn't quite right, but I think Melissa appreciates my efforts. Believe me, I am no artist!! I then finished it into a small pin pillow complete with handmade cording and accented with tiny spools. I thought the spools of thread were very appropriate because, in addition to being a lovely stitcher, Melissa has become quite proficient with her sewing machine lately and is creating some beautiful pieces of clothing for herself (which you can see showcased in her fairly new sewing blog). I am so happy to report that she loves it (hope the kitties do, too!).

Gift for Melissa

My next gift went to Elizabeth B. (no blog) in Texas who celebrated a birthday earlier this week. She and I first "met" while discussing Christmas ornaments, so I thought a little something to add to her Christmas tree would be a meaningful gift. I am truly on a PS Santa binge this year and found myself stitching this Santa sitting atop a prancing reindeer from the PS Book No. 48 "A Christmas Visit." Once again, I used 40 ct. raw Newcastle and the suggested DMC threads.

Prairie Schooler: "A Christmas Visit"

Here is a better look at it. The backing fabric is the tiny green checked material. I think that next time, I will leave less of a border showing when I finish this one, but overall, I'm pleased with the arched shape of this ornament. It wasn't the easiest finish for me, but I feel like I got it fairly even.

Gift for Elizabeth B.

My final gift for May was sent to Robin (no blog), in Virginia, who happens to have a birthday on May 14th--a most special day. Why is that day so special, you may ask? Well, it happens to be my dear mother's birthday, too! For Robin, I made a version of a pillow I showed you earlier this year (in this post). I stitched only the top half of the "Primrose Maiden" design by The Little Stitcher that can be found in the April 2015 issue of Just Cross Stitch magazine. 

The Little Stitcher's "Primrose Maiden"

Here is a photo showing the two versions side by side. For Robin's gift I used 32 ct. linen using two strands of DMC and for my version I used 40 ct. linen with one strand of DMC and also stitched the border beneath. The colors are truer in the photo below than the one I took outside shown above. I really love both versions and I'm so happy Robin likes her birthday gift!

Gift for Robin (in the front)

A gift for me... Sweet Jackie, from Jackie's Stitches, sent me a wonderful and much appreciated RAK earlier this month. Just look at this grand assortment of fabric scraps and squares she sent my way. Oh, my--I felt like I was in heaven! I just love receiving finishing fabrics and, as most of you know, I use little scraps quite often in my pillow creations. I was so excited to see fabrics for every season and holiday--just for me!! Thank you, thank you, Jackie--I am thrilled with your generous gift. If you aren't familiar with Jackie's blog, please visit--not only does she stitch, but she also quilts, sews, and knits. And she does everything so beautifully...

A multitude of fabrics from Jackie!

Mother's Day memories... I wasn't sure what to expect on Mother's Day this year as I hadn't heard a word from my sons all week. Usually, they ask for gift suggestions or ask what I'd like for dinner--but, not this year! All I knew, was that I was not going to cook my own Mother's Day dinner, so my mom and I came up with a plan for me to set the kitchen table with cereal bowls, put out a lineup of cereal boxes in the center, and announce that that would be our Mother's Day dinner. Well, happily, I didn't have to carry out my little plan because my older sons arrived shortly after noon with gifts and dinner fixings in hand. I truly was surprised! My middle son brought me a lovely white Mandevilla plant, my eldest gave me a generous gift certificate to 123 Stitch (oh, yeah!!), and my youngest sent a dozen cupcakes all the way from Georgetown Cupcake--yum!

Mandevilla from my middle son

I just love the yellow centered white flowers on this plant and am hoping the deer don't love them, too. I'm keeping the plant in a blue ceramic pot right on my patio next to my kitchen door so I pray they won't be that bold and come so close to the house. We'll see!

Geogetown Cupcakes sent by youngest son

The cupcakes were fabulous--and famous. The bakery even has its own TV show: DC Cupcakes.  Just look at the line that extended up the street and around the corner for people waiting to purchase them on the Saturday before Mother's Day! My son and his girlfriend happened to be in the vicinity of the bakery's Georgetown location and snapped this photo... Luckily, he ordered them online so there was no wait for him. My favorite was the peanut butter fudge in the front row--oh, my! Hard to limit yourself to just one a day, but I've been doing just that all week (okay, I confess--I did have two on Mother's Day!).

Waiting in line at Georgetown Cupcake!

This is the dinner that my sons cooked for me--chicken kabobs, grilled veggies, and some baked fries (that was my contribution since I don't eat most vegetables :) They also bought an assortment of grapes, but forgot to put them out. Everything was delicious (well, the guys told me the veggies were!) and I was thoroughly spoiled by my sons. It really was one of the nicest Mother's Days I can remember, except for the fact that my youngest son wasn't with us. He and I had a nice chat that morning, though, and we had just seen him last weekend on our way home from the beach in Delaware, so that helped!

Mother's Day dinner prepared by my sons

My oldest son and I took a walk around nearby North Park lake on Mother's Day afternoon. We usually walk the entire five-mile loop, but it was just boiling outside (nearly 90!) so we took the shortcut and only walked four miles. He snapped a couple of photos using his new phone--I was so impressed with the quality! Maybe it's time for me to break down and get myself a smart phone? It truly is a lovely park and it was very quiet for a Sunday--I suppose most everyone was off visiting their moms.

North Park Lake

A perfect place for a Mother's Day walk

Lately, our yard has been filled with some unwanted visitors. This time of year, the Canada Geese make an appearance searching for just the right place to nest. I think our small, peaceful pond presents itself as a perfect spot. Unfortunately, they are some of the messiest birds known to man and we don't want them settling down here so we chase them off as soon as they are spotted each spring. This couple wouldn't leave, in spite of my yelling, clapping, and general making-a-fool-of-myself antics... They simply flew into the water and seemed to know there was no way I could get to them unless I jumped in the water myself!

Canada Geese--handsome, but, oh-so-messy!!

This little guy and I came face to face when I was out photographing the flowering trees. Boy, was he shocked when he headed down the tree and found himself face to face with a human carrying a camera! I don't mind the squirrels except when they steal the birds' food--they are actually quite entertaining in their attempts to get to the bird feeders. Doesn't he look surprised to see me in "his territory?"

"Hmmm--I wasn't expecting you to be here!"

This particular squirrel and I played hide and seek for about five minutes around the tree. He would go to one side, peak out, see me, and run to the other. It was so cute! Why he didn't just run high up into the safety of the treetops, I'll never know! There was no way this old lady would be climbing up after him, that's for sure... 

Can you spot his little head?

With the sudden blast of heat this month, came so many beautiful flowers and flowering trees--all in white! In our yard you can spot (clockwise from lower left):  vibernum, flowering crabs, dogwood, and lily of the valley. What a welcome sight after the long winter! They are just about done blooming now, so I need to make my way to the garden center and try to busy some flowers that won't be immediately eaten by the deer. Anyone have any suggestions for tried-and-true deer-proof flowers?

The white flowers of spring

May 14--a very special birthday... My mom is turning 88 today and I want to wish her a wonderful day! I just love her more than words can say and am so very proud of her. Many of you have asked, from time to time, how mom is doing since dad's death... Since saying goodbye to him in late October, she's had her sad moments, of course, but it is so nice to see her enjoying her life again without worrying about how he is doing at the dementia facility. She is reading more, playing me nightly (and often beating me!) in "Words With Friends" online, and enjoying visits with my sister and brother and their families who live nearby. I so wish I lived closer, but I know she knows how very much I love and miss her... ♥♥♥


I'm so sorry for the length of this post--I guess I had more to report than I thought I would! I want to say a special thanks to each of you who takes the time to comment. I know that blogging is fading away as more and more people turn to the quicker and easier posting on Facebook and Instagram so your comments mean ever so much to me. Welcome to my newest followers, too--I'm amazed that the number is creeping toward 1500!! Enjoy your day and this beautiful month of May.  Bye for now...