Thursday, September 29, 2016

And the days grow shorter...

Well, September is nearly over--can you believe it? I hope you've each had a good month? Before I show you what I've been working on since my last post, I want to thank you for your great comments and emails regarding my oldest son's move to the opposite side of the country. I really could feel the love--and it made his departure a bit easier to deal with. Let's just say I'm doing "okay"--I have my tearful moments, but am trying my best to look ahead to our already booked San Diego trip to visit him in November.   Sunday night is the hardest time for me as that is when he and my middle son always used to come over for a special Sunday dinner each week. But, life goes on and is always changing, isn't it?

On to stitching news... I managed to finish that little Prairie Schooler snowman that I showed you in my last post. This is my eighth snowman ornament for 2016 (yes, I need to get the ninth stitched and finished for September as soon as possible). For this finish I used some green gingham (actually I cut up a kitchen towel because I liked the weight of it better than the gingham fabric I can find in stores), some putty colored mini pompom trim, a sprig of greenery, and some jingle bells to match the red in his scarf and earmuffs. 

Prairie Schooler Santa finish for August

Here is another photo where you can see the greenery a bit better...I simply glued the greenery and the red bells to the jute hanging ribbon. The back of the ornament is covered with red felt. I think his big grin tells me he's quite happy with the finish, too!

Such a smiley guy :)
 
I also stitched a fall piece that I've stitched before (way back in 2012 which you can see here) as a birthday gift for one of my earliest blogging friends, Myra. (She isn't blogging any longer, like so many, but that doesn't mean I don't still think of her! I'm so happy to have discovered many old blogging buddies on Instagram and reconnect with them, though...) Anyway, this Homespun Elegance design was stitched "over one" on 28 ct. Monaco (a hand dyed fabric by Sassy's Fabbys called "Hay Fields").

Homespun Elegance's "Joyful Autumn"

I auditioned various fabrics for the final finish and this medley of tan, brown, and black was the ultimate winner. I was surprised at how much I liked this as it isn't a "typical" fall fabric, but for some reason, it worked! I simply added some black ric rac, gold handmade cording, and a pair of buttons to finish it off. I was really pleased with the final look and who could resist that tiny black squirrel posing with a little acorn in his paw?

"Joyful Autumn" all finished up

My overdyed thread for the Birds Of a Feather Sampler that I shared with you last time arrived and I've made some progress--not a lot, but at least the green leaves and trunk are done on the large tree and I can move on to the house on the hill... I would love to get this done by the end of the year, but I'm going to have to begin Christmas stitching soon, so it may have to wait!

"Birds Of a Feather" progress

I was surprised to receive not one, but two RAKs in the mail recently. First--all the way from jolly old England and my friend, June, came a lovely stitched sachet filled with lavender, fragrant soap, and cards. June grew the lavender in her own garden (which has to be one of the prettiest around!) so that makes it even more special. Thank you for thinking of me, my sweet friend...

Random Act of Kindness from June

And from my friend, Lisa, in Ohio came two bunny charts. Lisa was de-stashing (something I should be doing, too!) and came across these two cute charts that reminded her of me. She knows how much I love rabbits! So, off the bunnies hopped across the border into Pennsylvania and to a new home with me. Thank you so much, Lisa--they are adorable!

Random Act of Kindness from Lisa P.

On one of our last Sunday dinners together before my son moved to San Diego, I made one of our favorite cakes: Triple Chocolate Bundt Cake!  This has a chocolate cake mix, chocolate pudding, and chocolate chips in it--I mean, really, who can resist something made with three chocolates? It is so moist and tasty and super easy to make--I'd be happy to share the recipe if any of you would like it (just make sure to include your email so I can send it to you). 

Triple Chocolate Cake, Orange Cosmos, and some fall stitching--three of my favorite things!
I have to admit, I'm a bit sad to say "farewell" to this month. I honestly don't remember a September as warm and sunny as this one...  The shorter days of late fall and winter are something I dread--especially when it begins to be dark when I leave work at 6:00 PM. But, I do get more stitching time in as the months grow colder which is good. I hope October is good to each of you--thanks, as always, for taking the time to say "hello" and reading my little blog--I do appreciate each of you! Bye for now...

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Changes of the season

Happy September! How has your first week of this new month been, my friends? I usually love September--the cooler nights, the changes in the way the sunlight filters through my windows, the fun of fall decorating and baking. But, this year, I've been dreading this month... I'll tell you why after I share my stitching news with you...

I am so pleased with how my latest fall finish turned out! I actually did the stitching of "Crow On a Pumpkin" last November (you can read about it right here). This is a design by Samplers Not Forgotten that can be found in the 2015 Just Cross Stitch Halloween issue. I have fallen in love with the Woolies Flannel to use in finishing off my little pillows--it is wonderful to work with and comes in such rich, warm fall and winter colors. I wish you could feel the gold wool flannel strip on the left of the pillow--so soft to the touch! The back of the pillow is the black and tan checked homespun that I also used to make the yo-yo flower on the front. This has to be one of my favorite fall finishes ever.

Final finish of "Crow On a Pumpkin"

So, I have another little pillow to add to my ever-growing crow display here in my kitchen... I don't want to give you the impression that I am in love with crows or anything! The ones that visit our back yard are big... and noisy... and tend to bully the other birds. But, there is just something about the crow/sunflower/pumpkin combination that I love to see in fall stitching...

Lots of "caws" have been heard coming from my kitchen!

I also pulled out an older project, With Thy Needle and Thread's "Birds Of a Feather Mystery Sampler," that I began a couple of years ago. I know exactly why I stopped working on this one--because the lack of the "J" in the alphabet bothered me. I know that is how the designer charted it (and you can read her explanation of why right here), but I wish it was included. Anyway, I debated whether or not to add it myself, but after going back and forth many, many times, I decided to just leave it as it was charted and plunge ahead. I soon discovered that you need more than one skein of WDW Kudzu for the many leaves so that is why I've stopped for now--some is winging its way to me as I write this!

Birds Of a Feather Mystery Sampler progress

I'm almost half done, but there is a lot of border and a big old hill and house of solid stitching waiting for me on the bottom half which will take quite some time. I do love the colors in this so much--wish they had photographed a bit truer in my picture!

My monthly snowman ornament stitching is falling behind--I do have the one for August stitched, but not finished. I was playing around with fabrics and trims for the finish and may be using these. But, maybe not; it's always a last-minute decision. You'll recognize this pleasingly plump fellow as a Prairie Schooler design from the "Holly Day" (Book No. 157) chart. I changed his nose color from red to black because I wanted it to look like a piece of coal--otherwise, he is stitched using the suggested colors on 32 ct. flax Jobelan. Now, to pick a snowman for September!

Prairie Schooler "Holly Days" snowman

With all of the snowman stitching I have going on this year, I treated myself to "just a few" fat quarters of finishing fabric. I found a wonderful deal on eBay on a complete fat quarter bundle of Moda's "Snowman Gatherings II" that I couldn't pass up. Now, how will I ever use all of this? I suppose I could learn to quilt when I retire? Or get up my nerve and try to make some pretty project bags? I just loved the colors and many of them will be useful for patriotic or primitive finishes as well...


So, that was the happy part of my post... September 17th brings a day I have been selfishly dreading for a while: my oldest son is moving almost 2500 miles across the country to join his girlfriend who moved to San Diego in July. I am so happy for him--he has found a lovely, intelligent, kind, and giving young woman to share his life with. But, oh, how different life will be here in Pennsylvania with him way out in California.


You see, because our oldest works from his home, he was the one we always counted on to be there when things went wrong.  He had the flexibility and freedom in his work schedule to be able to drive over and help out with this or that whenever needed. He actually moved right in with us when my husband broke his neck in last year's fall down the stairs. He fixed our computer problems, challenged our thinking on various subjects, and made us laugh with that dry sense of humor that we so love.

There will be a big void in our lives with him so far away, but at least San Diego is (I've heard!) a lovely, lovely place to visit. It won't be the easiest feat to get there, as there are no direct flights from here, but we will definitely fly out a couple times a year. And, thankfully, technology has made keeping in touch so much easier. We are blessed to have the middle of our three sons still nearby in Pittsburgh. I hate to think that everything will get dumped on him, but he is so very loving and capable, too, that I know we're in good hands. No matter what they say, parents do need more help from their kids as they age...

Anyway, I wish my oldest and his girlfriend all the best in their new life out in the Golden State...  

You will be missed more than words can express...


Thank you all for visiting me today--and a special thank you to those of you who take the time to leave a little comment. Blogging seems to be on the wane and so, for those of us who do still take the time to post now and then, your comments mean ever so much... I'm heading up to New York this morning to visit my mom for five days so I'll be a bit out of touch. But, I'll catch up with everyones blogs when I return! Bye for now...

Thursday, August 25, 2016

August round-up and a special gift from Kim!

Good morning, my blogging friends! I decided I'd better squeeze at least one post in before the end of August... For what I thought would be a quiet month,  August turned out to be busier than expected--I guess that's just summer for you! Is anyone else looking forward to the slowed-down (and cooler) pace of autumn? August has been one hot, humid, rainy mess here in western Pennsylvania, but I'm so thankful that we seem to be escaping all of those natural disasters like the flooding in the south and the wildfires out west. We may not be the most exciting part of the U.S. to live in, but, luckily, we rarely experience the natural weather disasters that so much of the United States seem to deal with on a regular basis.

Stitching update... Part of the reason I put off posting is that I was waiting for a birthday gift to arrive. This little piece was sent to my long-time blogging friend, Lois, in Northern Ireland who celebrated a big birthday in mid-August. Many of you will recognize this finish as a With Thy Needle and Thread design called "Dames of the Needle." I used 40 ct. Country Mocha Newcastle with a variety of overdyed threads. I tried to stick to what was suggested, but made some substitutions when I didn't have the designer's suggested threads in my stash. I truly love the colors in this piece--all those beautiful shades of blues and browns work so nicely together...

With Thy Needle & Thread "Dames Of the Needle"

Now, this design was supposed to be made into a sewing roll, but given my limited abilities with a sewing machine, I simply made it into a little pin pillow! Adding some cording and the cute little spools of thread finished it off very sweetly with the fabric shown used as the backing. Lois loves it and I'm happy to have added to her collection of little stitchy pillows... I know I'll be stitching this one again--perhaps for myself?!

Birthday gift sent to Lois

Some of you have already seen my next finish on Instagram... It is "K Is For Kitty," part of the Prairie Schooler alphabet series. I decided to leave off the wording at the bottom and simply make a pillow. I would love to stitch the entire alphabet on one giant piece of fabric some day, but that may have to wait until I retire (and get up my nerve to tackle such a gigantic project!).  Don't you love the expression on the calico kitty's face? He looks quite bewildered by what to do with the two birds on either side of him--play with them, make a meal of them? Cats will be cats after all!!

Prairie Schooler "K Is For Kitty"

This is stitched on 40 ct. flax Newcastle with the suggested DMC threads. I've noticed that I rarely change threads when I'm stitching Prairie Schooler charts--I think that's one reason I love them so much... I'm so happy with how my kitty finish came out! I had the perfect mix of scrap fabrics in my stash along with some ric-rak that matched his fur.

"K Is For Kitty" all finished up

Birthday RAK from Kim over at Wisdom With Needle and Thread!  As many of you know Kim is celebrating her 60th birthday this year by sending out 60 (yes, 60!!!) RAKs to blogging friends around the world. I was one of the lucky friends and was so pleased to see the gifts that came my way. Kim paints lovely Limoges boxes and the one she sent me is so special as it has a tiny book painted inside. Now how perfect is that for a librarian? I can't imagine how she paints anything so tiny and legible as that miniature Frog and Princess book page... Mr Frog himself is painted with 24 KT gold and there are three sparkly jewels aligned on the frog's back. So pretty!! 

Handpainted frog box from dear Kim
 
She also included a cute Halloween chart and some pretty fabric and threads.Click on the collage below and you can see the perfectly painted interior better... Thank you so very much, Kim--I will treasure your frog box and think of you each time I open it up and see that sweet Frog and Princess book you so patiently painted for me!

Interior of box and other RAK goodies from Kim

Outer Banks 2016... My busy August month included our annual trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. I didn't take many photos this year, but my youngest son inspired me to get up early to catch at least one sunrise. He woke up for every single one this year--really have to admire him for that! This was the 32nd year that my husband's whole family has gathered for a week of laughter and memory-making in the sun and sand. Of those 32 years, I've only missed three trips: when my youngest son was a mere month old baby, when my oldest son's school started earlier than normal, and a few years ago when my dad was so very ill. We've made such great memories and I have to say the highlight of this year was watching seven grown men gathered around the kitchen island singing Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody!" Too funny (and yes, there was just "a bit" of beer involved)...

Another beautiful sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean

Needless to say, I do not enjoy the 10 hour drive to and from the beach. Driving around the Washington, DC area is especially crazy and this year we were all dumbfounded to look over and see some idiot playing his trumpet while driving his car. Honestly, people--what are you thinking? And, most likely, he was probably recording himself  to post on Facebook or YouTube later on. Have you seen any driver craziness lately?

Summer Reading... Do you read more than one book at a time? Most times I have two books going--one that I read on my Kindle at night before bedtime and another audio book that I listen to in the car or inside while I stitch. Somehow, last week I found myself with four books going at once!  Luckily, the plots and topics were all so varied that I didn't have any trouble keeping them straight. I really enjoyed The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry--I think anyone with a love for books and bookstores would feel right at home with this one. I was disappointed with Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty. Although I've been fond of her previous titles, this one was just too long and very, very slow. It was one of those books where you kept waiting for something big to happen, but in the end felt let down.

A portion of my summer reading material


I'm still listening to When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi about a neurosurgeon diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer at age 36. It is a beautifully written memoir, touching, and thought-provoking. I know how it ends so I know there will be tears. And the best of the bunch: Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly--a first novel that is so gripping it was hard to put down. But, it was also hard to read as it dealt with the horrors of the Ravensbrück concentration camp during World War II and the experiments done on women by the Nazis. Two of the three characters in this book are based on real women and I highly recommend reading the author's notes at the end of the book for the background story on them before you start the book. This is not for everyone--there are graphic descriptions of what went on in the concentration camps, but they are events that really happened. I still shake my head in disbelief at the horrors and suffering so many millions faced during WWII...


Baked goodies! Well, on to more pleasant subjects! I baked one of my favorites, Banana-Carrot muffins, this week and took some in for my coworkers at the library on Monday. These are actually quite healthy as they are made with carrots, bananas, and pecans. I am always asked for the recipe, so I thought you might like a copy, too. These are great for freezing and make a perfect afternoon snack. Hope you enjoy them!

Banana-Carrot Muffins--one of our favorites!


Summer garden... In spite of our hot humid summer, we've had some pretty flowers this summer (well, the ones left for us by the deer, that is!).  A new-to-me flower this year are the yellow and white striped petunias in the lower left; aren't they the cutest?!

Floral sunshine!

And here are the pinks for all you pink-lovers...

Perfectly pink!


Baby birds... Remember the bird's nest on my front-door wreath that I showed you last time? Well, I'm happy to report that all four birds hatched and have flown the nest... We came home from our beach trip to an empty nest (and a huge mess on our door which my dear husband so nicely cleaned up for us!). It amazes me how quickly they grow up and fly away--what a difference from human babies!

Four new baby robins just before they flew the nest

Instagram update... I'm really enjoying Instagram--surprise, surprise! Facebook is still not for me, but Instagram isn't filled with the drama that FB seems to be submerged in all much of the time.  I would love to have you follow me on Instagram (user name is caroling55 and I've also added a button in my sidebar to click on). And, I would be so happy if those of you who don't have blogs would consider joining IG, too--it is fast and easy and I would get to see your creations just like you get to see mine... I'm being a bit selfish, I suppose, but I've always felt bad that I don't get a chance to compliment my non-blogging friends on their stitching like you take the time to do when you leave comments on my blog posts...

Well, I guess I'll see you in September--time to pull out my fall stitching and perhaps stitch a few new things. I do love my fall stitching! Thank you all for visiting today and for taking the time to leave a comment--I truly appreciate each and every one...  As always, if you have a question, please include your email in your comment so I can reply. Otherwise, I have no way of tracking you down... Enjoy your day, my friends!  Bye for now...

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Stitching Snowmen In This Horrid Heat

Hello, hello! I've been away much too long and I've missed all of you! July is one of our two busiest family months (May being the other) and in between traveling to New York to visit my mom and preparing for our annual week at the beach, I've had little stitching time. But, to be honest with you, I think this heat is just zapping any energy that I normally have for stitching. The humidity has been horrid and it seems to take me so much longer to do even the simplest things around the house when it's like this. We do have air-conditioning, thank goodness, but this heat and humidity still just make me want to sit and read rather than stitch. 

I've been keeping up with my monthly snowman challenge and have two cuties to share with you today. My July ornament is from Grandma Kringles and is called "Winter's Frost." I used 40 ct. Country Mocha Newcastle linen for this one along with a mixture of overdyed threads. I think the white shows up quite well on this particular fabric which is one reason I chose it.

"Winter's Frost"

To finish him off, I added a rusty bell on his collar and used some fabric from the Woolies Flannel Charm Pack which I added to my stash a couple months ago. I just love it--reminds me of a cozy man's shirt or cuddly blanket material. The gold cording is made using DMC 420. I didn't have enough of the flannel for the backing, but, luckily, I had a heavy cotton napkin in the perfect shade to use. I stock up on cloth napkins for backing material whenever they are on sale at Kohl's.

July snowman ornament all finished up!

And for my June ornament, I finally finished this quartet of smiling snowmen from Country Cottage Needleworks (the design is called "Snowmen"). This was a large design so to make it ornament sized I had to stitch it over one on a 32 ct. mystery dusty blue evenweave. I also left off the bottom border that was charted (the same pine boughs that are in the top border).  This gave me a tiny 2" x 4" ornament--perfect!

Country Cottage Needleworks "Snowmen"

Now, seriously, who can resist their little grins? Rather than cross stitching the mouths, I just used straight stitches since I was working on such a tiny scale. And here is the finished ornament--a little pillow with ruched ribbon trim, a gauzy hanger, and three miniature jingle bells. What do you think?

June snowman ornament finish

I'm currently working on a gift for a friend so I can't show you that, but I hope to begin a larger piece soon. I just need a nice design with simple DMC threads--no thoughts about converting fibers and such. Time to go stash-diving and see what I come up with!

Sonnenberg Gardens... When my husband and I visited my mom in mid-July, we took advantage of an almost perfect weather day (mid-70s, low humidity) to visit historic Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion in Canandaigua, New York. The home is over 125 years old and sits on 50 acres of land.  This was the summer home (Sonnenberg means "Sunny Hill" in German) for the Thompson family. Frederick Ferris Thompson was the founder of what is now Citibank and Mary, his wife, was from Canandaigua, so they chose that location to escape the city heat each summer. The acreage includes gardens in many different styles including a Japanese garden, rock garden, Italian garden, pansy garden, and moonlight garden. I took a lot of photos that day! Here are some of my favorites...


Sonnenberg Mansion: 40 rooms of Queen Anne style beauty


The library, my favorite room in the mansion (of course!!)


Another view of the library


The sewing room was off a main bedroom


A cozy bedroom featuring a crazy quilt


Close-up of the lovely embroidery on the crazy quilt


Loved the title of this vintage book resting on a nightstand!


I couldn't help but notice how teeny-tiny all of the dresses were! I'm quite petite, but there is no way I could fit into any of the dresses that were on display throughout the house...


A view of the Italian Garden from the second floor porch. Unfortunately, due to lack of rain in the area, all of the grassy areas were very brown and burned out.


The rose garden in July; past its prime, but still lovely!


This Buddha was featured in the Japanese Garden.


Stairs in the rock garden that led up to a rocky perch to relax, enjoy nature, and simply watch the world go by.


Of course, the Blue and White Garden was my favorite!


Lovely statues were scattered throughout the grounds.


Such a wonderful glimpse into a bygone era!


Instagram--Well, I took the plunge and joined Instagram! I honestly did it just to be able to see my son's travel photos from China, Croatia, Hungary and Slovenia (where he is now--he'll fly home on Friday). But, once I got there, I discovered so, so many old blogging friends were now using Instagram sharing their beautiful stitching that I couldn't resist following them, too! It was like a reunion--I was so happy to reconnect with them and see what they've been up to... I've even posted a couple of my own photos so if you would like to follow me, my user name is caroling55. And if you are on Instagram--let me know and I'll look for you, too! I can see why folks enjoy it as it is so much easier and quicker than pulling a blog post together. But, I do like the blogging format, too, so I don't plan on giving my blog up any time soon. 

Birthday boys... My husband and youngest son have July birthdays within 5 days of each other so when my son decided to pay us a surprise visit on his birthday, I quickly whipped up this small carrot cake. I made a tiny banner from one I printed off the internet, added a couple of signs denoting their ages, and a few candles. It was so, so tasty!

A birthday cake for two very special guys...

And on the 23rd, my husband and I celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary! Well, I use the term "celebrated" very loosely because he was on a charity bike ride for multiple sclerosis for the entire weekend. But, he promised me that our 40th anniversary next July will be marked by a special trip... Hmm... where should we go? Where would you go for an anniversary milestone? Our two older sons and their girlfriends gave us this wonderful summery bouquet to commemorate our special day...

Anniversary flowers for 39 years of marriage

So, that about wraps up my busy month--oh, except for the new babies that have arrived at our house! No, not human babies--little bitty robins! If you are long time readers of Stitching Dreams, you may recall that robins built a nest on our front door wreath before (you can read about it in this post). They try each and every year to build there, so we usually bring the wreath inside during the spring and early summer to foil their attempts. Well, this year, they outwitted us and built their nest in the mid-summer July heat! The eggs were already there so we couldn't remove the wreath this time. I'm happy to announce that the birds have all hatched since these photos were taken... To avoid upsetting them, the front door is off limits and we just enter our house through the garage. 

Four new baby robins have arrived!

I am way, way behind on blog reading after this busy month, but plan on catching up today and tomorrow, so if I haven't been around to visit you in a while, I'll be popping in soon! I want to thank you all, as usual, for your very kind comments and your friendships. The stitching community is honestly one of the most supportive groups out there--aren't we the lucky ones?  Bye for now...