Thursday, April 21, 2016

Baskets of blues and browns

Well, I didn't plan on being gone this long! Three weeks since my last post--where have the days gone? I hope you've all enjoyed a lovely April so far? Ours has been delightful with a string of warm, sunny days over the past week. That is coming to an end today, but we do need the predicted rain so it's all good. I want to thank all of you who commented on my last post and also those of you who took the time to email me to let me know you enjoy my blog even though you don't comment. That means the world to me... You see, when you write a blog post, you are taking a chance and putting a part of your private life out there for the world to see. For a quiet, introvert like me, that is quite daunting at times. Oh, sure, I could make my blog private, but one of the best parts of blogging are the friendships that have sprouted up all over the world between myself and my readers--and I treasure those. So, it is truly heart-warming to read your supportive comments and emails--they keep me blogging!

I didn't realize, until I began photographing my latest finishes, that they have three things in common: baskets, blues, and browns! Blue and brown has become one of my favorite color combinations to use in my stitching and I'm so pleased with how the finishes I have to share with you today, turned out...

You all know I love bunnies, right? We've been lucky to see several in our backyard this spring; in fact, I saw the first one hopping across the lawn on Easter morning! This With Thy Needle and Thread design is called "Spring Greeting Bouquet" and I fell in love with it as soon as I saw the bunny nestled among the prettiest blue flowers. Well, I fell in love with everything except the French Knotted flowers--yikes!! But, I just did my best and am pretty pleased with the outcome. I ordinarily stitch in hand, but to do the French Knots, I found that using a small hoop for this design helped immensely.  It is stitched on 40 ct. flax Newcastle with a mixture of DMC and overdyeds. I added the series of small x's on the top and bottom of the basket after seeing this finish on this pretty French blog. It adds so much, don't you think?

Spring Greetings Bouquet

I decided an Easter egg shaped finish would be perfect and with the addition of some ruched blue ribbon, some pearly headed pins, and a gingham bow it all came together quite nicely. Sweet, isn't it? I can just see him perched in my Easter basket of bunny finishes for years to come. That is one thing I love about stitching small things... As we downsize in the future and move to a smaller home, I can easily move and display these wherever we end up.

Another blue and brown finish came in the form of this sweet freebie from Cathy's wonderful French blog: Le Chalet des Pérelles.  It stitched up very quickly on 32 ct. sage Jobelan using the suggested colors (which look far more muted in real life than are showing up on my computer screen for some reason!).

Le Chalet des Pérelles freebie

I found some fabric which mimicked the look of the basket so I thought it would be a nice accent to the front and back of the little pillow along with various shades of blue in the ric rak and cording. A quick, easy addition to next year's Easter basket!

And finally, a blue and brown piece I've wanted to stitch for a while: Tralala's "Carré ABC Bouquet." This one will be framed (at some point--hopefully!) and hung in my family room. I used 40 ct. Birch Newcastle linen with most of the suggested threads. I did substitute a couple of the colors for those I already owned.

Tralala's "Carré ABC Bouquet"

Here are all three together. I've fallen in love with the blue/brown combo. How about you--do you have a favorite color combination that you enjoy stitching with?

A trio of blue and brown finishes

As much as I love blue, there has been one big blue "thing" that has recently come into my life that I'm not so happy about. You see, my 2010 Honda CRV has been recalled due to the life-threatening airbag issue that has hit so many of the Japanese cars. Not a problem if there is a replacement available right away, but we were told that the new safe airbags would not be available for three to five months and to stop driving the car immediately! Thankfully, Honda has given us a "loaner" car for the duration of our wait. Although I'm very grateful for that, I thought I would die when the car dealer led us to this bright "look at me!!" blue Subaru that I will have to drive for the next few months... It is even brighter than it appears in my photo and in addition to the color, it has large advertising across the front and back windshields for the car dealership along with the logo: "Subaru: Driven To Be Better." I've been wearing sunglasses and a floppy hat, trying to disguise myself, each time I drive it! Well, that is a slight exaggeration, but I do feel like no one can ignore this car. One good thing, I never have a problem spotting it in parking lots!

Yes, it is bright, bright, bright blue--yikes!!

My younger coworkers think the wild blue color is great, but for this reserved,  61-year-old librarian, it is just a bit too "loud." In fact, I think it bears a striking resemblance to this fellow. How about you? Anyway, I'd like to give a shout-out to Honda--they have handled this whole airbag recall with integrity. It must be costing them a fortune to provide loaner cars to all those affected for such a long period of time...

Cookie Monster would love my loaner car!

Uruguay photos...  I'm finally getting back to my Argentina trip photos... Are you ready for Part III: Uruguay?  Quick, do any of you know the exact location of Uruguay without looking at a map? I sure didn't until we took our Argentina trip.  It is a tiny country sandwiched in between two of the world's largest countries (by geographical area):  Brazil (Number 5) and Argentina (Number 8).  (Can you name the top ten countries by area? I was so surprised by Number 9 in this list!)  Uruguay is the little country in orange on the right side of this map of South America.

From Buenos Aires, Argentina, it is just a one hour ferry ride across the The Río de la Plata to the historic town of Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay. This UNESCO World Heritage Sight was founded in 1680 by Portugal, but was the subject of disputes between Portugal and Spain until 1828 when Uruguay became an independent country.  To enter the historic area, you cross a footbridge into the gates of the stone wall which helped protect the city from invaders.

Here is a closer view of the ancient wall leading down to the river.

A view of The Río de la Plata which separates Buenos Aires from Uruguay.

The Río de la Plata is very brown in color due to pollution and an abundance of river sediment.

The weather was perfect for our day-trip to Colonia del Sacramento with a brilliant blue sky and temperatures in the low 80s. It was probably the best weather we had on our entire trip. Uruguay has a mild, humid sub-tropical climate much like that of Florida so you saw some wonderful flowering things.

This red flower, Erythrina crista-galli, commonly called the "ceibo,"  is the national flower of Uruguay. They grow on small trees.

The cotton-like fluff found on the Kapok trees can be used as stuffing for pillows and toys.

This multi-hued beauty, the Lantana camera flower, was my favorite--so many pretty colors on one bloom!

And, of course, the lavender colored Jacaranda trees were all in bloom in November--so lovely!

The well-worn streets of Colonia del Sacramento were lined with old stone buildings--very charming.

Buen Suspiro is a restaurant still open to the public...

People still reside in this ancient town, it is not just for tourists. This was one of the nicer residences.

I can just imagine the clip-clop of the horse's hooves that once pulled this old wagon up and down the hilly streets.

A close-up of one of the cobblestone streets.

Crumbling stones and rusty gates added to the charm of  the town.

The lighthouse, El Faro de Colonia del Sacramento, was built over the ruins of the old San Francisco Xavier convent in 1857. 

For a small fee, visitors can climb to the top...

From the top of the lighthouse, we had a bird's-eye view of the surrounding town...

...and out to the river. You can get a great look at the old stone wall that once protected the town in the distance.

One of the most unusual sights in  Colonia del Sacremento were these decrepit cars parked along the streets. 

This ancient black jalopy even had a garden growing out of it!

I'm not sure what era they were from, but the old roadsters certainly made good conversation pieces.

Looking up the street you can spot the twin towers of the local church.

The parish of the Basílica del Santísimo Sacramento was established in 1680, but the church has undergone multiple renovations... 

The interior is so simple and peaceful... The birds add an unusual touch, don't they?

After a full day at Colonia del Sacramento, we headed back on the ferry boat to our apartment in Buenos Aires. You can spy the city's skyline in the distance. 

I hope you enjoyed my Uruguay travelogue and photos. The next--and final--stop:  Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia!! My very favorite place on our South American adventure. It will take a while to sort through my photos, but I'll try to have them posted by the end of May.  

Thanks again for visiting me and a special thanks for those of you who take a few minutes to comment! Wishing you each a great day with at least a bit of stitching time thrown in... Bye for now...

A new visitor to our suet feeder: The Carolina Wren

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Spring stitching and party report

Good morning! And how is everyone on this last day of March? I've just experienced one of the busiest months of my life and I'm hoping April brings a much-needed sense of calm! Before I get started on today's post, I want to thank all of you who took the time to comment on my last post. Comments are dwindling all across blogland--even my sons noticed that the comments on my last post were way down. So, I'm thankful for those who still take a minute or two to say "hello" when I post--that means so very much to me... And a warm welcome to my new followers--so glad you are here!

With my crazy-busy March, I had little time to stitch, but did manage a few spring finishes. I think the chick in this Lizzie Kate design (A Chicky Easter) is particularly adorable. Would you believe that with all of the spring/Easter smalls I have stitched, this is the only one with the word "Easter" on it? I changed the border colors from blues to pink and green  (on 40 ct. white Newcastle) and used my own selection of overdyeds. Pale pink beads were added to the stitched flower centers, too. (The colors are softer than appear in this photo--more like the photo shown below in the finished pillow).

The cutest chick around!

I'm so pleased with how the final finish turned out. I made a little pillow with a pink striped fabric, a yellow print fabric, and handmade yellow cording. I then embellished it with a pale pink button topped with a pink gingham ribbon. So bright and cheery! Do you notice the little bunny dish sitting behind it? That is filled with some yummy Sees chocolates that my husband brought home from his skiing trip in Utah earlier this month. You know what else he brought home? A torn ACL in his knee... Sigh... A bad fall ended his trip early and he may be facing surgery down the road. Luckily, with an ACL injury like this, he can still bike, but skiing ever again is definitely out unless he has surgery. 

Finished Lizzie Kate "A Chicky Easter"

Here is my newest pillow nestled in an Easter basket with several other spring pillows. I really love the colors in each of these tiny creations. Spring stitching makes me happy (well, stitching in any season makes me happy to be honest!) Do you have a favorite season to stitch?

Bunnies, chicks, and eggs galore!

My second spring finish is this Shepherd's Bush design called "Joyful Spring" from the Spring Folio chart. I used 40ct. white Newcastle and a variety of spring colors for the flowers, eggs, and tiny chick. I love how the kite string is made from ribbon. This was sent to my French friend, Nathalie (no blog), for her birthday. I simply inserted it into a card opening and mailed it along with a chart and some spring ribbons. With the rising cost of international postage, I'm trying to be creative and save money, too! Nathalie loved it and said she has the card sitting on her desk...

Shepherd's Bush "Joyful Spring" finish

My final Spring finish was made for my boss for her retirement party on March 19th. You will all recognize this as Prairie Schooler's "S Is For Spring" which I have stitched many times before. I chose it for her, not only because it is currently spring, but also because she is beginning a new chapter of her life--a "new spring" so to speak. I forgot to take a photo of it before I gave it to her so I'm simply using the one I took of my own finish back in 2014 as I finished hers exactly the same. My old boss stitches a bit and was so appreciative of my gift.

Prairie Schooler "S Is For Spring"

A darling surprise arrived in the mail last week, too... Just look what hopped over from Germany! This little cutie was sent by my friend Gabi (no blog) for Easter along with a pretty card. Isn't it sweet? Thanks so very much, Gabi--I will think of you each time I decorate for Easter!

Easter gift from sweet Gabi in Germany

Retirement Party Memories... Many of you have asked how the retirement party for my dear boss went that was held at my home on March 19th... Well, I'm pleased to say it went very well--a little too well, perhaps! You see, now my coworkers are suggesting that I be in charge of future parties as well... And believe me, we have quite a few retiring in this coming decade (including me!). No, I think one is enough for me. I enjoyed the creativity of it, but the preparation was a ton of work and the evening went by so quickly. Anyway, I thought I would share a few of the things I did to help any of you if you ever have to host a retirement party...

First of all, I made a gift card bouquet for her. My coworkers and I all pitched in and purchased a variety of gift cards for my boss based on her various interests including reading (of course!), knitting, pets, tea, movies, etc. I simply printed the flowers off on heavy scrapbooking paper and added centers with cute sayings and graphics. Then I glued on a skewer to each one and attached the gift card to the back with double faced tape.

Each flower held a different gift card

Sam's Club had the most spectacular, giant blue hydrangeas for sale so I purchased one of them, inserted the "flower" skewers and voilà--there you have a personalized, useful, and much appreciated gift. My boss loved it and I know she'll have fun purchasing little gifts for herself for quite some time. 

The finished gift card bouquet

My boss requested, multiple times, that she wanted her party to be kept simple. She doesn't like fuss and so I tried my best to make things fun, but classy. I found a simple reusable banner (you can just slide the cardboard letters off and on to make different sayings) at Target, hung it from my mantle, and placed photos of each member of our department at the library across the top. (Their faces are blurred for privacy making it look like I work with a bunch of aliens!! I can assure you, they are all wonderful, attractive coworkers--I couldn't ask for a better bunch!). In the middle was a framed print with the words "A truly great boss is hard to find, difficult to let go, and impossible to forget." How very true... At the end of the evening, the staff photos were sent home with my boss.

Fireplace decor

A few years ago, my youngest son gave me some magnetic Scrabble tiles for our refrigerator so it has become a family tradition to use them on special occasions. The retirement party was certainly that! So, I created a bit of "refrigerator art" for her using the Scrabble tiles and cute graphics that I printed off the internet. Some of my favorites are "Librarian: The Original Search Engine" and "Librarians Dewey It Better!" It was a big hit and a great conversation piece...

Refrigerator art: librarian style!

Here are some close-ups for you. You'll notice the tiny clothes pins holding up the signs... Well, those were purchased at Target and I simply added tiny pieces of peel-off magnet strips to the back so they would stick on the refrigerator. Such a simple, but cheery touch...

And here is the bottom portion containing my all time favorite graphic (in the lower left) which says "Yes, we have that book with the green cover by that famous guy--It's over in the book section!" Believe it or not, we get so many patrons coming in to the library with these vague requests for things like "that tiny blue book by a woman." Ummm, yeah...

My husband received some personalized M&Ms for his 60th birthday last summer so I decided to splurge and buy some for my boss' retirement party. You can choose your own colors, request short sayings on them and even add a photo of the honoree right here! Too cute and another big hit at the party. 

Personalized M&Ms were such fun!

The food was fabulous! Each coworker brought a dish to pass (something easy to eat as we didn't have a sit-down dinner planned). I made my fruit kebabs (like I showed you in this post), a very tasty light taco dip (recipe can be found here), and chocolate chip cookies. Others brought crabmeat dips, seafood baked in real shells, Swedish meatballs, pork barbecue sliders, veggie trays, olive roll-ups, desserts. Oh, my--a real feast! I wish I had taken a photo of the food before we had devoured most of it, but I did manage to snap a photo (this was only about a third of the dishes!) right at the end before we indulged in the desserts at the end of the table.

The food was so tasty as you can see by the little that remained!

To add interest to the buffet table I made up little signs like these, framed them,  and interspersed them among the food. I found them by googling "retirement party ideas." 

This one was placed next to the desserts... I personalized it (the words in pink) by using "Publisher" on my computer.

And this was my favorite... A miniature poster of an old movie called "Ladies In Retirement!" Don't you love it? At the party, I covered over the name of "Evelyn Keyes" with my boss's name--she loved it!

Having a party means lots of flowers, of course, and between Easter and the retirement party, my house is beginning to look like a floral shop! I took this photo yesterday morning as the sunlight was streaming in the kitchen window. The red Gerbera Daisies were from my oldest son and his girlfriend for Easter and my middle son brought me the most fragrant blue hydrangea I have ever smelled--wonderful!  The pretty shamrock plant in the front came from a coworker to thank me for hosting (along with many, many bottles of wine from other coworkers!).

I could start my own floral shop!

And did you notice that gorgeous orchid on the right? Well, that was given to me when my dad passed away in late 2014 and it has just re-bloomed! What a special gift... I had no hope that I would be able to grow an orchid, but apparently, I'm doing something right. Here is a close-up of the orchid by itself. I think of my dad each time I walk by it...

Blooming once again...

With the arrival of spring (and a most beautiful warm, sunny spring, I might add!), we are seeing more and more wildlife in our yard. The dreaded geese have returned attempting to nest by our pond. We try to chase them off whenever we see them because they make such a terrible mess of our yard. Yes, they are beautiful, but we'll be happier if they choose somewhere else to nest. We haven't seen them in almost a week, so we think they have found a "more welcoming" yard!

Pretty, but, oh, so messy!

And the deer seem to be coming around more and more often. I saw this herd of seven (the 7th is barely visible to the left of the red part of the birdhouse pole) grazing near our pond a few weeks ago. Again, very pretty animals, but they are so destructive to our plantings. We can't plant any flowers out in the open any longer. They end up as deer food time after time. I'm so envious of those of you who can have lovely gardens!

The deer are taking over!

Even daffodils aren't safe--we watched as a deer chomped off one after another while we ate dinner last week. Just look at this photo--I swear he is sticking his tongue out at me!! They are very brazen and seem to think we've planted all of the greenery just for them! That is why anything we truly value has to be planted in the fenced-in raised beds you see behind the deer in the photo below.

"Ha ha ha--you can't stop me!"

Well, I had hoped to share my Uruguay travel photos with you, but have simply run out of time. I'll plan that for next month, okay? I wish each of you a delightful April with many happy stitching moments.  Bye for now...