Thursday, June 29, 2017

A lone finish in a month of travel

Well, that was quick! June that is... As I mentioned in my last post, it was going to be a month of traveling for me and my family and I feel like I'm still recovering. Within the time span of three weeks, we drove over 800 miles to and from Connecticut for a nephew's wedding, flew almost 2500 miles to San Diego, California to spend a couple of days with my son and his fiancee before driving over 200 miles north to Santa Barbara for another nephew's wedding. Then we drove 100 miles back to Los Angeles, flew another 2500 miles back to Pittsburgh, and then last week I drove 600 miles to and from New York to visit my mom. And I wonder why I'm so tired! I'm 62 years old and my body just doesn't bounce back like it used to, that's for sure!! But, we enjoyed the weddings so very much--one from each side of the family so there were a lot of laughs and reminiscing. The next time that we'll see all of the relatives will be for a very happy occasion--my oldest son's wedding in October!

So, I hope you'll forgive this post for its lack of stitching. I have been stitching ornaments, but, you know me--I don't like to share them until they are fully finished off. Today, I have just one finish--a patriotic one that I'm so pleased with. You'll recognize it as one I stitched back in 2015: "Free and Brave" designed by The Drawn Thread. I found the red clipboard at Kohl's for only $5.00 (picked up a black one and a gray one, too!) and thought it would come in so handy for displaying future Christmas or Valentine's Day finishes. For the blue fabric on the background, I used an old shirt (not sure which one of the men in my family it belonged to!).

Final finish of "Free and Brave"

I love this design for the wonderful specialty stitches that comprise the leaves and flowers.  I remember really struggling with the flowers as I stitched them, but I'm so happy with the way they turned out. Here is a closer look:

Love those special stitches!

And that beautiful extra-long  American flag waving in the breeze--love it!

And that sweet bird on the roof--so cute!

I'll try my best to finish up some Christmas ornaments to share with you next time. I don't think I've shown any finished ornaments since February! Oh, I am more behind than I thought I was with my monthly ornament challenge...  Sigh... Just one of those crazy, busy years!

GIVEAWAY WINNER:  I had a number of entries for the little patriotic chart so I pulled a winner from the hat and the name chosen was:

Congratulations to Mary! Please send me your mailing address and I'll get the chart off to you as soon as possible. It's probably too late to stitch it for this 4th of July, but you'll have it done by the next July 4th in plenty of time!  And, if you didn't win this giveaway--don't worry! I'll be having more in the future. I'm so happy these old charts are going to my stitching friends!

Winner of this giveaway chart is:  Mary!

A special present... I wanted to share this sweet gift that my youngest son gave me for Mother's Day. He purchased it when he traveled to Abu Dhabi for work last month and it is just so delightful... filled with all shades of blue and those lovely birds--he knows me well! The wall hanging measures about 2 feet by 3 feet--not sure what fibers it is made of.

Wall hanging all the way from Abu Dhabi!

Here are a couple of close-ups...

Love those colors...

...and those beautiful birds!

I'm not sure where I'm going to hang it yet--perhaps at the top of my stairs or at the end of my kitchen. Or perhaps I'll use it as the starting point when I re-decorate one of the boys' old bedrooms? I have to think about it for a while still--it is so beautiful that it needs to be showcased somehow.

My son's trip to Abu Dhabi was his first and he was so impressed with the splendor of the architecture and beauty of the city. I was a bit worried about him being there, but he said he felt extremely safe.  Here are a few photos he sent us--not sure that it will ever be a place I'll travel to, but never say never. I'm sure he never dreamed that he would be there either!

Abu Dhabi photos taken by my youngest son

As I mentioned, we were in southern California earlier in June and we just had to take advantage of the ever present sunny blue skies and get outside. We went on two hikes--the first one was in Mission Trails Regional Park. Hiking out there is very different than in western Pennsylvania--it is more desert like; we are used to forests of green trees and moss covered rocks! But, we still managed to spy some lovely wildflowers and even one small cactus.

Desert flowers in Mission Trails Regional Park

A couple more lovely scenes we came across...

Old Mission Dam

Some of the rugged terrain at Mission Trails

We also drove up to Mt. Soledad Veteran's Memorial to enjoy the spectacular views of the La Jolla coastline... Wow! What a sight!

The La Jolla coastline in the distance

At the top of the mountain is a war memorial and a huge cross which was the subject of much controversy (dealing with separation of church and state.) But, in 2015 a private group purchased the land under the cross and the case was dismissed as the cross is no longer on public lands.

Mt. Soledad Veteran's Memorial

We took one other hike to the Gaviota Wind Caves in the Santa Ynez Mountains west of Santa Barbara. It had to be one of the hardest hikes I've ever done as it was very steep with lots of loose gravel and no shade. On the way down, I spent much of the time crab-walking so I wouldn't fall flat on my back! I didn't do a good job of taking photos as I was too worried about falling (and watching out for mountain lions and snakes!). But, the caves are those two little black things in the upper left of my photo...

Gaviota Wind Caves off in the distance

So, my month of travel has ended and July looks like it will be quite restful. I'm hoping for lots of porch-sitting weather and more beautiful flowers like these purple and blue beauties that have been popping up in our garden... Even though I love to travel, home will always be my favorite place to be. I never get bored with all the books, stitching, and lovely nature scenes that surround me. Right now we have a pair of twin baby deer romping around our pond under the watchful eyes of their mama. I feel most at peace right here at home...

Pansies, clematis, lavender, and hydrangeas--a few of my favorite things!

I'll try to pop in and visit your blogs very soon--I missed all of you while I was gone! Thank you again for your wonderful comments--I love reading each and every one... Take care now and for my U.S. friends--Happy 4th of July! Bye for now...

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A big finish and a tiny giveaway...

Good morning! And how are my stitching friends on this final day of May? Summer has "unofficially" started with the Memorial Day weekend, but it is still feeling rather cool and springlike here--I am longing for those warm 75° days when I don't have to dress in layers and the furnace is no longer coming on in the house! Hopefully, by the next time I post, we will have some true summer weather.

Before I show you my "big" finish, I want to express my thanks for your wonderful comments on my previous post. You were all so sweet with your compliments about my mom's 90th birthday party (and my beautiful mom!). As I told some of you--the smile on her face made all of my hard work worthwhile. She loved reading everyone's comments and wants to thank you all for your kind "Happy Birthday" wishes! Throughout my blogging journey, my mom has been one of my biggest supporters--always reading each post, telling me "that was a good one," and being amazed at,  and interested in, the friends that I have made (from all around the world) as a result of my little old blog... So, thank you--stitching friends are the best!

So, after five months, my "big" (for me!) finish is done--"A Walk In the Woods" was completed last week and I love it more each time I see it.  I began stitching this Cricket Collection design as my "New Year's start" and have worked on it intermittently since then.

"A Walk In the Woods"--all finished up!!

I used 40 ct. flax Newcastle linen with most of the suggested DMC threads for this piece. I did change the dark purple color to a less vibrant 3740 as I thought it looked better with the subdued colors of this sampler. I also made quite a few changes to the letters. Many of them had a straight line running across the tops of the "open" letters like the U, V, X, and Y that closed the letter off and I didn't like that look. So I omitted the lines and redesigned a few of the letters of the alphabet.

Love that little nest!

My biggest change was to the right of the date--there was supposed to be a crown there. What? I know samplers often include crown motifs, but I just didn't understand what it had to do with this sampler. Everything else is nature related so I found a simple bouquet motif in one of my stitching books, changed the colors to blues and purples, embellished it a bit, and voilĂ --I had my final motif! You can get a better glimpse of it in this photo... I thought it looked as though I had walked through the woods and picked a delicate bunch of posies to take home with me!

I added the little bouquet

So, what is your favorite motif on our nature walk? I really love the nest with the lone blue egg, but that border of violas is what first drew me to this design. I am just thrilled with this finish and I am considering sending it to be framed by Jill Rensel. I'm sure it will be quite expensive, but I've long admired the magic Jill does with her frames. Have any of you sent things to her? I just love scrolling through her blog and seeing her work!

Nature's beauty in stitches...

Unfortunately, not much other stitching has been going on. Like a lot of you, this is a busy, busy time for outdoor chores. We've been planting, transplanting, pruning, and mulching in our free time. At times, it feels rather hopeless, because, chances are, the deer will eat what we've planted. But, they usually avoid the geraniums, petunias, and ferns that we chose, so--fingers crossed! Things are looking a bit sparse right now, but I hope to fill in with a few more plants in the coming weeks.

Our patio garden

Ferns seem to love our yard, so we transplanted several to the front of the porch. We've put out the porch furniture since I took the photo below, too--I can hardly wait to sit there and stitch on a warm June day.

Transplanted ferns seem to be loving our front porch!

Just love the bright yellow of these tuberous begonias. Sam's Club was selling these--all potted up with the English Ivy--for only $14.99! Wish I had bought more than two pots...

Floral sunshine
Blue salvia and pink coral bells come back year after year

We've had tons of bunnies (yay!!) visiting our yard and I caught these two playing hide and seek behind the rose bush (which hasn't bloomed yet because the deer keep attacking it!).   Do you see the deer antlers lying on the ground? My husband found them in the woods behind our house last year and placed them in the garden as a sort of decoration (and to ward off the deer--ha ha!). Anyway, I noticed that the antlers seemed to be "melting" and getting smaller and smaller over the past year. Then one day, I spotted a tiny squirrel nibbling away at them! It seems that the antlers provide needed calcium to squirrels, chipmunks, and other rodents and also help sharpen their teeth! Who knew?!

Bunny hide and seek!

Patriotic stitching, anyone? Since many of us are stitching patriotic pieces this time of year, I came across this chart in an old magazine that I thought one of you might like. If you are interested in giving this chart a new home, just let me know in your comments. This is just two pages torn from a magazine--not the whole magazine. If more than one person wants it, I will do a drawing.  PLEASE, PLEASE make sure to include your email in with your comment--I won't be trying to track anyone down if they haven't included their email address... Also, just so you know, I will be folding this up and mailing it in a legal sized envelope to save on postage. I'll announce the winner the next time I post...

I'm having a giveaway for this cute patriotic chart

Lots of traveling will be happening in June as we have back to back family weddings on opposite coasts of the United States. Yep--almost 3000 miles apart! Two different nephews from each side of the family are getting married a week apart and, although I'm looking forward to seeing all the extended family, I'm not looking forward to all that travel. But, after these trips are over, we can relax for the summer--can't wait!

Thank you so much for visiting me today--and a special thanks to all of you who take the time to comment. I do appreciate each and every one! Hope you have a lovely day and manage to fit in at least some stitching time during this busy, busy season. Bye for now...

Thursday, May 18, 2017

You Are So Loved and a Very Special 90th Birthday Celebration!

Hello, hello! And another month is speeding by! We've passed the half-way mark of May--can you believe it? I was so busy getting ready for my mom's 90th birthday party that the past few weeks have simply passed in a blur. It was truly a wonderful celebration and I hope you'll enjoy reading about it in later on in this post. Thank you all so much for your "Happy Birthday" wishes for her--she really appreciated each and every one!

First of all, I'll share the stitching I did for mom's birthday. I thought this little freebie from Snowflower Diaries was the perfect thing to stitch for her on her milestone 90th birthday. As any of you who have stitched this will recognize, I changed it up a bit to fit our family.  The original chart (which can be found here), had only two baby birds with a mama bird. But, our family has four "chicks," so I added two more birds to represent me, my younger brother, and two younger sisters. Of course, that meant adjusting the branches, too--I think it turned out so cute!

Freebie finish of  "You Are So Loved"

I used a peachy salmon-colored fabric (which is not nearly as bright as is showing up in this photo) to pick up the colors of the flowers and edged it with the same color cording. The finish also has a tiny, silver heart hanging from the little falling branch which I added to represent my dad. Although he has been gone over two years, we still feel his love surrounding us each and every day. Mom loved it and was very touched, I'm happy to say. And so happy to finally own a "Carol pillow" of her very own. I've stitched and framed pieces for her before, but had never made a little pillow so she was thrilled!

"You Are So Loved"--all finished up

And for her special birthday/Mother's Day gift she also received the finish that I shared with you last time, "Bluebird Out My Window." I decided to add a black Smyrna stitch  for his eye rather than leaving just the fabric showing and I'm much happier with it. In real life, bluebirds have very dark, beady eyes so he looks more realistic to me with this dark eye. I found the perfect 4" x 6" frame at Marshall's and framed it using the lacing method--a first for me! Here it is--what do you think? I thought this would make a lovely gift for mom because of the word "Home" on it--she has always been the center of our home, no matter how far afield us kids are scattered...

Bluebird Out My Window--framed and ready for its new home

So, on to the big 9-0 party! Oh, it was fun--a lot of work for me, but so rewarding to do this for my dear mother. First, of course, came the invitation. I got my inspiration from Pinterest and created it using a photo of her as a little girl along with a more recent one. Just look at those curls--was she not the cutest little thing? Sort of a brown haired Shirley Temple! (I have covered up the personal information and the dotted lines weren't there in real life).

The invitation that started it all

Next, I created some personalized wrappers for Hershey Miniatures chocolates--because what's a party without chocolate? I simply experimented using Microsoft Publisher until I was able to get the correct size to cover the little bars. These are the designs I came up with...

Personalized candy wrappers in pink and black

I ended up making 125 of them which were scattered down the center of the tables along with sparkly pink and silver sequins. Thankfully, listening to a good audio book (The Women In the Castle) made the wrapping go pretty quickly. I used two pieces of double sided tape--one to hold the paper label to the original candy wrapper and the other to close up the wrapper that I made. Funny side story--at the birthday lunch, my youngest son decided it would be funny to take the wrapper off one of the candy bars and put it on a wrapped butter patty. He kept offering it to other guests as a "special" candy bar and then let them in on the joke before they unwrapped it. After the party, he placed it in the butter dish when he left--wonder what the poor waitress thought when she spied what she thought was chocolate "candy" and then realized it was actually a pat of butter!

125 miniatures all ready to eat!

The chocolates were quickly gobbled up by the party goers, but luckily, I had made mom her very own gift box for later on... For her special box, I added a couple of wrapped bars that said, "Love you Mom!" ♥

Mom's personal box of chocolates

I found these cute photo props on Etsy, downloaded and printed them, and added skewers for holders (using my hot glue gun). To display them, I stuck the skewers in floral foam and covered it with pink packing "peanuts."

Photo props from Etsy

They helped create such fun photos as you can see by the smiles below! That's my mom in the lower right--she truly is "90 and Fabulous!" My youngest and oldest son are at the top left, husband in lower left, two nieces on the left and a good family friend is at the top right. Love them all!

Who are those masked men and women?!

Another idea I spotted on Pinterest was to highlight the birthday girl's year of birth using mason jars filled with flowers. A very simple idea that turned out so cute! I used Columbine from my garden--just loved the rustic look. Another funny story, though... I picked the flowers right before we drove up to New York on Friday. Little did I know that they housed many, many tiny ants which kept crawling out of the flowers and up my legs during the entire trip! My husband even found a couple on the steering wheel as he drove. Glad they weren't bees or something that bites!

1927: A very special year

I placed the mason jars on a table filled with old photos. Everyone enjoyed looking at mom as a child, a college coed, a young bride, and also those of her in her adult years.

The photo table

The party was held in the social room at my mom's senior living center--a perfect size for the 31 guests. I requested that the tables be set up in a "U" shape and thought it worked out so well. Mom and the four of us kids sat at the bottom of the "U" where we could clearly see the guests and they could see us. A buffet lunch consisting of pasta and meatballs, chicken, rolls, veggies (no, I did not eat them--for any of you long-time readers, you know vegetables are just not my thing!) and a green salad. It was prepared by the senior living facility--they have such tasty food!

All ready for a party!

As you can see, there was lots of pink:  polka-dot balloons, linen napkins, and pretty spring  colored flowers. My youngest sister ordered the sweet floral "Happy Birthday" banner you see in the photo below from Etsy. Absolutely loved it!

Pink polka-dot balloons and purple and pink flowers

There was even dancing--well one dance; a very special one featuring mom and my middle son. I just love that photo! Doesn't my mom look fabulous--her smile says it all. And look! There is a very rare photo of me on my blog! And even more rare--I have a dress on and a pink sweater! A miracle! After lunch, the residents of the senior living community all came down and joined us for cake and punch. It was so enjoyable to chat with them and hear the wonderful things they had to say about mom.

My beautiful mom, middle son, and me!

Since the first cake didn't have candles (her facility doesn't allow them--even for birthday cakes!) we wanted to have a second cake later on so she could make a wish and blow out the candles. We ordered a positively decadent chocolate cake--oh, my! D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S! We enjoyed this one when we gathered at my brother's house that evening for pizza and subs. No one was very hungry, but somehow we found room for that cake!

I wonder what she wished for?

I made mom one last gift--a Scrabble themed card/picture. Another Pinterest idea and one that was so perfect for her as we play "Words With Friends" online each night. I had some old Scrabble tiles that had belonged to my grandmother (another avid player) so I used them along with a printed hummingbird and some puffy flowers to create this little picture. 

Whew! So, that is the party round-up. I hope you enjoyed it and found some ideas you can use for your next big family celebration. I told mom I'm going to start planning for her 100th birthday party and she just laughed. But, you never know, do you? She is still so, so sharp--I only hope I inherited her genes... She truly is my best friend--can't imagine how I got so lucky to have her as my mom :)

Thank you all for stopping in to say "hello" today! I appreciate each of your comments so very much. I'm way behind on blog reading and commenting, but hope to catch up today. AND, I really do hope to be back by the end of the month with a BIG finish... I'm working more days than usual, though, so we'll see! Bye for now...

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Bluebird Out My Window

Happy last day of April! Can you believe 2017 is now one-third over? It's been such a lovely spring and, unfortunately, my lack of stitching reflects that. I've had a real case of "spring fever" and have been doing everything but stitching... And my finishing mojo? Oh, that is nowhere to be seen. I sure hope things return to normal soon, but with picking out plants (or should I say deer food) for our gardens, doing lots of organizing and spring cleaning at home, and planning for my mom's 90th birthday party (which will be taking place in just two short weeks), the minutes to sit and stitch have been few and far between...

I do have one finish that was done in April (along with more stitching on "A Walk In the Woods" which, sadly, did not get completed by month's end as I had hoped). This sweet design is called "Bluebird Out My Window" by With Thy Needle and Thread. It took a surprisingly long time to finish and, to be completely honest, I just didn't enjoy the fabric (40 ct. wren Newcastle linen) at all. I doubt I'll use it for other finishes. It was just a bit too mottled for my liking.   I used most of the suggested overdyeds, but substituted a few of my own choices.

"Bluebird Out My Window" by With Thy Needle & Thread

Here are a couple of close-ups for you. The colors in the photo below are a bit more "true to life." The one above looks much brighter on my computer than it really is... As I'm looking at these photos, I'm wondering if the bird needs an eye? Perhaps a black stitched eye or a bead? What do you think? It wasn't charted, but he looks rather unfinished to me...

Such a sweet bird!

I'm going to be framing this one as it will fit perfectly in a 4" X 6" frame. Yay! Love it when that happens. And it is small enough that I can handle the framing by myself. I do love that bluebird, but you know what--I have never seen one in real-life! How many of you have them in your yards? Do you have special bluebird houses for them?

Should I add an "eye?"

I'm behind on my monthly Christmas ornament finishing--have done the stitching for March and April, but not finished them. I forgot to take a photo of the April ornament, but for March, I did a little PS design from "Button Up" (Book No. 143). You all know how much I love cardinals and I couldn't resist this little guy.

Prairie Schooler "Button Up" cardinal

As I mentioned, I haven't finished him into an ornament, yet, but I plan on doing him just like this one that I sent as a RAK to April in Virginia in 2016. I don't think I've shared this finish with you, but here it is... better late than never: a simple flat finish with a wide gingham border, green cording, and a coordinating plaid hanger. April loved it and I'm hoping my cardinal will look just as cute finished in this manner!  This design is from the same PS booklet as the cardinal above...

RAK for April in Virginia last December

Speaking of gifts, I had two wonderful gifts from stitching friends in Europe who thought of me at Easter time.  From Gabi in Germany came this cute bunny (everyone knows I love my bunnies!)... Thanks so very much, Gabi--I'll think of you each time I put him out in the spring...

Easter gift from Gabi in Germany

And from my friend, Nathalie, in France came another bunch of bunny love along with some Easter napkins and spring-colored ribbons. Thanks so much, Nathalie--you are so sweet to think of me!

Easter gifts from Nathalie in France

Easter was a bit sad for us this year as it was the first big holiday in 35 years--since we became parents--that not a single one of our sons was here for dinner. We really didn't know what to do--we just kind of sat there and tried not to be sad... but it was hard. In an effort to cheer up the day just a bit, I did make this delicious carrot cake roll for our dessert. I was so worried that it wouldn't turn out, but it was wonderful.  Ali, from the blog "Gimme Some Oven" did a wonderful job in explaining everything and it couldn't have been easier. The result was a nice looking dessert that came together very simply! Ali is the daughter of the Lizzie Kate designer--such a talented family! If you're interested, the recipe can be found right here.

A tasty carrot cake roll for Easter dessert

This has to be the most beautiful spring in years here in western Pennsylvania! A real spring --cool and sunny with just the right amount of rain. Usually we jump right from winter weather straight into summer heat and humidity, but not this year. Most of our flowering trees are gone by now, but over the past few weeks, every time I looked out a window, I spotted bright pinks, purples, and whites in each corner of our yard. Below you can see the white dogwoods, the pink mini-rhododendrons, the white crabapple, and the purplish pink lilacs. Oh, if only they would last just a bit longer!

Lovely spring blooms in every corner!

Giveaway winner... The winner of my giveaway from my last post for this sweet Homespun Elegance chart is:  

ROBIN (from Virginia)

Giveaway winner:  Robin (in Virginia)

Congratulations, Robin! I hope you enjoy the chart! I can see little bits and pieces of it being made into small cushions, can't you? I'll get it off to you sometime this week...

Sewing Machine news... Well, so, so many of you suggested that I have my old machine serviced, cleaned, and oiled before I invested in a new machine that that is exactly what I've decided to do! I truly appreciate all of your advice about what to buy, what you like, etc. That is a tremendous help and, if I do have to buy a new machine, you can be sure that I'll be taking your advice to heart. There is a Mennonite man up near my mom in New York who comes highly recommended, so I plan on taking my sewing machine up there some time this summer. Hopefully, he'll be able to get it running like new again!

And that's about it for today--my husband is on a long bike ride so I decided to sit down and get one last post in before the end of April. Thank you so much for stopping by and thank you, especially, to those of you who take the time to leave a comment or send an email. I appreciate each and every one so very much! Wishing you a wonderful month ahead... Bye for now...

Enjoy the merry, merry month of May!