Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"R" Is For Rabbit (and RAKs)

Hello my friends! Hope all of my fellow U.S. stitchers are hanging in there with this heat...What did we ever do before air conditioning? We rarely use ours here in Pennsylvania, but over the past ten days it has been running almost continuously. At least the heat gives me a good excuse to stay inside and stitch. Do you remember this little start I showed you back in May and asked if anyone knew what it was? A few of you guessed it was a Prairie Schooler (always a safe bet when it comes to me!) and you were right.

And here is my finish of "R" Is For Rabbit from the P*Q*R Prairie Schooler Book No. 111, stitched on 32 ct. flax Belfast linen. Now that is one big, brown, bunny, isn't it? And that was a ton of solid stitching; brown is one color I dread stitching with, but I'm so pleased with how he turned out. He is a darker brown than what was charted because I accidentally reversed the symbols of the two shades of golden brown. By the time I discovered my mistake, I had already stitched his entire head and was too lazy to "behead" him and begin again. I actually like him this darker shade and think my mistake ended up being a blessing in disguise.

July is just one celebration after another around our house. My youngest son turned 23 (say it's not true!!) on the 9th and my husband caught up with me and turned 56 on the 14th. Yes, I am a "cougar"--I married a younger man (even if he is only six months younger!) and he never lets me forget it! And finally, on the 23rd, we celebrated 34 years of marriage. We were such babies when we tied the knot--fresh out of college with no money in the bank, but with many hopes and dreams... I am so blessed to say most, if not all, of those dreams have come true thanks to a lot of hard work, compromise, love, and respect.

To celebrate our two July birthdays I wanted to bake something special, but didn't want a lot of leftover cake tempting me for the next week. Luckily, I stumbled across a wonderful cookbook called Small Batch Baking by Debby Maugans Nakos which has recipes to serve just two or three people with little mini-cakes. I tried her carrot-cake recipe with cream cheese frosting and just look at how charming it turned out--it is a mere 3 inches round by 3 inches high! You bake these in well-washed empty cans (I used large soup cans--careful with those sharp edges) and it made two baby cakes--one for my husband and one for my youngest son (of course, I had a few bites (okay, more than a few bites) of each). I was really leery about how a cake baked in a can would turn out, but not only was it cute as a bug, it also tasted delicious.

Now, on to the next-to-the-last stop of our family's European vacation--the lovely town of Ronda in Spain's Malaga province. This town of about 35,000 inhabitants is divided by the Guadalevin River to form the stunning El Tajo gorge. Notice the gray skies--this was the only bad weather in our entire trip. We were so lucky, weren't we? We paid Ronda just a quick visit on our drive from Granada to Seville. You can click and enlarge any of the photos to see just how incredible the area was...

Puento Nuevo ("New Bridge") spanning El Tajo
gorge was built in the 1700s.

Can you imagine the view they have from their windows?

Some of the gorgeous farmland in the Ronda countryside.

What an incredible sight--but you could not pay me
to walk down that white stairway to the cliffside patio!

A matador statue in Ronda, home of Plaza de Toros
one of Spain's oldest bullfighting rings still in operation.

The 18th century Palacio del Marques de Salvatierra
is noted for it's unusual carved entranceway.

A gorgeous mosaic "map" of the town of Ronda.

Images of Ronda, Spain: May 2011

Well, that wraps up our visit to Ronda--the next, and final, stop will be the lovely Spanish city of Seville.

Now on to the other "R" in my post title: Random Acts of Kindness. I was so surprised and touched to receive these RAKs from fellow stitchers. Kathy from "Kathy's Sit and Stitch" blog surprised me with a darling sewing pouch--just look at that fabric adorned with everything a stitcher could need. Isn't it cute? And, I opened the pouch to find a beautiful hand-made scissor fob and the cheeriest pair of polka-dot scissors. Kathy, I am so happy to have "met" you and my other Canadian stitching friends. Someday, I really might make it up to one of your get-togethers so I can thank you in person...

I also received an email from Carol R. who designs at "iStitch" informing me that I had been sent this delightful strawberry chart as a RAK from Michele at "Just Another Stitching Blog." Isn't it sweet--I mean who doesn't love strawberries? I was so touched that Michele, who lives way across the U.S., would send me, a complete stranger, such a special gift. Well, we are strangers no longer--I'm happy to call her a "friend." Thank you, Michele--your gift truly touched my heart.

And last, but certainly not least, just look at this sweet snowman ornament I received in yesterday's mail from Patty at "Hanging On By a Thread" ! I had let Patty borrow one of my charts and she kindly sent this beautifully stitched and finished ornament as a "thank you." I just love it, Patty, and I'm so glad I was able to help you out by lending you my chart. Your ornament will have a place of honor on my Christmas tree this year--thank you so, so much!

I've said it many, many times, but I still feel compelled to say it again--stitchers really are the nicest people! Thank you all for visiting, for your wonderful comments, and for being such great friends--you're the best! Hope your week is a special one. Bye for now...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Delivering Liberty

Good morning, everyone! Hope your week is off to a great start... Recently, I was lucky enough to win the chart "Delivering Liberty" in a giveaway from Sandra at Homespun Elegance and, guess what? I loved it so much, I already finished it. Don't you love this funky sheep. He reminds me a bit of those judges who wear those long wigs--does anyone else see the resemblance?

This is stitched on 32 ct. putty Belfast linen using DMC, WDW, Nina's, and Sampler Threads (although I substituted several of the suggested over-dyeds for similar shades I already had in my collection.) To complete the piece, I added some black French-knot "seeds" to the watermelon and sewed on two coconut button "wheels." I didn't have the little flag charm that was featured on the chart, so I simply added another gold star in its place. I wonder if there will be any watermelon left by the time Mr. Sheep arrives at his destination with that black crow hitching a ride? So, here is my framed piece (which fit perfectly into a ready-made 5" X 7" frame!), all ready for the next 4th of July!

I told you I was a fan of the Homespun Elegance "Delivering" series. Just look at all these other cute designs that I've collected through the years. So far I've only stitched "Delivering Posies," but I know all of them will eventually wind up in my finishes pile. Thank you, Sandra, for sharing your talent with us and for sending me such a great addition to my Homespun Elegance chart collection.

Now for my next travel report on the fourth stop on our European adventure: the magical Alhambra in Granada, Spain.
The Alhambra

Our trip from the airport to our hotel in Granada's medieval El Albaicin district was one that I'll never forget. Because we are a family of five, we had to split into two groups and take two taxis. Thank goodness my two younger sons both speak Spanish because the taxi drivers certainly didn't speak English! I felt like I was in some sort of wild action/adventure movie as the taxis sped through the steep, narrow, curving, and very dimly lit streets of the old Moorish quarter to our hotel. Honestly, those streets could barely hold one car, they were so narrow. When a car came through, any pedestrians had to flatten their bodies against the buildings to avoid being hit! Add in the fact that we arrived at nearly midnight and you can see why it was such an unforgettable ride...
One of the very narrow, steep streets
in the Moorish section of Granada.

Although Granada has many other sights and things of historical interest, we only had one day there so we, of course, spent it touring The Alhambra. When we arrived, we were first treated to a tour of The Generalife which was used as a summer palace and a place of rest for Muslim royalty back in the 14th century.
We saw beautiful gardens...

ancient buildings with lovely fountains...

breathtaking views of the countryside near Granada...

and even lovelier panoramas.

The interior views were just as spectacular.

The next stop was the Palace of Charles V who ruled the Holy Roman Empire from 1516 to 1556.
The Palace of Charles V.

The highlight of The Alhambra visit was The Palacios Nazaries. Although, the colors have faded through the years, you can still see the amazing architecture of 14th century Moorish rulers. It was the most stunning and unusual collection of buildings I've ever seen...

The throne room the Sala de Embajadores, Hall of the Ambassadors.

Hall of the Abencerrajes at the Palacios Nazaries

The stunning Granada countryside
as seen through the palace windows.

The ceilings at The Alhambra have held up the best through the centuries.

Some of the intricate scroll-work, honeycomb-like
architecture, and mosaic work at the Palacios Nazaries.

Our final stop at The Alhambra was The Alcazaba--the fortress that protected the entire complex.
A Moorish arch led to The Alcazaba.
The Alcazaba is the oldest portion of The Alhambra
complex which fell to Spanish rule in 1492
ending seven centuries of Muslim rule.

Some of the ruins of The Alcazaba.

The view from the top of the Torre de la Vella at The Alcazaba.
The Sierra Nevada mountains loom in the distance.

If you ask any of us what our favorite moment on our trip was, I think we would each respond that it was the evening meal we shared at Restaurante Ruta Del Azafran. As we gazed up at The Alhambra and watched the skies change from bright blue to an almost haunted-looking shade of midnight we truly felt the magic of The Alhambra that others have described. The meal was one of the finest on our trip and I doubt that we'll ever have such a memorable vista by which to dine...

The view of the Alhambra when we sat down to eat about 8 PM.

The sun begins to fade.

Dusk descends and the lights flicker on.

I think we could have happily stayed here all night
just gazing up at this hauntingly beautiful sight.

Just a few of the steep, winding steps we climbed
after dinner for even better views of The Alhambra.

So that ends the tour for today. Hope you enjoyed your armchair traveler's view of Granada and The Alhambra. Next stop will be Ronda, one of the most famous "white towns" in Spain.

I was so touched to receive this beautiful handmade card, bird chart, and ribbons and floss (in my favorite blues!) from an email friend in England. June wanted to thank me for encouraging her to start her own blog. I'm delighted to introduce her new blog, Butterfly Wings to you. Please drop in and say "hello"--she is doing a wonderful job on her new venture and her stitching, gardens, and stitching room are just beautiful. And, guess what? June is offering her very first giveaway! Thank you for your kindness, June--I just adore this little hummingbird card and your other goodies sure put a smile on my face :)

Most of you know that I love to bake and make sweet concoctions, but now that we're empty nesters I've cut way back on that particular hobby. I really miss it and so was thrilled to make a new and fattening treat for the 4th of July weekend when we had some extra mouths to feed. All I can say about this Peanut Butter Pie is wow!! Decadent, delicious, delectable, delightful, divine!! Let's put it this way--a small piece goes a very long way... I sent my youngest son this photo in a blatant attempt to lure him home. Looks like it worked--he'll be coming for a quick visit this weekend...

And finally, the winner of my giveaway for the "Watermelon Garden chart is:

Congratulations, Theresa--I hope you'll enjoy stitching this as much as I did and that you'll pass it on once you are finished. Thanks to all who entered...it was nice to see some new commenters among my very loyal regulars! I hope you'll continue to visit.

Thanks for dropping by today...hope you aren't too bored with my travel photos. Don't worry, I'm not turning this into a travel blog; it's just that I want to have a way to share my photos with my non-stitching family and friends. Your wonderful comments are much appreciated--thank you all! Bye for now...

Friday, July 1, 2011

A bit of the red, white, and blue...

Hello everyone! I've been inspired by all of your patriotic stitching to do a bit of my own this week. First up is "Let Freedom Ring" by Little House Needleworks. I stitched this piece "over one" on 28 ct. Tea Dyed Monaco using the suggested DMC and Crescent colors. I did change the wording to my favorite blue rather than the gold that was charted.

I spent some time on Thursday finishing it off into a little pillow. I'm always a bit surprised at how long it takes to finish something like this--small as it is, it takes me much longer than it should. But, this turned out to be one of my favorite finishes yet. I backed it in the blue and gold fabric shown and added some golden brown cording that my dear husband and I made using my Kreinik Custom Corder.

Heart In Hand's "Olde Glory" was a really quick stitch although this fabric (18 ct. raw cork linen) seemed to be a bit difficult to work on. I do love the way it looks, though with DMC 3865, Sampler Threads Lancaster Red, and Nina's Hand-Dyed Thread in "Old Jeans" (can't say enough how much I love her threads!!).

I added a little golden star for interest and turned it into a small pillow using two different fabrics and a bit of rope-like braided trim. I'm very proud of how it turned out! So, now I have my own little patriotic display in my home that I hope to add a couple of new things to each year. I've included a photo of it at the very bottom of this post. Besides my new additions, the display includes LHN's "America" and the tiniest little Homespun Elegance pin pillow finish that I made last year. You can read about it right here.

I spent last week visiting my parents in NY while my husband was a on a grueling Colorado bike trip. (Are any of your husbands bike riders? I wonder why he puts himself through some of these trips, but it's nice that he has his passion like I have mine for stitching!) Anyway, when I arrived home on Sunday, just look at what was waiting to greet me. And just look at what she'd been feasting on the whole time I was away!! Yes, those "things" sticking up in the left foreground of the photo were my gorgeous green and white hostas with purple flowers before the deer got to them. Oh I was so mad!! She just stood there and looked at me like I was intruding on "her" territory!

But, I couldn't stay mad at her for long when I found out why she was so hungry. The next morning I heard a bleating sound coming from the woods by our pond so I took my camera back to investigate. A little fawn caught a glimpse of me and bounded off deeper into the woods, white tail flying high. Figuring there was no photo opportunity, I just turned around and headed back to the house. When I was almost to the patio, I sensed something behind me, turned, and lo and behold, there was the dearest spotted fawn not more than 20 feet from me. She just stood there looking at me as if she wanted to play.

Now, how could I be mad at her mom for eating my flowers so she could be strong enough to care for her baby? Well, make that babies plural!! Yes, little twin fawns have been having the time of their lives chasing each other through the yard and munching on all of our greenery. But, who can stay upset with those sweet faces? Luckily, our vegetable garden is fenced in so they can't make the tomatoes, peas, beans, lettuce, or zucchini a part of their diets!

No Europe trip photos to show you this time. It takes so long to organize and put a post like that together and time was something I really didn't have much of this week. I haven't picked the winner of the "Watermelon Garden" chart yet either, so if you'd still like to enter the giveaway, please leave a comment on my last post only.

Thank you all for your much-appreciated comments and a warm welcome to my new followers. Wishing all of you in the U.S. a safe and fun Fourth of July weekend...And Happy Canada Day to my wonderful blogging friends up north! I have to work on Saturday, but I'm looking forward to grilling and relaxing on Sunday and Monday--how about you? Bye for now...