Monday, November 25, 2013

Chirp, Gobble, Quack!

Good morning all! Thanksgiving is almost here! Are you ready? This year we'll be heading to Ohio for the day to celebrate with my husband's family. Can you tell I've been relatively stress-free having a year "off?" Oh, I'm still making the pies, a cookie tray, the pumpkin-cranberry bread, and the strawberry-pretzel "salad," but it is such a welcome relief not to be the hostess. None of that exhausting pre-feast cleaning and set-up that accompanies all the shopping and cooking. What are your plans this year?

Somehow, all of my stitching lately has been bird-related! I didn't plan that, but well, I do love our little (and-not-so-little) feathered friends. The first finish I'd like to share with you today is my ornament for September (yes, September--I'm way behind on my monthly ornament challenge, but I will get it done!). This is from the 2013 Just Cross Stitch Ornament issue and is called "Baby Cardinal" by The Victoria Sampler. I do believe it is the tiniest ornament I've ever made...

 The Victoria Sampler's "Baby Cardinal"

The stitched portion measures only about 1¼ inches square so it made a perfect piece to finish as a flat mounted ornament (you can follow Vonna's very helpful tutorial right here). I think this is stitched on a 28 ct. dirty linen (it was one of those mystery scraps that seem to accumulate in my fabric cupboard). I used a mixture of DMC and overdyeds and since I didn't have the tiny star that was called for, I improvised my own star in pale yellow. I also made the baby cardinal's tail longer. Isn't he sweet?

Baby Cardinal ornament

My next finish was the first La D Da piece I've ever stitched! I've had "O Birdy" in my stash for a while and decided it was high time I brought him to life. I love the colors in this piece--so rich and autumnal. This majestic looking fellow is stitched on 40 ct. creme brulee fabric using DMC threads. Don't you love his purple plume? I'll be framing this one (some day!).

"O Birdy" finish

My other two birdy stitches were both for birthday gifts... For my friend Shirlee, who celebrated her birthday in October, I stitched this La D Da piece called "Yellow Bird." Yellow? Yellow? Well, obviously I changed the color! The pretty green silk is by Dinky Dyes and is called "Sea Grass." I loved stitching with silk--another first for me! I added Shirlee's initials to make it into a little pinkeep for her to sit on a shelf or actually use for pins. She is another bird lover so I thought this would be a perfect gift...

 "Yellow Bird" (in green!)

And remember when I told you I stitched two of the Shepherd's Bush "Give Thanks" last month, but only showed you one? Well, that's because the second one was for a gift. One of my fellow Pennsylvania friends,  Mary, celebrated her birthday earlier this month and this one went to her. Here is the larger of the two I created on 40 ct. flax Newcastle using the suggested threads. I made him into one of my little pillows so Mary can display him on a mantle or bookshelf.

 Shepherd's Bush "Give Thanks"

I thought you might enjoy seeing the difference stitching something "over one" versus "over two" makes in a piece. Here are both of them together... Barb won my giveaway for the "over one" turkey and reports that he has safely landed in Washington State. And, guess what?! I stitched a third one, too, but since the intended recipient hasn't received it yet, I'll show you that version in my next post...

 Shepherd's Bush "Give Thanks" finishes

I found some photos that I took over the past few months of the feathered friends who have visited our yard and thought you might enjoy them. My husband surprised me one day by bringing home a new hummingbird feeder (our old one seemed to have mysteriously disappeared into the black hole that we call our garage attic!). It didn't take the little hummers long to find a new and plentiful source of food--I think we had some visiting the very next day. Of course, they are gone now that the cold weather has settled in, but we so enjoyed seeing them flit around right outside our kitchen window this summer.

Once the cold weather appeared and the hummingbirds headed south, we put up a thistle feeder. The goldfinches enjoyed feasting for a while before they, too, left for warmer climates.

Even though it has cooled off, we still get visits from these sweet chickadees. They stay around all winter and certainly brighten up the landscape.

And just look at this big old turkey trying to steal the food of the tinier birds! My husband saw a whole flock of them out there, but by the time I ran and got my camera, this lonely fellow was the only one left. (I had to take the photo through the glass window so please excuse the glare).

I've saved the biggest and best bird for last! In September and October the city of Pittsburgh had the honor of becoming the first city in the United States to host the famous  giant 40 foot rubber duck! They had to design him a bit shorter than normal to fit under our many bridges. The duck, designed by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, has now visited over a dozen cities around the world and has brought smiles to young and old. Of course, we had to go see him and I can't begin to describe the atmosphere--there were just happy people everywhere grinning ear-to-ear at the sight of this giant yellow bird bobbing up and down in the waters of the Allegheny River. What a brilliant idea the artist had--something so simple, yet so appealing to people of all ages! I'll leave you with a few pictures (you can click them for a better look) we took that day--I still smile when I think about that sweet duck!

The giant rubber duck invades
 Pittsburgh in September 2013.

Doesn't his face just "quack you up!?"

A view of the duck at Point State Park from 
the North Shore of the Allegheny River.

The Pittsburgh city skyline brightened by a duck!

Well, that's it for this week! I want to wish each of you a wonderful Thanksgiving with your families on Thursday. I can hardly wait until our family is complete again and my youngest son (whom I haven't seen in almost three months) arrives home from Washington, DC for a few days. Lots of catching up and laughing about old family memories will ensue, I'm sure! I love it when all three of my sons are together teasing each other and joking together as we sit around the kitchen table.  I'll be back in December with my final three ornament finishes--I promise! Bye for now... 


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Five Friends Stitching

Hello, hello! I'm back from my stitching retreat and visiting my parents and find myself with only six weeks left until Christmas! How on earth did that happen?? Are the rest of you feeling like this year has passed in a blur, too? Seriously...I don't know where the past 10 1/2 months have gone!

Many of you have asked what stitching retreat I went to... Well, it isn't an organized retreat--there are no teachers, no classes, no "stuff" for sale. It is just five friends gathering together at a lovely bed and breakfast in the town of North East, Pennsylvania (yes, why a town in the northwest corner of Pennsylvania is named "North East" is a bit ironic, to say the least!). This is the fourth year that we've traveled from towns in Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania for three days of stitching, chatting, and eating. I love the casualness of it--I am not a big group person. I tend to be a quiet, rather shy person and crowds just overwhelm me so this sort of retreat is just perfect for me.

This year we decided to have an exchange of gifts with absolutely no theme and it was such fun. We could stitch something, give something stitchy-related, or present one another with any sort of little remembrance. I chose to make these "A Spot of Christmas" scissor fobs designed by Milady's Needle (from the July/August 2009 Just cross Stitch magazine). They were stitched over one on 28 ct. tea dyed Monaco using a variety of overdyed and DMC threads. I added my own border to the design, though, rather than using the one charted.

"A Spot of Christmas" fobs

Here is a close-up of one of them. Can you see the little white snowflakes and the eyes in the bird and reindeer--so teeny!  I told my friends they could use them for fobs or Christmas ornaments and they seemed very happy with them...

Of course a scissor fob needs a new pair of scissors, doesn't it? I bought Kelmscott's primitive Vineyard scissors because the name of the inn we stay at is the Grape Arbor Bed & Breakfast so I thought the vineyard theme tied in nicely. I purchased the Kelmscott scissors from Anita's Little Stitches and just wanted to let you all know what quick and perfect service I got--thanks, Anita! To complete my gift I added a scented Banana Nut Bread candle and a bar of Dove chocolate...

I found these cute red snowflake boxes at my local dollar store to make wrapping the goodies up quick and easy... Here they are all set to go!

And what a great bunch of goodies I received from my four stitching friends...  We all agreed it felt like Christmas morning as we opened each gift!

From Linda, we each received a darling Lizzie Kate kit, some handy clips, a pad of paper and pen to write down those charts we must buy, and a magnetic pick-up wand for locating those "disappearing" needles. I have no more excuses for not finding those missing needles, do I?

Barb stitched us each a sweet sled ornament from Foxwood Crossings... How cute is that little snowman with the cardinal nesting on his hat? I'll have to order some of those little sleds for myself to stitch up for friends!

Lee, our fearless "leader" and chief organizer of this wonderful retreat, asked each of us what our favorite color was and proceeded to buy us a scarf in that very hue. Isn't it lovely? Everyone knows I'm a fan of any shade of blue and the blues  in Lee's scarf are particularly pretty.

And Pam made each of us an adorable table runner/mat appliqued with a circle of six snowmen. How perfect for my blue and white kitchen! She also included a lovely glass ornament for my Christmas tree.

Thank you Linda, Barb, Lee, and Pam for those gorgeous gifts, but even more thank you for your special friendships. I honestly can't remember the last time I laughed as hard as I did on our retreat. It was all just so much fun... and so easy. Simple, uncomplicated relaxation... And to make it even better, the inn has two resident cats who would occasionally park themselves next to me while I stitched. Talk about pure contentment... If you're even thinking about doing a similar retreat with stitching friends, I highly recommend it. We all met online and who knew that we'd all hit it off and our friendships would just keep growing each year!

BLOGGING SLOW-DOWN: Our get-together prompted a discussion of our blogs and blogging in general. All five of us have blogs, but they are in various stages from inactive to blogging just now and then. Lee started us all thinking about why we are blogging less and offers up some very good points in this post. I began blogging almost five years ago and posted once a week because I was stitching an ornament a week. But, since then the number of posts have dwindled each year until 2013 when I've barely posted twice a month.

Lee asks (in this post) why those of us who have blogs lose interest in updating? I think my problem is I tend to procrastinate and end up with these way-too-long posts and it seems overwhelming to me to sit down and write. Also, I'm one who only likes to show finishes or at least a good start on a new project. In other words, I want to have something interesting or something of substance to share with you. I have no cute pets or darling grandchildren to show photos of so I doubt that my everyday life seems very interesting to the outside world. I love my life, but to others it probably seems very simple... I keep having to remind myself that I started this blog only to keep track of my cross stitch finishes and I do want to try to keep that up. As a result of our discussions, my friend, Pam, has decided to revive her old blog, so why not run over and say "hello." How about you? How have your blogging habits changed through the years and why? And for those of you who have been blogging regularly for years, what motivates you?

GIVEAWAY WINNERS:  I was very surprised that so many of you entered the drawing for my little Thanksgiving pillow! Such kind comments were left and I would love to have something for each of you, but there can only be one winner and the winner this time is:

BARB (Wicked Stitcher blog)

Congratulations, Barb! Please send me your mailing address and I will make sure this little turkey gets to his new home by Thanksgiving! He has to fly clear across the U.S. to Washington State so it may take a while.I'll miss the little guy!

And the winner of the Shepherd's Bush "Give Thanks" chart is:

Chris (Tot Hill Farm Stitches blog)

Congratulations, Chris! I know you'll love stitching this as much as I did and I hope you will pass along the chart in a giveaway of your own after you're finished. I'll get this in the mail to you as soon as you send me your mailing address.

I'll leave you with the gorgeous first snow of the season which I awoke to yesterday morning. This was the view that greeted me as I looked out my upstairs window...

 First snow of the season: November 12, 2013

Our backyard looks so pretty with the blanket of snow and the hint of yellow leaves still visible on a few of the trees. And here is a close-up of our tranquil looking. I hope the fish are keeping warm somehow! Poor things--amazingly, they do survive the winter each year.

Backyard pond

Well, I do have more finishes to show you, but I'll save them for another post--this one is way too long already. Next year, I'm hoping to shorten my posts up and make things easier on myself (and on you, my dear readers!!).  Thank you, as always, for your kind comments and emails. I truly appreciate each and every one.  I've added a "Follow By Email" link to my sidebar since I've had so many requests for that. Hope it makes things easier for you to follow "Stitching Dreams". Bye for now...