Thursday, July 31, 2014

Favorite Freebie Finishes--Christmas Edition

I want my summer back!! Yes, I know many of you are enjoying lovely warm, sunny summers, but we've been experiencing even more days of record low temperatures here in western Pennsylvania. Honestly--wearing my winter bathrobe on these chilly "summer" mornings is not something I want to be writing about as August approaches, but that's my life right now... How are things in your part of the world? Warmer and sunnier, I hope? I think a lot of us thought that after that frigid winter we endured, we would be rewarded with a perfect summer... ha!! Unfortunately, it's been anything but...

In keeping with our chilly weather, I've been working on catching up on my monthly Christmas ornament challenge and have finished three new ornaments which I'd love to show you today. These all happen to be freebies, and, as I've said many times before, I'm so thankful to all of you talented cross stitch designers who share your talents with us.  The first is one I'm sure you'll all recognize: "Seven Pines" by Little House Needleworks which you can find right here. This linen doesn't photograph very well because the holes are so large. I'm not even sure what it is--some mystery 25 or 26 ct. scrap that I found in my stash, but I liked it because the white showed up so nicely. Since the holes in the fabric were so large I ended up using two threads stitched over one rather than the usual "one over one." I like the effect--the stitching really stands out! I used long stitches for the carrot nose rather than cross stitching it as was charted and made a couple of changes to the suggested DMC colors. I used DMC 498, 869, 921, 3051, 3371, and white (just in case you're wondering)...

And here is how I finished it into one of my little pillow ornaments. The size of the snowman stitching is only 1½ inches by 1¾ inches so it definitely needed to be beefed up to make an ornament worthy of displaying on a full-sized Christmas tree. I found three coordinating fabrics, some rope-like braided trim, and a couple of buttons in my stash which finished him off quite nicely! The back of the ornament is the same green fabric shown on the left. So, this counts as my ornament finish for May (I told you I was behind!).

"Seven Pines" freebie finish

My ornament for the month of June is designed by Erynne Chard over at Stitcheree blog and is just a small portion of her delightful "Joy" design. You can find the link for this freebie in her post right here. This one is stitched on 35 ct. natural Northern Cross linen (another great fabric when you want the white to really stand out) using the suggested DMC colors. I really like the blue jay that Erynne designed--a nice change from the cardinals that you typically see in Christmas stitching. As usual, the red in my photo is much, much brighter than the color in real life. I sure wish I could find a camera that photographs reds well...

This was finished into a flat mounted ornament (using the talented Vonna's tutorial).  I forgot to pad the stitching before attaching it to the mat board, but it still looks fine. This was the first time I used the mini-pompom trim on a finish and I love how it turned out--so crisp and fresh looking.  This piece stitched up very quickly and would make a great last minute gift for a stitching friend, don't you think?

"Joy" freebie finish

My third ornament finish is, again, just a portion of a different chart by Erynne called "It Snowed Last Night." I really wanted to stitch a snowy winter scene on this lovely 32 ct. blue Belfast linen that I purchased a while ago and thought this piece fit the bill perfectly. Stitching it over one was a bit difficult, but I love how tiny and detailed the finished piece is. You can see the full chart right here--isn't it pretty? I have a special fondness for sayings with the word "bliss" in them because that is my mother's maiden name. A lovely name... don't you think?

I kept the finish very simple for this one--just added the blue plaid fabric that is shown in the background and some bright white cording. I think the snowflakes Erynne designed are just about the prettiest ones I've seen--the whole scene perfectly captures that special feeling you get when you awake to a landscape that has magically turned white over night.  Again, the red color of the DMC is not coming through properly at all in this photo--it is actually a deep burgundy in real life. Thank you, Erynne, for your darling designs--I will proudly hang them on my Christmas tree each year...

"It Snowed Last Night" freebie finish

So, I'm caught up, for now, with my ornaments... I can't wait to gather them all together at the end of the year for my annual "Parade of Ornaments" photo shoot! I'm really proud of the ones I've made this year...

Gifts in the mail... I was so touched to receive a package of goodies all the way from western Canada from my sweet friend, Anne at Doll's Musings. She sent a beautifully stitched and finished box filled with fabric, buttons, and thread (all in blue, of course!). Just look at this beauty she stitched and monogrammed just for me! Having done a couple of box finishes myself, I know how long they take so the fact that dear Anne would spend her time creating one for me makes it even more special. I love the blue birds and the pretty flowers--I believe Anne said this was a BBD design. Thank you so much, my friend--I will treasure your gift and think of you each time I look at it!

Such sweet gifts from Anne!

Busy July... The month of July is always one of the busiest for our family. My husband and I celebrated 37 years of marriage on the 23rd, my youngest son turned 26 (hard to believe) on the 9th, and my husband finally caught up with me and turned 59 on the 14th (yes, he is a "younger man" by six whole months and he never lets me forget it!). Add to that trips to Washington, DC and upstate New York to visit my parents and it is surprising that I found any stitching time at all. I really miss my needle and threads and am looking forward to our annual beach vacation next month where I hope I can relax and stitch more often. 

A simple gift idea... I wanted to share a gift with you that I made for my husband's birthday. When you get to be our age, you really don't need much of anything so it's a challenge to come up with something a bit different. Have you heard about the Tabletopics conversation starters? Well, I thought about buying him an edition, but at $25.00 each, I thought... why not make my own questions? I discovered that many others have had a similar idea and was thrilled to find an abundance of questions and even a downloadable graphic to decorate the jar that houses them right here. I found another great bunch of questions here and you can easily Google "conversation starters" for more ideas.

 You never know what you'll learn...

I picked and chose which questions to use to best suit my family and spent an afternoon printing them out, cutting them up, and folding them to place in the jar. The jar is a simple clear plastic container that once housed my former (I'm proud to say) addiction--chocolate covered raisins. (Unfortunately, I've moved on to a new addiction--Milk Duds!). I attached a coordinating green ribbon to the lid to jazz it up a bit, too. The questions range from serious, to silly, to sentimental and my oldest son is enjoying them so much he has decided to add a few of his own to the jar. We only pull it out at Sunday dinners when we are together with our older sons, but we've all really enjoyed it and are learning a lot about each other.

Some new backyard creatures... So many of you have told me how much you enjoy seeing the photos of our backyard wildlife. Yes, we certainly are blessed with an abundance of wild animals (well, except when they eat our flowers and vegetables, that is!). On Sunday, I happened to look out and see a turkey--well, not just one turkey, but an entire flock! We've seen one or two turkeys before, but never a papa, mama, and seven little ones (turkey babies are called "poults") running around. Oh, they were darling--you couldn't help but smile when you watched the little ones trying to walk up the hill and keep up with their parents... (You can click the photos for a larger view).

An entire turkey family visits our yard

And here are a couple of close-ups--notice the pretty markings on the father...

Soon after these photos were taken we saw not one, but two Great Blue Herons out by the pond--you just never know what you'll see looking out our kitchen window!

Well, I think that's more than enough from me today... I hope each of you enjoys a wonderful August--not many days left until school is back in session, are there? Thank you all for your great comments on my last post and I'm so appreciative of all of your advice on healing my Plantar Fasciitis pain. It seems to feel better for a while and then I have a set-back, but I think I'm on the right path... I really miss my daily treadmill walks, but filling in with the stationary bike and lifting light weights has actually been great, too. I'm glad I've discovered even more ways to stay fit although I wouldn't wish the pain of Plantar Fasciitis on anybody. Enjoy the rest of your summer, my friends. Bye for now...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A summery finish

Hello! Hello! I hope each of you is enjoying your summer as much as I am. (Although at times I question if this really is summer--it was only 54° here this morning!). We just returned from a wonderful visit with our youngest son in Washington, DC and, although stitching seems to have taken a back seat for me this month, I am so enjoying the extra time spent with family that summer seems to bring. I did manage to finish a big (for me, anyway!) piece and framed a couple of older finishes that I'd like to share with you today. 

From the moment I saw the July Sampler chart by Prairie Schooler, I just had to have it. I think the colors were what first caught my eye, but it really has everything that makes summer so special: the quaint seaside scene with the lighthouse, sailboats, and long-legged seabirds (oh, and don't forget that adorable crab!), the juicy summer fruits, the patriotic fireworks and flags. And I always love the bottom borders on these PS monthly samplers, don't you?

Prairie Schooler "July Sampler"

For this piece, I used 40 ct. antique white Newcastle linen and most of the suggested DMC threads. I did make a few changes (as usual!): I changed the blue to DMC 311 and the dark brown to DMC 3031.  I also changed the grass in the main photo to a lighter DMC 3052, made the door on the large gold house, red, and stitched the door on the small house in the upper left, dark gray. I also made all the words brown except for July.  I think that's it... Oh, no! There's more:  I changed the white fireworks to gold so they would show up better and also filled in around the one bird with more "water."  I plan on framing this one--hopefully, by next summer, but I'm not the best at getting my larger things out of the drawer I put them in after I've finished stitching them.

But, surprise, surprise! I actually do have two framed pieces to show you today, too! The first is La D Da's "O Birdy" which I finished last November. If you'd like to read the details of my finish you can go to this post. I had this rustic looking black frame in my stash and thought it looked perfect with the primitive looking fabric. I have the fanciful framed bird perched on a bookshelf in my familyroom right now--not sure if he'll be staying there or not. I'm trying to find the perfect place to hang him.

 La D Da "O Birdy" framed

The other framed finish is one from last summer--another PS piece from Book No. 50 "Prairie Seasons." If you're interested in the details on this finish, you can read about them here. I used this same frame for the Spring and Autumn finishes in this series--all done now except the Winter design. And look at the bright summery flowers that are resting beside my finish--aren't they gorgeous? My husband is growing them for me inside his fenced in vegetable garden to keep them from being eaten by the deer.

Prairie Schooler Summer framed

"Grrr..." Unfortunately, something else other than the deer has discovered my husband's vegetable garden and just feasted and feasted while he was away on his biking trip out west earlier this month. Yep, it's our gang of "friendly" neighborhood groundhogs. Do you remember this photo of one that we had trapped a couple of years ago? Well, we should never have let his size or those pleading brown eyes fool us--he has "gone forth and multiplied" (many times!) because there is now a whole army of these giant rodents marching through our yard. They apparently crawled right up over the high wire fencing that surrounds the vegetable garden and their weight was heavy enough to bend it over so they could simply fall into the garden, get out their napkins and forks, and sit down to a tasty gourmet dinner. Dinners, plural, I should say, because all of the leaves of the sweet potatoes, beans, squash, parsnips, zucchini, and peas were absolutely devoured. My poor husband was so upset--all that hard work down the drain. We doubt that the vegetables will grow without leaves, but who knows... We may just end up with miniature everything this year!

Don't let that innocent looking face fool you!!

Luckily, we still have a few pretty flowers that neither the groundhogs or the deer or rabbits seem interested in...

 Masses of purple supertunias

 Our lone rose bush produced this yellow beauty!

 First time we've ever grown hollyhocks. 
Such beautiful flowers, but the leaves were 
all eaten by some sort of pest!

The ferns have just gone crazy with
the wet summer we've had!

And my perennial favorite--the beautiful blue hydrangea!

I want to share this yummy dessert recipe with you that I made for the 4th of July.  I saw it on the Balancing Beauty and Bedlam blog and immediately ran out to buy the needed ingredients. Although this recipe called for butterscotch pudding, I had to substitute chocolate. Oh, my--it was so decadent! Very rich and calorie-laden, I'm sure, but worth it! And although it tasted like it took ages to make, it was so quick and easy to prepare. I followed the recipe but added shaved chocolate and toasted pecans to the top to make it even tastier.  Give it a try for a special summer night's dessert and let me know what you think...

Easy Chocolate Torte

Our trip to Washington was so enjoyable, but very hot and humid, and, unfortunately, very tough on my Plantar Fasciitis heel pain problem. We did a lot of walking on hilly concrete streets as I had predicted, but let's just say, my 26 year-old-son's idea of a "short walk" is a bit different than that of myself or my husband who suffers from ongoing foot pain issues himself! Yikes!! I feel like I'm right back to where I started with the pain level over six weeks ago...The icing, stretching exercises, and general babying of my left foot have resumed.

We didn't really tour the monuments or most of the typical touristy things because we actually lived in the DC area for a year back in the late 1980s and also just visited the city in 2011 (you can see photos from that trip by clicking here). The only museum we visited this time was the wonderful National Museum of American History. We thoroughly enjoyed the "America at War" exhibition--so much to take in. I really could have spent the entire day just perusing that exhibit. The "America On the Move" exhibit which traced transportation in the U.S. from the Conestoga wagon to the electric car was quite enjoyable, too. I would have liked to have spent longer in the First Ladies exhibit, but just dashed in long enough to see Michelle Obama's gorgeous red inaugural gown. The guys really weren't quite into that whole exhibit, as you can imagine. And to see the 200 year-old flag (in the Star Spangled Banner exhibition) that inspired our wonderful national anthem and read about how the words to the song were written was truly awe inspiring. Did you know that the song itself was not written by Francis Scott Key? He simply wrote the poem and it was set to the music of a popular British tune called "To Anacreon In Heaven?" I was so surprised to learn that fact!

Courtyard at the National Museum of American History

The National Museum of American History

Entrance to The Star-Spangled Banner Exhibit Hall

My husband and I had never taken a boat ride on the Potomac River so my son suggested we cruise from Georgetown down to Alexandria, Virginia for dinner on Saturday night. You get a whole different perspective of the monuments when you view them from the water. I can't remember the last time I was on a boat and it was surprisingly relaxing with the warm sun on my face and the breeze in my hair--ahhh....

Georgetown Dock area

Potomac River view of the Washington 
Monument and The Lincoln Memorial

A perfect summer scene

I'll have to say we all loved Old Town Alexandria and wished we could have spent more time there. My son thought it would be a great place to live until he checked real estate prices there--I think they're some of the highest in the country!

Old Town Alexandria all decked
out for the 4th of July

Street sign for Captain's Row in Alexandria

Many of the houses on Captain's Row were 
built in the 18th century for sea captains and 
wealthy merchants. It was so picturesque with
the cobblestone street and Federal style homes
painted in patriotic colors.

I truly love the Washington, DC area and am a bit envious of those of you who reside in that part of the country. My youngest was doing his best to try and talk us into retiring there! You never know, do you?!

Thank you to all who commented on my last post--who knew a simple tin plate finish could get so many of you so excited! I'm glad I've inspired some of you to create your own plate finishes and have even received some photos from stitchers who have used that idea. I always love seeing photos of finishes from stitching friends who don't have their own blogs--feel free to email them to me! And I'm always happy to try to answer your questions--just be sure to leave an email address in your comment so I can get back to you.

I'm working my hardest to catch up on my monthly Christmas ornament stitching and I hope to be back by the end of July to share three new ornament finishes with you. Wish me luck! And wish me luck later today, too--I will be spending the afternoon cowering in the dentist's chair as he prepares a back molar for a new crown. I am, to put it mildly, a bit scared as I have never had more than a simple filling installed now and then. But, I suppose it's better than a root canal, right? Enjoy the rest of July everyone--can't wait to visit your blogs and see what you've been up to. Bye for now...