Friday, January 22, 2016

Christmas 2015 Wrap-up

Hello, hello! How are my stitching friends doing today--and how on earth did it get to be January 22nd already? I am still playing Christmas catch-up here and feel that I'm moving very slowly this month. Could it be my advancing age--horrors!! I want to thank each one of you who sent such kind happy birthday wishes on my last post. I was very spoiled and I'll show you photos of the birthday gifts that I received in my next post. I haven't even had time to photograph everything yet and I understand that a few more presents are on their way so I'll wait for those to arrive...

In my previous post, I shared with you the ornaments that were sent and received from my U.S. friends. This time I'll share gifts sent to and received from my international friends. It's always a special treat to receive a package postmarked from a foreign country, isn't it? And it's still a bit unbelievable to me that I've "met" so many people from all around the world when, prior to 2009 and the start of my blog, I knew none of you! I think that is one of the best things about blogging--it really opens up the world and lets you glimpse bits and pieces of lives that may be lived very differently than yours, but that, at the heart of things, share that same wonderful passion for cross stitching.

I'll begin with the ornaments that I stitched and sent abroad. This Prairie Schooler from Book No. 48 "A Christmas Visit" went to my friend, Lynda (no blog), in England. I've stitched this bird-loving Santa before for myself and decided to finish him in an oval shape this time. I love how it turned out. I used 40 ct. natural Newcastle with the suggested threads and finished it off with handmade cording and a gingham ribbon on top. I'm sorry for the quality of the photo--the sun has been in short supply this winter!

Prairie Schooler Santa from Book No. 48 "A Christmas Visit"

A JBW piece called "French Country Star" was sent to my friend, Nathalie (no blog), who lives, coincidentally, in France!  I truly love these JBW designs and always enjoy picking out the little motifs that the designer includes. Can you spot the deer, the stars, the hearts, the birds, the trees, the holly leaves? Such a creative design and they look so good stitched in one color. In this case, I used DMC 115 on 40 ct. white Newcastle linen.

JBW French Country Star

My third finish flew off to England and my friend,  June, who loves anything to do with birds, butterflies, and flowers. I thought this sweet bluebird sitting on a holly branch dotted with red berries would be perfect for her. This design is from a very old (January/February 1987) Cross Stitch & Country Crafts magazine. June says the color is perfect in her living room area--I'm so happy he's found a nice new home!

Bluebird from 1987 Cross Stitch & Country Crafts magazine

Another Prairie Schooler finish, this one from Book No. 24, "Prairie Birds," was sent to my German friend, Gabi (no blog). If you've read my blog for a while, you know how cardinals have come to play an important part in my life ever since I lost my dad in October of 2014. (You can read about the significance in this post). With that in mind, I stitched this cardinal pair for my dear Gabi who lost someone so special this past year. I hope it brings her comfort and peace each time she looks at it.

Cardinals from Prairie Birds Book No. 24

And finally, to my long-time friend, Lois, in Northern Ireland, went an  ornament you have seen before. Yes, this is the third time I've stitched this one--I just love it so much! I know I'll be stitching it again for someone else. It is done on 28 ct. black Monaco (over one) with DMC threads. I adore the tininess of it and Lois did, too... The chart can be found in Book No. 51 "Christmas Past," which is still in print.

Prairie Schooler Santa from "Christmas Past" booklet

Do you have a favorite from this bunch? I'm really pleased with each of them and am so happy to know that little bits of my work are spread all over the world!

I received such wonderful gifts in exchange, too. Would you like to see?  From Lynda, in England, came this chubby Santa holding a wee bird in a cage. The cage is stitched with gold metallics which gives it a wonderful shimmer. Lynda also included two books--one on stitching, one on baking (my two favorite hobbies!), some pretty charts, fabric, and a notepad. I've so enjoyed getting to know you over the past couple of years, Lynda--thank you again for all of these goodies!

Christmas gifts from Lynda in England

From Nathalie, in France, I received another stitched Santa--I believe the design is by Heart in Hand. Along with the cute ornament, Nathalie included some wonderful Christmas decorations, ribbons, and tags. They will all come in very handy in my preparations for next Christmas! Thank you so much, Nathalie--you are a lovely friend to remember me with these special goodies!

Christmas gifts from Nathalie in France

From June, in England came a darling ornament that she chose because I have three sons. This little boy carrying a package and a holly branch home (possibly to his mother?) is just so sweet. June always finds unique charts and finishes them so nicely. She included a white penguin (to remind me of the penguins in Argentina), a white felt dove ornament, and a tin snowflake-covered box filled with ribbons and fabrics. I love everything, June--thank you so much for spoiling me!

Christmas gifts from June in England

From Gabi, in Germany, came one of my favorite designs, the Little House Needleworks "Season's Greetings" cardinal. I thought it was interesting that we both chose to stitch cardinals for each other. I just love this, Gabi, and am so touched that you were so thoughtful to stitch something for me with the rough year that you've had. Thank you, thank you my lovely friend--I will treasure your cardinal ornament!

Christmas gift from Gabi in Germany

From Lois, in Northern Ireland, came this beautiful Homespun Elegance ornament. I had always admired this design and wanted to stitch it, but the heart-shape intimidated me! Lois did a wonderful job on hers and said it really wasn't that hard. I know I need to give it a try... Maybe this year? She also included a cute chart, some needles and a needle minder, and a tasty tin of dark chocolates (which, I'm proud to say, I am eating very slowly, savoring each one). Thank you for each and every gift, my dear Lois--you always make me smile!

Christmas gifts from Lois in Northern Ireland

And a surprise ornament, from my sweet friend, Hilda, in Austria. She had the best idea of attaching her stitching to a piece of felt and then adding it to her Christmas card. Not only did I get a beautiful ornament, but she saved a great deal on postage--it was simply the cost of mailing a letter internationally. I may be stealing this idea in the future, Hilda, as the cost of international postage has become prohibitive if you send a lot of packages. I can remember sending small packages to Europe for a few dollars each and now the cost is five times that! Thank you, my dear friend!

Christmas gift from Hilda in Austria

A lovely giveaway was also won from Sheryl, in Spain. This was a surprise giveaway--Sheryl decided to randomly reward someone who had commented on one of her posts and I was the lucky winner. The gift was four Christmasy mug mats with a cheery, red crocheted border. I just love them, Sheryl, and assure you they will be put to good use next Christmas. I really need to teach myself to crochet as this type of border would add a nice touch to my little pillow ornaments, don't you think? Thank you again, Sheryl!

Giveaway win from Sheryl in Spain

I wanted to showcase the ornaments I received from my stitching friends this year, so rather than put them on my tree, I arranged them on my mantle above my fireplace. (Reminder to self--you need a Christmas picture for above your mantle next year!!). If you look at the far right, you can just make out part of my blue stitching chair where I try to spend as much time as I can! These are the ornaments I received at Christmas time plus the ornaments received earlier in 2015 from Sylvia in New Mexico, U.S., Shirley in South Africa, and Andrea in England. You can click on their names to see close-ups of their lovely ornaments and read about them...

Oh, dear, that is a bit far away, isn't it?  Here are two close-ups for you.  From left to right are the ornaments from Lois (Northern Ireland), Nathalie (France), Hilda (Austria), Robin (Virginia, U.S.), Sylvia (U.S.), Robin (Virginia, U.S.), and June (England).

And from left to right in this photo are ornaments from Cindy (Tennessee, U.S), Shirley (South Africa), Lynda (England), Andrea (England), and Gabi (Germany).

A veritable United Nations of stitched ornaments, wouldn't you say? I wonder what would happen if stitchers ruled the world? I'll bet things would be a lot more peaceful, don't you think? 

Finally,  I wanted to share with you two photos of my favorite Christmas gifts from my three sons. My two older sons bought me these two sweet felt mice called "Santa Mouse" and "Charlie Caroler" and I can't bear to put them away--they are the only Christmas decorations still out! I just love the attention to detail in these little guys! I also love the fact that they are made right here in Pennsylvania at Century Farm Crafts.

Christmas gifts from my two older sons

My youngest son brought me, all the way from South America, this adorable trio of penguins. He took a side trip to Chile while studying in Argentina and as soon as he spotted these blue and white cuties, he knew he had to get them for me. They are made from lapis lazuli stone, mined from the Andes Mountains area and mounted on what looks like a base of unpolished marble. They are now on display on my kitchen counter and they make me smile each time I spot them because they remind me of our wonderful Argentinian adventure to see the penguins. 

Christmas gift from Chile from my youngest son

A number of you have asked about seeing photos of our Argentinian sojourn and, I can assure you, they will be coming. I just need some time to sort through them--I'm about half done, right now! I hope to have them ready to share with you in late February...

Okay, I'm sure you are tired if you've read this far, so I'll wrap this up! But, before I go, I just want to wish each of you in the path of this major snowstorm that is hitting the eastern U.S., the best of luck. I hope you don't lose your power and stay warm and safe. We are only getting an inch or two as we are on the outer border of the storm here in the Pittsburgh area.  Special thoughts go out to my youngest son who is back in the Washington, D.C. area (which is supposed to be especially hard hit)--and probably wishing he was back in sunny, warm Argentina!  Bye for now...

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Blogging under the influence...

...of cold medicine! It's a snowy morning here in western Pennsylvania--actually our first real snowfall of the winter. So pretty outside, but, oh, how I wish I could just stay home today and stitch. Unfortunately, the real world of work and meetings and such calls and in spite of the fact that I have come down with a head cold that has swept through the entire library, I have to carry on as usual. Which, is why I took cold medicine last night (something I rarely give in to!) and I am feeling quite groggy and "out of it" this morning. Fortunately, I don't have to be at work until after noon today, so I have a few hours to "clear my head!" 

So, that is how my new year is starting out... How about yours? I've watched as many of you began the crazy challenges of starting new projects each day and just can't imagine how you keep track of everything. I am such a "one-project-at-a-time" stitcher which is why I also don't post as often as others. Sometimes, I just don't feel that I have much to share with you. Today, though, I am going to share some of the Christmas stitching I gave away to blogging friends... This post will contain the pieces I sent to my friends here in the United States and the lovely things I received from them. And next time, I will show you the pieces that were sent and received internationally. I am still waiting for one of them to arrive!

I stitched this Prairie Schooler ornament called "Christmas Eve Deer" for my friend Robin (no blog), in Virginia. I used 40 ct. Newcastle and DMC threads and changed many of the colors to those that were used in the earlier PS charts including DMC 221 and 520. The deer was changed to a much lighter color: 610--just didn't like him so dark in the recommended 3371. I also left off the border! Lots of changes, but I think the final ornament turned out so sweet!

Prairie Schooler "Christmas Eve Deer" finish

To my friend Myra, in North Carolina, went this miniature  Barbara Ana design that was featured in the November 2014 issue of "Cross Stitch & Needlework" magazine. It is stitched over one on 28 ct. black Monaco--I just love the tininess of it! And don't you love that chubby snowman just waiting to chuck a snowball at some passerby? The checked fabric that I used to finish it is from a kitchen towel that I picked up at a local craft store.  It is a nice weight and lends a cheery air to the finish, don't you think?

Barbara Ana design from CS&N November 2014 magazine

My friend, Cindy, in Tennessee, was the recipient of this darling snowman pair that I have stitched at least twice before. They just never fail to make me smile! The Val's Stuff design is from the 2010 Just Cross Stitch ornament issue and is called "Oh, Joy." As usual, I made some color changes and used DMC 221, 520, 844, 301, and B5200. This is also stitched "over one" on some mystery 28 ct. fabric and uses the same fabric from the kitchen towel as I used in the ornament shown above.

Val's Stuff "Oh, Joy!" finish

Cindy and I also share January as our birthday month and have exchanged gifts for years. This year, I sent her this cute Trilogy piece called "Happy Bunny Bunny Day" made into a little pillow. I have always loved this design and Cindy was very pleased with her gift. 

The Trilogy "Happy Bunny, Bunny Day" finish

I was delighted to receive packages from my U.S. friends in return! So many talented stitchers are out there--I am honored to be the recipient of your carefully stitched gifts!

From Robin, came not one, but two(!) darling Prairie Schooler ornaments along with some pretty pompom trims which will come in very handy with my next round of ornament finishing. Thank you so very much, Robin! Your beautifully stitched gifts made me smile :)

Christmas gifts from Robin

From Myra, came a box just jam-packed full of wonderful goodies including homemade pillowcases in the beautiful deer/cardinal winter themed fabric that you see below, a tiny cloth bell ornament, a wee zipper pouch that will be most handy when I travel or to clip on to my stitching bag (it is a perfect size for needles), some lotions, a jar of caramel pear butter, and a nice supply of candy canes. Thank you so much, my friend--I just love everything!

Christmas gifts from Myra

From Cindy, came this cheerful Lizzie Kate ornament, some snowflake fabric and two charts. I'm sure my youngest son would love it if I stitched that hockey playing PS Santa for him some day! Thank you, Cindy, you were so sweet to remember me after the difficult year you've had. Your gifts are beautiful!

Christmas gifts from Cindy

And another unexpected gift flew in from California! I lent Annette a chart a few months ago and to thank me she sent a beautiful needlebook (all done up in my favorite colors of blue and white!), two skeins of silk thread, and a charming hand-made Christmas card. What a wonderful surprise, Annette! You were so sweet to spoil me--your needlebook will come in very handy and is perfect for this time of year with its sparkly fabric. It mimics the sparkly snow that is falling outside as I write this! Thank you again for thinking of me...

Thank you gifts from Annette

I have to say, that it feels good to get the house back to "normal" after all of the Christmas festivities. It was hard to take the ornaments off my tree and put them to "bed" for the year. Thank you all so much for your wonderful comments about my Christmas tree in my last post. They meant so much to me! Here are all the little beauties nestled into their acid-free box just waiting to greet me next December...

Piles of Christmas ornaments just waiting for next year!

I still have more Christmas ornaments to share with you that were sent and received from my international friends, but that will have to wait until my next post. Right now, I have to run and shower and head off to work. My head is beginning to feel less groggy since I began writing this so at least I can drive safely now that the cold medicine has worn off. I have the rest of the week off after today so I'm sure I'll get well-rested and be back to my normal self the next time I post. But, there will be one big change--I will be a year older. Yep, I turn 61 on Saturday. Sigh... That sounds very old to me!

I do hope this will be a healthier year for my family. When my husband broke his neck last May, it clouded much of our year with worry and uncertainty. I actually think many of the health issues I faced were rooted in my anxiety over his recovery. But, 2016 is a new year and I am so hopeful for better days... I wish you the same!  Bye for now...

A snowy day here in Pennsylvania...