Tuesday, May 31, 2016

In the busy, busy month of May...

Good morning! It's so hard to believe this is the very last day of May, isn't it? I hope you are all excited for some warmer weather like I am... This last week has really warmed up in western Pennsylvania, but I spent most of it laid up with the flu. I can't remember the last time I was that sick--cold, cough, fever, chills, the whole achy body thing--ugh! But, I'm just about "normal" now (other than a lingering cough) and I wanted to get one last post in before the month was over...

I actually have just one finish to share with you, but first, I want to thank you for your always appreciated comments on my last post. I guess the insect art freaked a few of you out, didn't it? Not my thing, either, but it was creepily fascinating anyway!  I've been stitching, but some of it is for gifts so I can't share them with you yet. This finish was actually a gift, too, sent to my sweet Canadian friend, Melissa. She isn't cross-stitching these days, but is happily spending time with her sewing machine so I made this cute With Thy Needle and Thread piece for her sewing room.

"Pin Feathers"

The colors in this second photo of "Pin Feathers" are more "true"--really soft and pretty. I used the suggested colors and stitched this one on 40 ct. flax Newcastle.  I made a simple flat hanging ornament backed with the fabric on the right and topped off with handmade cording and a blue-gray gauzy ribbon. Melissa wrote that she has it hanging near her sewing board to remind her of me.  Awww...    I'm so glad she likes it! I love it so much that I plan on making one for myself one of these days.

With Thy Needle and Thread "Pin Feathers" finish

The only other stitching I can share with you today is a larger (for me!) piece that I have stitched only a quarter of so far.  Here is a sneak peak--can any of you guess what it is? Those funky looking creatures are chickens, in case you're wondering!

Can you guess what design this is?

MAY WAS A HAPPY MONTH! In spite of coming down with the flu and feeling pretty wiped out after so many work and social obligations, there were many, many things that brought smiles :-)

My youngest son received his Master's Degree in International Affairs from George Washington University. His job hunt looks promising, although he's hoping to put off the world of work until August as he has trips to China, Croatia, Hungary, and Slovenia planned this summer!

My dear mother turned 89 years old on May 14th... It's been a hard year for her with lots of  physical aches and pains, but just lately, she seems to be doing better. She is till so sharp--we play Words With Friends online each night (and she often beats me!). Thanks to all who ask after her health!

 After nearly two months, I was able to trade in my screaming blue Cookie Monster loaner car for my old soft blue/gray Honda CRV. I was SO happy to get it back--you know what I missed the most??  The arm rests! With new airbags in place, I should be good to go for another five years or so... We tend to keep our cars at least 10 or 12 years.

It's BLUEBERRY season! My favorite fruit! Breakfast each morning is Multi-Grain Cheerios with heaps of blueberries (and a couple of strawberries). I can't get enough of them! I've already made blueberry banana bread and a lovely pie. More blueberry baking will be coming!

My oldest son's girlfriend received her PhD in Biological Sciences from Carnegie Mellon University. We attended the graduation for the whole biology department (both undergrad and  grad programs) and were just in awe of all of the students' accomplishments...

My youngest son paid us an unexpected visit for a long weekend... In spite of the cool, rainy weather, we had a great time and I spoiled him with his favorite comfort foods. He just loved these enchiladas (which, interestingly, are from the food blog of designer Lizzie Kate's daughter!).

With my youngest son's surprise visit, we had all three sons here for a Sunday dinner for the first time since Christmas. Hearing them laugh and tease each other about childhood events and memories shared while growing up is one of this mom's very favorite things...

I finally got new glasses... I'm having a tough time getting used to the larger librarian-looking frame (well, I am a librarian, after all!), but I can read so, so much better with them. I wear contacts, too, but seem to be wearing my glasses more and more. Hope I get used to them soon!

The Pittsburgh Penguins won the National Hockey League Eastern Conference and are now playing the San Jose Sharks for the coveted Stanley Cup Championship. My hockey loving men are so excited! GO PENS!!

I made a new-to-me very pretty and oh-so-tasty dessert Lemon-Blueberry Cream Pie.   With a graham cracker crust and layers of cream-cheesy lemon goodness, blueberries and piles of whipped cream, a small slice went a long way!

And I've saved the best for last! May 21st marked a year since my dear husband fell down our front stairs and broke his neck. Just a couple of weeks ago, the feeling returned to normal in his middle finger on his right hand. Now, only one finger, the pointer, remains without normal feeling. We have confidence that that will come in time, too. We feel truly blessed... A huge thank you for your support--you made a scary and stressful time so much easier!

So, how about you? I hope you each had some happy times in May--and have more to look forward to as you head into summer... Any fun events coming up on your family calendars? I'd love to hear about them!

Thought you might like to see a photo of the Lemon-Blueberry Pie (you can find the recipe right here). Isn't it pretty? There are layers of lemon pudding with cream cheese and blueberries with blueberry preserves. I should have taken a photo of a cut piece so you could see the yellow and blue layers, but it disappeared way too quickly!

Lemon-Blueberry Cream Pie!!

Now that the sunny days have returned, our backyard is hopping (literally) with wildlife. We saw a mama deer and her new little fawn back by our pond just last week--so adorable (until they start munching on our newly purchased garden flowers, that is!). And there have been lots of bunnies like this big guy hopping here and there. Luckily, my husband's vegetable garden is fenced in and surrounded by chicken wired to prevent the bunnies and groundhogs from using it as their restaurant...

How he would love to get inside that gate...

More and more birds are appearing--in fact I spied this beautiful orange bird in the collage below that I've never seen before. Does anyone know what it is? I am thinking that it might be a Baltimore Oriole, but I'm not positive. He only appeared once, but I hope he'll be back.

A Hairy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, and a new feathered friend
And just look at this handsome guy--a giant Pileated Woodpecker! It was so funny watching him try to feed from the small suet feeder.

The regal looking  Pileated Woodpecker

Think we need a bigger feeder!

That about does it for my last post of May! I'm wishing each of you a relaxing June. We have a calmer month scheduled (so far!), so I should be back with more stitching to share in a couple of weeks... Thanks so much for stopping in today! Bye for now...

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Snowmen, Sheep, and Something Slightly Strange!

Hello there, my stitching friends! How is the merry, merry month of May going for you? Our lovely April morphed into a dreary, rainy, cool May and this weekend is looking particularly gloomy. Oh well, not much I can do outside in this kind of weather (even though the weeds are taking over!) so why not spend my time stitching away inside? Thank you all for your kind comments on my last post... Although  a few of you liked my bright blue "Cookie Monster" loaner car, most of you were in agreement that you would rather be driving something else. Unfortunately, after six weeks, I'm still driving it and have already put over 1200 miles on it! Looks like it will be a while before the airbag on my Honda CRV will be replaced...

So, what have I been stitching this month? Well, snowmen and sheep! As you know, my monthly Christmas ornament theme for 2016 is snowmen and I've just finished Mr. April and Mr. May. April's design is from The Drawn Thread's "The Joys of Christmas" chart. 

"Joy" snowman by The Drawn Thread

I used some sort of dark 32 ct. mystery linen that I had in my stash (love how the white shows up on it) and an assortment of Dinky Dyes and DMC. I had to substitute some of the Dinky Dyes because the suggested colors looked nothing like those on the front of the chart... Isn't he a cutie? This one stitched up very quickly and there are five more "Joy" themed designs in this wonderful chart that I know I'll be stitching, too. Here is my final finish, all ready for my Christmas tree in December.

The Drawn Thread: "Joy" snowman finish

For May, I returned to my favorite comfort stitching designer--Prairie Schooler. This snowman  is part of the "Evergreen" (Book No. 202) chart which has eight additional designs. Don't you love his little grin? I did change a few of the colors on the broom, his nose, and the red color. I also stitched the cardinal holding the berry branch rather than as part of the border.

Prairie Schooler "Evergreen" snowman

My May snowman is stitched on 40 ct. Country Mocha Newcastle--a great mottled fabric as you can see in the photo above. This is another good fabric to use when stitching with white. For the finish, I combined three fabrics, a wooden button, and some mini black ric rak. Really love how this one turned out!

"Evergreen" snowman finish (Prairie Schooler)

So, I'm caught up with my monthly snowman challenge--only seven more to go. Still can't believe how quickly this year is flying by!

My friend, Robin in Virginia, celebrates her birthday on May 14th so I sent her a little stitched pillow. This sweet Little House Needleworks chart was free with the purchase of three Classic Colorworks threads: Prairie Grass, Shabby Sheep, and Sugar Plum. I wish my photo was better (a gray day is not conducive to good photography!)--the floss colors are so beautiful in real life. I stitched the sheep with the Shabby Sheep thread in a sort of swirly pattern rather than straight across--really like the final look...

Little House Needleworks "Welcome Spring"

This one is stitched on 40 ct. antique white Newcastle  with the suggested Classic Colorworks threads. I wanted the sheep's head and legs darker so I chose DMC 3371 and I substituted DMC 729 for the gold in the flower centers. I also omitted the five charted stitched bees and added a single bee charm. Robin loved her gift and I want to wish her a wonderful year ahead!

"Welcome Spring" pillow finish

More Birthday greetings! Robin's May 14th birthday is very special to me because it is also my mom's birthday! Happy 89th, Mom--I love you so much!! My siblings and I pooled our money and bought her a lift chair to help her stand up easier, but I still wanted to send her some money so she could purchase some pretty flowers for her balcony. Rather than just stick a $50.00 bill in an envelope, I found this easy video tutorial for an origami dollar bill in a fancy heart shape.  Isn't it cute? The hard part will be unfolding it to actually use it! Anyway, I hope your birthday is special for you mom--you always made my birthdays so great by letting me choose my favorite meal (spaghetti and meatballs and Tunnel of Fudge cake!). The older I get, the more I appreciate all my mom did for me--thanks, mom!! I treasure you so very much...

Happy, Happy Birthday dear Mom!! XXXOOO

My sons thoroughly spoiled me for Mother's Day. The youngest couldn't be here as he was busy writing his final paper to complete his Master's program at George Washington Univeristy.  Luckily, we were able to visit him the previous weekend (more about that further down). He knows I love my sweets and sent this tasty sampler of goodies from Georgetown Cupcakes. Which would you choose? I had to eat that fluffy coconut creation first, followed by the chocolate peanut butter. My husband chose the lime and the carrot cake and the rest were taken to my older sons' apartment for Mother's Day dessert after dinner on Sunday.

Bet you can't eat just one!

My two older sons (with help from their girlfriends!) prepared a tasty eggplant parmesan dinner for me followed by some lovely gifts. From the oldest and his girlfriend came this beautiful bouquet (along with a gift certificate to 123 Stitch--yay!!!).

Such a beautiful color combination

And my middle son presented me with some chocolates and this lovely pink hibiscus plant for my patio. I really enjoy getting potted flowers and plants as gifts--they have such a long life (well, depending on how well I care for them!). 

Pretty in pink hibiscus from my middle son

And I spoiled myself a bit on Mother's Day, too! I "needed" a few more snowman charts for my monthly ornament challenge and while shopping online for them, these other goodies mysteriously hopped into my shopping cart! I just love buying the Moda charm packs with their tiny prints to use for my ornament finishing. I also found these wonderful little wool squares to use on some winter designs. 

Washington, DC trip... As I mentioned earlier, my husband I took a road trip (just a 4 hour drive) to Washington, DC in early May to visit our youngest son. The weather was quite chilly, but that didn't stop us from making the rounds and seeing some of the monuments...  I am always so impressed with how clean that city is--honestly, with all of the tourists and traffic, you would expect lots of litter, but, no, it is amazingly litter-free. Although we've seen the monuments many, many times (we lived down in the DC area for a year in the late '80s), I never tire of them.

The Lincoln Memorial

View from the Lincoln Memorial of The Washington Monument

The White House on a gray day

The U.S. Treasury Building

We also spent time at the Renwick Gallery and marveled at their awe-inspiring "Wonder" installations. There were nine rooms filled with jaw-droppingly beautiful works. This rainbow colored work by Gabriel Dawe was one of our favorites... It should have special appeal to all of my stitching friends, too, as it is made up of 60 miles of embroidery thread! Yes, can you believe it? If you want to read more about this beauty, click here

In an exhibit that reminded me of the hoodoos  we saw on a visit to Bryce Canyon national park back in the year 2000, Tara Donovan used approximately one million index cards to create 10 towering spirals that filled an entire room. Can you imagine the hours it must have taken to build each little "mountain?"

Here is a close-up for you:

I'm not going to show you each exhibit, but I couldn't leave without sharing my photos from the most unusual art installation I have ever seen in my life: Jennifer Angus's "In the Midnight Garden." At first glance, you think you are entering a pretty pink room with unusual wallpaper, right? 

But, take a closer look--each motif is made up of insects. At first I assumed they were fake, but no--these are real giant insects from Malaysia, Thailand, and Papua, New Guinea. The artist uses farmed insects whenever possible and re-uses them in different displays. This exhibit is bound to bring up debates on the ethics of using once-living things as art; you can read the artist's take on the ethics of her insect art here.

None are endangered--they are actually quite abundant. For those of you who are brave enough to take a peek--here are some close-ups...

I found these guys especially creepy!!

I don't think I'll be traveling to Thailand, Malaysia, or Papua, New Guinea any time soon!

Even under the wainscoting, a pattern of giant locusts adorned the pink wall...

Just look at the long legs on these fellows--yikes!!

In the center of the room was a hive and an old wooden chest with drawers filled with dried insects. The whole whole exhibit was fascinating (but, just a bit creepy, truth be told!).

I am continually amazed at the imaginations of artists.Those who can fill our minds with that feeling of wonder like the exhibitions I saw at the Renwick Gallery are truly inspirational...

I hope you enjoyed my post today--another long one, that's for sure!  I do hope to be back with my Patagonia trip photos in a couple of weeks. I keep procrastinating in editing them for some reason!

Thanks so much for taking the time to comment--I know what a busy time of year this is for all of you...  And for those of you who have asked me questions on previous posts,  please, please include your email address. I have so many of you who comment and ask questions, but I have no way to get back to you without your email address. I'm not being rude--I just can't reply unless you include your contact information. Bye for now...