Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Wrapping up 2018

Happy 2019! I can hardly believe we are well into the second week of this newly minted year already... Looks like the next twelve months will be rushing by way too fast, just as last year did. I loved reading about your favorite moments of 2018 in my previous post--thank you to all who responded! As I've often said, when you blog, the readers know a lot more about the writer's life than the writer knows of the readers'. So, it's little questions like that which help me get to know you better. 

I've shared many of the gifts I sent out for Christmas on Instagram, but I wanted to share them on my blog, as well.  I've had to cut back on some of my international gift giving due to the high cost of postage--it really has gotten ridiculous! The postage often costs more than the gift itself is worth...

This sweet sheep is now residing in Northern Ireland with my friend, Lois. I also stitched "Merry Wishes" by Just Thy Needle and Thread for myself using the same colors (a mixture of DMC and overdyed threads) 'over one' on 28 ct. black monaco. However, I finished this one in a completely different manner. You can see the one I finished for myself in this December post.

"Merry Wishes" ornament finish

I made a greeting card for Gabi in Germany--a good way to send a "little something" without the high cost of postage... This is stitched over one on 25 ct. Victorian Green Lugana and is from JBW Designs "Christmas Motif Sampler II" chart. I did change the bottom a bit--stitched two bunnies facing each other rather than adding the extra deer and toy bunny that were charted. I do love my symmetry!!

"Christmas Motif Sampler II" finished as a card

To June, in England, went another ornament that I also stitched for myself back in July called "French Country Snowflake" by JBW. I used a 32 ct. blue-gray linen with DMC 3865. I did finish hers a bit differently using a pretty white bow and a silver snowflake charm along with the two-colored cording.

"French Country Snowflake" ornament finish

To Cindy, in Tennessee, went this handsome Prairie Schooler Santa (from Book No. 62: "Kris Kringle"). I love the white dove perched on his shoulder. He is stitched on 40 ct. raw natural Newcastle with the suggested threads and the "snow" is made of tiny white beads. This is one I don't have on my tree yet, so I'm sure I'll be stitching him again for myself.

"Kris Kringle" ornament finish

And, I made my very first Lizzie Kate sled ornament (from the "Nutcracker Sleds" chart) using perforated paper! How do you feel about perforated paper? I have to admit I really didn't enjoy having to stitch with three strands of thread. I am so used to stitching with one strand that using three really slowed me down. I do like the look of the final finish so I will probably be making more of these, but I'm not going to go crazy with them! This one went to a friend who asked us over for dinner after Christmas. She seemed quite pleased with it...

Lizzie Kate gingerbread boy sled finish

I have a few more ornaments that I stitched for Christmas gifts last year, but I will save them for my next post--after all, I want to have something to show you! 

More sweets! I showed you the cookies that I baked for Christmas in my previous post, but just look at all the other sugary treats that I made! No wonder  we each have to diet after the holidays--I don't know why we do that to our bodies every year, do you?! Clockwise from the upper left are:  Decadent Peanut Butter Pie Giant Chocolate Eclair Dessert; Pumpkin Roll; and Soft, Moist, and Gooey Cinnamon Rolls which we make each and every Christmas morning. You can click on the name of the sweet treat to be taken to the recipe itself. (I can't find the recipe online for the Giant Chocolate Eclair Dessert that I make each year for my middle son's December birthday, but I'll be happy to send it to you if you email me)! These are all tried and true family favorites so you may have seen them pictured on my blog before. Just thought I would share them again for my new readers!

Too many calories to count at Christmas time (which is why I'm eating scrambled eggs for dinner tonight!)

A peek into life in Ecuador... One of my favorite things about reading blogs is getting a glimpse into life in different countries or different parts of this vast United States. My son recently shared some photos with us from his December work trip to Ecuador (which I keep wanting to spell with a "q!").  I doubt any of you have ever visited the equator in that part of the world, have you? Well, I'm sure I'll never get there either, but here are three photos of Ciudad Mitad del Mundo and the "Monument to the Equator" which is supposed to be on the exact location of the equator (from which Ecuador gets its name). My son is sitting with his body half in the northern hemisphere and half in the southern in the bottom right photo! (Although, he said that with modern GPS mapping systems, the equator is actually 240 meters north! Oh well, it makes for a nice photo op...)

My son's photos from the equator in Ecuador: December 2018

I'll share a larger photo of the upper left photo in the collage that he took from the air (using his drone) of the water-filled caldera of the Quilotoa volcano. I just thought this was breathtaking! (you can click on it to enlarge it). There is so much beauty in this world of ours, isn't there?

On top of the Quilotoa volcano in Ecuador

An unusual food... During his time there, my son hiked into the mountains and met up with this Ecuadorean family pictured below. His guide told him that if he brought the family some goods from the market that they would show him their home. I found their living situation so fascinating and wanted to share it with you... They live in a simple thatched hut with no running water. It is quite cool up in the mountains and they have to bathe in a local stream! I can't begin to imagine... But, even more interesting--can you spot that tiny white animal on the ground in their hut? That is just one of what my son said were dozens of guinea pigs running around living with the family! Apparently, they raise them and sell them to be eaten--they are considered a delicacy. Each guinea pig can bring in $15.00 or more. I asked my son if the hut smelled and he said, surprisingly, no! So, if you are ever in Ecuador and see "cuy" on the menu--you'll know you're ordering a guinea pig. Fascinating what people in different parts of the world eat--I'm sure some of our western foods are considered pretty unappetizing to other parts of the world! What is the most unusual food you have ever tried? I am not an adventurous eater at all so I can't even answer my own question!

An Ecuadorean family raising an unusual food choice!

I love learning about different parts of the world which is one of the reasons I've enjoyed blogging so much. I'm lucky that my son travels frequently and can share stories about different customs and foods of the countries he visits. This week, he is in Argentina where we vacationed in 2015. Can't wait to see his photos from this trip! I'm sure they will bring back many memories...

So, that wraps up my first blog post of 2019--I plan to continue posting twice a month if at all possible. Thank you for visiting, thank you for reading, thank you for commenting--I appreciate each and every one of you!  Hope you'll stop in again soon. Enjoy this first month of your new year, my friends! Bye for now...

Monday, December 31, 2018

Thankful At Year's End

The very last day of the year! How are you feeling about that? Was your year memorable for the right reasons? I get very reflective on December 31st each  year... Like most of you, my year was filled with both high and low points--I choose to focus on the high points, however, and move forward. 2018 wound down with my entire family here for Christmas. Nothing brings me more joy than to see those three "boys" sitting around our table together, poking fun at each other, and recalling fun times they experienced in their childhood. We played a lot of games, watched movies (balancing an action movie ("The Commuter") with romance (a Hallmark movie called "Once Upon a Christmas Miracle"),  laughed a lot, cooked a lot, ate way too much rich and sugary food, watched old videos from the 1980s (getting a bit sad at how much our parents have aged--not to mention ourselves!) and simply relaxed with each other. I even went to my first NHL Hockey game! 

As most of you know, I love to bake, but don't do nearly as much as I used to since it is just me and my husband left at home. I love holiday time because I do get to indulge in my second-favorite hobby, though! Here are nine of ten kinds of cookies I made for the holidays including a new-to-me recipe which I highly recommend. See those jam-filled cookies in the upper left corner? Oh, my--they literally melt in your mouth and I will definitely be adding them to my Christmas cookie lineup. If you are interested, the recipe, Evelyn's Christmas Cookies, can be found on this blog.

My cookie platter for Christmas 2018

I halved most of these recipes and that worked out very well--we were left with very few cookies going into the new year! It was still a lot of work, but I had this duo to help me out. I got these Possible Dreams baking Santas years ago and they have become an important part of my Christmas decorating. The boys used to  (well, honestly, they still do!), stick the little peppermint sticks in the Santas' mouths making them look like they are smoking. I just shake my head and put the peppermint sticks back in the jar! Just one of those Christmas "traditions" that will go on forever!

My baking buddies: the one on the right ate more than he baked!

Here is a little collage of our Christmas Day... In the top row are my oldest son and dear daughter-in-law, my middle son and his girlfriend, and my youngest son. In the bottom row is our tree on Christmas morning and just me and "my guys" before opening presents. And yes, Santa was good to us! He even managed to figure out exactly what stitching gifts I wanted! Hmmm...

Scenes from Christmas Day 2018

I had many, many little "Santas" from all over the world sending me gifts this year and I am so appreciative. Thought you might like to see what I received, too...

From June, in England, came a darling notebook embellished with her beautiful stitching and a packet of Christmas sachet. Thank you so very much, dear June!
From Robin, in Virginia, came this sweet red bird ornament and a charm pack of beautiful flannel fabrics to help me in my finishing. Thank you so much, dear Robin!
From Gabi, in Germany, came this sweet ice skating couple ornament for my tree. Thank you so much, dear Gabi!
From Liz, in Idaho, came this sweet With Thy Needle and Thread ornament (part of the "Letters For Santa" chart). Thank you so much, dear Liz!
From Lois, in Northern Ireland, came a darling Hands On Design ornament, a snowman chart, chocolate, a pack of little tags, and a piece of fabric featuring sweet woodland animals. Thank you so much, dear Lois!
From Stasi, in Virginia, came this teeny-tiny alphabet Christmas tree ornament and a very handy pack of graph paper to use in personalizing my stitching. Thank you so much, dear Stasi!

From Cindy, in Tennessee, came a cute birdhouse ornament and a lovely fabric star. Thank you so much, dear Cindy!
From Rosey, in Missouri, came this lovely blue crocheted bookmark that was included with a Prairie Schooler chart that I won in a recent giveaway. Thank you so much, dear Rosey!
From a sweet anonymous reader came a plethora of tiny stars to use in my finishing. Thank you so much, dear friend!
From Karen, in Indiana, came a beautifully stitched cardinal card and more of those elusive tiny gold stars to aid me in my finishing. Thank you so much, dear Karen!
From Manuela, in Germany, came this darling hexie Christmas tree ornament. Thank you so much, dear Manuela!
From Martina, in Germany, came this breathtaking hardanger card stitched in white thread with gold metallics. Thank you so much, dear Martina!
From Nathalie, in France, came some lovely wooden ornaments, spools of Christmas thread, and three fabric embroidered stars. Thank you so much, dear Nathalie!

I was very spoiled, wasn't I? I wish I could send out more gifts myself, but with the cost of international postage these days, I've had to limit my gifts. I hope you understand... Please know how thankful I am for not only these gifts, but for each and every comment I receive throughout the year. I know a lot more people read my blog than take the time to comment so I truly, truly appreciate those of you who do! Speaking of commenting--with my family visiting for the past week, I am way behind on visiting your blogs, but I will remedy that this week... 

On Instagram, my "Best Nine" generated from the photos that were most "liked," resulted in the collage below. Who would have thought a plain white box of cross-stitched Christmas ornaments would have been my most liked photo: over 1200 "likes!" I guess it's because those of us who stitch know all of the love and patience that have gone into filling that box higher and higher each year. I am still loving the Instagram experience and if you'd like to follow me, please click here.

My "Best Nine" according to Instagram

At this time of year, we have a family tradition of going around the table and recalling our favorite memory. This year, my husband and I both said the same thing--seeing that waiting truck as we emerged from the Panamanian jungle after our "hike from hell!" We were just so grateful to have lived through that experience and be heading back to civilization again.  (If any of you are wondering what on earth I'm talking about, please read this post).  So, now it's your turn--what was your favorite moment of 2018? I'd love to hear it!

The end of the year is just hours away... I know many of my blogging friends and family have faced new and continuing health challenges in 2018. You've met these trials with a courage that continues to inspire me. I truly hope that this coming year will heal you and ease your pain. And for those of you who are facing difficulties with other family problems, my thoughts are with you, too. Please know that each of you has a special place in my heart--I'm not going to name names, but know that I think of you often. So, that's it for Stitching Dreams in 2018--on to a new year... Let's make it a good one;  positive thinking certainly goes a long, long way! Bye for now...
Wishing all of my fellow stitchers every happiness in 2019!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

The beauty and hope of Christmas

Hello, all... It's almost winter! According to official sources, winter begins Friday, December 21st at  5:23 PM Eastern time... Do you have snow in your part of the world? It's not looking like we'll have a white Christmas here in western Pennsylvania (in fact, it's pouring rain as I write this!), but that's okay. I'm just happy because I'll have all of my kids home for the holidays--the very best present a mother could ask for, don't you think? My oldest son and daughter-in-law are up visiting my mom for the weekend after flying in from San Diego this evening. Then they'll drive down to be with us (for a whole week!) on Sunday. Can't wait to see them as it's been 3 months. My youngest arrives tomorrow (I don't envy him that drive from up from Washington, DC in holiday traffic!) and my middle lives nearby so we'll be all set!

Of course, with everyone coming, I've spent a bit more time trying to make the house extra festive. Do you do that, too? I truly enjoy puttering around my home and prettying up spaces with lots of lights and Christmas colors. My tree is up and I love the soft light it casts on our sunroom at night. This is the same tree I've shown on my blog for almost ten years--it just keeps getting more ornaments piled on! To tell you the truth, it was a bit difficult to find room for my newest twelve. You see, this isn't just a stitching tree--I have an eclectic group of ornaments on it. From little things the boys created in school, to some vintage ornaments from my mother-in-law, to the Hallmark ornaments I gave the boys each year as they were growing up--they are all included. It also has ornaments from the various places we've traveled to over the years--I try to pick up an ornament at each destination. So, here are some Christmas tree photos--both from a distance and close-up, day and night...

2018 Christmas Tree

The Praire Schooler Santas seem to be having a meeting! I wonder what they are planning?

Lots of chubby white snowmen!

Bows, cording, and ribbons really add to the finishes

I put the smaller ornaments at the very top of the tree

Some of my very favorites!

At night it is still lovely, although the ornaments don't show up as well (the ones stitched on black look a bit like "black holes" from a distance, don't they?)...

The tree at night with the "black-hole" ornaments :)

But, up close they are so very pretty!

So many Santas and snowmen with a little sheep in the mix!

One final look at my tree for this year...

A new addition to my Christmas decor is this sweet tartan plaid village that I fell in love with at Hallmark...

I display them on the sideboard in our kitchen eating area.

I've had the best time gathering small accessories like the little red truck, the plaid packages, and a tiny snowman.

Here is the lovely church sitting behind a "pond" my husband cut from an old mirror. I drew the kidney bean shape on it and he cut it out with his special glass cutters!

Here is the charming cottage with its crooked chimney! It wasn't supposed to be like that, but rather than return it, I kept it as it is so whimsical.

The houses light up as do the little white trees that I bought at Target and decorated them with red plaid bows and glass ornaments. My son says I need more "snow" scattered about--he's right! I'm just afraid what might happen if someone sneezes!

I think the church is my favorite... I can almost hear the carols drifting out from the candlelight service!

And just look at these cuties that I found while cleaning out the Christmas bins in the attic! I had forgotten all about the pixie elves and carolers that my mother-in-law gave me in a bag of vintage ornaments when we were first married. At the time we had no display space in our small apartment, so I put them in the bottom of the Christmas storage box where they remained for the next 41 years! I was so excited to find them as I now have the perfect place to display them--right on the middle shelf of my kitchen corner cupboard!  I've included another vintage favorite in my collage--the Rushton Santa from the fifties that was a childhood toy. His clothing has disappeared except for his red longjohns--and in spite of the creepy look on his plastic face, I adore this guy!

The little figurines have such perfect complexions due to being hidden in the attic for 40+ years! I guarantee if they had been on display when my sons were growing up, they would be nursing a broken leg or arm!

My Nativity set was given to me by my dear mother during my early years of marriage. It is a simple wood-carved set handcrafted in the mountains of Italy. I so treasure it and it wouldn't be Christmas without it on display.

My treasured Nativity set from my dear mother

A wish for you... When I was driving home from getting my hair cut last month on a hilly, winding road, something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. I slowed down and gasped out loud when I realized it was an albino deer standing quietly in the snow at the side of the road. Totally white with small antlers sprouting from his head, he was almost mythical looking. How I wish I could have stopped to take a photo, but, as I mentioned, I was on a steep hill during a snow storm--not ideal conditions for stopping my car. I slowly drove on and watched from my rear view mirror as the buck carefully crossed the road and I said a silent prayer for his safety. Although there is no photo, I know I will forever remember that moment--it was that special... May your Christmas be filled with equally special moments and memories, my friends--the kind you will never forget. Thank you for visiting with me today--I'm so glad you stopped by. Bye for now...

Enjoy the magic that is Christmas!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

2018 Parade of Ornaments

Happy mid-December, everyone! Well, it's that time of year again... another year of stitching an ornament each month has come to an end. And in this post, I'm happy to share with you my 2018 Parade Of Ornaments--my ninth annual! If you are new to my blog, this is a post I've shared each December since 2010. Many of you have told me they draw inspiration from my ornament finishes and I'm so happy to hear that. I spend a great deal of time on each one--trying to make them little heirlooms that my family will be decorating their own Christmas trees with long after I am gone. If any of you would like to see the past "parades," please click here:  2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

So, cue up the music and let's get started! As you can see, I really didn't have a theme to my stitching this year. I did notice that five out of the twelve are stitched on black, though--I think I am just a bit addicted :)  I also see a fair number of both Little House Needleworks and Prairie Schooler ornaments in the grouping...

2018 Parade of Ornaments!

As usual, our lack of sunlight in western Pennsylvania is not conducive to good photography, so perhaps these close-ups will offer you a better look...

January ~ March 2018
April ~ June 2018
July ~ September 2018
October ~ December 2018

As always, I'd love to hear which one is your favorite. Here is an even closer look to help you decide... And if you'd like more information about the fabrics and threads I used, just click on the name of the ornament below the photo.

"Snow Sampler" by Country Cottage Needleworks

"Needlework Shop" by Little House Needleworks


"Little Red Barn" by Little House Needleworks

"St. Noel" by With Thy Needle and Thread

"Main Street Station" by Little House Needleworks

2016 Annual Prairie Schooler Santa

"French Country Snowflake"  by JBW Designs

"Grandma's Quilt" by Little House Needleworks

"My Christmas Song" by MTV Designs

"Old Saint Nick" Prairie Schooler Book No. 58

"Kris Kringle" Prairie Schooler Book No. 62

"Merry Wishes" by With Thy Needle and Thread

Since I haven't written about my December ornament yet, it was stitched over one on 28 ct. black Monaco. Isn't that little sheep adorable? I'm just loving the With Thy Needle and Thread designs that are springing from the talented Brenda Gervais these days, aren't you? The red fabric is a wool flannel and the greenery was actually "stolen" from the back of one of my dried boxwood wreaths (I don't think it will be missed!). Top it off with a pair of rusty bells and some beige pop pom trim and you've got my final finish for 2018!

I've received some lovely Christmas gifts and sweet kindnesses lately! I'll share photos of them with you in a later post. But, I'm truly thankful to all of you wonderful stitching friends out there... 

I do hope you've enjoyed the parade this year... Please let me know what your favorite was for the year. For me, I think that sweet December sheep captured my heart for 2018! Will I keep up the monthly ornament stitching next year? I do plan on it, but only time will tell! I'll be back with some more Christmas decorating photos for you next week. Thank you all for your sweet comments--your friendship means the world to me! Bye for now...