Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Christmas Stitching on Halloween

Happy last day of October--or Happy Halloween if you prefer! How are my blogging friends today? I can hardly believe we are rounding the corner to the final two months of  2018, can you? October has been one tough month around here--I won't sugarcoat it. I just have to hope and pray that November is kinder...

My stitching retreat, two weeks ago, was such fun: stitching, eating, stitching, snacking, stitching, sleeping, stitching... Unfortunately, I had to leave a day early as my niece's baby shower fell on that last day. But, it was still nice to be there for even the short time I had with four long-time stitching friends. We don't have formal exchanges these days like we used to--if someone wants to bring something, that's fine. No one keeps track! I had some extra time to stitch while my mom was in the hospital so I made four little snowflake ornaments--one for each of my friends. Believe me, by the final one, I think I had the chart memorized. It is actually one I had stitched twice before--once for myself and once for a Christmas exchange--so I'm sure many of you recognize it.

A quartet of snowflake ornaments for four good friends

The pattern is a freebie which can be found right here. I also have a link to it in my sidebar under "Favorite Freebies."  These were stitched on 40 ct. white Newcastle using the variegated DMC 115 thread--love the crisp red and white look at Christmas time! The ruched ribbon edging is easy once you get the hang of it...  Google "ruched ribbon tutorial" and you will find some great instructions and videos to help you out. I simply apply it to the perimeter of the circle with a bit of glue on the tip of a toothpick. 

There's just something about red and white!

The problem of how to package my ornaments was made easy when I stumbled upon these red and white polka dot popcorn holders at the local Dollar Tree. Throw in some crimped paper ribbon shreddings and you've got a quick, easy gift box!

All ready for gift-giving!

My stitching friends brought me some goodies, too, as you can see in the photo below. We hope to get back on track and meet up next fall, too. This type of retreat is something that anyone can set up. Many of you told me they've never been to a stitching retreat. Well--why not set up your own? Contact a few friends, rent a house for a few days and let the stitching begin! I am not one for large groups so this smaller set-up suits me perfectly...

Gifts received from stitching friends at our retreat--thank you all!

I don't enjoy shopping, but I do make an exception to visit HomeGoods now and then. I love HomeGoods--you just never know what little gem you'll stumble upon. I recently picked up this "Measure, Make, Create"  Rae Dunn divided dish to use on my crafting table. I love it; it corrals small buttons, trims, and other accents just perfectly when I am finishing an ornament or small pillow. And at the clearance price of $5.00--who could resist?!

A handy little Rae Dunn dish for my craft table

And, I've been meaning to post this sweet little tool set that my daughter-in-law gave me for Mother's Day in May... How pretty are these floral hammer, scissors, and tape measure? I have them where I can quickly grab them--right on top of my craft table at all times...

Some "girl" tools from my dear daughter-in-law!

The handle of the hammer unscrews and is a screwdriver inside! How neat is that? And that hammer came in very handy yesterday as I finally got a 2013 finish all framed up. I use the method outlined here to prepare my stitched piece for framing. The hammer tapped in all those tiny pins while saving my fingers lots of pain in the process! Who remembers this finish of "Halloween Is In the Air?"  Well, as I mentioned...  it's been five years and that poor neglected piece was just waiting and waiting for me to pay it some attention again. Here is the framed finish--isn't it adorable?

Finally framed after five years

Many of you know that Halloween is a hard day for me... My dad passed away four years ago on Halloween and since then I haven't decorated at all. I've stitched a few pieces, but this is the first year I've done anything in the way of decorating. Just this one simple vignette... It's not much, but I'm getting there! Baby steps, right? 

Just look at that moon!

I really love the old-time vintage look of Halloween in this piece--the expressions on the moon's face and the candy corn "flowers" are priceless! I am not a fan of the bright purples and yellows and fluorescent greens that are so popular in modern day Halloween pieces. I much prefer the duller oranges and golds and more muted tones of Halloween decor from the 1930s and 40s. 

A basket of Halloween

GIVEAWAY WINNER... We have a winner! Yes, there were 15 entries for the Seasonal Kitties charts and the winning name drawn from the hat is:  

                                   PATRICIA DEE!!  


The giveaway winner is:  Patricia Dee!

Patricia, please contact me (email is in my "A Bit About Me" profile in the sidebar) and let me know your mailing address. I will get these out to you this week. Congratulations and thank you to all who entered. If you didn't win this time--watch this space. There will be future giveaways!


The synagogue shooting in my city of Pittsburgh has been simply heartbreaking and so horrific for the families of those killed, for the Jewish community, for western Pennsylvania, for the United States, and for the entire world, really. We, here in Pittsburgh, have always felt a bit sheltered from "bad things." We get few natural disasters like hurricanes or wildfires or tornadoes. Our cost of living is low and we are lucky enough to have excellent educational, healthcare, and technology systems in place. Now we are on an evergrowing list of "those" places--Littleton, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Charleston, Las Vegas, Paris, and way too many others. You always think, "It can't happen here." But, you're wrong--it can happen anywhere, at any time, and your city or town will be forever changed. My thoughts and prayers go out to each and every family touched by this senseless act.

What I've been so proud to see during all of the news coverage of the tragedy are the many comments by outsiders and reporters of what a strong, resilient, and caring group of people make up the Pittsburgh area. We are a hard-working, friendly, "get right-back-on-your-feet" type and this will be evident in the days and years to come. I wasn't born in Pittsburgh, but I've lived here for the past 41 years--2/3 of my life. And I'm so proud to call this city my home... 

As wonderful as Pittsburgh normally is, it's not known for an abundance of sunshine! In fact this list shows that it is the 11th least sunny city in the United States--right after Seattle... And it's particularly hard in the fall and winter months when the weather turns too cold to spend time outside. I've known that I'm prone to seasonal sadness and have finally decided to purchase one of those special lamps to use that mimic the sunlight and help battle depression during the winter months. Have any of you purchased one that you can recommend? I'm thinking about this one as it has excellent reviews and looks to be very portable and small. But, I'd love to have your input!


So, as I said--October... sigh. A tough one! My mom has been in and out of the hospital twice and I have been driving back and forth to New York to be with her. Hopefully, things are resolved for now--thank you all for your kind thoughts and prayers for her health. They meant so much to us! 

The beautiful fall colors that brighten my yard

I also want to thank you for your kind, thoughtful comments and emails. I wish I could reply to each of you directly, but many of you are "no-reply" bloggers--and it seems that more and more of you are ending up in that category, sadly. For those of you who still take the time to read and comment, I so appreciate it! I was just checking my blog statistics and the number of views of each of my 2018 posts is about half of what they were last year. That really makes me sad and makes me wonder if blogging truly is a dying art. But, I'll keep plugging away for a while! Enjoy your November, everyone--may it be a kind month filled with the spirit of Thanksgiving. Bye for now...

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Some spooky stitching and a cautionary tale

A frosty good morning to all! We dipped down near the freezing mark this morning in western Pennsylvania after an unseasonably warm October. I am so not ready for the upcoming winter cold, are you? The older I get, the more I seem to hate the snow and ice and layers of clothes I have to heap on to just to keep the chill off. But, unless I move south, I guess I'm stuck with all of this, aren't I? 

So, how has your month been going so far? I've been doing some stitching, but not a lot and only have a couple of smaller finishes to share with you today. Most of you will recognize "J Is For Jack-O-Lantern" from Prairie Schooler's J-K-L book #105. I stitched just the bottom portion of it for a cute, quick addition to my Halloween pillows. My go-to fabric of 40 ct. country mocha Newcastle linen and the suggested DMC threads were used in this latest finish. That black cat is kind of crazy looking, isn't he? But, you long-time readers know what a fan I am of black cats and it's hard for me to resist charts that feature them!

J Is For Jack-O-Lantern

The little pillow combines two different fabrics and a thin handmade cording (I only used two lengths of DMC to create it rather than my usual three or four). At the very top I popped a black pin into the corded bow. I really love the tiny brown and black paisley fabric used on the lower half--wish I could find more. It is perfect for smaller projects like this one.

Another pillow for my Halloween display!

My next "spooky" finish is a Drawn Thread design with the charming name of "Tangled Up In Boo!" In fact, that is why I chose to stitch it as an anniversary gift for my son and daughter-in-law. Can you believe they will celebrate their one year anniversary on Sunday? What a joyous day that was as we welcomed a girl (finally!!) into our family. (If any of my new blog followers would like to read about and see photos of their special wedding day you can click right here).

"Tangled Up In Boo" by the Drawn Thread

Don't you love the expression on the skeleton's face as the winding vines of that giant pumpkin encircle his legs?  And can you spot the wee black buttons that make up the spider bodies? Luckily, I had three buttons in my stash that fit perfectly. The gingham fabric in the background is cut from a kitchen towel and the black frame is one I found in the clearance aisle at Target for $3.00! Nothing fancy, but I think it fits the design perfectly. This piece is stitched on 30 ct. dirty linen using the suggested Dinky Dyes silks. I'm happy to report that my son and daughter-in-law love their very first Halloween decoration and I hope they'll think of me each year when they display it. I wish them a first anniversary as joy-filled as their wedding day was... And, a very Happy Birthday to my sweet daughter-in-law who celebrates today!

BOO!

An honor from Just Cross Stitch Magazine... I was so surprised to get an email from Brooke Smith, managing editor at Just Cross Stitch Magazine, who asked if they could feature my version of "My Christmas Song" on their Facebook page on October 8th.  She went on to say that they loved how I "switched it up a bit" and what a "beautiful job" I did with it. (Can you see me blushing?)! Anyway, below is the posting of it next to the original so you can see my version of this pretty design. Who knew that the folks at Just Cross Stitch read my blog? I'm truly honored--thank you!

My version of the "My Christmas Song" ornament featured on Just Cross Stitch Magazine's Facebook page

I do have a new start to share with you... Any guesses as to what I might be stitching? Here's a hint--it's an autumn design with some leaves... Ha ha--not very helpful, am I?

Any guesses as to what I am stitching?

Chart giveaway... I haven't had a giveaway in a while and I thought one of you might enjoy stitching these twelve kitty themed seasonal charts. There is one design for each month that features the same kitty doing everything from building a snowman to gardening to celebrating Halloween. You could make them to hang individually in a wreath (as suggested by the photo below) or fill a basket or bowl with all of them. If you are interested in giving these charts a new home, just let me know in your comments and please be a follower of my blog. This giveaway is for three pages torn from an old Leisure Arts magazine--not the whole magazine. If more than one person wants them, I will do a drawing.  PLEASE, PLEASE make sure to include your email in with your comment--I won't be trying to track anyone down if they haven't included their email address... Also, please be aware that I will be folding up the pages and mailing them in a legal sized envelope to save on postage. I'll announce the winner the next time I post...

I'm giving away these cute seasonal cat charts


A cautionary tale... So, who knew that eggs could be dangerous? Certainly not me--or my dear daughter-in-law. She and I decided to share her story of what could have resulted in a very unhappy ending so more people don't suffer a similar trauma. It all began with a hard-boiled egg--a seemingly harmless nugget of white and yellow protein, right? Well, the trouble started when my daughter-in-law put her cold, shelled hard-boiled egg into the microwave for a bit to take off the chill. This was something she had done many times before... But, this time was very different. This time when she bit into the egg, it literally exploded in her month and sent boiling bits of egg everywhere. Her lips and inside of her mouth were injured along with a spot on her face. Thank goodness she had worn her glasses to work that day or her eyes could have been burned also. In the Emergency Room of the nearest hospital she was examined and told she was suffering from second-degree burns! All from an egg--who knew?! 

Apparently this has happened to lots of other people (there are many vidoes and accounts online) who have suffered everything from corneal damage to severe  scarring from the blistering burns. The eggs  explode due to the  rapid heating in the microwave oven which causes steam to build up under the yolk membrane faster than it can escape. I'm happy to say that my daughter-in-law fully recovered with just a bit of a scar visible on her face which will probably fade away with time. And from now on, I imagine she'll be sticking to cold hard-boiled eggs!



The first half of October has passed in a blur...  At the beginning of the month, I was very busy with the return of my youngest son from Panama. He spent five days with us to retrieve all of his worldly possessions which had been "living" in our basement for the six months he was away. It was such fun to spoil him a bit and treat him to his favorite cookies, pot roast, turkey meatballs, and other goodies. He is now happily settled in his new condo near Washington, DC and we hope to visit soon!  The rest of the month has found me driving back and forth to New York to visit my mom who has had some worrisome health problems. I'm going up again on Saturday to stay with her for six days. But, before that, I will be heading off to a mini stitching-retreat today with four friends up in Erie. We rented an Airbnb right on the lake this year rather than stay in the usual Bed & Breakfast (which we thought was "fading" a bit--a nice way of putting it!). Last year, we weren't able to get together so it will be fun to see them and catch up over our stitching for a couple of days.

Thank you all for your comments on my previous post and I apologize for not getting back to some of you. I truly appreciate each of you who takes the time to say "hello!" And I want to welcome my new followers--always happy to have more of  you along for the ride! Please make sure to include your email address if you have a question for me or if you want to enter the giveaway above; otherwise, I have no way of getting back to you. Hope you all enjoy this last  half of October! Bye for now...

Fall baking has begun!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Seasonal Stitching and My Big Panama Experience (Part Three)

Oh, my--is it really the end of September already? I am finally managing to squeeze in one last post for the month. I really do try to post twice a month, but I tend to procrastinate now that I'm retired and tell myself, "Oh, I'll do that tomorrow." Can you believe I have now been retired for a year? It's been a mixture of relaxation, changes, and sadness, to be honest with you. I still really miss my old coworkers and many (not all!!) of the patrons who used to stop by the Reference Desk to chat. But, most of my fellow librarians have also retired within this past year so I know it wouldn't be the same even if I were still working. On the other hand, I relish those lazy mornings when I can lounge in bed "just a bit longer" and not have to wake to an alarm and get myself off to work. I am still struggling with making the best use of my time and feel guilty when I don't accomplish as much as I would like in any given day. But, I try to remind myself that I've earned the right to relax--I raised three wonderful sons and spent 29 years serving the public at the library, right?

I did manage to get a lot of stitching in this month and have caught up with my monthly Christmas ornaments. First of all, I'd love to share this gorgeous Prairie Schooler fall finish with you. It is called "Autumn Leaves" (Book No. 132) and is stitched on 40 ct. country mocha Newcastle linen with the suggested threads. For some reason, I rarely feel the need to change colors when I'm stitching Prairie Schooler pieces. I'm not sure if I'll frame this one or finish it off in some other way. On 40 ct. it really isn't that big so I'll have to think about it for a while.

Prairie Schooler's "Autumn Leaves" finish

I really love everything about this finish--the fabulous fall colors, the cute little black kitty, and that funny gray squirrel scampering to the top of the oak tree on the right. Did you know the wording is actually based on a poem "Come Little Leaves" by George Cooper?  Later on, music was added... Now, when I was younger, I probably would have been able to play this piece on the piano. I took lessons for a few years in elementary school and then quit at the age of 12 when I thought playing piano wasn't "cool" anymore! My mother always told me I would regret it--and you know what, mom--you were right! Are any of you piano lesson drop-outs, too?

"Come Little Leaves"

Here are a couple of close-ups of the piece for you.

The center square pictures a barn, but you can pick other motifs to stitch instead. After the fact, I wish I had picked the pumpkin motif to stitch. Oh well, I can always make a small pillow with the pumpkin design and display them together, right?

Most of you know just how much I love black cats!

For my long-time readers, the bottom portion of this sampler might look a wee bit familiar. Well, that's because I actually stitched it way back in 2012 when I was doing my "Bowl Of the Month" stitching and did this one for the October theme of black cats. I finished it into a little pin pillow which you can read about right here. There are lots of other cute black cat ideas in that post, too, if you are a black cat fan like me!

My small pillow finish of the lower portion of "Autumn Leaves" from 2012.

For my August ornament, I stitched another of the Little House Needleworks Farmhouse Christmas series.  Let's see if you recognize it! I stitched it over one on 28ct. black Monaco and it really changed the look of "Grandma's Quilt." What do you think?

"Grandma's Quilt" by Little House Needleworks

And then to finish it off, I turned it on the diagonal, added some greenery,  a small red bell, and my handmade cording. I just love it!

My ornament for August.

September's ornament is from the new 2018 Just Cross Stitch Ornament Issue and is called "My Christmas Song" by MTV Designs.  You know my love of cardinals (you can read about the special feelings I have for those beautiful red birds in this post) so I couldn't resist this one. I forgot to take a "before finish" photo, but this was charted as a rectangular design with red notes. I decided to make the notes black  and I added more of them along with additional snowflakes so I could make an oval ornament. It almost looks like the fabric is printed that way, doesn't it? But no, it just started off as plain old 36 ct. pearl gray Edinburgh linen! I ruched some black and white gingham ribbon and added it to the edge along with some red pins. What do you think? So, on to my last three ornaments of the year--can you believe we are 3/4 done with 2018?

"My Christmas Song" finish for September's ornament

On to my final installment of my Panama holiday... No, you won't be reading about any harrowing hikes this time... one was enough to last a lifetime! Today, I'm going to focus on the arts and the history of the country. One of our most pleasant afternoons was spent in Panama Viejo which is the original site of Panama City and has been a World Heritage Site since 1997. Shortly after it was founded in 1519 by Spanish conquistador,  Pedro Arias de Ávila, it became an important stop in the route used to transport gold and silver from Peru to Spain. For over 150 years, the original city thrived and grew to resemble the village shown in the diorama below.

A diorama of what Panama Viejo probably looked like before it was destroyed in 1671

However, in 1671, Welsh pirate, Henry Morgan, attacked the city, fires broke out, and thousands died. The survivors fled to a more protected area which is now the site of Casco Viejo (which I talked about in my first Panama post and where our Airbnb was located). Today, all that remains of the oldest part of Panama City are a few crumbling buildings.

All that remains of the old church and its bell tower
 
I love the juxtaposition of the ancient bell tower with the modern skyscrapers in the distance.


The stairs of the bell tower have been modernized so we were able to climb them for a 360° view of both the old and the new.
 
You can see more ruins of other buildings in the lower left
 
The tower not only housed the bells of the church, but also served as a lookout post.

There was such a relaxed and peaceful air as we walked among the ruins of Panama Viejo.

A final look...

One of the things I was most interested in seeing in Panama were two groups of the indegenous people: the  Emberá   and the Guna (also called Kuna).  Unfortunately, we did not get to visit the Emberá village that my youngest son had so enjoyed, but we were able to see members of the Guna people selling their brightly colored fabric molas at a local market. 

A market stall selling molas which are made from layers of cotton fabric using applique and reverse applique.
 
The quality of a mola is judged by the number of layers of fabric used and the fineness of the stitching. A mola can take from two weeks to six months to make!
 
Two Guna women  chatting while selling their wares. The one behind the middle mola kept hiding each time I tried to take a photo. She would smile at me and then duck behind the mola as if she were playing peek-a-boo! The molas are sold to tourists to be used as wall hangings or to make pillows. They are  not to be made into clothing--that is something reserved for the Guna people alone.
 
Here is a closer look of the brightly colored clothing of the Guna women. The scarf is called a "muswe" and is worn as a sign of respect.  The beaded wrapping around the arms and legs is called "uini" and is made from yards of string looped through glass beads and wrapped around the lower legs and forearms in different designs. 

At the market we also saw piles of what we think of as "Panama hats." Did you know that authentic Panama hats are actually made in Ecuador?

My son wanted a real Panamanian hat so he journeyed to La Pintada to buy a genuine "sombrero pintado." The shop was quiet that day so he said he enjoyed a nice chat with the owner (pictured above in front of his hats). The brims can be flipped up or down for different looks.

For some reason, license plates were being sold in many of the booths at the market. I'm not sure if people use them for art projects or just purchase them as souvenirs. 

On our walk back to the Airbnb, I spotted this cute metal creation of a woman seated at a sewing machine!

My youngest son had to work several of the days we visited so he suggested that we go to see a traditional Panamanian dance show on our own. Since he has lived at the hotel where the show was being held for the past six months, most everyone on the staff knows him--he is almost like a mini-celebrity! So, he made the reservations and they gave us wonderful seats--right up front with great views. 

Oh, the costumes were amazing! The girls wore more colorful, elaborate outfits, while the young men wore simpler costumes consisting of a long white shirt, britches, a crossbody bag, and a sombrero pintado.

The girls dresses (called "pollera") can cost $300 to $3000 and are worn for festivals and holidays. They can take up to a year to make! Elaborate headdresses, gold jewelry, and pompoms complete the look.

I've posted a short video (hope it works!) so you can see and listen to some of the dancers in action.  The music is loud and there is a heavy drum presence as you will hear...


What do you think? Would we make it as Panamanian dancers?

One of my most traveled friends once told me that it is the unexpected "finds" that you stumble upon during a visit to another country that will often bring you the most joy. Well, on our final night in Panama we just happened to walk into what was described as a restaurant that served "Panamanian traditional food." When we entered the restaurant, we were surprised to find that all but one table was already filled with diners who had made reservations. Luckily, the host gave us the lone remaining table. It turned out that every Saturday night there was a dance show included at no cost! The restaurant was called Diablicos and, as the name suggests, there were scary looking devil masks everywhere... The food was excellent and we had ringside seats to watch the dancers. An unexpected joy for sure!

Here you can see a close-up of one of the dancers ready to entertain us.

Dancing among the devils!

And then there were two scary male skull dancers--yikes! I shot a short 30 second video so you can see them in action.


It seems to be traditional to pull audience members up at the end of the show to perform with the dancers. At the performance at the hotel they pulled my daughter-in-law up and at this show they brought up my youngest son! Thank goodness they didn't ask me! 

Here are the three of us (my oldest son and daughter-in-law had to leave earlier that day for home) with the four dancers. (No, I do not have pink hair--it was just the spotlights shining on us!)

The following morning we boarded our plane back to the United States with so many wonderful (and one not so wonderful!) memories. I wish we had had a couple more days there to visit some of the memorable sights my son has seen since March. Luckily, we can imagine them through his photos and stories. Undoubtedly, the best part of my trip was spending time and making new memories with four of my favorite people. From hiking in the woods, to playing games at our favorite brew pub, to relaxing on the rooftop, to trying interesting foods and experiencing new cultures--it's so much more fun to have my family along for the ride. I'd say it's time to start planning our next family trip (and this time, I hope our middle son will be joining us, too!).  Where should we go next? What was your favorite trip--either internationally or here in the United States? I'd love to hear your recommendations!

"Families are like quilts: lives pieced together, stitched with smiles and tears, colored with memories, and bound with love and prayers."  (Author unknown)


Adios, Panama!


Thank you for traveling with me once again--I hope you enjoyed it and I hope some of you even get to visit Panama some day. I will be glad to return to mostly stitching posts as these travel posts have taken hours to pull together. I so appreciated the many comments on my last post and your concerns about my safety on that horrid hike. The memory of it is beginning to fade and I'm sleeping better, so that's good! Anyway--happy October everyone! Hope it's a great month filled with that delightful fresh autumn air, crispy leaves, and lots of stitching time. Bye for now...