Tuesday, January 14, 2020

A brand new year begins...

Happy 2020, everyone! I hope your new year is off to a wonderful start... I have a feeling this year is going to be a good one (even if I am turning into an official "senior citizen" when I turn 65 on my birthday on Thursday)!  As usual, my husband and I turned in early on New Year's Eve--we have rarely made it 'til midnight in recent years. But, for some reason, I couldn't get to sleep that night and was still lying awake at midnight when the fireworks began exploding outside and cheers from revelers burst into the previously quiet night. Suddenly, somewhere in our neighborhood, a tuba began playing the familiar refrain of "Auld Lang Syne." Yes--a tuba! It wasn't played well or loudly, but it brought me comfort and I truly felt like my dad was there wishing me a "Happy New Year." You see, that was his instrument--he played it not only in the high school band, but also in the army band in Fort Lewis, Washington in 1946-47. I smiled contentedly as I finally drifted off to sleep in the wee hours of January 1, 2020... it is going to be a good year!

Dad playing his tuba (sousaphone) in the army band at Fort Lewis, Washington circa 1946 or 1947.

Before I share the stitching gifts I sent to friends around the world, I want to thank you for your wonderful comments and emails you sent in reply to my last post. I truly felt the love and feel so blessed to be a part of this wonderful online stitching community (a fact that I've stated many times over!). I was so touched by your "thank yous" and your kind words... If you get a chance, read through the comments from this last post--I think you'll feel uplifted, too!

So, let's get things started--I sent a lot of gifts for Christmas 2019 (and, as always, wish I could have sent even more!) and they were all well received.  I'll share the photographs and the designer and any other pertinent information in a little parade of finishes...

This Prairie Schooler Santa is now living in Virginia at Stasi's house! He is from Book No. 62, "Kris Kringle" and is stitched on 32 ct. sage Jobelan with the suggested DMC colors. I love the snowmen on his robe, don't you?

This smiling snowman has now made his home across the pond in jolly old England with June. This is a freebie available on the "Stitching, Tea, and Me" blog post from July 15, 2016 (or I have a link to it in the "Favorite Freebies" list in my sidebar under "Snowman's Quaker Christmas"). This cutie was stitched on 32 ct. flax Belfast linen with Gentle Arts thread in the color "Crystal Lake."

One of my favorites, as evidenced by the fact that I've stitched this multiple times, is making his home in Texas with a new friend, Susan. Susan was a godsend to some family members earlier this year and I wanted to send her a small thank you! This is from Prairie Schooler's Book No. 51, "Christmas Past" and is stitched 'over one' on 28 ct. black Monaco with DMC threads.

You saw this last year when I stitched three of these Homespun Excellence ornaments called "Jingle, Jingle!" One stayed with me, one went to Robin, in Virginia, and another went to Cindy, in Virginia. This was stitched on 40 ct. vintage country mocha Newcastle linen with DMC threads which were changed to a Prairie Schooler color palette.

I stitched this little partridge from one of the Prairie Schooler mini-cards three times! This ornament went to Instagram friend, Tricia, in Indiana, and it is stitched on a new favorite linen: 40 ct. woodland Newcastle with the suggested DMC threads.
And the other two partridges were made into greeting cards and sent to Instagram friend, Claire in Canada, and stitching friend, Gabi, in Germany. I added a little bow to the front of the each card and thought it finished them off perfectly. Due to the high cost of international shipping, I sent cards rather than packages to most of my international friends.

Two more cards were made from the Hands On Design "Cranberry Christmas" chart. These were also stitched on 40 ct. woodland Newcastle using DMC threads and are now living with two German blogging friends: Manuela and Martina.

This 2018 Prairie Schooler annual Santa is now making his home with Meg in the lovely state of Idaho. I changed a few things on the chart--leaving off the words "Let It Snow" and adding more snowflakes instead. Isn't that little bunny adorable?
Last, but not least, this unique ornament is now residing with my oldest son and daughter-in-law in, where else, but San Diego! This is one of the city charts by Tiny Modernist and certainly reflects the bright, sunny, fun feeling of southern California!
 It is stitched on 40 ct. white Newcastle with the suggested DMC colors.

Whew! That's it--well, almost. I did stitch an ornament for my middle son, but didn't quite get it finished in time for Christmas. Oops! Well, I'll share that with you (and him!) when I finally get it done... I truly enjoy making ornaments for gifts and I'm sure you'll be seeing more in the future!

I received a lovely gift of my own from my blogging friend, Jennifer at Quilting Mom's blog. Just look at this beautiful Christmas project bag she made for me! She wanted to thank me for the inspiration I've given her and made me a little bag for my monthly ornament stitching. As you can see, Jennifer, I'm going to fill it with future Prairie Schooler projects shown on the right. That was so sweet of you--thank you so very much! If you aren't familiar with Jennifer's blog, please go visit her--she does just about everything in terms of beautiful needlework and I find her work to be very inspiring, too!

Thanks so very much, Jennifer! Your beautiful project bag will come in so handy for helping me to organize my ornament stitching!

I've been doing a bit of winter decorating for the months of January and February. I love the soft simple blues and grays and whites of winter, don't you? After the hustle-bustle of the holidays, I relish the tranquil, sparse decor that I use in January. It seems to clear my head and be just the thing I need to start the new year with a clean slate...

I made this vignette in a galvanized tray to place in the center of my kitchen island--a bit of greenery, some miniature silver ball ornaments, a pair of glittery buildings, and a black metal snowflake lantern. It looks so pretty at night when the fairy lights are lit.

This corner of my kitchen cupboard always make me smile with the With Thy Needle and Thread January Wordplay finish and sweet Marjolein Bastin sled.

My son and his girlfriend invited us over for an early birthday dinner on Sunday and I got to visit with my "grandcat," Spike. Can you see why he is named Spike? He has a large "spike" of white fur running up in between his eyes. I do miss having a cat around the house, but with our travels at this stage in our lives, it is easier to not have a pet. But, at least I can see him now and then!

My grandcat--Spike! Such a love...

Speaking of cats, we finished the 1000 piece "Holiday Cats" puzzle that we began on Christmas Day. It was such fun and I think an annual Christmas puzzle is in our future.

And what could be better than a sweet baby photo! My youngest sister sent me this picture of my great-nephew, Oliver, reaching for the ornament that I stitched for his first Christmas... How adorable is he?!

Little Oliver looks like he wants to take a bite out of that gingerbread man!

Do you like biscotti? I've always wanted to try making my own, so I found a recipe for Double Chocolate Biscotti on the "Once Upon a Chef" site that had great reviews. Oh, my--it was very easy and tasted amazing--so crunchy and chocolatey. Just perfect with a cup of tea or coffee (only I don't drink either so I just eat mine with cocoa or water :)  For the recipe, just click here: Double Chocolate Biscotti. I think I may add some almonds next time and experiment with different flavors this year.

Double Chocolate Biscotti satisfies any chocolate craving!

Giveaway... I thought it would be fun to start off the new year with a small giveaway... Since we are getting NO snow here in western Pennsylvania this year, perhaps a snow chart giveaway will bring some our way (be careful what you wish for, Carol!). Honestly--I don't ever remember a winter like this--it was 70° here on Saturday. Unbelievable... Anyway, if you would like to win this cute chart (just two pages pulled from a magazine--not the whole magazine), please: 1) specifically say so in your comments, 2) make sure to include your email address if I don't already have it and 3) tell me what you are most looking forward to stitching this year. For me, I'm looking forward to adding to my little ornaments stitched on black in the LHN "Hometown Holiday" series. I plan on starting one this week and hope to add a couple more this year. The drawing will be open until January 29, 2020 and I'll announce the winner on my next post.

If you would like to be included in the drawing for this chart:  1) specifically say so, 2) make sure to include your email address in your comments if I don't already have it, and 3) tell me what you are most looking forward to stitching this year.

And, that's a wrap--my first post of 2020 done and dusted! I thank you for stopping in today, for  your kind comments, your inspiration, and your friendship. Let's make this a wonderful stitching year, my friends! Bye for now...

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Two simple words

And here we are at the end of the year--the beginning of a new decade dawns in just a matter of hours. How can that be? I just wrote my end-of-the year post for 2018, didn't I? I truly believe time speeds up as we age and I'm not sure I like it... But, there is no alternative--we must put one foot in front of the other and face 2020 head on--let's hope it's a good year for all!

Christmas here was a bit different, as I mentioned it would be in my previous post. We took our meal up to my in-laws' assisted living home in Ohio (an hour away) in an effort to make the holiday special for them. (I wish I had taken photos--I was just too busy getting the meal on the table)! There was no oven or refrigerator in the room where we had our dinner (there were nine of us) so that meant everything had to be heated here at home and transported in two Crock-pots and an unused wedding gift from nearly 43 years ago. That's right! We finally used the electric skillet that we received for our wedding in 1977! (That's one in the "you just never know when you might need it" column for me; as opposed to my husband's "we've never used it, let's get rid of it" philosophy)! We took everything from plates to napkins, to serving utensils, to coolers to keep the dessert and salads cold... But, oops--I forgot to take anything decorative like tablecloths or placemats. So, I looked around the room in an attempt to brighten up our tables and removed two  larger paper cutout snowflakes that were hanging on the walls, grabbed a plant from a windowsill, and went out into the hallway to "steal" a Merry Christmas planter from a sidetable. Voilà--instant Christmas centerpieces for the two tables! (Of course, we returned each item to its proper place when all finished up).

I truly felt that our efforts were appreciated as my father-in-law declared, "This is the best meal I've had in ages!" He even called my husband the following day to say how nice it was and say "thank you" once again. It was so heartwarming to know that our Christmas meal meant so much to them. Unfortunately, the day after Christmas, both my middle son and I came down with the flu... I've been resting these past five days, but, boy--it really hit me hard. And yes, I had the flu shot! Second year in a row I've had the shot and still got the flu. But, perhaps it is a lighter version than if I hadn't gotten the shot. My body aches, I have an almost constant headache, cough, am exhausted--all the typical things. I think I got so run down from trying to do too much (like most of us!) in December that my immune system was weakened. It will be nice to have January to rest up, that's for sure!

Here are some photos from our day before we left for Ohio...

Christmas morning (well, early afternoon, actually--we got a late start!)... From left to right are me, my husband, middle son, his girlfriend, and youngest son. It was my oldest son's turn to be in Texas with my daughter-in-law's family. We sure missed them, but are already looking forward to a bigger group next year! And we began a new Christmas tradition. I purchased this 1000 piece "Holiday Cats" puzzle which we worked on after the present opening. I think I'll be buying a new one each year--it was a fun, family activity!

I love making these Cream Cheese Kolacky every year--they are so light and tasty! You can find the recipe right here.

After seeing this idea on Pinterest, I decided to add a couple small wreaths hanging from red and white checked ribbon from my cupboards. I may expand on this idea next year and hang them from the solid white cupboards as I think they will show up better. I think I'll also add a bow and some berries. We'll see!

The shelves on my corner cupboard  are waiting to be filled with a snowman theme for January!

As I mentioned in my last post, I displayed my stitching gifts on my mantle this year because my tree is simply getting too crowded. From left to right are the gifts I received from, Tricia, Gabi, Karen, Meg, Robin, Cindy, Manuela, and June. Love how they brighten up my mantle!

I'm sure you would like a closer look at the little gifts that came my way this Christmas, wouldn't you?  In the order that I received them:

My long-time blogging friend, Cindy, sent me some fabric, two charts, and this beautifully finished Prairie Schooler Santa. Ironically, I had also stitched him this year, but sent him away as a gift. Now I don't need to stitch him for myself! Thank you so much, Cindy ♥

My Instagram friend, Jen, sent this cute Snow Village chart and a red snowflake tin filled with chocolates (which are long gone!). Thank you so much, Jen ♥

My Instagram friend, Tricia, sent a cute needleminder and this beautifully stitched and finished stand-up cube for an early birthday / Christmas present. It is a Scarlett House design and she wanted me to be able to display it all winter so she sent it way before my mid-January birthday. Love the little bird cage accessory perched on top! Thank you so much, Tricia ♥

My blogging friend, Meg, sent this beautiful blue Christmas design. Not only did she stitch and finish it, she also designed it! Isn't it special? You can find the chart here and while you're there, please do read Meg's post and keep her in your prayers. Thank you so much, Meg ♥

My blogging and Instagram friend, Robin, sent this darling cardinal ornament and a pack of Moda fabric squares. She knows I love to use these in my finishing and she knows how special cardinals are to me... Thank you so much, Robin ♥

My long-time stitching friend, Gabi in Germany, made me this lovely Noel card. It was so pretty on my mantle! Thank you so much, Gabi ♥

My stitching friend, Karen Y., in Indiana, sent this darling stitched card. She said she knew if anyone would appreciate this sweet boy, I would. She is right! Thank you so much, Karen ♥

My blogging friend, June, sent me a sweet stitched card with a Nativity scene, a thread keep, mini-flashlight, bookmark, and a tiny ornament. I love the card and will display it proudly each December. Thank you so much, June ♥

My blogging and Instagram friend, Stasi, sent me the cutest Scrabble tile decoration. Over on Instagram, some folks have taken to calling me the "Christmas ornament queen" so I thought this was perfect. She also included a stitchable paper oval and some chocolates. Thank you so much, Stasi ♥

My blogging and Instagram friend, Manuela, sent me the sweetest little hexie wreath Christmas ornament. Look--there are my beloved cardinals! Thank you so much, Manuela ♥

My stitching friend, Nathalie in France, sent me a cute woolen mitten ornament and a pack of Christmas themed stickers. Thank you so much, Nathalie ♥

Oh-my-goodness! I was just a bit spoiled, wasn't I? Thank you all so very much for your little remembrances at this special time of year. I will treasure them and think of  you each time I display them at Christmas.  In my next post, I'll share the gifts that I sent out to my blogging and Instagram friends... hope you'll stop by!

On Instagram, my "Best Nine" 2019 (generated from the photos that were most liked on my account) resulted in the collage below. All were Christmas / winter themed except two. I was glad to see "Miss Bingley's Library" made an appearance smack-dab in the middle. And that sweet pink Valentine on the middle right column was a breath of fresh air, too.

My "Best Nine" 2019 according to Instagram
But, the above nine certainly didn't tell my whole 2019 stitching story so I went through my photos and picked my own personal "best nine!" Would you like to see? This is more representative of my stitching throughout the year (plus reminders of a couple of our travels that I treasure). My Christmas tree is the only photo that made both "Best Nine" lists! Do you have a favorite in either of these collages?

My personal picks for "Best Nine" 2019 photos!

TWO SIMPLE WORDS... Have you figured out the meaning of today's blog post title yet? Well, look carefully... those two words are scattered throughout this post. They are: "Thank you." Simple words, but ones often forgotten in today's society. One of my most vivid memories from my childhood is being told--repeatedly--by my mother to look someone in the eye and say "Thank you" when being paid a compliment or being given something--and to also remember to use their name. I was a shy little girl (I'm still on the shy side and quite introverted which is odd considering I write this blog, isn't it?) and I had a hard time looking anyone in the eye and speaking. But, my mother's lesson stayed with me and it is one I've taught my sons. Be thankful, be appreciative, show gratitude...

I truly believe that what goes around comes around--if you spread thankfulness and a spirit of caring it will come right back to you tenfold. I've been so blessed with the friendships that I've made through this blog and on Instagram, that I hesitate to bring this up, but it's something that's bothered me for many years. Every week, I get several questions emailed to me regarding information on a chart or a fabric or thread. I do my best to answer these questions--often sending the person a link to a particular blog post or website that will help them. I get no money or compensation of any kind for my blog--I've chosen to keep it ad-free--and I answer these questions on my own time. Can you imagine how it hurts then to not even get a "thank you" emailed back to me? Just two simple words...  I  had two questions last week--one on where to obtain a certain fabric and one on what design was featured in my sidebar. I nicely sent them the answers... no reply. I honestly don't get it--it takes less than a minute to email those words. Many people do take the time to reply to me and I appreciate them so much. But, sadly, there are far too many who don't...

I've often heard that you can tell a lot about a person by how he or she treats waitresses or cashiers or others who work with the public and I think this is so true. Are they condescending? Are they compassionate? Do they say thank you? Having worked with the public as a reference librarian for close to 30 years, I came in contact with all kinds of people wanting help. They would wander into the library with a lost look in their eyes and I was always happy to help them find an answer or point them in the right direction. 95% of them were so appreciative, but there were those 5% who simply listened to my answer, turned, and walked away. At times,  I would actually call out to them: "You're welcome!" at which point they would sheepishly turn and mumble "thank you" or simple act like they hadn't heard me and keep walking away. Those two simple words can make someone's day... So, in this coming new year and new decade, let's all say thank you more often, try to be more appreciative, and have an "attitude of gratitude" for even the simplest acts. I promise, you'll feel better and you'll make a difference in someone's day. It often takes only a simple kindness to turn things around when someone is having a bad day!

Favorite Memory of 2019... Each year at this time, it is a tradition for me to recall my favorite memory of the past 365 days. No doubt about it--it was the late-August week we spent in a beautiful mountain-top home in Estes Park, Colorado. All was right with the world then--I had my entire family with me, I sat and stitched while relaxing with beautiful mountain scenery surrounding me, and I felt such peace. I hiked in the most verdant green forests under azure blue skies. I gazed at clusters of stars in the sky brighter than any I had ever seen...  If only every week could be like that one. Do you have a favorite memory of 2019? I'd love to hear it!

So, another year of Stitching Dreams has ended. It was a busy year with my stitching and with my traveling. I hope you've been inspired by some of my finishes as I know I've been inspired by yours. I've made some new blogging friends and some new Instagram friends and I'm so happy to welcome you to my list of followers! Blogging may be dying, but I truly love having this record of my year to look back upon. So--until next year! Thank you for visiting and for your sweet comments. Thank you for your kind words and emails and, most of all, thank you for your friendship. See you in 2020! Bye for now...

Happy New Year and New Decade to all!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

A slightly different Christmas

Just two more days and Christmas will be here! Are you ready? I've done all that I need to do outside of preparing meals, although I may make a couple more batches of cookies. Cookie baking is hard for me to resist this time of year! I have a nice supply that I froze from Thanksgiving and made three more kinds on Saturday--honestly, that is plenty! But, it's fun to try a new cookie every now and then and Christmas offers the perfect excuse to experiment, don't you think?

My tree is finally up and decorated...I do think this is the latest ever! As I mentioned in my previous post, I am considering putting it up before Thanksgiving next year--or at least the day after so I can enjoy the fruits of my labor (also known as my monthly ornaments!) a bit longer. Many of you have seen my tree on Instagram, but I know some of  you just read blogs so here are some photos for you. I'm often asked about our tree so here are a few details for you. It is not huge--about 7 feet tall. Yes, it is artificial--when my middle son was young, he had allergies to real trees so we went with an artificial tree and never looked back. It is not a "themed" tree--it contains a bit of everything. Besides my stitching, there are ornaments from my mother-in-law, my sons' childhood ornaments, ornaments from our travels, and everything in between. The most common question is: "How many stitched ornaments are there?" Well, last week,  I actually counted them as I placed each one on the tree--there are 155 and 95% of them were made over the past ten years. This year, I only put the ornaments I stitched myself on the tree and put those given to me by my stitching friends on the mantel in our family room and up the stairway on the garland (after I moved my current year's ornaments to the main tree). The tree was simply getting too crowded so I chose to showcase them this way. I'll try to remember to take a photo of my gifts on the mantel and up the stairway for my next post when I show you the wonderful presents I received this month...

2019 Christmas Tree: 155 stitched ornaments!

I placed the four Little House Needleworks "Hometown Holiday" ornaments in a cluster. I plan on adding to that collection in the coming year!

I really don't have a "style" when I finish an ornament--I just try to make each one special and unique!

A wonderful thought to remember as we head into the new year ( and new decade!)

The sun goes down and the lights seem to get brighter as night falls...

Star light, star bright

I spot some of my favorites in this photo! The"Kissing Cardinals" will always be near the top of my list...

That trio of snowmen with their carrot noses in the lower left has always been popular! There is one more in the series that I should really stitch soon.

Love the reflection of white lights in the windows at night!

My childhood Santa looks a bit more ragged every year, but I still love him!

Here is a bit of an expanded view of our sunroom where we display our tree each year. This room has the best natural light in the house with five windows, a double door (behind the tree) and two skylights so it is where I not only finish my ornaments, but also photograph them as well. Can you see the snow outside? I took these photos last week when we had about an inch fall one morning.

I used to have two large Boston ferns on either side of the tree (on the white tables), but they barely made it through Thanksgiving so I had to throw them out. The tables needed a quick little "something" to perk them up. I walked around the house pulling bits and pieces and came up with odds and ends to create these two vignettes sitting on top of a pair of red and white checked kitchen towels. 

A trio of snowmen and a cute red sled top the table to the left of the tree...

... and a Santa sled and bearded character along with a big basket of pinecones and mini-apples rest on the table to the right of the tree.

I do have one new finish to show you today! Well, it's not actually "new" as it's been patiently waiting for me to frame it for at least a dozen years. Honestly, I can't remember when I stitched this one, but it was definitely before I began blogging almost 11 years ago. I ran across these cute little elves yesterday and decided that today was the day to finally frame them--I've even had the frame for years! This is "Be Merry" is by Just Nan and it was stitched on 28 ct. Tea-Dyed Monaco using the suggested threads (because back then I wouldn't have been brave enough to change any of them!). 

"Be Merry" finished just in time for Christmas. I love the beads and specialty stitches in this one. The beards on the elves are stitched with pearl cotton making them look thick and fluffy. I think the gold and burgundy tones in the frame pick up the colors of the stitching so well.

My treasured elf was given to me many Christmases ago by my best friend. He is holding a bird in a nest and a small birdhouse. Isn't he special--such character in his wizened face... The bench he is sitting on came from the Dollar Store a few years ago.

Giveaway Winner... I had quite a number of stitchers enter to win the "Six  Busy Santas" chart (does anyone else find that to be one odd name for that chart??) and the name drawn from the hat was...

Alhana--you are the winner of this chart!

Alhana, please send me your mailing address (my email is in my sidebar under "View My Complete Profile.") Congratulations--I hope you enjoy stitching the Santas, Alhana--please share your stitching with us when you've finished. If you didn't win this giveaway, please watch this space--I'll be offering more charts in the future. Thanks so much to all who participated!

Who still sends Christmas cards?  I do, but I'm afraid it is becoming a thing of the past and I really miss the nice old-fashioned cards... you know--the ones with pretty winter scenes or Christmas-themed pictures on the front. Now, it seems everyone sends a card featuring only their family photo(s) and a printed generic greeting bearing their name. No personal message at all... I guess I'm just old-fashioned--I am always a bit behind the trends anyway :) But, I love picking out cards and mailing them out at Christmas time. These are the three selections that I sent this year. I try to include a personal message and also pop in a photo of our family for those who haven't seen us in a while.

I couldn't decide which greeting card to send this year so I picked three! Which is your favorite?

I did get the most perfect Christmas card from my oldest son and daughter-in-law. What do you think? My son said as soon as he saw it, he couldn't resist buying it for me. He said it even looks like me a bit when I have my glasses on (and before I got my hair cut shorter). (Hmmm... not sure how I feel about that)! But, I was supposed to be born on Christmas--hence, my name. My poor mom had to wait three whole weeks until I finally made an appearance in mid-January, but she still decided to name me Carol. 

So, how are you spending your Christmas Day? My blog title alluded to a slightly "different" Christmas for us this year.  Well, first of all--let's look at the weather...  It is going to be in the 50s here on Christmas Day! I don't ever remember a Christmas that warm. No white Christmas in western Pennsylvania, but the warm spell sure has made shopping easier and will be much safer for those of us traveling. The other difference this year will be that our whole family won't be together (insert sounds of me weeping). My oldest son and daughter-in-law will be with her family in Texas and my middle son and his girlfriend will be spending their Christmas Eve with her family. It's going to be very quiet around here. 

The biggest difference will be that we won't be eating here--we're taking our manicotti and turkey dinner up to Ohio to share it with my in-laws in their assisted living home. They say the best thing you can give an elderly person (they are 91) is the gift of time. So, this is our gift. I'll miss setting the table and relaxing at home, but I know they'll welcome us. The transition from life in Florida to the assisted living home in Ohio (in October) has been difficult for them. But, we'll try our hardest  to make their day festive and memorable!

Wherever you may be spending your December 25th, I wish each of you a blessed Christmas 2019. May it be filled with memories to last a lifetime... Thank you for taking the time to read my words (and, perhaps, comment now and then) -- this stitching community of ours is truly special! Bye for now...

From our house to yours... Merry Christmas everyone!