Friday, May 31, 2019

The end of a busy (and bit painful!) month!

Good morning on this final day of May, my dear stitching friends! I'm sure your month has been just as busy as mine, hasn't it? So much to do at this time of year and I've been trying to manage everything with some sort of hand / thumb tendonitis going on. Not fun at all--in fact, downright painful at times, but I'm hopeful that it might be improving. I've been wearing a brace on my left hand at night and faithfully doing thumb exercises hoping to keep it from getting even worse. I'm a bit behind in commenting on your blogs as typing is one of the many things that aggravates it (stitching is another, sadly)... I think the tendonitis began due to general overuse of my hand, and unfortunately, I do believe stitching is a prominent cause (along with holding my phone, typing, gardening,and lifting my light weights--basically anything that involves a gripping, repetitive motion). I've pulled back on all of these activities and hope that I'll be back to normal in 4-6 weeks.

I do have three small finishes to share with you this month. Many of you have seen this one on Instagram (if you wish to follow me, just click here!) and I was thrilled with all the sweet comments I received. This finish, called "Berries In a Basket," is a design by one of my Instagram friends, Jenny, at Homestitchness and is available on her Etsy shop right here. You all know I have a very special relationship with cardinals that began soon after my dad died so the minute I saw this darling piece, I knew I had to stitch it. I love that both the female and male cardinal are featured as you so often see them as a couple in nature. The basket of berries just says "summer" to me so I added the gold cording and red gingham bow to reflect that. I have it hanging in my kitchen now and it always makes me smile when I spot it!


The fabric is closer to the color in this second photo below. I used 40 ct. vintage Cedar Plank by Lakeside Linen and although I love the color of it, the holes must have shrunk during the dyeing process as they were very tiny and close together... In other words--it was very hard to stitch on! But, I persevered and ended up with this lovely summer finish!


In my last post, I mentioned how far behind I am on my monthly ornament finishes! Well, I did manage to get two finished... For March (yes, March--I told you I was behind!) comes one of my very favorite Prairie Schooler Santas from way back in 1999. I stitched him for a friend at the library years ago and I'm so happy to have one for my own Christmas tree this year.


I just love the quartet of gingerbread men and that cute gingerbread house he is carrying don't you? I kept the finish very classic as I really think he should be the star of the show--just added some handmade cording and a simple gingham bow at the top. I've been using 40 ct. vintage Country Mocha Newcastle linen for the yearly Prairie Schooler Santas for the past few years and just love how well the white shows up on it. The called for DMC threads were used except for the green which I substituted DMC 520. I think I'll be finishing all of my yearly PS Santas this way from now on.


My April ornament is another Prairie Schooler design. For this one, I stitched only the top third of Book No. 190 called "Happy Christmas." It is very tiny as I stitched it "over one" on 28 ct. black Monaco. I did make a few changes to the colors--used DMC 221 for the red and stitched the reindeer and tree trunks in DMC 610. Let me tell you, stitching that lettering over one was not an easy feat! But, look how cute it turned out!


The finish was fairly quick and easy--I simply surrounded the little pillow with DMC 221 cording and hung a quintet of rusty bells from the bottom.


Unfortunately, I was not able to finish my May ornament (although it is stitched!) due to my wrist / thumb pain. Hopefully, I'll have that to share with you in June!

Giveaway winner...  I'm happy to announce the winner of the pretty hummingbird chart is...




Congratulations, Mini! Please send me your mailing address and I will get this chart to you as soon as possible... And for those of you who didn't win, keep an eye on this spot. More charts will be given away in the near future!

So, what kept me busy in May? Well, I mentioned our trip to Washington, D.C. to visit our youngest son in early May in my last post, but I wanted to share a few photos with you. I absolutely love visiting the D.C. area as we lived there for a year back in the late 1980s; in fact, my youngest son was born there! I always feel like I'm "going home" when we drive down I-95 and into the city. As many times as I've been there, we did two things on this trip that we've never done before. One, was to see the monuments at night. It was a beautiful, warm spring night--the perfect evening to enjoy those special sights by moonlight.

The beautiful Lincoln Memorial--can you spot Abe sitting inside?

The Washington Monument, at just over 554 feet, is the tallest building in Washington, D.C. and the tallest obelisk in the world!

The World War II Memorial is especially striking at night with its 56 pillars, fountains,  and arches of water.

Of course, I had to locate the pillar for Pennsylvania!

If you look closely to the right of the Washington Monument, you can spot the dome of the U.S. Capitol in the distance. It really is quite an inspiring vista!

The other place we visited during our Washington, D.C. trip was a hidden treasure that I had never heard of and I know we'll be going again. Far removed from the tourists and the hustle and bustle of the monument area is a delightful gem known as the National Arboretum. Have any of you visited? Oh, what a wonderful surprise this was--over 400 acres of gardens and paths and special features located right in the District of Columbia. We only saw a fraction of it (and walked nearly 10 miles while doing so!), but we thoroughly enjoyed our visit. If you visit, try to go in the spring... The azalea garden had already bloomed, but we still saw so many gorgeous spring flowering plants and trees.

Scenes from the National Arboretum all dressed up for Spring!

Some of the beautiful dogwoods in bloom
The peonies were at their peak when we visited and made me want to rush out and buy some peony bulbs to plant at home.

But, the highlight for me was the beautiful National Capitol Columns... These 22 Corinthian style columns were once part of the United States Capitol built way back in 1828. These stayed in place until they were removed in 1958 in order to build an addition to the Capitol. In the 1980's, the columns were brought to the National Arboretum where they now stand like soldiers watching over the gardens. Apparently, there were originally 24 columns, but 2 were damaged and lie somewhere on the grounds of the National Arboretum's Azalea Gardens. It was really quite a sight to see these giant sandstone columns in the middle of a flower-strewn meadow like this--they almost looked like ancient ruins!

The National Capitol Columns on a cloudy D.C. afternoon

Don't they look majestic?

The intricately carved sandstone columns rest on a foundation of steps once used on the east side of the U.S. Capitol

The reflecting pool at The National Capitol Columns

My husband and me taking a breather!! If you visit the National Arboretum be advised that a lot of walking is involved!

After our trip to DC, I went up to my mom's in New York to help her celebrate her 92nd birthday.  Just look at all the cards and flowers she got! The pretty calla lily was sent by my oldest son and daughter-in-law. And her friends at her senior living community had her all decked out with a light-up crown and a bright lei for dinner one night to help her celebrate. She felt very much loved--which she is!  Thank you all for leaving such sweet birthday wishes for her on my last post. She enjoys reading my blog (especially the comments!) and I know she appreciates your kind words.

Happy 92nd, dear, dear mom!!

I wasn't home for Mother's Day this year so I saw none of my sons. To be honest, it felt a bit lonely, but they each remembered me with a phone call and some wonderful gifts--trekking poles for our next hiking adventure, ranunculus bulbs to plant in my garden, and this sweet reading rabbit statue which I adore.

Could this be any more perfect for a former librarian who loves bunnies?!

Memorial Day was quiet with none of our sons home so we did a lot of gardening. I'm not sure if it is all the rain or what, but our ferns are going crazy and are now nearly as tall as me (which isn't hard as I'm only 5'1"!). They just keep growing and growing. For some reason, I seem to be taking more of an interest in my garden this year--not sure if it's because I have the time now that I've retired or what. My husband has been faithfully spraying the plants with "anti-deer" spray (horrible smelling stuff!!) and it seems to be working. For the first time in years, my hydrangeas are absolutely covered with buds...

If only our gardens could look this lush and green year round!

We transplanted some of the giant ostrich ferns to individual planters and placed them on our patio.

A view out to the garden shed and the vegetable garden beyond.

I've put my patriotic stitching on display for the next few months and am so happy to see all the red, white, and blue again! I'll probably leave it up through July and then begin to switch to sunflowers and bees for the rest of the summer.

Honoring all those who served our country on Memorial Day

And, just like that, another month is over... unbelievable! Thank you so much for visiting me today and a special thank you to those of you who take the time to say "hello" in your comments. I truly appreciate each and every one of you and love reading your comments. I know blogs are not the "in" thing these days as Flosstube has taken over, but I so treasure you faithful friends who are still hanging in there with me! As always, if you have a question about a finish of mine, please, please leave your email address so I can get back to you. I have no way of responding to your questions if you don't. See you in June! Bye for now...

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Sunny Days and An Amazing Coincidence!

Well, hello there! Have you missed me? It's only been three weeks since my last post, but it seems like much longer! That's what happens when you are traveling (and boy, have I been traveling!). You seem to lose all track of time and current events when you are on the road (or in the air!). We flew to San Diego to visit our oldest son for five days, flew home, then three days later, we drove to Washington, DC to visit our youngest son last weekend. And then this weekend I'll be driving to New York to visit my mom for Mother's Day and her 92nd (!!!) birthday which is next Tuesday. That will make three weekends in a row that I've been away from home! To say I've had limited stitching time is an understatement, but I would gladly give that up for a chance to visit with our sons and my dear mother. 

Stitching update... I'm afraid I don't have much in the way of stitching to share with you today... I do want to show you this cute bunny who flew out to California with me and liked the climate so much that he is now making his home with my son and daughter-in-law. I mean, can you blame him? The weather out there is so much sunnier! This is "The Little Bunny" by Bent Creek and is stitched on 32 ct. flax Belfast linen with overdyed threads. The frame is part of a set of about fifteen 5" X 5" frames that I bought used on eBay years ago. (I remember the seller advertising that they had been used to display his insect collection. Hmmm...) Anyway, I painted the once-brown frame off-white and distressed it and think it showcases Mr. Bunny very nicely! The bunny is mounted on sticky-board covered with batting and then glued onto the fabric covered green and white polka-dot backing. A very simple finish that will make a nice addition to my son and daughter-in-law's Easter decorations.

The Little Bunny by Bent Creek finished for an Easter gift

Here is a close-up of his face--I think he has the cutest expression! He looks a little bit lost and just a tiny bit wistful, don't you think?

That face--who could resist it?!

Before we left for California, I framed two older finishes by Country Cottage Needleworks. "The Bakery" (finished in 2015) and "The Flower Shop" (finished in 2016) have been languishing in a dresser drawer just waiting for me to stop procrastinating and frame them. I bought the frames from Franken Frames online and think the black was a great choice! As always, I used the framing tutorial that you can find right here. It seems that I'm becoming more confident in my framing abilities--guess the more you do it, the easier it gets!

Country Cottage Needleworks "The Flower Shop" and "The Bakery" are finally framed after 3+ years!

You can read about my finish of  "The Bakery" right here...

I'd love to have a taste of everything in that pretty bakery!

My changes to "The Flower Shop" finish are detailed in this post...  I totally changed the sign at the top as I wanted it to match the one on "The Bakery." It originally was charted to look like this. I so enjoyed stitching both of these and think they will be a wonderful addition to my kitchen right next to my back door!

Country Cottage Needleworks "The Flower Shop"

Those lovely flowers in the photo above are columbine from my garden and a branch of the gorgeous (and fragrant) crab apple tree near our patio that blooms so beautifully each spring. And below are some of the gorgeous tulips that my husband planted for me last fall--such a welcome treat after a cold winter!

Amazing that such pretty flowers grow from ugly brown bulbs!

I won a giveaway on Instagram recently from a very kind stitcher in England. She sent me three sweet JBW Designs charts which I know I will enjoy stitching! Thank you so much, Linda--I really love them... The Instagram community is so supportive and encouraging. If you would like to follow me on IG, just click here. There is an amazing amount of beautiful stitching from around the world to tempt any stitcher--I love it!

Three lovely charts from Linda in England

So, what did we do in sunny San Diego? Well, I have another hiking story to tell you--but, a good one this time (unlike the "hike from hell" that we went on in Panama!!). Garnet Peak Trail is located in  Cleveland National Forest and we decided that it would be a moderately difficult hike for a hot, sunny day. The hikes in southern California are mainly in desert areas--very little greenery like we have in the East. The pictures below give  you a good idea of the topography as we hiked and I've included a photo of the four of us relaxing at the top of the peak enjoying the views...

Scenes from Garnet Peak hike

Anyway, we had reached the top of Garnet Peak and were resting there chatting when another couple appeared. I asked them if they were from the San Diego area and the man said they lived in a nearby county and asked where we were from. When I told him we lived in the Pittsburgh, PA area, he replied that he had relatives in Bradford, PA which is on the very northern border of Pennsylvania and New York. I was shocked and told him that I had grown up just over the border from Bradford and he said, "Well, actually, I spent the first twelve years of my life in a tiny town called *******." (for privacy reasons, I've choosing not to give the exact name) I almost fell off the peak right then and there when he named it--that was my home town!! I spent my entire  childhood there from age five until I left home to get married at age 22 after college! Honestly, what are the chances that I would meet someone on a mountain top in California who grew up in my teeny village on the other side of the United States?! I mean this was one tiny, tiny town--a single traffic light and a few side streets--really just a blip on the map. Blink and you miss it--that sort of town. Unbelievable, really...  We reminisced about what a lovely place it was to grow up and just marveled at the coincidence... his street was just two streets away from mine! As far as I can tell, he must have left our town right about the time my family moved there in 1960. Anyway--what a fun discovery!

We also spent an afternoon on the USS Midway--an aircraft carrier commissioned right after WWII and decommissioned in 1992 after having seen action in both the Vietnam War and the Operation Desert Storm. What was once the longest serving U.S. Navy aircraft carrier of the 20th century that housed 4100+ soldiers, is now a highly rated museum. Today, there are 30 restored jets and helicopters on the flight deck that provide visitors with an audio history of each aircraft--often narrated by one of the former pilots. We got to tour not only the flight deck and captain's bridge, but the below deck areas that included a chapel, barber shop, laundry, sick bay, and the kitchen / food galley (which served an amazing ten tons of food each day). It was really an impressive and educational experience and I highly recommend visiting if you are in the area.

This isn't my photo, but I'm including it to show the huge size of the ship (in the middle) with the city of San Diego in the background

Here are a few photos I took onboard--I can't imagine landing a jet on an aircraft carrier out in the middle of an ocean, can you? Well, let's face it--I can't imagine landing a jet anywhere!

Scenes on the USS Midway aircraft carrier

My favorite experience of our latest San Diego trip was to see The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch. Oh--such beauty everywhere! The Flower Fields are most known for the beautiful ranunculus flowers that cover much of the 50+ acre farm. I think I may just have a new favorite flower and I'm planning to plant some bulbs soon! The farm is only open for two months each year and will close for this year after Mother's Day. I'm so glad we were visiting San Diego at the right time of the year!

The entrance to The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch

A rainbow of radiant ranunculus!

Wouldn't you love to have the view that the people living in those apartments have?

There were small gardens of other spring flowers, too--these delphiniums were my favorites (of course!) with all the blues!

Sitting in this giant Adirondack chair makes everyone look like a kid again! And notice the little birdie perched at the very top, photo-bombing our picture.

Memories of The Flower Farm ~ April 2019

San Diego truly is one of the prettiest areas of the United States--cool and sunny most of the year, its climate is nearly ideal (although a bit too cool for me this visit being in the low to mid 60s!). Just walking in my son and daughter-in-law's neighborhood was a feast for the eyes with all of these beautiful flowers blooming that I've shown in my collage below. I think I would enjoy walking for miles and miles if I lived there! Everything was green and lush as they've had more than the usual amount of rain this year...

Southern California beauties

If you've never visited the area, I highly recommend it. Living there is another thing altogether with the very high cost of houses--oh, my, I was shocked at how much they cost! Anyway, we loved our visit with our oldest son and daughter-in-law--just wish they lived closer as it takes almost a full day to get there since we have no direct flights available.

More goodies! Here is yet another fattening, but delicious recipe that I made for Easter. Since it was just the four of us, I made cupcakes rather than a large dessert. These are carrot cake cupcakes and you can find the recipe right here--very, very tasty and easy to make... I only made half of the frosting recipe and it was plenty! I am slowly learning to decorate cupcakes with the Wilton Cupcake Decorating Set that I purchased on Amazon last month. I think they turned out quite well for my first try!  

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

GIVEAWAY TIME!  In honor of Mother's Day, I found a pretty chart to give away to one of my stitching friends. Since my mother's favorite bird is the hummingbird, I thought this lovely chart would be perfect to give to one of you. This is a chart removed from an old "Cross Stitch & Country Crafts" magazine from March/April 1990. If more than one person wants this, I will pick a name out of the proverbial hat... The deadline for entering will be May 24th, 2019. To enter, please: 

 a) Be a follower of Stitching Dreams
 b) Leave a comment below telling me you want to enter and make sure to include your email address (if I don't already have it)
 c) Answer one of the following questions: What is one of your fondest memories of motherhood? or What is one of your fondest memories you have of your own mother? 

I think it's only fair that I answer the question, too--don't you? For me, my fondest memories were lying in bed and reading to my three sons each and every night--I absolutely loved those times. All of my sons (now in their 30s) are avid readers now and I like to think that those early days of reading to them before bedtime had something to do with that. (Rocking them in my old creaky rocking chair and singing them to sleep when they were babies comes in a close second in my list of favorite memories!).

I'm giving away this beautiful hummingbird chart

I hope all of you who are mothers have a wonderful Mother's Day this coming weekend. This will be the first Mother's Day in 37 years that I haven't been with one of my sons... But, I'll be with my own dear mother and I so look forward to our time together. I hope to be back with my Christmas ornaments for March, April, and May by the end of the month--yes, I have never been this far behind in my monthly ornament stitching. Wish me luck! Thank you all for your wonderful comments and emails--I truly appreciate each one.  Bye for now...

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Three Birds, Two Bunnies, and One Decadent Chocolate Cake!

Mid-April already??? I can hardly believe it! This is the time of year I would always look forward to the most--the end of tax season and the return of normal work hours for my husband. The boys and I rarely saw him from January 2nd to April 15th when he worked as a tax accountant/CPA. He worked every single day of the week, often not getting home until past our bedtime. I honestly felt like a single mother for those 3 1/2 months every year. Thankfully, he changed jobs about 20 years ago and life has been much better. But, still, even after all these years, mid-April is a time I associate with good things--warmer weather, blooming trees and flowers, singing birds, and digging in the soil (well, not that one so much--I am not a gardener anymore due to the deer who devour things as quickly as we plant them!). It's just such a happy month, don't you think?

I have two finishes to share with you today--one large and one small. The larger piece is one you last saw in September of 2016. But, I actually started it over five years ago! (This is why I tend to stitch one piece at a time--if I put it down for any length of time, it is a true struggle to go back to it). The first time I put it in "time out" was because I didn't know what to do about the "J" that was missing from the alphabet. Yes, I know many older samplers don't include the "J" or the "V," but, that bothers me... So I put it away in order to "think" about what I wanted to do. In 2016, I picked it up and decided to just leave it as charted--no "J." But, then I ran out of Weeks Dye Works "Kudzu!" I mean there is a lot of kudzu in this piece--everything green is kudzu... Just look at all of the leaves, grass, and stems! The replacement Kudzu arrived and I stitched all the way down to the house. And then I put it away again--I was so very tired of stitching all that green! Fast forward to earlier this month and I came across it again and literally said--out loud--"Carol, just get it done!" My husband was out of town so I "stitched like it was my job" and, voilĂ --here it is! Don't you love it?

"Birds Of a Feather" is finally finished!

"Birds Of a Feather" is a With Thy Needle and Thread design stitched on 40 ct. flax Newcastle linen with most of the suggested overdyed colors. I did change the birds to a bluer blue, but I lost the tag that stated the exact shade and have no idea what the lighter color is! The darker color on the birds is GAST "Dungarees." Don't you love the border--just look at the reds in those pretty tulips? I photographed it next to my husband's grandfather's old pocket watch and one of my grandmother's hankies. The sampler reminds me of a simpler life in days gone by... just like the watch and the hankie...

I want to live in that little yellow house on top of a hill!


Green, green, and more green!


Now, to get it framed!

Bunny stitching... It wouldn't be Easter if I didn't create at least one small bunny pillow to add to my collection, would it? This is from a 1994 design by Patrick's Woods called "The Heart's Chase" which I just happened to see on eBay last year. I don't think I've ever seen this design stitched up before, have you? It really could be either an Easter piece of a Valentine's design.

"The Heart's Chase" finish

The pillow was stitched on 40 ct. flax Newcastle with a combination of overdyed threads and DMC. I changed the large heart color to black (from a charted dark navy blue). If you look closely, you'll notice some specialty stitches... in fact the "stairs" that the bunny on the right is running up are made of satin stitches. Don't they resemble tiny hearts?  To finish this off into a pillow, I used a tiny strip of pink fabric next to a black and white gingham along with some mini-ric rac, a stack of buttons, and some of my handmade cording--I think it gives the whole piece a cheerful, fun look.

Another pink and black bunny pillow for my collection

You don't generally think of pink and black being Easter colors, do you? But, I've found myself returning to that color scheme quite often over the past years. Just look at all the pink and black creations I've made in the photo below! Do you like my bunny chair? Oh, I absolutely fell in love with it when I spotted it at a thrift store in Florida last year. My husband was not impressed--it is very "chippy" and aged looking and I know he wondered what I saw in it. He asked me just how I intended to get that home on the airplane and I told him I'd find a way. I carefully padded it with plastic bags and brought it home in my little carry-on duffel bag. I was so scared it would fall apart, but it arrived in great shape and is now a treasured part of my Easter decorating. Not bad for $5.00, eh? If you'd like to know more about the other bunny finishes in this photo, just click on the name of each one and you can read the description of my finishes: black bunny pouch, two bunnies in black oval, bunny and pink house.

I tend to group my bunnies into groups of similar colors--these are just a few members of the pink group!

More thrifting goodies... I love visiting thrift shops, although I don't go as often as I'd like. I did stop in at my local Goodwill this week and came away with some treasures including that pale pink ceramic basket on the right in the photo above for a mere 98 cents. I spotted the adorable green bunny creamer below and had to have it even though, at $7.99, it was more than I wanted to spend. Yes, I'm very frugal!! 

My new thrifted bunny creamer

Fresh daffodils from my yard that the deer actually didn't devour this year!

I also came home with a new pair of framed 15" x 17" floral prints for my pale yellow sunroom (the room where I take the majority of my photos because the natural light is so wonderful). Aren't these pretty--can't wait to get them hung up. They are double matted and in absolutely pristine condition... And guess how much they were? Each one was only $3.98! Thrift stores offer such a great way for you to find something to change up the look of your room at very little cost.

Two new floral prints from the thrift store

A delicious dessert... Before I get to the winner of the cording giveaway, I'd like to share this decadent Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe with you. My oldest son was visiting from California last month and I made this for his birthday--doesn't it look fancy? Well, let me tell you, this was one of the easiest desserts I've ever made! You can find the cake recipe right here (it is just a single layer) and the chocolate glaze recipe here. I only made half of the glaze and it was plenty. For both the cake and the glaze, I used Ghirardelli's Semi-Sweet Chocolate Baking Bars. For the pretty effect on top, I simply sifted powdered sugar over a paper doily placed on top of the glaze after it had dried and then lifted the doily straight up. This honestly tasted as good as it looked--just like an expensive restaurant dessert! Give it a try on your next special occasion...

Flourless Chocolate Cake--oh, my!!

Giveaway winner... I was so touched by all of your kind comments on my previous post--I'm very glad my tutorial on how I attach my cording was helpful. Have any of you tried it yet? I had 32 entries for my eight pieces of cording and the name pulled from the proverbial hat was... drumroll please:


Shelly (An Arizona Stitcher) is the giveaway winner!

Congratulations to Shelly! Please send me an email with your mailing address and I will get these pretty pastel pieces to you pronto. This was a fun giveaway for me to host as I truly love making cording. I'm thinking I'll do another giveaway for patriotic colored cording in a month or two so keep on reading! Thank you to all who entered--I mean it when I say I was very touched by your compliments and comments... I am way behind on emails so I will do my best to catch up with you soon. And please remember, if you have a question, make sure to include your email so I can answer it!

Our Easter will be quiet with just our middle son and his girlfriend here for dinner. I so miss those wonderful family Easter dinners that my mom used to prepare for us--she always made things so very special at holiday time. I don't think you appreciate how hard a mother works at holiday time until you are on your own and doing all those things yourself. So, thank you, mom--I love you so...  Hope you each have a blessed Easter weekend with family, friends, and lots of little chocolate bunnies. Until next time, happy stitching, my friends! Bye for now...

Wishing all of my friends here at Stitching Dreams a very blessed Easter weekend!