Monday, June 27, 2011

Wish I Had a Watermelon!

"Wish I had a watermelon! Wish I had a watermelon!" Do those words ring a bell with any of you? Here's why they have special meaning to me...When my sons were little my husband used to cut their hair for them. Multiply three boys times 8 to 10 haircuts per year times who-knows-how-many years and his hair-cutting skills sure saved us a lot of money! He would plop them on top of the bathroom vanity, drape a sheet around their necks, and whip out the scissors and hair-clippers. In the summers they would almost always get a buzz cut--short and cool. When my husband was finished he would then rub his hand around and around their soft, sweet, peach-fuzz like heads and recite those words, "Wish I had a watermelon. Wish I had a watermelon." The boys laughed and giggled each and every time. I never knew where my husband got that line until I Googled it and found out it was from an old episode Our Gang (The Little Rascals)."

So, in honor of our 34th wedding anniversary which is coming up in July, I dedicate my "Watermelon Garden" finish (by Ewe & Eye & Friends) to my dear husband. I changed the sign outside of the watermelon colored house so it has a watermelon on it and added the words: "EST. 1977"--the year we were married. I also added a little crow under the tree and moved the date and my initials to the lower left garden. Should I add another crow or leave it as is? I've been back and forth trying to decide...

I really enjoyed doing this SAL with my blogging friend from South Carolina Nancy. It has been fun to see how each of us "made it our own" by changing bits here and there and substituting different colors. I hope we'll have the chance to do another stitch along some day, Nancy! Mine is stitched on 40 ct. Vintage Light Examplar by Lakeside linens and uses both DMC and Sampler threads. It ended up being just under 5 inches square so I'm hoping to find a ready-made frame for it.

I want to thank Chris at Tot Hill Farm Stitches who passed the "Watermelon Garden" chart along to me in a giveaway. I would like to continue the kindness and pass it along myself so if you'd like to have a chance to win it, please let me know in your comments...

Now for a recap of the third stop in our 12 day European adventure: the Spanish city of Barcelona, the second most populous city in Spain. We had a wonderful (and very cute!) guide named Carlos who led us through the city's most well-known sights. Because of his knowledge and enthusiastic love of his city, I feel like we learned more about Barcelona than any of the other cities we visited.

You can't go anywhere in Barcelona without hearing the name Antoni Gaudí. Gaudí was the Modernista architect responsible for much of Barcelona's most unusual architecture. His works reflect his love of nature and religion.

Gaudí's most famous work is La Sagrada Familia church.
Construction began on it over 100 years ago in 1882 and
isn't expected to be completed for another 15-20 years!

From a distance, the church almost looked like it was made of sand.
But, look closely--hundreds of carved images cover the exterior.

You'll see the depiction of Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus.

And here are the carvings of the three wisemen and some angels.

A small portion of the breathtaking interior above the main altar.
I've never seen a church like this, have you?

Gaudí's Park Guell features this magnificent mosaic serpentine bench.

More images of the whimsical Park Guell.

Gaudí's La Pedrera (Casa Mila) was finished
in 1912 for a wealthy couple.

The crazy roof-top terrace of La Pedrera!

More La Pedrera (Casa Mila) images.

I loved all the beautiful flower-laden wrought iron balconies.

Our guide took us through one of the local markets: La Boqueria.

We saw mounds of colorful fruits and vegetables...

...and marveled at the rows of hanging ham legs.
Shaved Jamón ibérico (Iberian ham) made such a tasty appetizer.

Aren't these dried fruits and nuts delectable looking?

Of course, this booth of chocolatey delights was my favorite stop!

La Rambla is a bustling pedestrian street filled with
cafes, flower, souvenir, and bird stalls,
caricaturists, and wild looking spray-painted mimes.

Built between 1329 and 1383 Santa Maria del Mar is a
wonderful example of Catalan Gothic architecture.

The Columbus Monument is located at the spot in Barcelona
where Columbus returned after his first voyage to The Americas.

I hope you're enjoying my photos from our stop on our journey will be Granada, Spain, home of the spectacular Alhambra!

I was thrilled to hear from Sandra of Homespun Elegance that I had won one of her newest designs in her recent giveaway. Don't you just love that dear sheep pulling his basket of Americana? This is part of her "Delivering" series of which I'm a huge, huge fan...I already own several charts from the series and I'm thrilled to add "Delivering Liberty" to it! Thank you so much, Sandra--I can't wait to begin stitching your gift. And thank you for your lovely hand-painted notecard...It is too pretty to put in the mail--think I'll frame it for my family room. Oh, how I wish I could paint or draw. I suppose that is why I stitch--it makes me feel as if I'm just a teeny bit artistic!

Don't forget...if you'd like to have a chance to win the Ewe & Eye & Friends "Watermelon Garden" chart giveaway, please let me know in your comments and make sure to leave your email address if it isn't connected with your profile. I'll announce the winner in my next blog entry...

Thank you for all of your wonderful comments on my last post... I truly appreciate the time you each take in dropping by to say "hi" every week. I know this is an especially busy season of the year for us all so the fact that you take a moment to leave a comment means even more to me. Have a great week everyone! Bye for now...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Blood, sweat, and tears

Good morning everyone! Well, the title of this post isn't exactly what you'd think of when it comes to a blog about cross stitching, is it? I'll get to the meaning behind it after I share a bit of stitching and the photos from the second stop on our European trip with you.

My ornament for the month of June is this cute Prairie Schooler Santa from Book No. 48: "A Christmas Visit." I call this skinny bird-loving guy my "around the world Santa" because he was stitched mainly in airports all over the world from Philadelphia, to Munich, to Barcelona, to Madrid. I stitched a little bit in each airport and then finally finished him up here this week.

If you're familiar with the chart, you'll notice that I left the bottom part of it off that was supposed to have the year stitched in it. I'm not crazy about having dates on my ornaments because, to me, they always look "old" after that particular year has passed. So, I decided he looked just fine as is. He's stitched on 32 ct. sage jobelan with the recommended DMC threads.

When I was putting my June ornament away in my giant under-the-bed ornament box, I spotted the others from 2011 and thought you might like to see a photo of all six of the ornaments together. I love each and every one and can't wait to add them to my Christmas tree in six months. Do you have a favorite? All but two are stitched "over one"--would you say I'm an "over one" addict?

My stitch-along with Nancy (Watermelon Garden by Ewe & Eye & Friends) is progressing, too. There is a lot of solid stitching in this one and I think it may end up taking longer than I had planned. But, I'm truly enjoying stitching it. I changed the color of the house and watermelon from the cherry red that was suggested on the chart to a more berry, "watermelony" color--what do you think?

So, on to the next stop on our trip: Salzburg, Austria. Salzburg was a last minute day-trip that we took from Munich and I'm so glad we ended up adding it on. It was definitely one of my favorite spots--I only wish we had had more time to enjoy there than just one afternoon.
The first glimpse of Salzburg from the window of the bus.

The lovely Salzac River. "Salz" is the German word for salt.

Are you a lover of The Sound of Music like me? If so, this garden
should look very familiar to you. It's where Maria and the children
sang "Do-Re-Mi." This is the stunning Mirabell Palace and Gardens.

And these are the famous steps on which the "Sound of Music" cast
performed the Do-Re-Mi song! I tried to get the guys to do a "Sound of
Music" tour of Salzburg, but had no luck. Guess I'll have to go back
again someday with some girlfriends. Anyone up for it?

The wonderful Pegasus fountain where Maria and the von Trapp
children danced and sang (see the last photo in this link.
(I have a great photo of my whole family standing in front of
this fountain. If you'd like to see it, just let me
know in your comments and I'll email it you.)

One of the charming streets filled with bustling shops in old Salzburg.

Did you know that Mozart was born in Salzburg?
Yep--right in this bright yellow building in 1756.

Another "Sound of Music" sight--the Residenz Fountain where
Julie Andrews sang "I Have Confidence" on her way
to begin working for the von Trapp family:
"I have confidence in sunshine
I have confidence in rain
I have confidence that spring will come again
Besides which you see I have confidence in me

Chess anyone?

This sign indicates that this is the courtyard
where the cows were to be washed!

Construction on the imposing Hohensalzburg Castle,
which sits on top of the Festungsberg Mountain, began in 1077.

A close-up of view of a portion of Hohensalzburg Castle.
Yes, the sky really was that blue!

The incredible view of Salzburg from Hohensalzburg Castle.

Can you imagine living in this beautiful setting
with the Alps in your backyard? Sigh...

A shop selling traditional Austrian clothing: the dirndl and Lederhosen.

Probably the prettiest cemetery I've ever seen! Does anyone know
if all Austrian cemeteries are like this with the raised flower beds
at the foot of each gravestone? I could have wandered around there
all day reading the inscriptions and admiring the lovely blooms.

And that wraps up my Salzburg leg of the trip. On my next post we'll visit a city with a very different feel: Barcelona, Spain...

So, I suppose you're wondering about the "Blood, Sweat, and Tears" that I mentioned earlier? Well, that has pretty much described my life over the past four days. You see, my oldest son had oral surgery on his gums on Thursday and I have been helping care for him while he temporarily moved home during his recovery. I just have one word to describe the experience: "blood." Oh, my, let's just say I could never have had a career in medicine. Even though I come from a long line of doctors (father, grandfather, brother, uncle, and several cousins), I am completely thrown by blood. I get weak-kneed at the mere thought of it. And believe me, "thinking" of it is not all that has been happening. My poor son--I think he and I have seen more blood this week than in our entire lives so far. His mouth is healing, but a lot more slowly and painfully than we ever would have anticipated.

The "sweat" comes from being told by my youngest son on Wednesday afternoon that he was moving to Washington, D.C. on Saturday for a summer internship (paid, thankfully!) which he just found out he had received. Can you say stress? Getting someone ready for a major move in two days sure worked up a sweat--the shopping, the washing, the ironing, the packing. It actually took my middle son, who's an engineer, to figure out how to get all of the youngest son's "stuff" into the allotted two suitcases... (The secret is to roll your clothes, put them in plastic bags, and remove the air from them--amazing!) When we discovered the price of a one-way airline ticket was over $300.00 and he'd have to travel from Pittsburgh to Boston just to get to D.C., we found a great deal ($21.50!!) on Megabus. Has anyone out there used Megabus? Some of their fares are as low as $1.00 between major cities--incredible!

So, by now, I think the "tears" part of my blog post title is obvious. Yes, my youngest is leaving, flying the nest, maybe for good. You see, he hopes to find a permanent job in D.C. and being down there this summer for his internship will certainly enable him to be available for interviews much more easily than if he were here at home. We said our goodbyes privately at home before I took him to the bus stop. "Thanks for everything, mom. I love you," he said as he hugged his weeping mother. Although we are extreme opposites in our habits and I complain about his lack of order, late hours, and that sort of thing, he is such a positive, happy person who brings a lot of laughter into our home. I know I'll miss him dearly. In fact, I already do...

So, that winds up another (too long!) post. I hope you're enjoying my vacation photos and that you feel as if you took that fun trip right along with me. I always like to imagine what a pleasure it would be to take a trip around the world just visiting blogging friends!

Wishing you all a very special week and I truly thank you for your comments and emails. They never fail to bring a smile :) Bye for now...

Friday, June 3, 2011

Oh, the wonders I've seen!

I'm back!! I sure missed all of you and your stitching and stories. I'm so happy to be home and promise to get caught up on all of your blogs very soon... So where have I been? Well, my husband and I took our three sons to Europe to celebrate the fact that they are all now college graduates, the thrill of having no more tuition payments, and our pride in their accomplishments. This was my first-ever trip abroad and oh, the places we visited and the sites we've seen. We visited Munich, Bavaria, Salzburg, Barcelona, Granada (ooh--that Alhambra!!), Ronda (Spain), and ended our trip in Seville. I can't tell you how many times my mouth just gaped open with awe or the word "Wow!" was whispered by one of us. I'll fill you in on some of my trip after my stitching update.

I finally caught up on my "ornament a month" quest with these two finishes. April's ornament is from Prairie Schooler's Holiday Homestead chart. I stitched it "over one" on 28 ct. black Monaco. I just love doing "over one" stitching on Monaco cloth--it looks so even and the thread rarely slips behind the fabric's threads like it often will using other fabrics. If you've been frustrated by "over one" stitching before--give Monaco evenweave a try. As you can see I finished it into a hanging pillow with a red flannel fabric, black ric-rac and red buttons. I think it's quite a cheery little finish with that tiny chickadee!

My May ornament finish is "Chalet" which is just a portion of the "Walking in a Winter Snapperland" series by Bent Creek. I am so glad I stitched this after seeing similar little houses on our trip through Bavaria. The buttons I used are a bit large, but I couldn't find any tinier buttons so I just went ahead with these. The fabric backing is the same blue plaid that I've tied around the wire hanger (just a spring that I stretched out). The blue tie reminds me of the scarf wrapped around the tiny snowman. I used 32 ct. Dirty Belfast linen and a combination of DMC, WDW, and Sampler Threads...

It's June, the month that my blogging friend Nancy at Lovely in Chocolate (that has to be my very favorite blog name!) are starting our long-distance stitch-along. In honor of summer and all it's bounty, we're stitching "Watermelon Garden" by Ewe & Eye & Friends. We've already noticed some discrepancies between the chart and the photo so we'll see how each one ends up. I've chosen 40ct. Vintage Light Examplar by Lakeside Linens--my first time stitching on 40ct. I figure if I can stitch over one on 28, I can handle 40 ct., right? So far I have only stitched some of the border, but I'm loving stitching this with you, Nancy. Just wish we were sitting together and chatting away while we stitched rather than separated by the miles between Pennsylvania and South Carolina!

So, back to our trip! Our first stop was Munich and the Bavarian countryside. Why did we choose this part of Germany? Because the guys wanted to visit castles and did we ever see some beauties. All pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them and I've included links for more information on many of them, too, with some wonderful interior photos. So, sit back and enjoy:
Disney World? No, this is the castle on which Disney modeled
his famous castle: Neuschwanstein Castle

The fairy tale view from inside Neuschwanstein Castle.

The stunning Linderhof Palace. What a breathtaking setting!

Nymphenburg Palace : The birthplace of Mad King Ludwig
who owned both Neuschwanstein and Linderhof.

We also enjoyed some of Munich's most famous buildings during a bus tour of Munich (well, that is in between nodding off due to the extreme jet leg we were all feeling on the first day!):
Theatinerkirche built from 1663 to 1690.

Bayerische Staatsoper (Bavarian State Opera) built in 1811

The Siegestor (Victory Gate).
The inscription "Dem Bayerischen Heere” means "For the Bavarian Army."

New Town Hall in Marienplatz ~ built between 1867 and 1908
and home of the famous Rathaus-Glockenspiel.
The Rathaus-Glockenspiel which has 32 life-size
figures which re-enact stories from the 16th century.

The raucous Hofbrauhaus founded in 1589.

The interior of Hofbrauhaus. What an amazing ceiling.
If those walls could talk, I'm sure there would be some wild stories!

Yep ~ those are my four guys (on the right) taking in the
sights of Munich. (Not sure who the two ladies are,
but I sure hope they don't mind appearing on my blog!)

Every street was lined with lovely sidewalk cafes and tons of bikes.
Munich has a wonderful biking community.

And here's the famous Michael Jackson memorial.
What??? Yep, rabid MJ fans have taken over the statue of
the poor Orlando di Lasso (aka Roland Delattre) in a park
across the street from a hotel in which Michael once stayed.
What a bizarre sight!

Well, I think that's enough of my trip photos for today... Next time, I'll treat you to my Salzburg pictures. It was definitely one of my favorite stops on our European adventure!

Now back to stitching-related news. I was so excited to find three wonderful gifts waiting for me when I returned from Europe. First up, is this darling rabbit sachet stitched with love by sweet Nia and sent all the way from Portugal. Notice how she created him in my favorite color: blue? She also included a cute bunny card and a lovely Portugal themed postcard. Hmmm...I think she's trying to tempt me to put Portugal on my next vacation stop! It just might happen now that I've been bitten by the travel bug. Thank you so very much, Nia--I'm keeping him right next to my bed so I can drift off to sleep smelling his lovely lavender scent.

And from one of my very first blogging friends, Cindy, I received this luscious array of fabrics and a cute fairy Prairie Schooler chart. Cindy, you certainly spoiled me with these--I love each and every one and you can count on seeing them in some future projects. Thank you for your very special gift and for being such a wonderful blogging friend!

A while back, Barbara of Mainely Stitching fame, asked me if I would participate in her daughter, Rowen's, Flat Stanley (or in this case "Flat Rowen") project. Little Rowen sent me her flat creation and I took it around the city of Pittsburgh (and all the way to Florida!) and photographed it with all the sights. After I was done, I made a little book of Flat Rowen's adventures, popped in some souvenirs of her visit, and shipped her back to Rowen for her school's fair. As a thank you, the generous Barbara sent me this dear pin pillow filled with dried Maine wildflowers. And little Rowen included the cutest thank you note. Don't you love them? I was honored that you asked me to participate in Rowen's project, Barbara, and I'm so glad Rowen enjoyed her book and box of souvenirs!

I also want to share with you this lovely bird plate which arrived from my special friend, Mary at Sweet Sentiments and Stitches before we left for Europe. I had lent her an out-of-print Prairie Schooler chart and she wanted to thank me with this gift. I wish you could see it in person because it is just so pretty. Mary, you know me well--birds and blue, two of my favorite things. Thank you so very much--it has a place of honor in my family room.

Finally, the winner of my drawing for Drawn Thread's Sunflower Bellpull chart is Kathy Ellen at A Stitcher's Heirlooms. Congratulations Kathy Ellen! Please send me your mailing address and I'll get the chart right off to you. Kathy Ellen has promised to pass it along to another stitcher when she has stitched it, so keep an eye on her blog :)

OK, if anyone out there is still with me at the end of this monstrously long post, I so appreciate it! With our trip and me being sick since my return on Sunday (I had a cold and the flights home really did a number on my ears--ugh!), I am way behind on my gardening, so I think that is going to occupy much of my weekend. How about you? Any special plans? I hope you know how much I value your friendship, comments, and inspiration--you sure are a special group. Bye for now...