Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Wishing and Thanking

Good morning, my friends! And how are you all faring with only a few days left until Christmas? I hope your shopping is done, presents are wrapped, and you're sitting there gazing at your lovely decorations... Wishful thinking, right? Well, my shopping is done this year thanks to that wonderful invention: the Amazon wishlist. Oh, it's made my shopping for my three sons and husband a breeze--click, click, click and I'm done! When they asked me for my Christmas wishlist, of course, it contained nothing but cross stitch items. "No way, mom," they cried, "you have more than enough cross stitch stuff." Oh, the horror of that statement: "Enough cross stitch stuff?!" Never!! They sure don't understand stitchers at all do they?

So, what made it on to your wishlists this year? For me, it was the charming With Thy Needle and Thread Wordplay series, Bent Creek's Thankful Quaker, a variety of linens, and some wee noses. Wee noses, you ask--yes these wee noses for a series of snowmen that I plan on stitching "some day!" I sure hope some of these appear under my tree this year... If not, I have a birthday coming up in mid-January when I might just be seeing a few stitching goodies appear from my guys, too. Hey, they should be thankful, right? Just think of the money they're saving by me not asking for expensive things like jewelry or designer clothing!

My other Christmas wish would be to meet each of you in person and thank you for all those wonderful compliments you left on my 2011 ornament post last week... I was truly touched by your sweet comments. Many of you emailed me asking for a picture of my large tree so, of course, I just have to oblige! I moved all my stitched ornaments on to it for this photo and now realize that I'm running out of room. It's looking a bit crowded, don't you think? But, at this stage in my life I won't be getting a bigger tree...We're all about down-sizing at the moment. I'll have to begin to display some of the ornaments in other places--my mantle, bowls, baskets, etc. Because, one thing is for sure--I'm not going to stop stitching my ornaments!!

Yes, all of these ornaments, except for nine, were stitched by me. It makes me so proud to see them all hanging there together knowing how much hard work went into each one. And I truly hope that some day my sons and their families will treasure them as much as I do...

Here is a closer view...

And another...

And yet another...

And below are the wonderful ornaments given to me by
some of my blogging friends from around the world...

As I mentioned, I've been very blessed to make such wonderful friends who share my passion for stitching. Five of them sent me very special packages for Christmas which I'd like to share with you...
I'll have to admit I let out a little squeal when I opened my dear friend Myra's sweet gifts. For one thing--they're blue, my favorite color. But, the main reason I was so thrilled about the little bird ornament, the thread catcher, and her crocheting, is that her work is so perfect--what a seamstress! I can only imagine being able to sew like she does some day... Thank you so much, Myra--you couldn't have chosen more perfect fabrics to make your creations from. I just love them!!

You may have noticed a few of these darling little creations on other blogs. My sweet friend Nia from Portugal is on a one woman mission to spread a "little love" through the world with her cute felt mistletoes. Isn't that a great idea for sending a thoughtful gift to a lot of friends without incurring huge postage costs? Nia made her very own Christmas postcard, as well. If you haven't visited her blog--check it out. It is one of the most positive, upbeat blogs around which makes me love to read it. Thank you, my friend--you always make me smile :)

From another long-time blogging friend, Cindy came this gorgeous Christmas package. Just look at this sweet bird on his pale blue background. I wish you could see this fabric in person--it is just like a lovely spring sky, wispy clouds included! Perfect choice, Cindy--she knows I love blue, too, along with birds. She also included four generous cuts of fabric in blue, pink, and two pretty prints. Cindy, you always spoil me, and I thank you so very much for your gifts and your friendship... I love your pretty bird pillow and I know I'll find the perfect use for the fabric.

And just look at this little cutie that arrived from Jennifer. She read about my snowman tree in my last post and decided she had a perfect addition to it. And she was right! This little button snowman (crafted from some of Jennifer's husband's grandmother's vintage buttons) has made himself totally at home with his snowmen buddies here on the other side of the state. Jenn has been creating some really fun holiday decorations out of her inherited button collection so drop in and visit her at Sweet Pea Stitches. Thank you so much, Jenn--I'll think of you each year when I place him on my snowman tree...

And last, but certainly not least, this lovely group of presents arrived from my blogging friend Edit all the way from Spain. Edit sent me something last Christmas that took almost two months to arrive so we're thrilled that the post offices of Spain and The U.S. worked so efficiently this year! Just look at this lovely stitching themed ornament that Edit made--don't you love it? Her work is flawless and I can't wait to add it to my tree. She also included a tiny ornament, a bellpull hanger, and some beads in Christmas red. Thank you so very much, my friend--I love your gifts so much!

I woke up to the most beautiful sight Sunday morning--the first snow of the season. There is just something so delightful about raising the window shade and seeing the landscape all freshly painted with sparkly, pure white snow. Here is the view of my backyard from my upstairs window. The snow has all melted now and it looks like we definitely won't be having a white Christmas, but it certainly added to the "Christmasy" feeling for a short while.

My wish for you, my dear friends, during this holiday season is...
May your holiday season be filled with love and laughter! Bye for now...

Monday, December 12, 2011

2011 Christmas Ornaments and Crazy for Cranberries

Good morning my friends! And how is the countdown to Christmas progressing for you? I'm slowly making some headway, however it seems to be taking me longer than ever this year. If I can just get my cards done and a few more cookies baked, I think I'll be in fairly good shape, though! I do have some good news--my final monthly ornament has been stitched and finished and I couldn't be more pleased seeing them all displayed together. My December ornament is from a very old Leisure Arts Magazine from way back in February 1993. It is actually just the bottom motif of a very pretty monochromatic sampler called "Woodland Peace". I enjoyed stitching it so much, that you may just be seeing other motifs from this sampler stitched up as ornaments in the future.

DMC 3750 was used for my December ornament--and it has to be one of my favorite DMC colors. It's blue after all and I love any and all shades of that color as I'm sure you know if you are a regular reader of my blog. This skating scene is stitched over one on 28 ct. white evenweave and then accented with a pretty coordinating blue snowflake fabric, some tiny lace trim, a silver button, and a couple of silver bells. This whole ornament has such a nice old-fashioned appeal, don't you think?

So do you want to see my 2011 monthly ornaments displayed all together? Do you? Do you really? I've had emails and comments saying just how much some of you enjoyed last year's 2010 ornament post and I'm truly touched. So, I decided to recreate it for you with this year's ornaments (all pictures are clickable for a bigger view)...

Monthly Ornaments: 2011

2011 Monthly Ornaments: January ~ March

2011 Monthly Ornaments: April ~ June

2011 Monthly Ornaments: July ~ September

2011 Monthly Ornaments: October ~ December

Do you have a favorite? I think mine is my October ornament "Good Tidings To You," but close seconds are November's "Oh, Joy" and January's "Santa Quartet." I tried to make each one a bit special with added buttons, bows, and bells. Some are frilly, some cute, some a bit country, and some are more traditional--but, overall, I'm very proud of my "2011 Collection"!

On to the second part of my blog post title: Crazy For Cranberries... Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting Lee and Linda for lunch and a bit of shopping and stitching. I wanted to take them a little gift for Christmas so I whipped up two of these tiny treasures. What does this have to do with cranberries?

Well, the name of this design is Cranberry Deer Pinkeep by Beehive Needleworks. It was the first time I had ever stitched one of Judy's designs and I really enjoyed it. These are stitched over one on some mystery 28 ct. linen with DMC 221 (which I call the Prairie Schooler Christmas red!). I couldn't decide whether to turn them into hanging ornaments or just leave them as pinkeeps so I included a little hanger made out of the same cording for Lee and Linda. That way they can decide how they want to display their pieces and it took the pressure off me. Too many decisions this month anyway, don't you think?

I also gave each of them a loaf of my Cranberry Pumpkin Bread. Here is a photo of all that I was able to hide away from my husband who is just crazy about this stuff. It has a really unique flavor with the tang of the cranberries and the sweetness of the pumpkin and spices. A perfect bread for this time of year and it's always a big hit when I serve it at Thanksgiving, too. If anyone wants the recipe, just let me know...

So what started my cranberry craze? Well, my two older sons came over for their usual Sunday night dinner last week and I mentioned that I really wanted to string popcorn and cranberries to use as the garland on my tree in the kitchen. Honestly, the looks they gave me--it was like I had just grown another head or something. They thought that was one of the silliest ideas ever: "Why on earth would you want to do that, mom?!!" Because, it's something I always wanted to do...Because, to me, stringing popcorn represents a time when Christmas wasn't so crazy busy and handmade gifts and simple, good cheer were more abundant...Because, simply put, it would make me happy...

So, I set out to do it all by myself (which seems to happen a lot at Christmas time when you are the lone female in a family with older sons!)... Did you know that you can pop regular old popcorn right in the microwave?? Who knew?? All you do is take about 1/4 cup of plain popcorn, place it in a small, brown paper lunch bag, fold down the top edges several times, lay it on its side, and microwave it on high for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes (remove when the popping slows down so it doesn't burn). I then took some invisible thread, a long, strong needle, and my cranberries and set to work. You can use any pattern you want, but I chose a three popcorns to one cranberry ratio. One hint to make the stringing easier is to use day old popcorn so it doesn't crumble as easily.

The result of my efforts were these cranberry and puffy white garlands that now adorn my little "snowman" tree in my kitchen. What do you think? For years we had had this 4-foot tree downstairs in the basement where the boys and their friends used to gather to play video games or watch television. But, with my sons all grown and gone now, I decided to bring it up into the kitchen. I wish I had done this years ago as I just love seeing the soft white lights as we eat dinner or do the dishes each evening. Yes, every single ornament on it is a snowman with the exception of a few red and green jingle bells... We have snowmen (and a few snowwomen) of every size and shape. There are sledding snowmen, skating snowmen, even a snowman fishing. (None of my stitched snowmen are on this little three foot tree--I save them for my big tree). With all those tiny faces grinning at me each morning, it certainly gets my day off to a great start!

Snowman Tree: December 2011

I recently lent one of my charts to my friend, Lynn, in Canada and as a thank you she surprised me with this lovely tree of gifts. A smiling snowman notepad, a snowman magnet, and the prettiest snowflake fabric in the most wonderful blue color. Thank you so much, Lynn--it was not necessary at all; I was happy to share my chart with you. But, I truly appreciate your kind gifts...

My first Christmas gift arrived all the way from England... Just look at what my friend, June, made for me! The prettiest pink and brown heart-shaped sampler I've ever seen. And look, there is a little cat at the girl's feet...Just adorable, June--you couldn't have made a better choice for me. Your work is so special and perfect and I will treasure it always. Thank you for thinking of me and for the pretty blue thread as well! I can't wait to find the perfect project for it...

I'm so sorry these posts of mine are so exhaustingly long--thank you to any one who has reached this final paragraph! Perhaps in 2012 I'll start learning to write shorter posts and post more often. We'll see... Enjoy your week and, as always, thanks for stopping by and for your kind comments. I so appreciate each and every one! Bye for now...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Gift of Cross Stitch

Happy December, everyone! How on earth did it get to be the final month of 2011 already? It seems like just yesterday that it was January and I was complaining about the cold weather and planning my stitching goals for a new year. I'm beginning to think the older I get, the more quickly time passes--do any of you notice that?

Unfortunately, I have no "new" stitching to share with you today, but I do have some "new to you" pieces that I want to show you. Most are things I stitched before I began my blog in 2009. While visiting my parents and my sister over Thanksgiving, I was delighted to notice just how many of my cross stitched gifts they had displayed in their homes. You don't think they just put them out because they knew I would be visiting, do you? No--they truly appreciate the time and effort a stitched piece takes and I think they genuinely enjoy the stitched gifts I've given them through the years. Anyway, while I was up in New York for Thanksgiving, I snapped these photos to give you a little tour of pieces I've given them for special occasions.

First up, is "Outside My Window" by Lynn's Prints (from the 2005 Just Cross Stitch Christmas Ornament issue). I stitched this for my mom a few years ago because it reminded me of the cardinals that used to visit the bird feeder outside the kitchen window each winter in my little hometown in western New York. Aren't the little "icicle" beads cute?

My mom loves birds just as much as I do, but she's especially fond of hummingbirds. I'm not sure what magazine the chart for this little hummer appeared in, but I placed him in a flowery frame and he now sits on my mom's nightstand next to her bed.

This Just Nan design, called "Robin's Wreath" was my mom's Mother's Day gift a few years ago. It's normally displayed on her bedroom wall (I took it down to photograph it).

Here is a closer view of Robin's Wreath. Don't you love the tiny robin's eggs in the nest in the lower right corner? I think the colors and details in this one make it one of my favorite finishes ever. The color of the fabric is more accurate in this photo--if I remember correctly, I used 28 ct. glass blue Monaco.

Another Just Nan finish called "High Hopes" is displayed in my sister's breakfast room. I gave this to her back in 2008 when she moved to a new home in a new city in a new state. It was a fresh start for her and I thought the saying on it "High Hopes Grow Here" was perfect for that time in her life. I changed the cat to an all black one to represent her old cat, Cinders. In the very center of the stitched garden is a silver birdbath charm. I'm sure the kitty is eyeing the birdbath with high hopes of capturing one of the feathery bathers!

I've stitched this Prairie Schooler "Good Morning" piece a couple of times and this one now hangs in my sister's rooster-themed kitchen at her lake house. I recently gave it to her in September for her 50th birthday and she just loves it. This chart appeared in the January/February 2002 issue of Just Cross Stitch Magazine.

I wanted to show you the little labels that I make for each of my framed cross stitch gifts and below is a good example. I take some theme or element of the design and create a "little something" on the computer to note the occasion and date... In this case I found a vintage-looking rooster and added a note to my sister along with my birthday wishes. Then I simply printed it, cut it out with fancy scissors, and apply it to the back of the gift with double-stick tape. It just gives the framed piece a bit of an extra personal touch!

The final stop on my cross stitch "tour" is this stitched bouquet of wildflowers that was placed in a frame with a mirror below. My mom has it hanging right by her front door in the her new home, but for years it was in the dining room of my childhood home. I checked the date on it and it was stitched in 1985!! It's held up quite well don't you think? This one was from the "The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady" cross stitch booklet.

Do any of you remember the actual book, The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, that the designs were based on? It was so popular back in the late '70s (I know, I know...some of you weren't even born yet!!). The book was actually a reproduction of an authentic 1906 diary filled with the most lovely drawings and paintings of wildlife along with the author's observations and thoughts on nature. I think it is still one of the most charming books I own. In the upper middle of the collage below, is the drawing that the cross stitch was based on.

The year that I stitched the above piece for my mom has a very special meaning to me as well. 1985--that means I was stitching it while pregnant with my middle son. Yes, he will celebrate his 26th birthday on December 4th. He'll be coming for dinner and, of course, that very special dessert that he requests each and every year, "Giant Chocolate Eclair." It's been a good year for him with a very positive job change and I have faith that 2012 will bring him even more happiness. So... ♫♫♫ Happy Birthday ♫♫♫ to you, my dear middle son!

The winner of the LHN "Season of Plenty" chart is ... Hazel! Congratulations, Hazel--please email me with your postal address and I'll get this off to you right away. Of course, who knows how long it will take to travel all the way to The United Kingdom at this time of year. I hope you enjoy stitching it as much as I did, Hazel, and that you'll pass it along to another stitcher when you're finished...

Before I forget, I want to thank all of you for your wonderful comments on my "Thanksgiving Comes Again" finish in my last post! You really made me smile with all of your compliments... And, I'm glad I was able to suggest a way to help many of you change the picture display on Blogger. I honestly prefer the old display rather than the black "lightbox" effect and I'm glad Blogger is giving us an option.

I'll be back soon with a more "seasonal" post--I promise!! Until then, try to find some time for yourself in this very busy month! Bye for now...