Monday, December 31, 2012

A Quintet of Santas and a Farewell to 2012

Happy last day of the year to you, my stitching friends! I know I say this every year, but where have the past twelve months gone? I do think time passes by more quickly the older I get, don't you? I hope each of you enjoyed a lovely Christmas week with your families...It was so nice having all three of my sons home for most of the week...we played lots of board games, watched a few action movies together (When I told them they "owe me" a chick flick next Christmas, they all began to groan!), and ate way too much food. I'm really looking forward to some healthier eating and getting back to my exercise routine in January!

So, for those of you who were wondering about my December bowl and whether I would succeed in my goal of doing a themed  bowl for each month in 2012, the answer is "YES!" I did it--it was quite an effort this month to finish it up with all of the other things that were on my December "to do" list, but in the end, I came up with a theme I'm happy with. I originally planned to have a baking/gingerbread boys theme for the bowl, but when it came right down to it, I realized that, unless I wanted to give up sleep for a couple of weeks, there was just no way I could get all of them stitched. So, what did I do? Well, I turned to my faithful drawer of "unfinished finishes"and searched for something--anything--that I could use as a theme for my bowl. As luck would have it, there were three long-ago stitched Prairie Schooler Santas just beseeching me to finish them and release them from that dark drawer. So with the three of them, and two more quickly stitched smaller PS Santas, I am happy to say I now have a bowl of Prairie Schooler Santas!

December 2012 Prairie Schooler Santas

So, let's start with the oldest stitched piece first... That would have to be the one done when I was still stitching on Aida, so it was probably finished way back in 2003 or 2004. Stitched on black Aida with the suggested DMCs (I never dared change colors way back then!), is this charming Santa giving a cute brown fox a lift on his sled. This is from The Prairie Schooler Book No. 110: "Santa & Friends." The shade of red isn't showing up true at all (at least on my computer)--the color is DMC 3777. I backed it with the print shown in the photo and finished it off very simply with cording made from the same red and tied in a little bow.

 Prairie Schooler's "Santa & Friends"

Next up, is probably my favorite of the annual PS Santas: the 1990 Santa with his woodland buddies. I most likely stitched him in the mid-2000s because, by then, I had ventured into trying evenweaves. This seems to be stitched on a sage Jobelan using the suggested DMC colors. I just love the little feathered and furry friends shown in this charming design! The little pillow is backed with the gingham fabric shown and I attached a tiny cluster of holly leaves and silver bells in the upper corner for a little accent.

Prairie Schooler 1990 Santa

Another "oldie, but goodie" is the PS Santa from 2001 carrying his pear tree with the requisite partridge. Again, this one is stitched on a 32 ct. jobelan using DMC threads. I simply applied some handmade cording in DMC 221 and tied it in a little bow at the very top to finish it. Simple and quick!

 Prairie Schooler 2001 Santa

My final two Santas were ones I managed to stitch in December--somehow squeezing them in between stitching gifts for friends and all that accompanies the multitude of things to do for Christmas! These stitched up fairly quickly and I love their old-fashioned look. I think that's why I love the older Prairie Schooler Santas so much--they bring back thoughts of, what seems to me, an easier time in life--slower paced and less hectic. This green coated Santa is from Book No. 88: "Old World Santas II." He is stitched on 32 ct. flax Belfast linen with the suggested DMC threads.

Prairie Schooler Old World Santa

And his buddy, the gold-coated Santa is another handsome fellow. (Although, for some reason, every time I look at him, I think of that wicked Queen in Snow White tempting her with the poisoned apples--yes, my mind works in an odd manner sometimes!!).  Both of the Old World Santas are backed in the green gingham fabric and finished off with handmade cording in DMC 520. I really didn't have time to do any "fancy" finishing this month, but I think simpler is better when it comes to these guys.

Prairie Schooler Old World Santa

So, which one is your favorite? I think I'd have to vote for the one on black--I really love the whole design of it and who can resist those cute foxes? 

December 2012 Prairie Schooler Santa Finishes

And here we have my final bowl of monthly finishes for the year... It has been such a fun journey and I owe a lot of it to you, my friends and followers. It was your kind and encouraging comments that kept me going month after month. I plan on taking a photo of all of my bowl finishes next week--I think even I will be surprised when I see them all grouped together! I'm still trying to come up with a good way to store them. Right now, they are in shoe boxes under my guestroom bed--one or two months worth per box. Does anyone have any other suggestions?

December 2012 Bowl of Finishes

I also received three more Christmas gifts which I want to share with you... From my dear friend, Mary, came this darling LHN chart called "Holiday House" along with a very generous gift certificate to The Strawberry Sampler. I can't wait to visit their website and pick out some of the goodies on my wish list! Thank you so very much, Mary--I've truly enjoyed our blogging friendship and trust that we will, indeed, meet in person some day. After all, you are only on the other side of Pennsylvania! 

Gift from Mary

All the way from Northern Ireland came this next group of gifts from my dear friend, Lois. I was so happy to see what she stitched for me because I had just pulled the threads and fabric and was about to stitch it for myself and now I won't have to. I just love the little pillow ornament, Lois--your stitching and finishing are perfect! The chocolate Santa lollipop, festive Tralala Chart, and the most adorable flannel snowman fabric are so "me!" Our long-distance friendship has really meant so much to me over the past couple of years and I am very thankful for it as well as your lovely gifts.

Gifts from Lois

And from The Netherlands, sweet Annette sent me a jolly Santa card and enclosed  a pretty handmade gift tag and the tiniest little ornament I've ever seen. She knows I love tiny things and I told her this would be perfect for the miniature tree that I have on the shelf in my family room.  Thank you so much for your gifts, Annette, and for sharing your photos of your wonderful crafts and adorable kids with all of us! It is always a joy to visit your blog!

Gifts from Annette

Our snow had all melted by Christmas Day so there was no "white Christmas" for us, but the day after was a different story... The snow came down in huge flakes making the roads treacherous and even closing the library early. Since I was scheduled to work that evening, I enjoyed a free night and I'm sure you can imagine how I spent it!! Here are some photos of the storm "in process" and after it had stopped... So peaceful looking, isn't it?

December snowstorm 2012

Today is a very special day for my youngest son who begins a new job with the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. His dad and I are so proud of him! His hard work has paid off and we know he'll find the job to be both exciting and rewarding. We wish him the very best of luck!
Well, I do have more to show you, but since I have to work today, I'll save it for my next post! I want to thank each and every one of you for your friendship and kind comments over the past year. Bye for now...

May your New Year be filled with much...

Friday, December 21, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

At least it will be tomorrow because we're due to get 3-5 inches of snow! Now ordinarily, that might send me fleeing to the grocery store to stock up on things like the rest of the folks in western Pennsylvania always seem to do before a forecast storm. But, since I just finished my shopping yesterday, I'm content to settle in and wait for the storm and enjoy a beautiful white Christmas!! And you know what? Somehow, everything came together and I'm ready for the big day. Today, I'll settle in and bake some cookies, do a bit of cleaning, and just wait for all of my sons to come home tomorrow... I can hardly wait until we're all here together!

The tree is up and since so many of you have asked for a photo of it, here you go...

 Christmas Tree 2012

To me, it doesn't look much different than last year's tree except there are a dozen more ornaments! Here is a close-up shot from a different angle...

And another...

And one more...

When I took the ornaments from their under-the-bed hiding place this week I began noticing how many of them fit into one of five categories! You have the snowman theme:

Snowman Themed Ornaments

Then there is the Santa themed grouping (lots of Prairie Schoolers, aren't there?):

Santa Themed Ornaments

I also found many that fit in with my love of nature--lots of animals, trees, and, forest scenes...

Nature Themed Ornaments

Then there are the house-themed little beauties. There is something so comforting about stitching a home, isn't there? And these range from birdhouses, to gingerbread houses, to warm, beckoning homes:

House Themed Ornaments

Finally, the "just-plain-cute" category--the elves, the angels, the gingerbread boys:

"Just-Plain-Cute" Ornaments

And there you have it! I hope you've enjoyed my tour of ornaments... Some of you asked if I left the ornaments that I stitched this year on my staircase garland all month. The answer is no--I move them to the tree right before Christmas so everything is grouped together. Yes, I know the tree looks a bit crowded, but I love it this way. I'm thinking about getting a smaller tree next year for my smallest stitched ornaments (and you know me--I do love small!)...we'll see!

I've received some lovely gifts from around the world which I'd love to share with you today, too. 

From my sweet friend June came this LHN "Joy" ornament all the way from England. Isn't it beautiful? I do love it, June, and the other assorted goodies you included. The cat bookmark calendar is perfect for a cat-loving reader like me, and she also sent a little house-shaped needleminder, and a wee blank book so I could write down my hopes and dreams. So adorable... Thank you so much, my friend. You really made me smile!
  Gift from June

From a new friend, Robin (no blog), I received the most beautiful Prairie Schooler Santa riding on a reindeer. She chose to stitch it for me because I had commented in a post that I hoped to stitch every design from that chart some day so she wanted to help me out. I just love it, Robin, and the blue fabrics you included are so lovely! Thank you so much--I will proudly add your creation to my tree each year and I look forward to getting to know you better in the coming year. We already share a strong bond in our love for PS designs, don't we?

Gift From Robin

From my young friend, Valerie, in France, came this wonderful ornament and lots of buttons and trims. I just love the green heart, Valerie--I believe it is the first heart-shaped cross stitch on my Christmas tree as I've not dared to attempt stitching one for myself! Your pretty ribbons and trims and buttons will all be put to good use on future projects. I've really enjoyed getting to know you better this year--your positive attitude always makes your blog a pleasure to visit. Thank you so much, my friend...

Gift from Valerie

From my sweet friend, Shirlee, who always makes me laugh with the stories on her blog, came another wonderful LHN design called "Joy and Peace." Shirlee stitched and finished it perfectly and I love the fabric and chenille trim she used. I'm guessing that she may have dyed the fabric herself--is that correct, Shirlee? Really a lovely mocha shade... I am so happy to own a "Shirlee-stitched" piece and I'll proudly add it to me tree this year, my friend. Thank you so very much!

Gift from Shirlee

All the way from Spain came a special package from dear Edit. Edit was one of my first blogging friends and we've exchanged Christmas gifts for several years now. In keeping with my pillow theme this year, she stitched for me this adorable "Joy" pillow trimmed with a cute blue polka-dot fabric. Isn't it sweet? And that fabric with those chubby red-nosed Santas really made me chuckle! Edit included some pretty bells, trims, and a cute JBW chart that I didn't own--I think those stockings may be on my must-stitch list next year. Thank you so much, my friend--your gift really made my day!

Gift from Edit

From another long-time blogging friend, Cindy, came yet another wonderful Prairie Schooler Santa. I love the little Swarovski crystals she added to the piece for the snow! And her feather-like trim is so perfect. I need to find some of that for myself. He is just beautiful, Cindy, and this little pillow will be a wonderful accent to my Christmas decorating. The fabrics she included are so pretty and just look at that little bird--adorable! Thank you, my friend--for your friendship and for your beautiful gifts.

Gift from Cindy

And last, but certainly not least, came this adorable ornament from my earliest blogging friend, Myra. If you've never seen this design before, it's because Myra designed it herself! Isn't it charming? Everyone who follows Myra's blog knows that she loves cardinals so, of course, her design included a cheery red bird! The fabric she chose to accent the ornament with is perfect and I love the green chenille trim and little gold star charm. Maybe we have a new budding designer in our midst, what do you think? Thank you so very much, Myra--you always know how to make me smile :)

Gift from Myra
I was so touched to receive these beautiful gifts from my friends... That is one of the best things about blogging isn't it? The connections we make with fellow stitchers from around the world are so strong and everyone is so supportive. And without a blog, we never would have connected with these friends who share our passion for stitching. Thank you, thank you, my friends!!

I also want to thank everyone who has emailed to ask about my son's recovery from his jaw surgery. He is still unable to eat solid food due to a lack of feeling in his mouth/jaw area, but we're hoping he can have some mashed potatoes on Christmas day--a real treat for him after all of the liquids he's been downing. I truly appreciate your thoughts and prayers--as does he. He has a long way to go with his recovery, but, hopefully, the surgery will have been worth it and he'll end up with a nice, normal bite in a few months.

And that's about it from here. I want to wish each of you who celebrates a most delightful Christmas with friends and family nearby. I hope your day includes at least one stitching request granted from your wish list! Thank you for your comments, emails, and most of all, your friendship. I do appreciate each of you!! Bye for now...


Thursday, December 13, 2012

2012 Christmas Ornament Finishes

And they're finished--the 2012 ornaments, that is! Not much else is done here in the way of Christmas (I can hear you all gasping!)... Nope, no cards have been sent, the tree still isn't decorated, and only two gifts for my sons have been purchased--I think I may be staying up all night next week trying to get everything finished. But, at least my ornaments are done :) I so enjoyed stitching and finishing these little cuties. I love every single ornament that I've done this year--they are all very different, but each one was a joy to stitch.

So, without further are my final three ornaments for 2012... an elf, two angels, and two Santas: 

October, November, December 2012 ornaments

Would you like to see how I ended up finishing them? I sure hope so...

For October, I stitched an "oldie, but goodie" design by Homespun Elegance called "Santas and Feathertree." It can be found in the booklet "Cinnamon Stick Christmas VI which is chock-full of adorable designs. This one is stitched on 40 ct. raw natural Newcastle linen with DMC threads. I did change the colors of the red and green and also made the birds a gold color rather than the suggested blue. Finally, I added a little gold star at the top of the tree. I kept the finishing simple by adding just a green cording and a few gold jingle bells.
 "Santas and Feathertree" by Homespun Elegance

November's ornament is by The Trilogy and is called "Gifts Galore." It is part of the "Domes of Yule" series which can be stitched together or as individual ornaments. This was stitched on 32 ct. lambswool linen with an assortment of DMC and overdyed threads. They're a bit hard to see, but there are tiny gold beads accenting the tree next to the elf. Did I ever tell you I have a "thing" for elves and gnomes? Just love the little creatures to pieces! Since this is such a "fun" piece, I added a polka dot fabric into the finishing and I really love how it turned out. After all, who doesn't love polka dots?

"Gifts Galore" by The Trilogy

My final ornament of 2012 was designed by my friend, the very talented Vinniey, over at  Cottage Garden Samplings. The first time I saw this darling piece, I knew I just had to stitch it! How sweet are those little angels with the five golden rings? I just love how Vinniey combined the gold beads with the stitching on the rings to give them a dimensional look. And that gold beaded chain--genius! I stitched this ornament over one on 28 ct. black Monaco with DMC and overdyed threads, ruched some sage green satin ribbon and added some gold beads in the middle of the bow. I think this may just be my very favorite ornament finish of the year!
"Five Golden Rings" by Cottage Garden Samplings

So, on to the annual "parade of ornaments" for 2012... I traditionally display them on the garland going up my stairs and if you'd like to see past years, you can see the 2011 display by clicking here and the 2010 display by clicking here. I'll have to admit, I'm so excited when I see them all lined up at the end of each year! (You can click on the photos to enlarge them).

 Monthly Christmas ornaments: 2012

2012 monthly ornaments: January ~ March

2012 monthly ornaments: April ~ June

2012 monthly ornaments: July ~ September

2012 monthly ornaments:  October ~ December

Do you have a favorite? I'd love to hear which one you like best...I keep wondering when I'll stop stitching an ornament a month, but for now, there is no end in sight. I do hope my sons will treasure my stitched ornament collection some day (probably not, but perhaps they'll be married by then and their wives might!). Each one is created with a lot of love and effort and I hope someone will think they're special in years to come...

Update on my oldest son's jaw surgery... OK, yes, this is a skull--not exactly Christmasy, is it? I've put it here to show you what had to be cut in the extensive surgery that my son went through last week. This was major surgery--almost six hours long where the doctors had to saw his jaw in half, remove some bone, and then realign it so he would finally, for the first time in twelve years, be able to bite properly. He developed a condition known as an "open bite" in his late teens in which none of his teeth met except the very back molars and he kept putting off the surgery until now. Luckily, it was successful, and although he is still in a great deal of pain, the worst is behind him. All of the areas you see with pins in them were cut and sawed--across and under the nose and on each side of the face in the jaw bone--can you imagine!! They didn't have to do anything to his chin, thank goodness, as it was fine.

My son is on an all liquid diet for a while now which gets old very quickly. But last night, as a special treat, I made him lasagna which we ran through the blender. Sounds yukky, doesn't it, but to him, it tasted delicious after all those sweet nutritional drinks he'd been having. I asked him what food he would first choose to eat when he was given the all-clear from his doctor to begin chewing and he said "pizza!" If all goes well, he'll actually be able to bite down on a slice normally. Such a simple thing that most of us take for granted...But, for him it will be the first time in a dozen years that he'll be able to eat normally. Anyway, he's living with us for the rest of the year and we're really enjoying his company. In fact, I think I may just ask him to decorate the tree for me (or address Christmas cards, or do a bit of online shopping for his brothers' gifts!).

I want to thank you all for your comments, prayers, and emails regarding his surgery. It was very scary for all of us and he has a long way to go (the numbness often doesn't subside for six months or more!), but I so appreciate all of your caring thoughts. As I've said many times--stitching friends are the best!  I plan to be back next week with a post of my (hopefully) decorated tree and a reveal of  Christmas gifts sent by so many of you sweet friends... Until then--happy cookie baking / cookie eating / tree decorating / card writing / gift buying / gift wrapping / caroling, and hopefully, a bit of happy stitching time thrown in for good measure! Bye for now...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Few Framed Finishes--Finally!

Greetings, dear friends! Here it is already December 5th--only 20 days until Christmas!  I have not even begun my shopping or my cards and am way behind on my decorating and stitching gifts. I blame it on hostessing Thanksgiving this year and then leaving for New York to visit my parents a few days later. So, needless to say, many of my stitching gifts will be more like New Year's or Valentine's Day gifts this year. I do apologize...just too much going on in my life right now! Anyway, I have some big things to show you today, but first of all I want to welcome all of my new followers--I'm just in awe that the number has passed 900!! I'm honored that so many of you find my little blog entertaining enough to follow--thank you so very much...

Can you believe I actually had three pieces framed? Oh, I know, most of you who began following me this year will find it hard to believe I've stitched anything big enough to be framed since you're used to seeing my little pillow finishes this year! But, yes, a few larger pieces have been lurking in my drawer of unfinished-finishes for far too long and I'm thrilled to have them out and adorning the walls of my home.

Many of you will remember that I stitched "Christmas At Hawk Run Hollow" back in 2010... I finished a block a month and wound up with quite a sampler, if I do say so myself. Doesn't it look Christmasy on the cherry red walls of my dining room? (I've blurred out my last name in two of the blocks if you're wondering what the smudged portions of the sampler are!)

Christmas At Hawk Run Hollow--finally framed!

I took a few closeups of the frame for you below. I love the burl wood finish and the rustic look of it... Wanted to keep it quite simple due to all that is going on in the sampler and I'm very pleased with the result. 

This next piece is one I stitched in 2011 when I received it as a RAK from my sweet friend, Brenda. Do you remember "Sunflower Bellpull" by The Drawn Thread? If you'd like to read more about it you can click here. I think this remains one of my all-time favorite stitched pieces. And just look at the frame! The framer came up with the two-toned idea and it just made the whole piece pop! I would never have thought of using two colors like that, but don't they look perfect with the colors in the sampler?

Sunflower Bellpull framed

This is displayed in my sunroom which is mostly yellow with touches of green and it looks perfect in that space. It is just one of those pieces that makes me smile each and every time I pass by it and brings a touch of summer sunshine to my house even on the coldest winter day.  Here are a few close-ups for you... (Again, I've smudged out my name for privacy reasons).

The third piece that made it to the framer was my only "big" finish for this entire year...Yes, everything else I stitched over the past twelve months has been ornament sized! So, I'm very happy to have at least one larger piece to show for 2012! You can read about "Nature's Alphabet" by Elizabeth's Designs right here and see some close-ups of it as well, if you're interested.

Nature's Alphabet framed

I loved the golden brown shade of the wood which picked up the gold border on each little square so nicely. Nature's Alphabet is hopping around from room to room right now...Just can't figure out where I like it the best. Right now it is in my front hallway, but that could change tomorrow! The burl wood is so pretty, don't you think?
I'm looking forward to getting more of my old finishes framed in 2013. I'm really not sure why I've put it off for so long!

I was lucky enough to win an amazing giveaway from the generous Marly last week.  Just look at this stunning selection of silk thread she was offering--over 60 skeins of every shade of the rainbow! I have never stitched with silks before and am so looking forward to it after hearing many of you rave about how wonderful they are... Is there anything special I need to know about stitching with silks versus cotton threads? If you haven't been to Marly's blog, Samplers and Santas, you'll have to check it out. She is a very talented designer in her own right and her pear freebies are the best! Thanks so much, Marly--your generosity is so very much appreciated!

And just look at these goodies that traveled all the way from Malaysia! My blogging friend, Vinniey sent me so many sunflower themed gifts--a cute "Welcome" hanger, some pretty sunflower fabric, and pretty golden yellow trim. Oh, and just look at all those yummy chocolates she included. (I'll have to confess, two of the boxes are already empty! The strawberry filled chocolates were particularly delicious!) Vinniey is a new and very talented designer who creates all those cute charts at Cottage Garden Samplings--please stop in and say "hello!" I'm actually stitching one of her designs right now to put on my Christmas tree! Thank you so much for the surprises, Vinniey--you really spoiled me!!

I've received a few other presents from England, France, Spain, and here in the U.S. which I'm saving to open a bit closer to Christmas. You've all been so very kind to think of me at this time of year--I really look forward to opening your packages!

Well, are you wondering about the skunk that I mentioned in my last post? Do you think we caught him? First let me share these photos of our Thanksgiving... I did my usual pie and cookie baking, arranged a few vases of flowers, set the long, long table in the sunroom, served the dinner, and was thoroughly exhausted by the end of the evening. Spending all those hours standing on hardwood floors really did a number on our feet. My husband and I were never so happy to get off our aching feet and go to bed as we were that night... Anyway, it was a very successful and stress-free day since I ended up buying my gravy at Whole Foods! Thanks for all of your tips on gravy making, though--I do plan on learning how to make good gravy at some point!

Images of Thanksgiving 2012

So, back to the skunk. Well, the answer is.... YES!! We caught him! It wasn't until a week after Thanksgiving that Mr. Skunk decided to make his appearance again, but this time he walked right into our trap. I was up visiting my parents at the time and so missed the opportunity to get a picture of him. Unfortunately, when the "critter control" expert came to pick him up, he let loose and sprayed his skunky stench! My husband said it was so bad that night that he could hardly sleep... Guess that is one experience I'm glad to have missed. I sure hope Mr. Skunk didn't have a Mrs. Skunk or any little skunklets running around... We're keeping the traps out just in case...

In closing, I do have a favor to ask of you, my stitching friends... Tomorrow, my oldest son is having a six-hour surgery on his jaw and will then return home to recuperate with us for the rest of the year. Any prayers, good thoughts, positive vibes--whatever--would be most appreciated. I guess a mother never stops worrying about her "kids" no matter how old they are, does she? Thanks so much for your wonderful and supportive comments--they mean the world to me and I feel truly lucky to belong to this very special and caring stitching/blogging community!  Bye for now...