Monday, December 30, 2013

A time to be thankful

Good morning, my stitching friends! It's so hard to believe that 2013 is winding down, isn't it? I hope you all had a joyful Christmas with your families. Ours was just the five of us--very peaceful and relaxing. But, oh, I'd forgotten how much four grown men eat!! It seems like I spent a lot of time in the kitchen... I thought I had more than enough cookies and snacks for the five days everyone was here, but they wiped them out in no time. But, that's good--there's nothing left for me to snack on. I don't know about you, but I'll be doing double treadmill workouts this week (and beyond) to work off the pounds that crept on between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.

As always at the end of the year, I'm prone to reflection about the past twelve months--the good, the bad, and the really bad. I can't say I'm sorry to see this year end. There have been some very big bumps in the road, but, in the end, I have the love of my family and the friendship of so many of you fellow stitchers--and that matters more than anything.  I want to say "thank you" to each of you who read my blog this year, especially those of you who took the time to leave a kind comment or send an encouraging email. You just never know what a difference one kind word will make in a person's day, do you? And a special thank you to the following stitching friends from around the world who brightened my holidays with their wonderful, creative gifts:

From Lois in Northern Ireland, came this bunch of goodies... She stitched me this cute snowman ornament and finished it so beautifully. Love the fabric Lois sent, too, along with a pretty chart, some snowflake charms and a tin of tiny chocolates. I've tucked them away for a special treat to enjoy in the New Year. Thank you so much, Lois--I love everything!

From June in England, came another lovely package with a cheery red theme! Just look at this cute Prairie Schooler angel tree mounted on an antique spool. I love the folded ribbon edging--need to try that myself very soon. She also included a chocolate bar, some pretty red, white, and gray buttons, and a skein of red and white cording. In addition to being a skilled stitcher, June also makes the prettiest cards. I fell in love with this cheery robin and plan on setting it out on my kitchen counter every Christmas. Thank you so much, my friend--you certainly made me smile!

From Robin in Virginia (no blog), came this sweet ABC Prairie Schooler ornament--one I've never stitched! So cute and beautifully stitched and finished. And look how Robin spoiled me with all these luscious skeins of thread in just about every shade of blue you can imagine. I told her I don't think I'll ever have to purchase blue thread again! The pretty white snowflake ornament was also included in her package. Thank you so much, Robin--everything is just so special!

From Myra in North Carolina, came not one, not two, but three handmade gifts! Myra, cardinal lover extraordinaire, gifted me with one of her beautifully handmade cardinal pincushions--don't you love the red and white snowflake wings? She included a thread catcher in the same cheery fabric and a tiny Merry Christmas ornament to add to my collection. It is mounted in a simple frame and hung with some gauzy ribbon--such a great idea for a quick ornament finish.  Myra also included a tube of Gingerbread Kiss chapstick which will come in handy this winter. Thank you so much, Myra--I feel honored to have your beautiful creations in my home!

From Shirlee in Kentucky, came this truly lovely Prairie Schooler finish. Isn't it gorgeous? Shirlee's stitching and Myra's finishing make this one special ornament. I told them both I'd be copying this idea in some of my own finishing next year. I just love the perfectly stitched bag filled with cinnamon sticks and pine boughs! Thanks so very much, Shirlee--I will treasure your gift and proudly hang it on my tree each year.

From Cindy in Tennessee, came another wonderful package of treats! Cindy stitched this lovely bluebird ornament from the latest ornament issue of Just Cross Stitching Magazine. Don't you love the color of the fabric she used to finish it... a perfect match! She also included some DMC threads, a cute little wind-up jumping bunny, and a wooden bunny thread keeper. (Cindy obviously knows I have a soft spot for bunnies!). I've never used a thread keeper before and I look forward to trying it. I love each and every gift, Cindy--thank you so very much!

From Edit in Spain, came a beautifully stitched and finished Lizzie Kate ornament. I was touched to see that Edit had finished it with some of the fabric that I sent her last Christmas. She also spoiled me with the cutest fabric--it is printed with vintage Christmas advertising pictures and logos--so much fun! Two lovely skeins of Nina's Hand Dyed threads and some pretty poinsettia buttons rounded out the package. Your gifts are delightful, Edit--thank you again, my friend!

My final gift was a very special RAK (Random Act of Kindness) from Jackie (Scattered Threads II blog) in Texas. I wish she could have seen my face when I opened Jackie's surprise box of goodies. Oh my!! Knowing my love of blue and white, she created an adorable primitive snowman (whose tag says "Waiting On Santa")--just look at his sweet, sleepy-eyed face. He even has his very own blue fleece "blankie."  In addition to that cuddly little guy, Jackie made me a very special doorhanger "HOPE" pillow and a darling quilted mug mat. Even the candy package was blue and white--yum. Jackie--your RAK touched my heart and spoke volumes about your generous nature. Thank you so much, my friend--I'll think of you every winter when I set out your beautifully crafted gifts.

This lovely chart recently arrived at my home courtesy of Heather in Delaware. I entered a giveaway on Heather's blog last month and was so pleased to see that my name was drawn as one of the winners. I truly love this chart, Heather--thank you so very much! And when I'm finished stitching it, I will be passing it along in a giveaway of my own, so watch for it...

On Christmas Eve, my oldest son asked each of us what our favorite moment was from the past year. I hesitated as I searched back through the past 12 months for that special time. And then it came to me--and it had to do with stitching! Yes, my favorite moment was my stitching retreat at a Bed & Breakfast with Lee, Linda, Pam, and Barb back in October. It was just such a carefree few days that made me temporarily forget any troubles or worries that I'd been concerned about. There was so much laughing that my sides hurt and so much delectable food, beautiful, uninterrupted stitching time, and the camaraderie of true friends that those three days really stood out in my mind as the highlight of my year. How about you? What was the one moment of 2013 that stands out in your mind?

Well, that's it for 2013! I managed only 25 posts this year and certainly stitched less than I did in 2012, but I'm pleased to have kept up with my blogging at all. There was a time, back in August when I was hospitalized for those five days, that I seriously thought about ending my blog. But, I'm so glad I didn't--just think of all I would have missed! New friends met, new blogs read, new memories made... Thank you all for being such wonderful friends. I so look forward to the peacefulness of January--no holidays, no outdoor work, just lots of cocooning and stitching time and my birthday coming up in mid-month. Here's to a happy and healthy New Year for one and all! Bye for now...


Monday, December 23, 2013

At Christmas...the heart goes home

Good morning everyone! And how are you doing today? Two days until Christmas and I'm finally feeling prepared. It's amazing how suddenly everything comes together after weeks of being sure you'll never finish the cards, the decorating, the gift-buying and wrapping, and the baking and grocery shopping. Then you wake up one day, and ahh... it is done and you can just relax and enjoy the holiday with your family. For me, that moment came on Saturday, when my husband helped me wrap the gifts, I put the finishing touches on the tree, and started my baking. Good thing, too because I had to work at the library yesterday and then again today (until 9PM)!

I've been working on my final finish of 2013 since my stitching retreat weekend back in late October. I've just picked it up here and there (in between stitching ornaments for friends which I've sent off to all corners of the world), but my goal was to have it finished by Christmas. I put the final stitches in it on Friday and have to say I truly loved every moment of stitching this piece. May I present... "Home For Christmas" from Prairie Schooler's Book No. 86.

Prairie Schooler: "Home For Christmas"

It's so hard to get a good photo of a longer piece like this so I've split it up into smaller parts for you to get a better look. For this piece, I used 40 ct. pearl gray Newcastle linen with the suggested DMC colors. The only change I made was to use DMC 221 for the reds. I loved every motif in this from the covered bridge, to the big orange barn, and the old-fashioned sleigh pulling the man with his freshly-cut Christmas tree back home to his waiting family.

Sleigh ride!

I was a bit worried that the charted gray colors of the church wouldn't show up well on the gray fabric, but they ended up being just fine. I love the light streaming from the stained-glass church windows and the cute, little lamppost adorned with a cheery red bow.

And that big golden house! Can't you just picture the family inside gathering decorations and making popcorn and cranberry garlands to lace across the soon-to-be-delivered Christmas tree? I know which room would be mine in that house--the top one with the dormered window. I've always wanted a bedroom with a dormer... I can just imagine myself curled up on a window seat in the dormer reading a good book or working on some stitching. It sounds so very cozy, doesn't it?

I grew up in a small town which is one of the reasons this piece touched my heart so much. I loved being able to walk down the street to church and around the corner to the library (where I decided at age 12 that I wanted to be a librarian!).  My heart really does "go home" to my little western New York hometown every Christmas. My mom made the holidays so very special for us... Ah, the memories: mom decorating cookies with all of her grandchildren the day before Christmas; strolling down the street to the candlelight service at church on Christmas Eve and hearing the stirring sounds of "Oh, Holy Night" being sung; lining up by age to descend the front stairway to open our presents on Christmas morning; discovering the treasured white box filled with Grandma's handmade caramels tucked under the tree; the delighted cries of my brother, sisters, and I as we opened our gifts. And then there was that wonderful feast mom prepared at the end of the day; the laughter and warmth as we sat around a beautifully decorated table to eat by the glow of candlelight. It was all so, so special--thank you, mom. I may not have appreciated all your hard work as much when I was a child, but I certainly do now.

"Home For Christmas" by The Prairie Schooler

I want to thank you for the many wonderful comments on my last post--so glad you enjoyed this year's "Parade of Ornaments." I really enjoyed hearing which was your favorite ornament--it appears that the snowmen have triumphed as most people said the liked either January's or October's ornaments. That makes sense, though--who doesn't like a snowman's cheery face? I have now moved the ornaments from my stairway garland to join all the others on my Christmas tree and thought you might like to see a few photos. Same tree, same location in my sunroom as other years, just more ornaments!

Christmas 2013

Here are some close-ups for you, too...

A special section of my Christmas tree is reserved for the ornaments my stitching friends from around the world have sent me--can you spot yours? I think of you, my dear friends, when I place these on my tree each December--thank you  so much for sending me a little piece of your heart...I never dreamed I would have ornaments on my tree created in England, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, The Netherlands, France, and so many places across the United States--amazing how blogging has opened up my world!

A cross stitch Christmas!

I'm out of time for today, but in my next post I'll show you the wonderful Christmas gifts I've received from my stitching friends--such a bevy of beautiful creations! Until then, I wish you a Christmas filled with love and laughter, and, hopefully, loads of stitching goodies filling your stockings. Bye for now...


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

2013 Parade of Ornaments

Only 8 days 'til Christmas? Who else is nowhere near ready? With my recent trip to New York, I am farther behind than ever...  My husband, thankfully, went with me this time and I was so relieved. Let's just say the driving conditions around Buffalo, NY were less than desirable! My old hometown certainly lives up to its reputation as one of the snowiest cities in the U.S. And then while visiting my mom, it snowed almost the entire three days we were there! Our return trip home on Sunday was slow, but not nearly as bad as the one up. Not the best time of year to visit, but I'm so glad we went when we did. My father, who many of you know suffers from Lewy Body Dementia, had to suddenly be moved from his dementia facility into the hospital. Today, he is scheduled to be moved into a more medically based nursing home. I know my presence helped my dear mother get through this unexpected turn of events. We'll see what happens next... With this disease, you just never know.

But, on to happier things... It seems like just yesterday that I was posting my 2012 ornament review and here we are at the end of 2013!  For those of you who are new readers of Stitching Dreams, I have posted my monthly ornament finishes on my stair garland for the past few years. If you would like to see previous years, you can see 2010 here, 2011 here, and 2012 here.  The following pictures aren't the best as it was overcast when I took them yesterday, but I think they'll give you a good idea of my 2013 collection:

2013 Monthly Ornament Finishes

January ~ March 2013 ornament finishes

April ~ June 2013 ornament finishes

July ~ September 2013 ornament finishes

October ~ December 2013 ornament finishes

So, which one is your favorite? I'd love to hear which one you like the best... Would you like a closer look still?

A Stitcher's Hands: "Let It Snow" 

LHN: "Bringing Home the Tree"

Midnight Stitching: "Heartstruck Friends" 

Madame La Fee: "Candy Cane"

LHN: "Baked Goods"

Homespun Elegance "Santa Arrives Tonight"

Stoney Creek Magazine: "Birds & Berries"

Prairie Schooler: 1994 Annual Santa

The Victoria Sampler: "Baby Cardinal"

Plum Pudding NeedleArt: "Let It Snow"

Needleprint: "Estonian Snowflake freebie"

Prairie Schooler St. Nicholas II Santa

It's really a tough decision for me to narrow down a favorite; it's kind of like being asked to choose a favorite child! I spend so much time on each one--not just in the stitching, but in the finishing, too, trying to make each one special. But, I think, this year, my favorite finish has to be my October snowman. I really love the combination of fabrics and trims on that one, along with the black fabric. My oldest son asked me a while ago, "Mom, just how many of these things are you going to make?!" I think he thinks "enough is enough!!" Obviously, he doesn't know I'm secretly addicted to making Christmas ornaments, does he? I get such pleasure out of creating these little cuties and I hope, that, someday--just maybe--my sons and their families will, too. 

I've received some lovely Christmas gifts from around the world, but will wait to show you them in another post. I haven't even had time to photograph them properly and everything I've received is just so very special, I want to do a post just for my gifts...

I hope to get one more post in before Christmas. I actually have a larger piece that I've been working on "behind the scenes" which I hope to finish and, of course, I need to get my Christmas tree photo up with all of the ornaments adorning it from top to bottom. Until then... stay warm, enjoy this last week before the big day, and please know how much I appreciate all of your wonderful comments and emails! Bye for now...

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Final Three

And a frosty good morning to you, my friends! I hope you are enjoying this busy, busy countdown to Christmas. I'm a bit behind on everything because of catching a cold over Thanksgiving. It seemed to be a mild one at first, but turned worse on Friday. I'm usually very healthy and rarely get colds (which, considering all the keyboards, computer mice, books, and such that I touch at work at the library each day, is a minor miracle!). I'm wondering, though, if my illness and hospitalization in August lowered my immune system defenses making me more susceptible to all those nasty germs. I sure hope this isn't a sign of what's to come this winter as it has really zapped my energy and that's not good at this time of year! 

I've finally managed to finish my last three ornaments for 2012. Would you like to see them? First up is my October ornament, a Plum Pudding NeedleArt design called "Let It Snow" which can be found in the 2013 Just Cross Stitch Ornament issue. It looks quite different than the finish shown in the magazine because I stitched mine over one on 28 ct. black Monaco and changed a few of the colors. What a difference the fabric you choose can make!

Plum Pudding NeedleArt "Let It Snow"

Since this was another tiny finish, I decided to add a couple of fabrics, some ric-rak, and white cording to jazz it up a bit.  At the very top I added a few holly leaves, red berries (beads), and silver jinglebells. I really love how this one turned out--it's such a cheery little ornament. I think this may be one of my favorite ornaments this year...a simple design made special by the finish. 

 "Let It Snow" finish

For November's ornament, I chose this simple snowflake freebie called "Estonian Snowflake." You can find it, and three other lovely snowflake patterns, at Needleprint--just click right here. This one is stitched on white 40ct. Newcastle linen with DMC 115. A very quick and easy design.

As you can see, I finished it into a round ornament and  simply added a burgundy gingham ruched ribbon with a little hanger and bow of the same fabric... This would make a nice last-minute gift for someone on your Christmas list!

"Estonian Snowflake" freebie finish

For my final ornament of 2013, I returned to my old favorite--Prairie Schooler. Isn't this the most handsome Santa? I used the suggested DMC threads on 32 ct. black Belfast. However, I changed the background and added snowflakes rather than the charted monogrammed initials. What do you think?

Prairie Schooler St. Nicholas II Santa

This particular Santa is from Book No. 36: "St. Nicholas II," an older out-of-print book which contains eight designs. I was thinking the other day, what a bargain these charts were! I mean you got eight wonderful designs back in 1992 when this was published for a mere $5.00! And today, you can rarely buy a single design for that amount! I know the older PS charts go for big money on Ebay, but when you break the cost down into a per design basis, it really doesn't seem that bad. I kept my finish very simple--wanted this distinguished looking Santa to be the star of the show!

Santa from Prairie Schooler's
St. Nicholas II booklet

So, there you have it--my final three ornaments for 2013. Next week, I'll post my annual "Ornaments on the Staircase Railing Garland" review of all twelve so you can see them together!

I mentioned in my last post, that I had stitched a third "Give Thanks" turkey. This one went to my dear sister-in-law who so wonderfully hosted our Thanksgiving this year. It was a real treat to have most of the cooking done by others, and I so appreciate all of her hard work. She used to be a cross-stitcher herself so she truly appreciates all the time that goes into making these little pillows. I used the same 32 ct. lambswool Jobelan that I used on my second finish, but changed the color of the cording and the fabric on the left. It gives it a totally different look than the two you saw in my previous post, doesn't it?

Third Shepherd's Bush "Give Thanks" finish

Well, I've covered Christmas and Thanksgiving--how about a bit of Halloween? Yep--I received this adorable Primitive Hare design called "Spooky Countdown" all the way from Italy. Chiara, who blogs at The Grey Tail offered this autographed chart in a recent giveaway and I was the lucky winner! I love it so much, Chiara--thank you for the wonderful gift--I can hardly wait to start stitching this next fall!

I had to work on Saturday, but came home to the house all lit up--garland strung on the porch, lights in each window, and two small trees covered with white lights. What a treat!! My husband had worked on everything that afternoon and surprised me with it. Such a lovely sight to come home to after a hard day's work! And then last night, we celebrated our middle son's 28th birthday (which was on December 4th) and enlisted his help, along with that of his girlfriend, and our oldest son and finally, finally got our tree up and half-way decorated. I say half-way because I still haven't put my stitched ornaments on it yet. I hope to get them up in the next few days before I leave for a visit with my parents. I won't see them at Christmas time this year so my sister will be having a little pre-Christmas brunch on Saturday for us. If she's been a good little girl, I just might take her a special stitched ornament for her tree!

 Our home--all ready for Christmas!

I'll leave you with some photos of my treasured Nativity set that I received from my dear mother many, many years ago. It is all hand-carved--made in Italy. I love the simplicity of the wooden pieces, so carefully crafted and sanded smooth. When my mom gave me this set, she included a little note with it that read, "To Care: may you always treasure this." (I will mom, just as I will always treasure you...) Do any of you have special Christmas decorations that you treasure, too ?

 Nativity set from Mom

So, there you have it! I'm behind again on visiting and commenting on blogs, but, now that I'm feeling a bit better, I hope to catch up with everyone this week. I want to welcome my new followers--so happy you've come to join us! And thank you to all of my faithful readers and commenters--I truly value your friendship and kind words. I'll be back with another post soon... Bye for now...