Friday, May 31, 2013

Farewell to May

How on earth could this be the last day of May? I mean, really... why is this year flying by so quickly? Do you remember when you were little and you couldn't wait to grow up? You wanted so badly to drive a car, to experience that first kiss, to move out on your own; you wanted time to pass as quickly as possible. And now--now that you're older--you wish there was some magical way to slow things down, don't you? That's how I feel. I know that it will probably just keep speeding up as I age, though, but I've found that taking an hour or so to add a few lines of stitches  to whatever design I'm working on really does seem to slow down my world. Have you ever noticed that? It has such a calming effect...

With a busier than normal month that included extra work days and all those "must-do" outdoor chores that greet us each spring and summer, I've had little stitching time, but I did manage to finish the Prairie Schooler "Summer" piece that I was working on the last time you visited me. I do love seasonal stitching, but, for some reason, I have very few summer themed pieces in my collection. So, I'm thrilled to have a new finish to display this summer. 

     Prairie Schooler "Summer"
      from Book No. 50 "Prairie Seasons"

"Summer" is stitched on 32 ct. flax Belfast linen using the suggested DMC colors (except for the little ducks which I changed to a lighter gold than was charted). I changed the ducks' beaks, too (using straight stitches rather than cross stitches), and gave them French Knots (well, my odd version!) for eyes. There is a mistake on this chart--the sunflowers on the left were charted for a different color than the ones on the right although in the photo they were all the same, so I stitched them all in the lighter gold.

A trio of ducklings guarded by their mama

If you look closely at the sun, can you spy a smiling face? Such a cute touch! The colors in this piece are my favorites--the blues and buttery yellows so, of course, I love the house. I'm so pleased with this encompasses the essence of those hot, lazy days of summer, doesn't it?

 A smiling sun

I'll be framing this one with the same frame I used for the Prairie Schooler Spring finish that I showed you in this post back in 2010. Here is a collage of some of the little details... the bee hive, the flower garden, the willow tree and bird house, the oversized sunflower. Such a great design!

Prairie Schooler Summer from Book No. 50

I also finished up the Little House Needleworks scissor fob that I shared with you last month. This one was sent to my friend, Melanie, to thank her for lending me one of her charts. I hope she likes it! This was my very first scissor fob and I'm very happy with how it turned out...

    LHN Scissor Fob 
(from "Wool Needlebook & Fob")

The fob was stitched "over one" on 28 ct. dirty linen with the suggested DMC threads. I added a purple cording and backed it with the pretty tulip fabric shown above. It is filled with crushed walnut shells and a penny was placed inside for good luck (thanks to Terri for that sweet idea!). This may be my first scissor fob, but it won't be my last!

LHN Scissor Fob

Now, it's time to start a new project! What to stitch, what to stitch? Last year, it was easy because I had a monthly theme to help guide my choices. This year, it seems to be whatever calls my name as I browse through my stash. How do you pick your projects? I think a nice patriotic start might be in my future!

MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND... Our Memorial Day weekend, although unseasonably cool, was a delight... Can you guess why? Well, we had all three sons home for the first time since Christmas! I love it when the three of them are together--love to hear their laughing and teasing, their inside jokes that go way back to childhood, their interaction as adults versus little boys (although sometimes those little boy roles make an appearance, too!). We took advantage of the sunny, but chilly, weather on Sunday and drove 40 miles north to a beautiful state park called McConnells Mill. The last time I had been there was 36 years ago as a newly engaged-to-be-married college senior. My soon-to-be husband (we were married two months later) and I visited the park with our college friends right before we graduated way back in 1977. It was so nice to visit again after all these years with our three grown sons. We packed a picnic lunch and then hiked along the beautiful Slippery Rock Creek after we ate.

The park features an old gristmill which processed buckwheat, oats, corn, and wheat until the late 1920s. Unfortunately, the old waterwheel was removed years ago, but it was still very interesting to go inside the mill and learn how the grains were processed in days gone by.

The old mill at McConnells Mill State Park

The mill and covered bridge

The covered bridge over Slippery Rock Creek 

Inside the old mill 

The antique scales at McConnells Mill

Slippery Rock Creek
at McConnells Mill

My guys hiking along the creek

Large rocks and boulders were scattered
across the landscape and creek

During our hike, I was most enchanted by the pretty red covered bridge, however this slithery creature was the highlight of the walk for the guys... They kept trying to see who could get the closest to it and I kept saying, "Stop, you guys, it might be poisonous!!" In researching it when we got home, it appears that it was a harmless Northern Water Snake. But, still, snakes rank right up there with bats in things I most fear! Anyone else feel that way?

Northern Water Snake

 Scenes from McConnells Mill State Park: May 2013

When we got home I made one of our favorite desserts, Key Lime Pie, and I thought you might enjoy the recipe. It is so quick and easy to make (I believe I got this recipe from my mother-in-law many years ago). I am not the best at making the meringue topping, but, trust me--it was delicious!

Key Lime Pie

THANK YOU... I recently won a very nice giveaway from Shirlee, better known as "The Easily Influenced Stitcher." She sent me a gift certificate to my favorite online stitching shop, 123 Stitch, so I could have a little shopping spree. Would you like to see what I purchased with Shirlee's generous gift? Just look at these pretties... Three lovely charts and three new overdyeds for my collection. Thank you so very much, Shirlee--I know I'll enjoy stitching these and I'm so appreciative of your generosity! Which one do you think I should start first?

 Purchases from Shirlee's Gift Certificate

Are you still with me? Another mammoth post--that's what I get for procrastinating and only posting twice a month, isn't it? I thought you might like an update on the nest in my wreath from my last post. I mentioned that the mother had abandoned it and the beautiful blue eggs slowly began disappearing until they were all gone... So sad! BUT, guess what? Another bird has taken up residence in that same nest and has two beautiful eggs of her own. Just look at her proudly sitting on her nest. I hope the birdies live to fly away after they are hatched. I'll keep you posted...

Mama robin in her nest!

So, June is upon us and it appears we're in for a hot, humid summer. I don't know about you, but I think I'll be spending lots of time in my air-conditioned home this summer. The older I get, the less I can deal with the heat and humidity. Does that mean I'll have a productive summer stitching-wise? Let's hope so!! Anyway, enjoy the start of summer, my sweet friends. Thanks to all of you for sharing your comments and your blogs with me--you're the best! Bye for now...

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Christmas Creations and Curious Creatures

A very chilly good morning to you, my stitching friends! Yes, we got a bad frost here last night--in mid-May! It was only one degree away from the record all-time record low temperature for May 14th--can you imagine? So, how is everyone? Have you wondered if I would ever post again? I know, I know--it's been three weeks since my last post--at this rate I'll be down to only posting once a month. I wish I could say I've been spending all my free time stitching, but that just isn't the case. In fact, I just can't seem to sit and stitch for more than 45 minutes at a time without getting distracted by something else and then completely abandoning my needle and thread. I used to be able to sit for a couple hours at a time and happily stitch away, but not lately. I hope I get back to being able to do so, but for now, all I have to share with you are two little Christmas ornaments and a new start.

I just loved this little snowman when I saw him on Melanie's blog and she kindly offered to lend me her chart. Isn't he the cutest with that miniature snowman perched on his nose? This design is by Midnight Stitching and is called "Heartstruck Friends." I used the suggested DMC and overdyed threads and stitched it on 40 ct. flax Newcastle linen. To finish it off, I simply combined two coordinating fabrics, a bit of lace, some white cording, and topped it off with a tiny white snowflake charm. Thank you so very much, Melanie, for sharing your chart with me--I really enjoyed stitching him!

"Heartstruck Friends" by Midnight Stitching

The snowman was my monthly ornament for March (yes, I'm way behind!) and for April I chose this cute freebie by Madame la Fée called "Candy Cane." If you're not familiar with her free designs, you're in for a treat! You can find this one and many others by clicking right here. I thought the candy cane would really pop on black so I used the suggested DMC threads on 32 ct. black Belfast linen. I finished it off as an oval with white ruched ribbon and pearly red pins... So, now I just need to stitch my ornament for May and I'll be all caught up!

"Candy Cane" by Madame la Fée

I also began a new piece of what I call "my comfort stitching."  Yes, a new Prairie Schooler design called "Summer" from Book No. 50: Prairie Seasons. I've already stitched Spring and Autumn which you can see here and here. I'd forgotten how "stitch intense" these pieces are! At first glance, it looked like I'd be able to finish this up fairly quickly, but there is so much solid stitching that it will probably take me another two weeks. I find myself completely relaxing with PS designs--there are no surprises; no specialty stitches, no odd colors to deal with, just beautiful designs in pretty hues. What is your "comfort stitching?"

 A new start: Prairie Schooler's 
Summer from "Prairie Seasons"

CURIOUS CREATURES... Now on to the second part of my post title. We've certainly had some unusual animal sightings around our yard over the past few weeks. In addition to the typical deer, bunnies, great blue heron, and groundhogs that we normally see, we've been entertained by a host of other visitors.  When we returned from our Florida trip last month, we reached our front door to find a real mess. There was mud and straw and grass scattered all over the "Welcome" mat and even the door itself! Well, just look who had been visiting our home while we were in the sunny south...When the humans are away, the birds will play!

Don't see anything unusual? Just a pretty spring wreath? Well, let's take a closer look...

Do you see the nest? A mama robin had painstakingly built a nest right on my front door wreath! When we first saw it, there were no eggs and we planned to remove it after I had taken a photo for my blog. But, lo and behold, when I went out a few days later to photograph it--there were three eggs in that glorious shade of blue! So, of course, I couldn't remove the nest, could I?

 A trio of robin eggs

Unfortunately, something must have happened to the mother because the eggs remained unattended and then they began disappearing (probably stolen by a blue jay or some other mean bird!) and now there is only one remaining. I've been checking on it periodically and imagine my surprise when I went out last week and found this: 

 Now there are two nests on my wreath!

Look carefully...Another tiny nest was being built right next to the first! Crazy birds!! It is perched so precariously I know it won't last long, but the bird gave it a good try. Anyway, I guess we'll leave the nest up until we take the wreath down in the fall. I'm not sure I'll be able to salvage my poor wreath--it is quite mud-spattered at the moment!

We also spotted this huge hawk sitting on top of our Martin house. Was he possibly surveying our pond for his next meal? We have koi, catfish, bluegill, and minnows in our pond which I'm sure he would enjoy getting a taste of! Or maybe he was just visiting the birdie condo trying to make friends with the many new birds that have recently moved in... I think he's just a bit too large to fit in those holes, don't you?

Hawk on the Martin house!

Here is a close-up--isn't he huge? Does anyone know what kind of hawk he is? I think he may be a Broad-Winged Hawk, but I'm not positive.

And just look at this creature! Smack-dab in the middle of our yard we discovered a snapping turtle. How he got there is a mystery; there was no trail through the long grass or anything!  But, look how muddy he is--he must have just crawled out of a hole in the ground or something...

Snapping turtle

In our attempt to be good samaritans, we decided to move the poor lost thing to our pond, but how to pick him up was another matter! Oh, was that turtle mean... My husband tried picking him up on the sides of his shell, way back by his tail, but the turtle's head immediately stretched way out, swiveled around, and snapped viciously at his bare hands.

 All ready to snap!

After several attempts, my husband finally got a shovel, turned the snapping turtle over onto his belly, and carefully lifted him across the yard to the safety of our pond. 

Ahhh...back to the water where you belong...

Well, after seeing that rather unattractive reptile, I thought you might like to see some prettier things... How about these lovely tulips that I cut from our garden in the prettiest shades of pink? We have to grow them within the confines of my husband's fenced in vegetable garden because, otherwise, the deer would be feasting on them. I just love tulips, don't you? Sure wish they would last through the summer...

Tulips from our garden

And then there are the stunning flowers that my sons gave me on Mother's Day. Aren't they lovely? Thank you, guys, for the flowers, chocolates, and iPad keyboard... But, most of all, thanks for being such kind, young men--I'm so proud and lucky to be your mom!

Mother's Day flowers from my sons

A MOST SPECIAL DAY! I also want to wish my dear mother a very ♫♪♫ Happy Birthday ♫♪♫! Yes, 86 years ago today, this sweet baby entered the world. Just look at her in that darling antique wicker baby carriage being adored by her older brother and sister. Mom, you are my hero and my best friend... You've been through so much over the past few years and I'm in awe of how well you've dealt with some very dark and difficult days. I've been truly blessed having you for my mother and I love you dearly.

My mom in 1927...
a beautiful new addition to her family!

Well, I think that's about it for today's post. I'll try not to wait so long until I post next time...In the mean time, I sincerely want to thank all of you for the wonderful comments on my last post. It means so much to me that you take the time to leave a comment because I'm sure your lives are just as busy as mine! Until next time, I hope your days are filled with things that make you smile. Bye for now...