Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ornaments and Organizing

Well, well, well, here we are at the very end of July! Can you believe it? It has been a very up and down month here in western Pennsylvania. The first half was filled with hot, almost unbearably humid days and lately, it has been cooler and rainier--almost autumn-like weather. Which do you prefer? I honestly don't mind the heat--it's the humidity that does me in and it seems to get worse the older I get.

Before I show you a couple of new finishes, I want to offer my thanks and appreciation for all of your comments and emails on my last post about my parents' 60th wedding anniversary. I was so touched and my dear mother, who read each and every one of your caring comments, was as well. Dementia has touched so many families and it helps to know we are not alone in the struggle. I honestly think it is harder on the family than on the patient. My dad is in no pain and is, physically, very healthy. But, for us, his family members, it causes us great heartbreak and sorrow to watch his mental decline.  Anyway, I thank each one of you for taking the time to read that long post and for offering hugs, support, and your own stories of  family members struggling with dementia...

I've finally caught up on my ornament-a-month finishes for the year and I have two to share with you today. For the month of June, I stitched Homespun Elegance's 2009 Sampler Ornament called "Santa Arrives Tonight."  I fell in love with the little sheep climbing that steep hill in an effort to reach shelter before Santa arrives. And I even managed to suffer through making the French knot wreath on the front door (will I ever feel comfortable stitching French knots?!?). This one is stitched on 35 ct. natural Northern Cross linen with both DMC and overdyeds.

"Santa Arrives Tonight" by Homespun Elegance

I really wasn't sure how I would finish it, but ended up going with a flat, mounted ornament. (Vonna gives wonderful instructions on this type of finishing right here). It turned out a bit large for my tastes (the finish is 4 ½ inches wide by 5 ½ inches high), but I'm pleased with the final look. I know some of you struggle with sewing little pillow ornaments, but for me it's this type of finish which causes anxiety. I have the worst time getting the design centered!! Does anyone have any hints? I'll have to say it turned out better than most of my previous attempts, though, so I'm happy! I used an old flannel shirt for the backing and trimmed it with a gold cord in the same shade as the house. What do you think?

"Santa Arrives Tonight" finish

My July ornament is from an old Stoney Creek magazine (July/August 1994) and is called "Bird & Berries." This piece is stitched entirely in DMC on 40 ct. pearl gray Newcastle linen. A red berry bead was added in the four corners of the holly and also in the bird's beak.

"Bird & Berries"

For the finish, I backed the ornament with a soft black and white checked flannel (again, from one of my husband's old shirts) and ruched some red satin ribbon to apply on the sides. Chickadees are one of my favorite winter birds--I'm always in awe at the way these tiny things survive our sometimes harsh northern winters. So, this will make a perfect addition to our Christmas tree in December.

Finished "Bird & Berries"

The final bit of stitching that I can share with you (I've also been working on a couple of gifts which I can't show you today) is a piece I started back in June. My intention was to have it finished by the 4th of July. HA! Obviously, that didn't happen--maybe by July 4, 2014?  Many of you have already stitched "Betsy" by Sheepish Designs so you'll recognize my wee start on this one. I'm really enjoying stitching it, but I just can't seem to stick with one larger piece without getting my "smalls fix." I love the instant gratification I get from finishing a little pillow or ornament, don't you? 

A small start on "Betsy" by Sheepish Designs

Gifts arrived in my mailbox from "Jolly Old England" this month... I won a chart (CCN's "Party Cakes") from Mii's blog and when it arrived I found that the generous Mii had also included a packet of English tea and a bit of chocolate. Some confusion ensued as I thought the chocolate was liquid chocolate that you drank! When I wrote to Mii to thank her, I mentioned that we didn't have that here in the States. She replied that it must have melted as it was meant to be a thin bar of chocolate. Ha ha! Yes, as soon as I popped it into the fridge it hardened up into a delectable treat! Thank you so very much, Mii--I love the chart and, as you mentioned, those stitched cakes represent the best kind of baking--non-caloric!

Giveaway win from Mii!

Another treat arrived from my friend, Julie, also in England. Julie was raving about her recently acquired Turkish Delight candy on her blog and I happened to mention in my comment that I had never tasted it. I don't believe it is widely available here in the U.S. Anyway, sweet Julie decided it was an experience I shouldn't miss so she popped a bar into the mail and it arrived in fine shape. The piece she sent me was chocolate covered and was most delicious! I was surprised that it has a gel-like consistency inside--I was expecting a mixture of nuts and cookie. Thank you, my friend--you were so sweet to treat me to one of your favorite goodies!

A bar of Turkish Delight all the way from England!

I actually told Julie I was going to save the treat to eat while watching one of my favorite British shows--either "Downton Abbey" (I've been saving the last episode of Season Three to watch for a special treat--or a big cry as I've heard mention!) or "Call the Midwife."  Well, the Season Two DVD of "Call the Midwife" arrived at the library for me, so I promptly sat down to watch that and enjoy my very own bar of Turkish Delight. The Christmas special was so wonderful. I am thoroughly in love with this show--it makes me laugh and makes me cry with each and every episode. Some of the birthing scenes are a bit tough to watch, but the delightful characters, touching stories, and grim realities of life during the 1950s in the east-end of London are not to be missed.

In between stitching and reading and watching those wonderful British television programs, I've been doing a bit of organizing. I got so tired of searching through piles of charts for a certain one, that I spent all day Friday organizing them into notebooks. They are now placed in plastic sleeves alphabetically. Of course I have a giant notebook--the blue one in the photo below--just for my Prairie Schooler Collection! I may need two very soon as that is bursting at the seams. It was such a good feeling to get everything all tidied up...on to my freebies next! Here they are in resting comfortably in a cupboard right next to my stitching chair in the family room...

I don't have a ton of sewing threads, but, again, I got tired of hunting for the perfect color so I arranged them by shade in a drawer right next to my sewing machine. Pretty, eh?

Finally, my overdyed threads have been placed on a white pegboard attached to the inside of a closet door in my middle son's old bedroom (where I keep my sewing machine). The poor guy--every time he comes to visit, more and more of his room has been taken over by my stitching and sewing "stuff!" Here, I keep the WDW and GAST threads... Still have to make room for the Crescent Colours and other miscellaneous overdyeds. I would imagine more pegboard is in order for the other door!

I also need to tackle my ribbon and fabric collections, but I feel that I'm off to a great start. I suppose you would guess that since I am a librarian, I crave order--and you would be correct! When my house is cluttered or things are out of place, I just can't relax. For me, cleaning and organizing are very restful activities. Is anyone else like me, or am I just weird?!

Speaking of cleaning, the time had come for us to get a new washer and dryer. Although they were only 13 years old, you can just imagine the beating they took with doing laundry for three growing boys all those years. The dryer was stopping on it's own after only five minutes of drying and also leaving brown marks on the clothing. And the washing machine was rusting inside and making a burning smell. Definitely, past time for a new pair! So, look what arrived at our house last week...A spanking new washer and dryer--aren't they pretty? It's so funny to be excited by a pair of laundry appliances, but they really are a treat! There is just one "tiny" problem, however. The new washer lid won't fully open due to the cupboards above! I have to hold it open myself while loading or unloading the machine. You'll notice the new lid extends way out to the edge of the washer making it a good four or five inches wider than the old one! So, my husband and sons are trying to work out a system to hold the dryer up for me--either a pole of some sorts or a system of magnets... I guess nothing is easy, is it? But, I'm still thrilled with my new set-up!

I'll leave you with this pretty vase of flowers picked from our garden. Cosmos are some of my favorite summer flowers with their shades of pink, mauve, and white... My husband nicely shares his fenced in vegetable garden with me for growing my flowers, otherwise, our deer population would be mowing them down as soon as they appear! I'm so envious of those of you who have beautiful open gardens full of flowers--that just would never happen here with our hungry deer!

I wish each of you a happy last day of July and a wonderful month of August. I want to welcome my newest followers, too--so glad you're here! Thank you, as always, for stopping by today--I am so touched that you give up your valuable time to read and comment on my posts... Bye for now...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

JULY 11, 1953

Yes, July 11, 1953--sixty years ago. Back then a loaf of bread cost a mere 13¢, a gallon of gas would set you back only 29¢, and the minimum wage here in the U.S. was 75¢ an hour. This was the post World-War II era, a time of prosperity and hope for many; a time of rapid change and growing families. And on this day sixty years ago, a lovely, young journalist married a handsome, young medical school student. That couple would become my dear parents.

Unfortunately, today, their 60th wedding anniversary, is a difficult day--especially for my mother. I haven't mentioned this on my blog before, but many of my closest blogging friends already know--my dad has dementia, Lewy Body Dementia to be exact, and no longer knows any of us.  So, on what should be a day of joyful celebration--reaching that 60-year milestone, my dad is unaware of its significance...

I'll be visiting my mom this week and we'll make every effort to recall the good memories made during my parents' marriage. One of the best was a family trip to northern New Hampshire which we all took to celebrate their 50th anniversary ten years ago. They didn't want a party--just wanted to celebrate with their four children and our spouses and their nine grandchildren. But, we wanted to include well-wishes from their other family members and friends so we came up with the idea of a memory book which I, as the only non-full-time worker was tasked with putting together. Oh, my, what a project this turned out to be--I had no idea just how many hours I would spend putting together the memory book. A true labor of love!

50th Wedding Anniversary scrapbook for my parents

I sent a letter to each of their friends--past and present--requesting any old photos or special memories they shared with my mom and dad. In the letter, I included a simple sheet of cardstock which I printed with a border and a single word: "Remember" on which each friend could reply. The response was overwhelming--childhood and college friends and long ago co-workers, as well as current friends and family, sent back not only their memories, but wonderful  cards and old photos of my parents, many of which I had never seen before. What a treasure trove!


After the scrapbook was assembled, I had to figure out what to put in the blank area on the front of it. I think it was originally meant for a photograph, but I decided to stitch something instead. Simple, right? Well, not exactly--you see, I hadn't cross stitched at all in almost ten years! Yes, I had given it up totally when I was at my busiest--raising three boys who were going in all different directions, working part-time at the library, and overseeing our whole-house remodeling project. I had totally abandoned my needle and thread. Until 2003, that is, when I decided that my parents' memory book needed a bit of cross stitch to dress it up! And that is why I'm showing this to you. If it hadn't been for me stitching this single piece for my parents' anniversary book and rediscovering my love of cross stitching, I wouldn't "know" a single one of you! There would have been no blog, no stitched gifts given and received from around the world, no new wonderful friendships like the ones I've made through blogging over the past 4 ½ years... This little pastel-colored finish started it all!

The stitched heart was from an old issue of a needlework magazine (I'm sorry, I can't remember the exact one) and is stitched on simple white Aida. That is the only fabric I had back then; I hadn't discovered the wonderful world of evenweaves and linens at that time. I changed  the design a bit and added my parents' names at the top (covered for privacy) along with their wedding and 50th anniversary dates. Some little pearly heart buttons adorn each corner and tiny beads are added on the side columns. The piece was a perfect fit for the insert on the front of the album.

I can't even begin to describe all the laughter and tears that filled the room as my parents looked through the album for the first time. Oh, my--I can still picture my dad laughing to the point of crying as he read some of the old stories his friends had sent in. And, of course, that set off everyone else--what a great night that was! Each of us kids and each of the grandchildren made a page, too--so very special...

Believe me, the hours and hours I spent putting this huge book together for mom and dad were worth every second. They've taken so much pleasure looking through it over the past ten years. Today my dad can no longer recall most of the names of the faces who stare back at him, but I think the old photos still bring him comfort in some way.

 Fifty years of memories

Of all the photos my parents have from their wedding day, this is my favorite. They are just so full of joy, so full of hope! Off in that wonderful, big, blue car to their honeymoon in Maine and on to a new life filled with love and laughter, tears and sorrow, compromises and understandings. And they did have a great life together--for so, so many years. I told my mother just last week that we've been very blessed as a family. Up until the past few years when my dad's memory problems worsened, we were blessed in almost every way. 

July 11, 1953--off on their honeymoon!

One of the very last pages I created for their 50th wedding anniversary scrapbook contained a lovely thought on the love a long-time older couple shares:

"The question is asked, “Is there anything more
beautiful in life than a young couple clasping hands
and pure hearts in the path of marriage? Can there be
anything more beautiful than young love?"
And the answer is given. “Yes, there is a more
beautiful thing. It is the spectacle of an old man and an
old woman finishing their journey together on that path.
Their hands are gnarled, but still clasped; their faces are
seamed, but still radiant; their hearts are physically
bowed and tired, but still strong with love and devotion for
one another. Yes, there is a more beautiful thing than
young love. Old love."

Yes, old love is a beautiful thing and on the rare occasion when my dad does recognize my mom, it is so sweet and tender.  Every now and then, when she visits him at the memory care facility where he has lived since mid-February, he will hug her as she prepares to leave and say "I love you so much, you little sweetheart, you." Watching them, my eyes fill with tears and I have to look away. For I remember not only what was, but what should have been...

When I'm with my mom this week and go to the memory care center to visit my dad, I won't be saying "Happy Anniversary." That's just too hard on my mom. But, I will be saying... Thank You. Thank you for meeting each other and falling in love and having me and my three wonderful siblings. Thank you for raising us in the safety of a small town where we knew our neighbors and walked down the street to church and up the hill to school. Thank you for teaching us the importance of kindness and respect. Thank you for loving each other and your precious family--always and unconditionally.  I feel very lucky and blessed to have you for parents--I truly do...

July 11, 1953