Friday, September 27, 2013

Pumpkins For Cathey


Good morning and welcome to a very special post! Today the cross stitching community is honoring a very brave & inspirational fellow cross-stitching blogger and someone I'm proud to call my friend... Cathey, also known to many of us, as "Pumpkin."

When Sharon/Daffycat came up with the idea of a  "Pumpkins For Cathey" day, I thought it was brilliant. After all, what other blogging community is as supportive of each other as our cross-stitching family? If you aren't familiar with Cathey (better known as Pumpkin) she blogs at Pumpkin Patch & Co. and today is her blog's 7th anniversary. When you visit her blog, you'll notice her beautiful stitching, her addiction to Cadbury Cream eggs, and her love of bunnies and dachshunds. You'll see many darling photos of her 17-month-old little son--the little sweetheart she has nicknamed "Junior." However, you can't help but also notice her more recent posts on her serious health problems. Cathey is battling cancer and her bravery and desire to live each day to the fullest for herself, her husband and  their adorable little son have left all of us humbled and inspired (and many times in tears wishing we could do more).

Sharon, who blogs at It's Daffycat, sent out an email suggesting that we each post something "pumpkin themed" today, September 27, 2013, in support of dear Cathey. So, I immediately set to work in stitching a fun Halloween finish with three of the cutest pumpkin heads I've seen. What makes this such a delightful piece to stitch? Well...

Simply combine one grinning pumpkin

with one frightened pumpkin

and one tiny, baby pumpkin.

Add in a couple of black crows
sitting on a candy corn tree.

Mix in a full moon

and finish it off with a few
 sage words of Halloween advice!

And what do you end up with?

I can't remember when I've enjoyed stitching a piece as much as this one. And knowing I was stitching it in honor of Cathey/Pumpkin makes it all the more special. The designer of this chart, All Through the Night, is fast becoming one of my favorites. I used most of the suggested overdyeds (although I did make a couple of minor substitutions when I didn't have the correct colors in my stash) and stitched it on some unknown 40 ct. R&R Reproductions fabric. I bought a lot of 40ct. fabrics on Ebay last year and they weren't labeled with names, but I thought this antiquey-looking fabric was perfect for a Halloween piece. I thought this had a very vintage look to it with the colors and the expressions on both the moon and the little pumpkins. And the candy corn "tree" is just too cute!

All Through the Night's "Halloween Is In the Air" 

Speaking of candy corn (and pumpkins!)... here is a simple pumpkin craft for any of you planning a Halloween party or just looking for a quick and easy project to do with your little ones. I love Martha Stewart's ideas, but many of them are simply too time-consuming or take too many materials to make them doable for the average person. When I stumbled upon these little Jack-O'-Lantern Party Favors I just loved them and thought to myself, "Oh, I wish I had a little one around to make these with!" Well, that didn't stop me--I just made some for myself to hold the contents of the bag of candy corn I recently purchased! They took about five minutes each to put together and this way, perhaps, I'll ration my candy consumption. And, if you want something healthier--they would look almost as cute with nuts or trail mix in the little bags...

To download the pumpkin faces simply go here. I used thick card stock, plastic lunch bags that I cut the tops off, and floral wire (wound around a pencil) to make the curly stems. Martha, of course, covered her wires with brown cloth of some sort to make them look more realistic--I just used the plain dark green floral wire and it looks perfectly fine to me... I think this trio of pumpkins would brighten up any party, don't you? (And I'll bet Junior would love creating these with you, wouldn't he, Cathey?).

MORE PUMPKIN GOODNESS... I  was in a pumpkin mood all day yesterday while preparing this post and thinking of Cathey so I made some of my favorite Pumpkin-Raisin Muffins. I've been making this recipe for over 30 years--I think it came from the back of a can of Libby's Pumpkin. They are so moist and delicious--a wonderful autumn treat. I've included the recipe below--hope you enjoy them!

 Pumpkin-Raisin Muffins

Pumpkin-Raisin Muffin Recipe

1 ¼ cups sugar
¼ cup canola oil
1 egg
½ cup Libby's pumpkin
1 ½ cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg

Combine first four ingredients and beat well.
Combine remaining ingredients.
Add to first mixture.
Stir in ½ cup raisins until smooth.
Fill muffin tins lined with paper cups.
Bake at 370° for 25 minutes.
Makes 12 muffins.

That winds up my "Pumpkins For Cathey" post. I hope it made you smile, Cathey--I think of you so often and I'm sure after reading all of the special posts written in your honor from all over the world today, you'll realize just how very special you are to all of us. Sending a warm hug your way, my friend... And thanks to Sharon for organizing this special event! If you want to see the links to all of the other bloggers participating in "Pumpkins For Cathey" day, please visit her blog.

I hope each of you is enjoying the lovely autumn weather that we've been having here in western Pennsylvania--what a delight! And remember to take time to really look around and appreciate the simple things in your life this weekend. Bye for now...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Life's Hiccups...

Good morning, my stitching friends! Has it really been six weeks since I last posted? Such a lot has happened since then that I hardly know where to begin... But, since this is primarily a stitching blog, I guess I'll begin with the good stuff--the stitching! In spite of my crazy month in August, I was able to get a bit of stitching done--primarily for family and friends, but I also managed to finish my ornament for the month. 

My dear friend in Northern Ireland, Lois (Of Needles, Pins, & Stitching Things blog ), celebrated her birthday in mid-August. To help make her day even more special, I decided to stitch something  for her so I created this little pillow from a chart by Merrily Beams called "Trifles." I just love everything about this design from the checkerboard roof to the two friends all dressed in blue. I added our first initials so when she sees it she'll always remember our friendship.

Merrily Beams design: "Trifles"

I stitched Lois's gift on 32 ct. antique ivory Belfast linen with a variety of overdyed and DMC threads--I just chose the colors randomly based on whatever I thought looked nice together.  I gave the two friends different colored hair--Lois has the lighter shade and me the darker brown--just like in real life. To finish it off, I backed it with this wonderful blue alphabet sampler fabric and added some handmade blue cording. I was so happy that Lois liked my little gift and I hope the joy she felt on her birthday continues throughout the coming year!

Finished "Trifles" pillow for Lois

My next finish was a gift for my youngest sister who celebrated a very special birthday this month--she turned 50! Ah, to be 50 again--when you're only a year and a few months away from 60, 50 sounds very, very young, indeed!! She recently spent a wonderful few weeks in France with her husband and sons so I thought this Blackbird Designs freebie would be perfect for her. "Souvenir de France" is stitched on 40 ct. pearl gray Newcastle linen with WDW's thread in Gunmetal.

BBD's Souvenir de France freebie

I added her initials in the upper left and moved the motifs underneath so that they were more symmetrical than shown in the original chart. To finish up the pillow, I backed it with the black and white fabric shown and edged it with a ruched gauzy black ribbon. And the smell--perfect for a souvenir of France--I filled it with a combination of dried lavender and ground walnut shells. I hope she enjoys it and will think of her delightful French sojourn (and her big sister) each time she sees it!

Birthday pillow for my sister

My final bit of stitching is a bit of much-needed "comfort stitching" which I stitched at the beach last month. It features two of my favorite things--sunflowers and Prairie Schooler Santas! This PS 1994 Santa is stitched "over one" on 27 ct. clay Linda cloth with the suggested DMC threads. Isn't he jolly with his parcel of sunflowers and those hitchhiking blackbirds? A perfect piece to stitch at the end of summer...

Prairie Schooler 1994 Santa

The finish is quite simple--just some handmade cording in DMC 729 and a backing made of the burgundy checked fabric shown on the right. I always believe that when there is a lot going on in a piece like there is in this one, it is better to keep things simple in your final finish. I was so pleased when my young 24-year-old nephew, who was visiting for the weekend, told me how professional it looked! He has an art background so the compliment meant even more...

 Finished 1994 Prairie Schooler Santa

THANKS TO... my friend, Vickie (at A Stitcher's Story blog), who sent me a sweet prize package for guessing the color of her purse in a contest she had a while ago. I knew Vickie loved pink so I took it a step further and guessed that her purse was fuschia. I was right! Now, the most unusual gift I've ever received in my mailbox arrived in the form of bulbs--yes, you read that right--two iris bulbs! I have to admit, I just about screamed with fright when I first felt the damp newspaper that they were wrapped in. But, upon seeing the bulbs I knew right away they were two of Vickie's brown iris bulbs that she says smell just like chocolate. I had my husband plant them while I was in the hospital (more about that below) and I can hardly wait until next spring to sniff them myself. She also included another first--her first ever needle threader made into the shape of a little angel. I know I'll be putting this to good use, Vickie, as the older I get, the harder it is to thread my needle. I think she did a great job on it and I'm sure she'll be making more of them for friends in the future. Thank you so much, Vickie--little did you know how much I would need an angel on my shoulder watching over me on that very day I received your gifts...

Gifts from Vickie

Life's Hiccups... Are you wondering about the title of today's blog post? Well, we've all had them, right...those little bumps in the road, those curve balls that you didn't see coming and just turn your life upside down for a bit? A month ago today I experienced one of the bigger hiccups in my life when I ended up in the hospital for five days with something I had never even heard of...

My day had progressed in a perfectly ordinary manner--getting my hair cut, doing the grocery shopping, reading, and finally settling down for a quiet evening of stitching since my husband was at a dinner with his former co-workers. Ahh...there is nothing like a bit of stitching to totally relax you, is there? But, that night something went horribly wrong...WHAM! I was instantly hit with nearly unbearable pains in my lower belly which in turn led to vomiting and diarrhea. After a couple hours of this, I was just about ready to call my husband and ask him to come home when he walked in the door. Seeing me in the pain I was in, he suggested we leave for the hospital right then, but I kept thinking it was "just something I ate" so I convinced him to go to bed. Feeling a bit better myself, I retired to bed, only to be awoken at 2:00 in the morning with severe bloody diarrhea (which continued for the next 48 hours--ugh!!). Of course, we immediately rushed to the hospital's emergency room. 

 My "home away from home" for five days

After a plethora of tests (EKG, CT scan, colonoscopy, ultrasound) I was diagnosed with a new to me condition: Ischemic Colitis. Have any of you ever heard of it? To put it simply, the doctor said it is almost like a stroke of the colon--the blood supply is cut off or greatly diminished which causes the symptoms I described above. I don't actually fit into any of the groups of people who normally have an attack of ischemic colits: cocaine users (nope!), long-distance runners (nope!), and people who use a lot of NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (nope!). So, what did cause it in my case? Possibly a blood clot which can be a side effect of the medicine I was taking for my osteoporosis, but the doctors couldn't say for sure. Needless to say, I'm no longer taking that particular medication. The idea of a blood clot is so very scary and I'm incredibly grateful it didn't end up traveling to my heart, brain, or lungs. Thankfully, the doctors think this was a one-time attack; it is not a chronic condition or something I, hopefully, will ever have to deal with again...

Five days later, I was released from the hospital, tired and weak, but just so happy to be going home! No more IV lines with fluids and antibiotics flowing into my veins non-stop, no more noisy hospital surroundings, no more bland liquid diet. But, I brought home a certain sense of vulnerability which I have never felt before. I feel like my body really let me down--I work so hard to eat right and exercise, but, obviously that is no guarantee of good health, is it? I am, to be honest with you, struggling a bit to return to "normal." I'll get there--it's just taking longer than I thought it would to get my energy back and to feel like the old me...

 Flowers from my sons 
brightened up my hospital room!

I am so grateful to all of you who wondered where I was and who sent emails and get well cards my way. What a wonderfully supportive blogging/stitching community we have here!! I feel very blessed to be part of it--thank you all so very much for your kind words and support. And to my dear husband and three wonderful sons--I know how scared you all were when I was in the hospital. "Mom" never gets sick, right? I mean I hadn't called off sick from work in 15 years! But, the flowers you sent and your love and encouragement sure made my hospital stay a bit easier. I love you guys so very much...

BEACH TIME... Three days after I was released from the hospital, we traveled to North Carolina's Outer Banks for our annual reunion with my husband's family. There were 21 of us in this giant house in Corolla called "Poseidon." This is the 29th year we have traveled down to the beach for our family get together and I think this was the nicest house ever! With 12 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms there was plenty of room for all. I simply sat most of the week under a tent on the beach and snoozed and read. I highly recommend two of the books--both really make you think about what you would do if faced with the situations encountered by the books' characters. "Me Before You" by Jojo Moyes and "The Husband's Secret" by Liane Moriarty are both well worth reading!

Our 2013 beach house rental

Can you imagine a better medicine
than relaxing on this beautiful beach?

Do you see the rainbow? 

A gorgeous sunset on our first night...

Even on a cloudy day, the beaches have a certain beauty.

These little crabs were so entertaining. My 9-year-old 
triplet nieces loved feeding them "goldfish crackers."
Two days after we returned home, my middle son had surgery and moved home for a while so we could help him recuperate. And four days after that I drove up to my parents in New York to celebrate my youngest sister's birthday over Labor Day weekend. Whew... I am so glad to finally just relax at home again and to resume my normal routine of work, etc. You all know me--I love a simple life and things just got a bit too crazy in August! Hopefully, things will calm down and I have to say, I'm honestly looking forward to the cozy, quiet days of winter that lie ahead.

I'm so very far behind on blog reading and commenting--just had neither the energy nor the time last month, but I promise, I'll be visiting your blogs very soon. I miss all of you and miss seeing the inspirational creations that you tempt me with each time I stop by... Again, thank you all for your caring words during my illness--they helped more than you can imagine. Thanks for stopping by today--I'll really do my best not to be away so long again! Bye for now...