Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Four Weeks?

Has it really been four weeks since my last post? I hope April has been a good month for each of you. It's been a busy one for me with a trip to Florida and then having my entire family here for Easter weekend.  And, oh yes, there were those couple of weeks in between where I just lost my blogging mojo for a bit. But, I'm back with a few things to share with you. First of all, I want to welcome my new followers--I'm always amazed when I glance at my sidebar and see that there are close to 1300 friends reading "Stitching Dreams" from all around the world. Who would ever have thought this little blog would have grown the way it has over the past five years? And you know what... without all of your kind comments, supportive emails, and the inspiration that you share on your own blogs, it never would have. Thank you all!

I'd fully intended to share this first finish with you before Easter, but I got so very busy cooking and baking for the weekend, that I just couldn't seem to sit still long enough to finish it off into a little pillow. This sweet piece is a Homespun Elegance Design called "Delivering Spring Blossoms" and is stitched on 40 ct. flax Newcastle linen with most of the suggested overdyed threads. I did have to change the colors of the pink flowers to GAST Antique Rose and the color of the cart to GAST Harvest Basket since I didn't have the suggested threads in my stash. I also changed the color of the bunnies' tails to ecru rather than leaving them brown as was charted.

Like many of you, I struggle with stitching French knots, so I used Colonial knots to make the little posies that each bunny is holding and for the flower in the basket. I found a very helpful video tutorial right here and I'm quite happy with the result. You'll notice the little satin stitched mounds of "grass," too--I think that really gives a nice texture to the design. The pillow is finished with the green fabric shown in the background and I simply used two old shirt buttons to act as wheels for the cart. I wonder who the bunnies are delivering their spring blossoms to? Maybe a loving, old grandmother bunny? Or perhaps a sick neighbor? They just look so cute and intent on their mission, don't they?

My other two finishes were both sent off as gifts. The first went to my sweet friend, Nia, in Portugal who just had a beautiful, bouncing, baby boy in March. I wanted to make him his very first Christmas ornament so I stitched this JBW gingerbread man from the "Baby's First Christmas" booklet. This one is stitched on 32 ct. black Belfast linen and is backed with the cheery, red gingerbread boy fabric shown in the photo. On the chart, there is just an outline of the gingerbread boy, but I filled him in with brown, added beads to the holly in his hat, a white pompom to his hat, and changed the face a bit. I also added the baby's name rather than the charted words "Baby's First Christmas." I struggled with how to stitch the little "tail" under the "c" in Lourenço, as we don't have anything like that in English, but Nia said it looks just fine... I hope my small remembrance brings little Lourenço smiles each Christmas for years to come!

And another RAK was stitched and sent to my blogging friend, Vickie in Wisconsin. This time, "Hope" by Little House Needleworks was my choice. I do love stitching these little sheep and so far have sent both Peace and Love off to stitching friends. I chose "Hope" for Vickie as I truly hope the day comes when she can live a pain free life. I just love the snowflake in this one and thought it had a very wintry feel to it, so I also included a bit of cording that Vickie can pin onto the back to make a loop so she can use it as a Christmas ornament rather than a pillow if she chooses. Like my other two LHN Little Sheep Virtues, this one is stitched on 40 ct. pearl gray (even though it looks blue in the photo!) Newcastle linen and backed with that soft, leafy green fabric shown in the background.

Would you like to see some of my Florida photos? Honestly, we couldn't have asked for nicer weather! Sunny and warm with bright blue skies and temperatures in the low 80s each and every day... can you say paradise? After that brutal winter of ours, it was more welcome than ever. My husband's parents, whom we visited, live in Naples and for any of you who have ever visited, you know what a fabulous part of Florida that is...

Relaxing, quiet, sandy beaches...
especially after the "snowbirds" have gone back north!
Fabulous flowers...

Stunning houses...

And more lovely mansions...
imagine driving under that floral arch each day!

Comical wildlife...
I don't think these birds can read the sign!

Ready for his close-up

Delicate birds

And a close-up...
a kind fisherman offered to lure
this pretty bird closer with a bit of his bait

Peaceful scenes...
morning at the Naples City Dock

And stunning sunsets...
evening at Naples beach

As lovely as those sunny days were, I was happy to get home again--I am such a homebody and just feel this immediate sense of peace when I walk through my own door again. How about you? After about five days away, I just get this sense that I want to be home again...

I was so excited when my youngest son told us he and his girlfriend would be joining us for Easter weekend! Since he lives in Washington, DC, he is never around for our weekly Sunday dinners like our other two sons are so I tend to "over-do" it a bit when he does come home with an abundance of cooking and baking. In addition to Key Lime Pie, Banana Carrot Muffins, and Chocolate Raspberry Brownies, I baked a new cookie that the guys went crazy for. You can find the recipe for these White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies right here. You know what the secret ingredient is? Brandy!! 

Now, we aren't big drinkers in my house (although my husband does love to both brew and drink his own beer), so I wasn't at all sure if we even had any brandy in the house. I stepped up on a chair to peruse our "liquor cabinet" (in other words, the cabinet above the refrigerator!) and started pawing through an assortment of old bottles--many untouched for decades. And yes--way back in the deepest, darkest corner was a dusty bottle of brandy with the price tag still on it--$6.19!! It had to be from back in the 70s when we were young newlyweds. I was a bit hesitant about using something so old, but threw caution to the wind and went for it. The boys all said this recipe needs to be added to my annual Thanksgiving/Christmas baking line-up. The only change I made was to leave out 1/4 cup of the sugar--they were still very, very sweet. And if you don't like the idea of adding brandy (it only calls for one Tablespoon), substituting vanilla would be just fine...

It is so rare to have all three of my  boys young men home at the same time that I treasure the times when that actually occurs. We all pitched in to create a memorable Easter dinner. My youngest son's girlfriend prepared her grandmother's delicious kugel for us (oh, my--what a treat) and our middle son saved the day when he found not one, but two recipes for grilling trout. Yes, trout! My husband mistakenly picked up trout  for our Easter dinner (which was supposed to consist of grilled beef tenderloin and salmon) and I didn't discover it until an hour or so before we were supposed to eat! Cooking is so much more fun when everyone pitches in, don't you agree?

I want to thank my friend, Gabi in Germany, who surprised me with not one, but two adorable Easter pillows. Gabi doesn't have a blog, but we've become email friends, and she's been so generous to me. The larger pillow is a Tra La La design called "Duo Printemps" and the small one is a little freebie by My Happy Memories available right here. Thank you so much, dear Gabi--I love them both and will think of you each time I decorate for spring and Easter!

Easter surprise from Gabi

I actually do have more to show you, but I'll save that for another day... I hope each of you has a merry, merry month of May! It certainly will be a month of celebrations for us with my in-law's 60th anniversary on Thursday and several family birthdays spread throughout the month. Oh, and let's not forget Mother's Day coming up on May 11th! Is anyone else hoping for some new stitching goodies? I've got my wish list ready! What's on yours? Bye for now...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Small finishes and daily smiles

Finally! That long month of March is over... And how are my stitching friends feeling on this, the first day of April? Hopeful, relieved, renewed? All of the above? After more snow on Sunday and then highs in the 50s yesterday, March certainly lived up to its rollercoaster of a month reputation, didn't it? I get very bad headaches on the left side of my head with any major weather change so you can imagine how my head has been feeling lately--ugh! But, April will bring daffodils, nest-building, the blessings of Easter, and, most certainly, warmer days than we've seen in months... 

I have one spring finish and two Christmas ornaments to share with you today. Which shall I start with? Well, let's go with the spring one which was stitched and sent to a friend for her birthday. This little Just Nan bunny  called "Dewdrop" (love his name!) hopped all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to France to help my friend,  Valerie, celebrate a very special birthday.

I finished him into a little pillow using shades of purple and white for a very spring-like finish. Aren't you loving stitching with the pastel shades right now? Little Dewdrop is stitched on 40ct. pearl gray Newcastle using the suggested DMC colors. I did change a couple of the egg colors, though--omitted the blue eggs and replaced them with purple and pink. I don't know if you can see them in the photo, but there are tiny pink bead in the border. I don't stitch many Just Nan charts and when I do, it always surprises me at how many colors are used even in a tiny design like this one. I'm so pleased that dear Valérie loves Dewdrop--I think I may have to stitch him again for myself.

I'm proud to say I'm keeping up with my Christmas "ornament a month" stitching this year and I have March's and April's to share with you today. For March, I stitched a darling kit by one of my favorite cross stitch designers, Chessie & Me. I love the way simple cross stitches are combined with specialty stitches in these designs. The roof and the center of some of the snowflakes are finished in satin stitching and the berries and "Noel"  are done in Smyrna stitches.  And how cute is that tiny "over-one" stitched reindeer. This was done on the fabric included in the kit--36 ct. Vintage Exemplar linen  (which I wasn't crazy about--found it to be very floppy and difficult to stitch on) using the Gloriana silks that were also included. I rarely buy kits, but I'll tell you it was so nice to just pick this up and begin stitching as soon as it arrived in my mail box--no waiting for threads or searching for substitute colors.

I used a piece of the lovely fabric that I won from Laurie, in her fabulous giveaway last month. The colors were a perfect accent for this piece which I finished as a flat mounted ornament.  I added a couple of green wooden beads to the cording as an accent. Overall, I'm pleased with it, but it's quite a bit bigger than my typical Christmas ornament.

"Noel" by Chessie & Me

Here is a closer look so you can see how well the fabric accents the finish. Thanks again for all of that gorgeous fabric, Laurie--I'm already planning another finish with more of it!

My April ornament is from an older Just Cross Stitch Ornament magazine (1997) and is called "Nutmeg Santa" by Schoolroom Samplers. I really love how this one turned out and I think it is mainly because stitching it on the 32 ct. black Belfast linen gave it a totally different look than the photograph in the magazine. The colors show up so much better and I also changed the date on the ornament at the bottom to the word "Noel." I am not a big fan of dates on the front of ornaments for some reason--they make me feel old when I see them years later. How do you all feel about them?

This was finished as a simple pillow with an ecru bow and hanger to match the ecru in the snowflakes and the wording. I also added a few more snowflakes than were charted. The backing fabric is the dusty green shown in the background (a cloth napkin that I picked up on sale at Kohl's). What do you think? It's hard to believe that I'm one-third of the way through my annual ornament stitching--2014 is flying by for sure!

Nutmeg Santa finish

I'm positive that  all of you are familiar with the generous Nancy over at Victorian Motto Sampler Shoppe. Nancy has giveaways galore throughout the year offering her beautiful threads, trims, and charts and I was lucky enough to win these five luscious spring shades recently. Thank you so much, Nancy--I'm already using the green on a new WIP that I'll share later this month. It is a pleasure to stitch with your beautiful threads!

Beautiful floss won from Victorian Motto Sampler Shoppe

MY DAILY SMILE JOURNEY...I'll have to admit that the past few months of our horrid winter weather have really gotten me down. By mid-March, I was really frustrated and looking for a way to pull myself out of the slump that was starting to set in. So, I decided to start keep a small journal and write down one thing that made me smile each day. I found this little blue (of course!) notebook at Target with the quote "Light tomorrow with today" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning imprinted on the front cover that I thought would be perfect for my latest venture. After all, the purpose of it is to look back on my daily "smiles" for years to come, especially in times of sadness; in other words to "light my tomorrow" with the things that make me happy each day.

A smile a day...

I have neither the time nor the inclination to write a long journal entry and the few sentences that make up each daily entry are so quick and easy to achieve. They range from things I've seen (four horses grazing in a snow covered field thoughtfully covered with heavy wool blankets) to things I've smelled (the return of spring when I opened the window last week) to things I've felt (my mom's hug which soothes all hurts) to things I've heard (my dementia-riddled father telling me, "I know who you are" when I visited him last month) to things I've tasted (some fabulous soft pretzels made by my oldest son). In other words all five senses can--and do--bring smiles. I'm anxious to see how long I can keep recording these thoughts--what fun it will be to look back at them when I'm on old (older!) lady and recall the happiness that a simple smile brought each day. Some days are harder than others, but I guarantee if you keep your eyes open you will find your special smile for the day :)

It was so nice of you to visit me today--a special thank you to all who leave me comments each time I post. I know how busy all of us are in our daily lives and the fact that you take a moment to say "hello" means so much to me. And I want to wish a warm welcome to my new followers, too--so glad to meet you! I'll be back with some spring stitching soon and photos of another RAK that was sent out yesterday. Bye for now...