Tuesday, December 30, 2014

As the year winds down...

I want to thank each of you for your kind words throughout 2014; all the comments, emails, gifts, and support have helped make a somewhat difficult year, much easier. There has been a change in the blogging world over the past year and I'm sure all of you have noticed it, too. So many long-time bloggers have left this format to share their works through Facebook and Instagram and it has definitely made a difference in our little community. There seem to be fewer visits to our blogs, fewer comments, and a general feeling like people are slowly drifting away from blogging. For me, that's sad... The truth is, blogging does take a lot of time, but I love the feeling of permanency that I feel is lacking in the other venues. I love being able to scroll down through my blog and see all of my finishes and read about the exact fabric and fibers that I used ever since I wrote my first post almost seven years ago. I love, most of all, the personal connections that have come my way through blogging. I'm not sure they would have occurred in other forms of social media--I seriously doubt it. So, thank you for being here and still reading my way too long posts and leaving those wonderful comments. I truly appreciate you hanging in there with me even though I have only posted 23 times this year...

Christmas goodies...  The biggest present I received for Christmas came in the form of two beautiful Amish-made corner cupboards for my kitchen. I've wanted these for the longest time, but it took a while to find some that would fit the dimensions of our kitchen and blend well with our existing table and chairs. I was thrilled to find two pretty pine corner cupboards online and they were delivered shortly before Christmas.  Right now, we only have one in the kitchen because my snowman tree occupies the other corner. I've temporarily located the other in our bedroom and really like it there so who knows if it will be making its way down to the kitchen at all! What fun I'm going to have decorating them with each season...

A corner cupboard for Christmas!

Here is a closer look--I can just imagine lots of my cross-stitched pillows scattered across the shelves, can't you?

Gifts in the mail... My mailman was kept very busy this month delivering some wonderful gifts from around the world which I'd like to share with you...

From Lois, in Northern Ireland, came a darling ornament, some pretty Christmas ribbons and napkins, and a lovely BBD chart. I know I'll be stitching it very soon... Thanks so much, Lois--I love your gifts and our friendship so very much!

Christmas gifts from Lois ~ 2014

From Cindy, in Tennessee, came another box of goodies. She sent a pretty Lizzie Kate "Love" pillow for my bowl of February pillows, a cheery pair of Christmas socks, some sunflower stickers, and an adorable bunny plate (she knows I'm a bunny lover!).  Thanks so much, Cindy, you are always so sweet to remember me at Christmas time with such lovely gifts!

Christmas gifts from Cindy ~ 2014

From Myra, in North Carolina, came the tiniest little bird pincushion--so adorable. Myra knows how much I love small things and she even included a miniature bird house in which the petite bird was perched when it arrived. She also spoiled me with a Moda Merriment charm pack, which will definitely come in handy for my finishing, as well as some tasty glazed pecans and hot apple cider spice blend. Thank you so much, Myra--I just love my goodies from you!

Christmas gifts from Myra ~ 2014

From a new friend, Nathalie (no blog) in France, came an assortment of French chocolates (which my husband and sons just about devoured!) and two cute ornaments to add to my tree. Thanks so much, Nathalie, it's been fun getting to know you this year!

Christmas gifts from Nathalie ~ 2014

From Gabi (no blog) in Germany, came two sweet ornaments for my tree. Isn't that little mouse with the Santa hat just adorable? Love the little bell on it, too... Thanks so very much for your lovely gifts, Gabi, and for your kind comments you leave on my blog throughout the year!

Christmas gifts from Gabi ~ 2014

From Anne, in Canada, came a beautifully crocheted snowflake. I just love the burgundy color of it and really do need to teach myself how to make these some day soon! Thanks so much for thinking of me at Christmas, Anne!

Christmas gift from Anne ~ 2014

From Robin (no blog) in Virginia, came a sweet "C" monogrammed ornament for my tree and a wonderful array of finishing trims. I love receiving fabrics and trims to use in my own finishing so this was a real treat, Robin--thank you so much!

Christmas gifts from Robin ~ 2014

From June, in England, came a beautiful package of ornaments and trims and buttons to use in my finishing. I had admired the smiling gingerbread boy on June's blog and was so tickled to receive one of my own! And the little scissor fob (along with my first pair of blue scissors) is so beautifully stitched and finished. Thank you so much, June--you always manage to make me feel special when you spoil me each Christmas!

Christmas gifts from June ~ 2014

From Shirlee, in Kentucky, came another beautifully stitched and finished blue and white ornament. I hadn't seen this design before and I love the way it spells out "Glory to God" amidst the alphabet... Thank you so much, Shirlee--I love it!

Christmas gift from Shirlee ~ 2014

From another relatively new friend, Lynda (no blog) in England came this pretty heart shaped ornament along with a lovely stitched card. I'm not sure who the designer of the ornament is, but I love it--such a cheerful looking gift. Thank you very much for your lovely gifts, Lynda--I've so enjoyed our emails this year!

Christmas gifts from Lynda ~ 2014

And finally, from Tricia, in Wisconsin, came a wonderful RAK--a package of her beautifully crafted handmade greeting cards. Tricia had offered to let me borrow one of her charts and surprised me by including her lovely cards as a little gift. I have always been in awe of Tricia's adorable and perfectly crafted little paper creations... You can check out more of her darling designs on her card-making blog right here. Thank you so very much, Tricia--I will save them to send to some very special people!

RAK from Tricia--December 2014

I sent out some Christmas ornaments, too, but will save them for my next post...

The $10.00 Challenge... Many of you asked what my sons ended up giving each other in their second annual "$10.00 Challenge," so I thought I would share a photo of their gifts. (Unfortunately, one gift never arrived from the vendor so there are only five pictured). Clockwise, from the top left, we have the game "Appleletters" (a relative of Bananagrams), a cacti dish garden, a book (which my youngest son cheated on and spent a bit more than $10 so he jokingly told us he had to rip out the last two chapters to make it fair!), a 19-in-1 keychain full of little tools, and a can of kinetic sand. Never heard of kinetic sand? I hadn't either, but here is a short video about it. We all really enjoyed seeing what the guys came up with for each other--I hope they do it again next year.

$10.00 Challenge gifts ~ 2014

A little gift idea... My youngest son is the only one who doesn't live nearby so he didn't want any big gifts to have to transport back to Washington, DC. One of the requests on his gift list was some plants for his office at the Department of Justice. Rather than just handing him the cash to buy them, I came up with this cute idea--a little forest of money trees made from $20.00 bills. To make the little "trees," I used this video on YouTube and, although they're not perfect, for my first attempt, I thought they turned out quite well. I then added a large gold star, some snowflakes, a fawn and cardinal, and a grinning snowman with a gift message (using the Publisher program on my computer) for a fun and easy gift. My son loved it and I know I'll be doing this for future money gifts...

Origami forest gift

Talk, talk, talk... Do you remember the conversation starter jar that I showed you in this post? Well, I decided to make a Christmas version of it for our Christmas Eve dinner. We had such fun with it and the guys wanted to do it again the next evening so they came up with even more questions. The questions ranged from the serious ("What is your favorite Christmas carol?" to the silly "Who is your favorite reindeer?"). I even included, "What is something you like about the person to your right / left" which one of my sons promptly changed to read "What is something you dislike about the person to your right!" Honestly--those guys!!

But, my favorite question, and one that I like to ask myself as each year comes to an end is, "What is your happiest memory of the past year?" Their responses all made me smile and imagine my sons in those situations: the day the youngest reunited with his girlfriend after a four-month break-up, the afternoon my middle son spent snorkeling in Japan with his girlfriend in July, the mini-reunion weekend my oldest son spent with seven friends from college at a lake in Virginia ... Although I wasn't there for any of those experiences, I could honestly feel their happiness...  My husband said his happiest memory was seeing how well I handled my father's death--he was so worried about me and was very proud of how well I held up at the funeral and afterward. And what was my happiest memory? Well, ironically, it took place on one of the saddest days of the year and that was at Dad's funeral in November.  It was the moment I looked around and found myself surrounded by the four men in my life and I just felt such complete pride and happiness that they were there for me--to support and care for and love me. I felt so very blessed and loved in that moment--and so, so happy!  How about you--I'd love to hear your happiest memory of 2014...

So, that's it for this year! I usually look forward to the quiet and peace that January brings along with my birthday in two weeks, but I have to admit that this is a birthday I'm dreading... I'll be 60 and, to me, that is the real start of getting "old." At least I'll have the many senior citizen discounts to look forward to--I do love a good bargain!  Anyway, as my husband always reminds me, "Getting older is better than the alternative." I want to wish each of you every happiness in 2015! Thank you again for being such true friends! Bye for now...


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

O Christmas Tree

Only two more days 'til Christmas--are you ready? I'm feeling quite relaxed--finally. All the presents are wrapped, the baking done, and the cards sent. The tree is up and decorated and by tomorrow evening I'll have all three of my sons home and asleep in their childhood beds. As silly as that may sound, nothing gives me greater pleasure than having my family of five here under one roof for the holidays. Our Christmases are very relaxing--we just stay put and "nest." We light a cozy fire in the fireplace, play board games, watch favorite movies, eat way too many sugary sweets, and simply enjoy each other's company. This year, the guys are competing in a $10.00 challenge; they're each limited to buying a present for each other that costs $10 or less. I can't wait to see what they've come up with! I suggested that one year we should all do a "handmade gift" challenge. Do you think I might win that one? 

My tree of stitched ornaments is the largest of three in my home and, if Pinterest is any indication, it seems to be quite well-known around the world. I'll have to admit, the first time I saw photos of my tree on Pinterest and other websites, I was a bit taken aback, but I've gotten used to it and I'm so glad that many of you have been inspired to stitch ornaments for your very own cross stitch filled tree. To give you further encouragement that some day, you, too, can have a tree filled with your very own stitched ornaments, 90% of these were stitched with the past six years. I think there are close to 100 ornaments that I've stitched on the tree and probably another 25 or so from my stitching friends.

2014 Christmas Tree

I've moved the dozen ornaments that I stitched this year from my stair garland to my tree and I just love seeing them all together with their "older relatives."  Here are a few close-ups for you (you should be able to click on them for a closer look):

My oldest son took this night shot for me when he was over for dinner on Sunday. I can't wait to sit by the tree on Christmas morning (or, most likely, early afternoon, as my adult sons tend to be late sleepers!), opening our presents as I gaze at the tree.  I have to admit, I feel so proud when I look at the dozens of carefully stitched and finished little beauties.

A most special ornament... My other two trees are a medium sized 5-foot tall snowman tree in the kitchen (which you can see in this post) and a small 3-foot tree in my family room that sits above our TV cabinet. Since we don't plan on purchasing another tree (my husband insists that we should be getting rid of "stuff," not adding to the things stored in our two attics and basement!) and this big tree is almost filled up, I limit the new ornaments that I put on my tree to ones that are stitched. I haven't bought a new ornament for myself in years, but this year I made an exception... One of my husband's coworkers passed along this poem that she thought might ease the pain after the loss of my father--especially at Christmas time. It was written back in 1989 by John Wm. Mooney, Jr. and, although it made me cry (a lot!), it gave me hope that my dad is carrying on and would want his family to, as well...

Merry Christmas From Heaven poem

If you've lost a loved one, I'm sure you have a few tears in your eyes after reading this, too, don't you? Well, last week, I was shopping in a local Hallmark card shop and, lo and behold, I came upon the exact same poem along with a special ornament that came with it in a little gift box! I stood there in the aisle of the store, just doing my best to stop the tears welling up in my eyes and immediately decided to purchase it for my tree. I put a copy of the photo of my dad holding me as a baby in it for now, but may try to find a clearer photo at some point. It is now hanging on my tree in a place of honor right up front.

Miss  you, Dad...

I've received so many lovely gifts from stitching friends all over the world, but I haven't had time to photograph them yet, so I'll share them with you in my next post. As always I want to thank you for your great comments--they really make me proud to be a part of such a supportive group of stitchers! I am behind on answering some of the comments you left and questions you asked on my "Parade of Ornaments" post, and some can't be answered because you haven't included your email address and you are a no-reply blogger. Please, if you have a question that I haven't replied to, ask it again, but make sure to include your email so I can reply... 

Enjoy the rest of this very special holiday season, my friends! Bye for now...

From my home, to yours... 

I wish each of you a very Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

2014 Parade of Ornaments!

Good morning, my friends! How is everyone doing during these final two weeks before Christmas? Are you feeling a bit overwhelmed with things or is it just me? I'm way behind in everything now except for my decorating and baking. Not one card has been written or a single gift sent. I feel like I lost a couple of weeks in there with Thanksgiving preparations and, of course, saying goodbye to my dear father. Things have been a bit up and down for me, emotionally, since Thanksgiving ended and everyone went home. I think keeping busy during that time was good for me and then when the quiet returned, I had more time to think (and cry), but I'm getting there--one step at a time, right?

This week, I did manage to finish my decorating and put up my garland of ornaments for 2014. I have to say I'm very proud of this year's finishes. They're an eclectic bunch as I really love all sorts of patterns--I think that is one thing that keeps me interested in stitching ornaments. I never get bored--there is so much to choose from!

For those of you who are new to my blog, I began posting my yearly ornament finishes on the Christmas garland going up my stairs way back in 2010, in my second year of blogging. If you would like to see previous years, just click on the year:  2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. There has been a serious lack of sunshine around this part of Pennsylvania so the photos are not the best, but I hope you'll enjoy my 2014 collection...

2014 Monthly Ornament Finishes

2014 Ornaments: The First Six Months

2014 Ornaments:  The Last Six Months

January ~ March 2014 ornament finishes

April ~ June 2014 ornament finishes

July ~ September 2014 ornament finishes

October ~ December 2014 ornament finishes

Which is your favorite? I'll give you a closer look of each of them to help you choose... (You can click on the name of the ornament to get more information on the colors and fabrics I used, etc.):

Noel Snowman freebie

Prairie Schooler "Snow Day"

Chessie & Me "Noel"

"Nutmeg Santa" (from Just Cross Stitch 1997 Ornament issue)

Little House Needleworks "Seven Pines" freebie

"Joy" freebie by Erynne Chard

"It Snowed Last Night" freebie by Erynne Chard

Prairie Schooler 2014 Santa

Prairie Schooler "Ho Ho Santa" mini card

Prairie Schooler "A Christmas Visit"

"A Winter's Night" from Nov/Dec. 2011 JCS magazine

New York Dreamer "Frosty Night"

So, which one do you like the best? I think my favorite is either December or April, but it's so hard to choose! Looking back on my year, I'd call this "the year of the handmade cording"... I really became addicted to making that stuff--it just adds such a great finishing touch to any ornament, don't you think? Will I stitch another ornament each month during 2015? Stay tuned...

THANKSGIVING MEMORIES...  So, how was your Thanksgiving? Ours was wonderful--it felt so good to gather with relatives on my husband's side and recall old stories and build new memories. Our sunroom, once again, provided the setting for our feast for the 17 of us and it was so nice to be able to sit our entire group at one table. If you look closely out the windows, you can see a sprinkling of snow; it provided such a lovely backdrop for our day.

Thanksgiving table 2014

Here is another look (the tablecloth is white--although it appears to be pale blue for some reason!)... You can catch a glimpse of the flames in the fireplace in the background. It opens up to both the sunroom and the family room and makes holiday dinnertimes so cozy.

I was so very touched to receive this beautiful centerpiece from a local group that my husband volunteers with. They sent it in memory of my dad... Of course, it had the place of honor on our Thanksgiving table.

Centerpiece received in memory of dad

My sons were put in charge of making appetizers this year and they did a great job! Here is a photo of the cheese spread (in the upper left) made by my youngest son (with just a bit of guidance from his old mom!) and the wonderful cheese plate put together by my oldest. He even made little cards describing the cheeses and where they came from. See the cheese resting under the glass dome at the far right? Well, there was a good reason for it--that was the "stinky cheese!" Ugh!! The smell was horrid... Some brave souls dared to taste it, but I was not one of them--not sure anyone actually liked it, but it was certainly a topic of conversation! My middle son and his girlfriend also made some tasty pumpkin hummus, but they hadn't arrived by the time I took this photo. It was such a help to delegate a part of the menu to the guys... Maybe next Thanksgiving, we'll switch and they can do the main meal and I'll do the appetizers? In my dreams!

Thanksgiving appetizers prepared by my sons

I fell in love with this darling turkey bowl when I saw it online and just had to buy one for myself. When they went on sale for 50% off at Sturbridge Yankee Workshop, I jumped at the chance. Do you know what he is made out of? A large gourd--grown and carved right here in Pennsylvania!! Such a great place to hold nuts or other goodies...

Gobble, gobble!!

And finally, here is a shot of the nine types of cookies I made for the annual Thanksgiving cookie tray. Needless to say, most of them were devoured by the end of the evening. Luckily, I have more in the freezer just waiting for Christmas!!

Thanksgiving 2014 cookie tray

GIVEAWAY WINNER:  I was surprised that there weren't more entries to win this pretty chart, but that gave the few of you who entered a better chance... I simply drew a name and whose name came out of the bowl? Well, the lucky Dani! Dani, please email me with your mailing address and I'll get the chart off to you as soon as I can (although, given this busy, busy time of year, that may not be until January!). I do hope Dani will continue the kindness and offer the chart as a giveaway when she is done stitching it...

GIFTS RECEIVED... I've received several packages from stitching friends from around the world lately, but I am saving them to open  on a day when I need cheering up. As I mentioned previously, not a single gift has been sent from my end, so please forgive me and know that, although I had the best of intentions, this year they are definitely going to be late (at least the international ones!)... I'll really try to do better next year.

I had planned on driving up to New York to visit my mom today, but, unfortunately, the snow and winter storm warning up her way curtailed those plans! I don't mind driving in the snow, it's the ice that scares me! Hopefully, I can go tomorrow or Friday. I really want to spend some time with her before Christmas. I know it's going to be a tough Christmas for all of us since dad died so recently...

I want to thank each and every one of you for your supportive and oh-so-kind comments on my previous post. Many of you have already lost one or both parents so you know what I am going through. The holidays are such a hard time when a family has suffered a recent death. I'm getting through my days... it's just that some days I seem to be on the verge of tears most of the time. I found myself looking at the Christmas cards in Target the other day and seeing the ones for "Dad" had me fighting back tears. I know it will get better, though, and that dad would want his family to smile and go on about our lives. Anyway, I hope you all have a great week ahead. I should be back with one more post before Christmas (hmm... can you guess what might be featured in it?!).  Bye for now...