Thursday, April 30, 2015

Farewell to April

Good morning, my stitching friends! Happy last day of April... And on to  the (hopefully) warmer, sunnier month of May. I always loved May Day when I was a young girl. Invariably, we made conical shaped paper "baskets" similar to these in school. Of course, when I went to school back in the dark ages, I made them from course construction paper--there were none of the lovely scrapbooking papers available like there are now. I would simply decorate them with crayons and colored pencils and fill them with a flower or two and carry them home to hang on our front door to surprise my mom. I would ring the doorbell and run and she would act "oh-so-surprised" to find my May basket of flowers hanging from the doorknob. Do children do things like that anymore? It was such a sweet way to mark the beginning of what is usually one of the prettiest months of the year...

I've been doing a bit of finishing in between my travels this month and have my March and April Christmas ornament finishes to share with you today.  For April, I stitched this darling freebie from a French blog which you can find right here. It is called "Joyeux Noël" and is stitched "over one" on 28 ct. black Monaco. I used most of the suggested colors, but did have to change a few due to stitching on black. For instance, her shoes were supposed to be black, but obviously that would never have worked, so I changed them to red. I also had to change her hair color from the charted black to brown and I made it a bit longer while I was "playing hairstylist." The nose area is a bit different from what was charted, too. It is still a bit large, but stitching over one on 28 ct. made it impossible to make the nose any smaller...

"Joyeux Noël " French freebie

For the finish, I had my usual struggle with making a flat ornament. I don't know what it is about these finishes that gets me so anxious. I find sewing my usual pillow finishes to be so much easier. I guess everyone has a finishing technique that they feel most comfortable with--what is yours? I think it turned out well, but I rarely do this finish as it frustrates me to no end! I chose a velvet ribbon for the hanger and the small accent bow in the corner and added a few green holly leaves and bead berries to finish it off.

Here is a closer look at the bow and holly detail--there is just something sweet and old-fashioned about it, isn't there?

If you read my previous post, you already saw my ornament all stitched up for March. If you didn't, it is called "Snow Birds" and is a design by Country Cottage Needleworks that can be found in the 2013 "Just Cross Stitch" ornament issue. I had a tough time finishing this one as I never realized how many different shades of gray there are! I had nothing in my fabric stash that coordinated well with this particular shade of gray so I just went with a black and white polka dot backing fabric. I did have a gray and white polka dot ribbon that I thought made a great hanger and perked up the finish a bit... And rather than adding my usual handmade cording, I chose this store-bought cording that resembled white rope--thought it was a nice touch for the nautical looking birds.

"Snow Birds" finish

We are hitting the road again and traveling to the beaches of Delaware this weekend to visit some college friends. Although I don't look forward to a seven hour road trip, I'm excited to see them again and on the way home we'll be stopping in Washington, DC for a quick dinner with my youngest son--yay! Anyway, I didn't want to arrive empty-handed so I stitched up this cute Lizzie Kate "A Little Beach" design. Since I already had a white frame just waiting for a finish, I had to downsize things a bit and stitched this on 40 ct. raw Newcastle rather than the fabric that came with the kit. I also added a real seashell to the piece (yes, with glue--I can hear a few of you gasping in shock!!). I think it turned out so cute!

"A Little Beach" finish

The friends we will be visiting just retired and bought a house near the beach so I think this is a perfect little housewarming gift for them. It can sit on an end table, mantle, or be hung on the wall. I really love it and plan on stitching the same thing again for my sister who has a beach condo in Florida... The shells in the photo below were all collected along the shores of Naples beach in Florida over the past few decades. I think that pretty pinkish shell in the right corner is one of my favorites...

Gardening Woes... Between work and travel, April has been a bit of a scattered month for me as far as stitching goes--I hope May will be better! Many of you have less time to stitch at this time of year because you're working away in those beautiful gardens that you are showing on your blogs, but we have just about given up on flower gardening due to our ravenous--and ever-growing--deer population. I can't tell you how disheartening it is to see your new flowers all chewed off within days (or hours!) of planting them. So we are waving the white flag of surrender--the deer have won. My husband will still plant his vegetable garden within a fenced area along with a few flowers for cutting, but that's about it. It makes me sad, but what can we do? We couldn't possibly fence in our entire yard as it is more than acre and has a large pond at the back. I took these photos just this week--yes the grass really is that green at this time of year!

Backyard ~ April 2015

These beautiful tulips are growing safely within the confines of my husband's fenced in vegetable garden so it's been a treat to have them to cut and bring inside!

Can you spot the tall Purple Martin house in each of the pictures above? It's one of the the things we fell in love with when we purchased our home 31 years ago... We've never gotten Purple Martins, but other birds sure enjoy it! If any of you have any tips about attracting Purple Martins, I'd love to hear them!

The beautiful ferns are unfurling their dragon-like heads everywhere--they seem to be one of the few plants the deer don't bother with.

Well, time to get packing (again!!)--short post today for a change! I hope May brings happiness your way, my friends. Thank you, again, for all of your sweet comments and always welcome emails. I appreciate them all so very much! Bye for now...

Wishing you all a very merry month of May!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Finishes and Florida

HAPPY TAX DAY EVERYONE! Here in the U.S., April 15th is always a day of celebration at the library where I work: no more requests for tax forms, no more people taking out their frustrations with the government on us, and no more questions like "which form do I need to use"  until next year! My co-workers and I can go back to being librarians rather than dispensers of tax forms. So, are you done with your taxes? I hope you're getting big refunds this year (or at least enough of a refund to buy a bit of stitching stash!)...

ON THE ROAD AGAIN...  I don't have much to show you today as I've been traveling. Last week, my husband and I went to visit his parents  in Naples, Florida (otherwise known as one of the most beautiful cities in America) and today I leave for New York for a long overdue visit with my mom. I've been struggling with some eye issues for the past two months and with almost weekly visits to the eye doctor, I haven't been able to get away to visit her so I'm really excited to be heading north in a couple of hours.

I do have one finished spring ornament to share with you today which I stitched for my friend, Nathalie (no blog), in France. This is a freebie from Kissy-Cross which you can find right here. There are a lot of cute freebies on her site, so check it out. Nathalie has a March birthday so what better thing to stitch for her than a spring scene of birds and flowers. I stitched this on 40 ct. white Newcastle with DMC threads and used the pretty bird fabric (a gift from my sweet friend, Lois)  for the backing. It stitched up fairly quickly; in fact, I think the finishing may have taken longer than the stitching!

Gift for Nathalie

While I was in Florida, I stitched my Christmas ornament (for March--I'm a month behind, already!), but, unfortunately, I've had no time to finish it. Although this Country Cottage Needleworks design (from the 2013 Just Cross Stitch Ornament issue) is called "Snow Birds," these birds were so reminiscent of the shore birds I saw on my Florida trip (you'll see my photos below). I've always loved this piece and the white pops so well on the 32 ct. dark gray linen. For once, I didn't change a thing--all of the DMC colors are exactly as charted!

"Snow Birds" (Country Cottage Needleworks)

I'm so enjoying my Prairie Schooler Santa SAL each Sunday with Melissa and Hilda and have managed to finish my third Santa. This green-robed fellow is from Book No. 43: "Father Christmas." The only change I made to the suggested DMC colors was to the teddy bear in Santa's bag; I used DMC 610 for him. I was a bit worried about the shades of green and red when I first began stitching, but I really love the final look.

Prairie Schooler "Father Christmas"

MAIL CALL... The mailman was kept very, very busy over the past few weeks delivering packages from stitching friends.  From the always thoughtful Vickie, came this cross-stitched bookmark--a thank you for some fabrics I sent her for her pink quilt project. Vickie's stitching is so tiny and precise on this William Morris inspired design--just lovely. Thank you, my friend--you know it will be put to good use--after all, I am a librarian!

Thank you bookmark and card from Vickie

My sweet friend, Cindy, in Tennessee, surprised me with some wonderful Easter gifts. She (along with anyone who reads my blog!) knows how much I love bunnies so she included a burlap bunny with two felt orange carrots and a trio of black and white bunnies. It was a pleasure to add these to my Easter decorating this year, Cindy, and I know the bunnies will bring smiles for years to come. I just love them!

Easter gifts from Cindy

And to add to those surprises, I also received three gifts from overseas. From Gabi in Germany (no blog), came this darling and beautifully stitched Easter bunny (are you sensing that everyone knows I like bunnies?!) ornament and two pretty wooden eggs with flowers painted on them. Gabi, you are always so kind to remember me throughout the year--your little stitched pieces are always so sweet. Thank you, my friend! Your gift is adorable...

Easter gifts from Gabi

From Nathalie in France (no blog), came the most darling chocolate and caramel bunnies (most of which are now eaten), a French stitching magazine, and a pretty tea towel. The bunnies were almost too cute to eat--almost! I love your spring gifts, my friend--thank you again for thinking of me at Easter time!

Easter gifts from Nathalie

And from Gabriele  in Germany came this wonderful assortment of goodies which included a trio of little hens sitting in a wispy nest, some pretty fabric and trims to aid in my finishing, a lovely chart, and a cute little candle shaped like a crocus bulb. But, the highlight of this gift package was the stunning cosmetic bag that Gabriele made.

Gifts from Gabriele

I've put together a little collage of Gabriele's lovely cosmetic bag so you could see all the perfect details--the zipper-pull shaped like a leaf, the lovely ribbon inside the bottom of the bag, and the pretty lace. Gabriele told me that the fabric is vintage--over 50 years old--and is from Bavaria. I was so honored that she would choose to use such special fabric on a gift for me. Tucked inside the bag were some fragrant wipes and soap, a pretty tin, and the cutest bunny tissues. Thank you, dear Gabriele--I will treasure your gifts and I thank you for your friendship!

Cosmetics pouch from Gabriele

What wonderful gifts, don't you think? I have never met a single one of these lovely stitchers, but I feel like I could just sit right down with any of them and chat away like old friends. I feel very blessed to have "met" so many wonderful stitching buddies over the past six years since I started blogging. Thank you all so very much!

FLORIDA TRIP... I can't tell you how nice it was to feel the sun and walk outside with no heavy jackets or hats for a few days last week. After the horribly long, cold winter (and spring!) that we've had here in the northeast, I welcomed even the extremely high temperatures (in the 90s at times) with open arms. As I walked around Naples, admiring the lovely houses, flowers, and landscaping, I thought about how different life would be in a warm climate. I do love seeing the four seasons, but I just wish the winter season was a lot shorter and the others a lot longer. Hopefully, we'll be able to head south for a couple of months each winter when we retire. Does anyone else have a favorite city in the south to recommend for a winter visit?

Everywhere I looked, I spotted blooms--in every color of the rainbow! Below is a collage of just some of the glorious flowers I took photos of on our daily walks. You can click on the collage for a better look...

Florida flowers pop with color!

And everything was so lush and green! Here in western Pennsylvania, the lawns are just starting to green up, but we have no leaves on our trees yet and very few things growing other than the leaves beginning to sprout from tulips and iris bulbs. Can you see the large cluster of coconuts in the middle palm tree? I can't imagine what would happen if you happened to get hit on the head with a falling coconut!

Palms, ferns, and ficus abound

On our beach walks, the birds were everywhere. Just look at this assortment... They are all quite timid when you try to get near them so they made it hard to get good photos, but I managed to get a few. There was such a great variety of seabirds on this one beach in Naples.

Shore birds on Naples beach

My husband noticed this line-up of birds--each had his own perch! And it looks like there is one bird in the water just waiting his turn for a seat!

My favorite birds were these cuties! Just look at the expression on the one in the front--so comical! And I love the black feathers sticking straight up on the bird behind him. Does anyone know what these are called?

"Hey, what are you looking at, lady?!"

There weren't many good shells laying on the beach this year. Years ago, when we first began going to Naples (in the early 80s), we could find many. But, this year all we found were lots of little shells like this. This was an unusual amount all washed up together. I thought they were quite pretty with the rocks and the blue hues of the Gulf of Mexico behind them.

Shells on Naples beach

And just look at what swam right underneath the pier as we were standing there--a dolphin! I was lucky to have my camera in hand and ready to go. I'm really pleased with this picture... I was actually even closer to a dolphin once before. Years ago, on a trip to Bermuda, my husband and I actually got to "swim with the dolphins"--what an amazing experience! To hold a dolphin's head between your hands and gaze into their eyes was very special.

I hope you enjoyed my Florida photos... We're very lucky to have a nice place to stay when we go down each spring--my in-laws have a lovely house with a separate apartment above their garage so it is perfect for visitors. We helped with the cooking and grocery shopping and even went to the library for them--I never pass up a chance to check out a library and believe me, the Naples library is a beauty!

Well, I need to finish packing and get on the road for the five hour trip to New York. But, before I go, I want to share another cookie recipe with you. This one is my youngest son's favorite: Outrageous Chocolate Chip Cookies. Not only do they have chocolate, but also peanut butter--and who doesn't love that combination? I made these two weeks ago when he was home for a (way too short) visit and then again on Monday to take into work to share with my co-workers. Everyone loved them--hope you will, too! I managed to snap a photo before they were all devoured...

Outrageous Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am way behind on my blog reading, but hope to get caught up over the next week. Thank you all so very, very much for the wonderful comments you left on my last post. I was truly surprised at how many of you loved my bunny stitching. And I want to give a warm welcome to my new followers--so happy to have you here! Please remember to leave your email if you have a question you would like me to answer--otherwise I have no way of getting in touch with some of you. Have a great week everyone--and happy stitching! Bye for now...