Thursday, July 30, 2015

And a good month was had by all!

It's hard to believe that almost a month has passed since my last post! July is always our busiest month of the year with two family birthdays (my youngest son turned 27 and my husband celebrated his 60th--he finally caught up with me!) and our wedding anniversary (38 years on July 23rd). But, this July we had a big family wedding thrown in as well--my younger sister was married on July 25th up in New York. All were very happy occasions--but the happiest day of all? That came this Tuesday, when, after 10 weeks of wearing a hot, uncomfortable neck brace after he suffered his broken neck, the doctor told my husband he no longer needs to wear it except when he is in the car! We feel so incredibly blessed that that potentially crippling fall down our front stairs left him with only one lingering injury... The numb / tingly feeling in his fingers on his right hand has never improved since his accident on May 21st. Luckily, that does not affect his ability to use his hand--it is just a slight lack of feeling (for instance, he can't feel the little nubby bumps on the "F" and the "J" on the computer keyboard). So, we truly had some grand things to celebrate in July, don't you think?

In between all of these celebrations, I actually have found time to stitch a bit. Having fallen way behind on my monthly Christmas ornaments, I decided to concentrate on them and got all caught up (of course, since August begins soon, I will be behind again--oh well!). My choice for my May ornament was an obvious one--it had to be an angel, for I truly believe my husband had an angel on his shoulder as he fell down our stairs that night. This little LHN design "Joy to the World" had been in my stash forever so I decided she would get the honor of being my husband's angel.

For this ornament, I used 40 ct. gray Newcastle and good old DMC threads. Ivory colored Mill Hill Beads were used for the snow. The fabric shown behind the ornament is used as the backing and the green and cream gingham ribbon is ruched and used as the trim and hanger. A simple finish for a very special little angel!

Little House Needleworks: "Joy to the World"

My June ornament is another LHN design called "Deer Valley Inn." I was a bit unsure about this piece as there was so much brown in it (not a fan of stitching with brown threads!), but I do love the way it turned out.  I used a mixture of the suggested threads--both overdyed and DMC--and a few of my own choosing with 40 ct. raw natural Newcastle for this finish. The main change was the color of the door--I changed it from brown to red! I especially love the pretty tree in this one and the regal looking buck standing beside it.

The ornament was made up with a combination of two fabrics, some ivory ric rac, and an old-fashioned gingham ribbon. This is actually one of my favorite ornament finishes ever! The colors in the stitching and the finishing fabrics just came together so nicely--don't you love it when that happens?

Little House Needleworks:  "Deer Valley Inn"

And finally, my ornament for July is a tribute to my favorite designer: Prairie Schooler. I, like many of you, feel so sad that they are retiring, but luckily I have accumulated a wonderful stash of their old charts which will last me well into my 80s (do you think I'll be able to even thread a needle by then?!). I've written, many times, of the comfort these designs bring me when I stitch them--and, of course, anything with a small boy always captures my heart...

The chart for this small lad bringing home his Christmas tree, along with a sprig of holly, is from Prairie Schooler Book No. 143 "Button Up." I used most of the suggested colors, but changed the green to DMC 520. Two red fabrics and two buttons, along with some handmade gold cording finish this one off quite well.

Prairie Schooler's "Button Up" finish

Here is a photo of all three together... do you have a favorite? It's so hard to believe that Christmas is in just five short months, isn't it? At least my tree will look good!

Finished Christmas ornaments for May, June, and July
I also had a wonderful surprise earlier this month when I received this beautiful Chessie & Me chart from sweet Maggee. I had written in a previous posts about how much I loved Linda's designs and the specialty stitches that she uses so Maggee immediately thought of me when she was de-stashing and sent "The Breath of Autumn" my way. I just love it, Maggee--thank you so much for thinking of me. I can't wait to stitch it!

Random Act of Kindness sent from Maggee

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, my next younger sister got married last week. It was a lovely, casual wedding held at her home on the shores of Lake Ontario. We held our breath as the rain fell that morning, but it passed by the time the late afternoon ceremony was held and it couldn't have been nicer. Since my sister and her husband had been married previously, they didn't want any wedding presents, but suggested a gift to our favorite charity (I gave to the Lewy Body Dementia Association in memory of our dad). They also welcomed what they called "gifts from the heart." So, we all pitched in: my youngest sister acted as the official photographer, my mom purchased the flowers, my brother-in-law made the music playlist for her wedding reception, and I made the cookies--of course!

I've written before on my blog about the popularity of the cookie table at weddings here in western Pennsylvania (you can read that post here, if you're interested). I ended up making eleven kinds of cookies (35 dozen, if you're counting!) for the wedding and here they are all displayed on the dessert table. What kind do you think was gobbled up first? Well, it was the Reese's Cup Cookies shown second from the left in the front row. Most of them were devoured before dinner even started! I've used a recipe very similar to this one for years (I just use 1/2 tsp. of vanilla, though, and roll the dough balls in sugar before setting them in the muffin pans).

35 dozen bites of sugar and butter!

Since the wedding had a nautical theme, I made these cute blue and white cards with the cookie names on them. They added a nice touch and pulled the whole look together on the cookie table at the recption. My sister said they were a big hit although I didn't eat a single one--after weeks and weeks of baking (and tasting!), they just no longer appealed to me!

Since there were the five of us from my family (plus two girlfriends) attending the wedding, you can imagine what it would have cost us in hotel room fees! Luckily, my sister came to the rescue and gave us the use of her whole house (since she was staying at her lake house) for those days. It was so nice to be able to relax and spend time together while not having to go out for every meal. I wanted to find some way to thank her so I made her a gift card bouquet... Have you seen these on Pinterest? You simply cut out some flowers printed on cardstock, glue them onto skewers, and then glue another piece of cardstock on the back to hold the gift card. I chose to write little words of appreciation on the flower heads.

Then you simply place the skewers into a pretty purchased flowering plant and voilà... you have an easy, fun thank you gift. My sister was just thrilled with it and immediately called to tell me so. It really was the least we could do for her for opening her home to the seven of us...

Gift card bouquet for my dear sister and new brother-in-law

Whew! And so ends my busy month of July--in looking at August, things won't be slowing down much. We have yet another family wedding up in New York (with more cookies to be made, but not nearly that many!), extra work hours for me, and our annual family trip to the Outer Banks. It will be a different kind of trip for my husband this year as he is not allowed to boogie board or be in any waves that may hurt his neck. He is also not allowed to ride his bike which has been the cruelest form of torture for him throughout his recovery. Riding a bike for him is what stitching is to me--a passion and something that he can hardly bear to do without. He is hoping the doctor gives him the okay to return to biking in September; I am hoping it's not until next Spring. The thought of him falling and injuring himself again just scares me to death. But, you can't simply stop doing the things that bring you so much joy, can you?

Thanks so very much for your kind comments and emails--especially throughout my husband's fall and recovery. I can't tell you how much your supportive words, positive thoughts, and prayers meant--to both of us. It truly is a miracle, in our opinion, that he will be okay--not perfect, but perfectly "good enough!" Bye for now...

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Heartfelt thanks and patriotic finishes

Happy July, my stitching friends!  Can you believe 2015 is half over? Before I show you my stitching finishes, I just want to send each of you a huge "Thank You" for your many comforting emails and thoughtful comments on my last post. They meant so much to me--and to my husband. When he first broke his neck on May 21st, he didn't want me to post about it on my blog. But, I explained to him that I need support from my friends as we go through this recovery period, just as much as he needs support. And I couldn't ask for better friends than all of you who read my blog, could I? Even though I've never met 98% of you, I feel so very close to you--we've been through a lot together since I began my blog in early 2009. We've celebrated each other's success--not only in our stitching, but in our lives. And we've been saddened by losses of each other's family members and worrying health challenges. But, through all the ups and downs of life, your kind and thoughtful words have continued to mean so much to me. Thank you, my friends...

Since this is still mainly a cross stitching blog, I want to begin with two new finishes just in time for the 4th of July. Many of you know how much I love Chessie and Me designs because of the fun specialty stitches the designer includes in each chart. The grass is satin stitched, the border is done with Smyrna stitches, and the doors are done in Rhodes stitches. There is even some "over one" stitching in the ship and the date! This came in the form of a kit which was so very handy--I loved being able to just sit down and get started right away and not wait for the correct fibers or fabric to arrive if I had had to order them online.

This finish is called "1776 Harbor" and is stitched all in Gloriana silks--just wonderful and soft to work with! Don't you love the giant American flag waving across the harbor--so whimsical... I finished this piece quite simply as a little pillow with some star-strewn burgundy fabric, handmade gold cording, and an attached star button. It will be a perfect addition to my bowl of patriotic pillows, don't you think?

Chessie and Me "1776 Harbor" finish

Along with Prairie Schooler pieces, I consider Little House Needleworks designs to be my favorite form of "comfort stitching." Easy to read charts, no backstitching, not too many colors--just what I need as I go through the worries with my husband's health this summer... I bought this LHN "Old Glory" design last summer, but am just getting around to stitching it now. It is done on 40 ct. raw Newcastle with a variety of overdyed threads. I didn't have each one that was suggested, so I substituted a few and am very pleased with the result.

For this little pillow, I used a blue star-filled fabric along with some burgundy fabric, white ric rak, a red and white striped ribbon, and a stack of buttons. It is backed with the solid blue fabric shown behind it. This photo isn't the best due to our complete lack of sunshine lately, but it really looks quite cute!

LHN "Old Glory" finish

Since I try to stitch at least two new patriotic pieces each year, I now have quite a collection--in fact it has outgrown my original bowl. Here it is when I took the photo last year--see, already "bursting at the seams" so to speak!

So, I've had to spread out my little creations and luckily, my new kitchen corner cupboard is the perfect place to display some of them.  Here it is all ready for the 4th of July in all of its red, white, and blue glory...

Patriotic corner cupboard in kitchen

On the top shelf, I have my two little Lizzie High characters proudly waving their pinwheels. In their opposite hands they are holding tiny hotdogs--so cute! Next to the little boy, I've place a tiny crock of blueberries (thanks, Mom!).

The middle shelf contains several pieces of my stitching: Chessie and Me's "Love Liberty," a Prairie Schooler design from Book No. 13, "A Prairie Year," and an old freebie from Prairie Grove Peddler which you can still find right here.

And the on the bottom, you'll find this cute Williraye figurine holding an American eagle and nest in his right hand and waving the flag in his left hand. Next to him is another freebie from The Stitcherhood that I stitched last year. This freebie is still available right here. As always, I'd like to thank the designers for sharing their talents with us through their generous free designs! And way over on the right sitting in the little blue bowl is an old patriotic design from Homespun Elegance.

Here's one last look at the whole display. It's really brightened up the corner of my kitchen and I plan to leave the patriotic shelves up through late August when I'll switch things up for a more autumn look. 

Hooray for the red, white, and blue!

Gifts from a new friend... I've made a special new blogging friend named Shirley who just happens to reside way across the ocean in Cape Town, South Africa! Shirley just began a new blog called The Artfull Place and I hope you'll go say "hello" and welcome her to our blogging community. She is so multi-talented and she sent me this darling Christmas ornament and hand-painted tag. I told her the tag will be a part of my annual spring display on my corner cupboard--it is just so sweet. 

Gifts from Shirley, in South Africa

Here is a close-up of the little tag so you can see the marvelous detail. Shirley has just started her own Etsy shop and you can read all the details on her blog. Thank you again, my new friend--I will treasure your gifts!

Gift tag painted by Shirley

Medical update... Well, I had hoped to have better news for you regarding my husband's broken neck. He had an appointment yesterday and the hoped-for switch from the hard neck-brace to the soft collar didn't happen. The surgeon wants to keep him in the hard brace for at least another month to make sure the vertebrae that aren't quite aligned have not shifted. As I mentioned in my last post, there is no way to tell if this misalignment is something my husband was born with or if it happened after his fall down the stairs in May. So, unfortunately, surgery has not been totally ruled out as we previously thought...

Our spirits were flagging yesterday after the doctor's visit, but there is nothing we can do except try to be patient, wait, hope and pray. I've been having a lot of trouble sleeping lately as I just keep ruminating about that night six weeks ago when my husband fell down the stairs. I sure hope this passes soon as insomnia can really take a toll on your health over time... Anyway, keep praying and thinking positive thoughts, please; we're not out of the woods yet!

I'd like to leave on a cheerier note so I'm share this very addicting recipe for granola that I've gotten "hooked" on. They sell a treat called "Kimberley's Bakeshoppe Granola" at Sam's Club and I made the mistake of buying it one day. Oh, my!! Amazingly delicious and just filled with everything I love--lots of nuts, grains, and dried fruits. I stumbled upon a recipe online for a copycat recipe from Yammie's Noshery which you can find right here. It is fabulous--but addicting (don't say I didn't warn you!!). Hope you enjoy making (and eating!) it along with your other picnic foods this 4th of July weekend...

I dare you to eat just one bite of this tasty granola!

Wishing all of my U.S. friends a fabulous Independence Day! Thanks again for your kind comments and supportive emails--they mean so much to me. Bye for now...