Wednesday, January 31, 2018

January is over!

Yay! The end of my least favorite month has arrived... I always welcome short February because I know March follows and the days get longer and the temperatures begin to warm up. January has been one busy month which I'll fill you in on after I show you my latest stitching. But first, as always, thank you, thank you for your sweet comments on my last post. My middle son tells me that his cat, Spike, is getting quite the swelled head after reading all of your kind remarks about him. He really is such a fun cat... we were visiting with him on Sunday and he was all personality, that's for sure!

I finished my very first monthly ornament for 2018 and I love how it turned out.  I spotted the Country Cottage Needleworks chart called "Snow Sampler" and thought how lovely it would look stitched on black.  But, with a stitch count of 125 X 82, it really seemed way too big for one of my ornaments.  Hmmm... what to do, what to do? Well, I decided to eliminate the top and bottom borders of pine needles and stitch it "over one" on black 28 Monaco. That did the trick!

The white stitching really pops on the black!

The finished ornament with its blue bead edging measures just 4 inches by 3 1/4 inches--perfect! I used an overdyed blue thread for the house rather than the suggested brownish/gold color and also gave it a little chimney. Oh, let me tell you--this one took a while--those beaded edges are a lot of work because you have to run a border of straight stitches all the way around both the front (as you can see above with the line of blue stitches) and the back and then stitch on the beads. (If you'd like to try a beaded edge, this tutorial is very helpful). But, the end result is so lovely. I also added a small white bow with a bit of greenery and three blue beads to finish it off. 

"Snow Sampler" finish

I have two other ornaments to share today--these were both sent off as Christmas gifts in December. The first one went to my friend, Gabi, and yes, I have stitched it many times before. It is just such a classic and I never tire of it, though. You'll recognize it as a Prairie Schooler design from Book No. 23: "A Christmas Year II." This was stitched on a piece of 32 ct. mystery linen with the suggested DMC threads. The main change I made was to simply turn it on the diagonal for a very different look than is shown on the cover of the chart.

Gift for Gabi from PS "A Christmas Year II"

And to my friend, Robin, went my final Prairie Schooler ornament of 2017.  This one was stitched on 32 ct. flax Belfast with the suggested colors except for the color of Santa's robe... I used DMC 3764. I also substituted a branch of holly for the charted doll in Santa's left hand and eliminated the blue rectangular border so I could finish it in an oval shape. I'm sure this handsome blue Santa is very happy in his new home in Virginia!

Gift for Robin--a PS Santa in blue

I've stitched a few more things this month, but they aren't finished/finished so I will, hopefully, have those for you next time!

So, on to my January. Well, first of all, another birthday has come and gone. Sigh... they just keep coming faster and faster for some strange reason. This year's celebration was very quiet as it was just me and my husband. It felt very strange having none of my sons around for the first time ever. But, my husband spoiled me with cake and candy and a lovely assortment of charts which will keep me busy for years to come... A generous gift certificate to 123 Stitch arrived, also; I'm sure I'll have absolutely no problem spending it!

Birthday gifts from my husband

My oldest son and daughter-in-law also sent me a gift certificate to 123 Stitch and my youngest son sent these tasty cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake. We couldn't possibly eat all 12 ourselves (well, we could, but you know the end result of that!!) so we froze six of them and then took those to my middle son's apartment Sunday for a belated birthday celebration. He and his girlfriend made a very tasty chicken dinner with homemade bread, fruit salad, and a beautiful "beets and sweets gratin" for us. Really nice to have someone else cook! And it was fun to play with their cat while they prepared dinner, too.

Birthday cupcakes from my youngest son

I received two lovely gifts from blogging friends, as well. From June came the prettiest soft blue and rose scarf, a scented sachet for my drawers and a little gold box kit that I can add some cross stitching to the top. Thank you, my sweet friend--that was so very sweet of you!

Birthday gifts from June

And Cindy made me this cute little pouch for holding my scissors, seam ripper, etc. She also included a tiny needleminder shaped like a chocolate chip cookie--too cute! Thank you so very much, Cindy--you have been a lovely blogging friend for many, many years now...

Birthday gifts from Cindy

The other thing that kept me so busy was a trip to Florida for five days. This was not for pleasure, though. I think some of you will recall that my in-laws' home was quite damaged when Hurricane Irma decided to pay a visit to southwest Florida back in September. Much of the drywall had to replaced, cupboards and closets rebuilt, and the roof repaired. All of their upholstered furniture and both cars were lost along with some shoes, clothing, and other miscellaneous items. 

Anyway, my husband and I flew down to southwest Florida earlier this month in an attempt to make a newly renovated house feel like a home again. We rented a bright blue pick-up truck and raced from consignment shops to thrift stores to home stores picking up a kitchen table and chairs, mattress, bed, dresser, mirror, TV stand, rugs and other basics to provide his parents (who will both turn 90 this year) with the basics. I quite enjoyed the consignment shops as that part of Florida (Naples) has amazing ones! (I wished I could have spent more time looking for myself, but that wasn't what we were there for). In addition to the shopping, we cleaned lots of drywall dust, emptied bags and boxes, did loads of laundry, and connected phones and televisions. In other words, we worked from dawn until we fell, exhausted, into bed each night. We never even saw the beach or took a walk in the sunshine. But, my in-laws are now settled in Florida once again and I hope that, as time goes on, their new house will feel more like home to them... As you can imagine, this was quite an upheaval for two people their age.

Retirement update...  Well, I've been retired for four whole months... But, up until now, I have been so very busy that it really didn't affect me. Until last week, that is...  I knew it would hit me in January--that feeling of "now what?" I told my husband I seem to have a lost my purpose in life--for years I was a busy mother and librarian and now??? I really need to learn to manage my time better as I'm finding myself wasting way too much of it. I need to find a place where I can volunteer and feel like I'm adding something to society again--perhaps even back at the library. We'll see... Do any of you retirees have any tips for me on time-management? I am much better when I have a schedule and not a wide-open day ahead of me, that's for sure! Anyway, it is an adjustment--one I will get through, but there have definitely been some tears this month...


*** Are any of you fans of "This Is Us?" Oh, the last few minutes of the show that aired on January 23rd had me watching with tears streaming down my face as this song played. 

*** I'm reading an excellent book, The Invisible Bridge, by Julie Orringer; an epic novel (at over 600 pages) of life in pre-World War II Paris and the horrors of the Holocaust. It centers around a family with three sons, so, of course I'm drawn to it!

*** My youngest son is over 7,000 miles away in a very unsafe part of the world this week for work and I can't stop worrying about him... 

*** I just ordered two more hardcover books of my blog posts from Blog2Print. With a 50% off coupon offer, I couldn't resist. I combine two years into each book to save money, so with the previous two books that I ordered back in 2015, I will now have every year (except 2017) in print. My blog is not only a journal of my stitching, but of my travels, recipes, and family events, too, so I will love having these books to read in my old age.

*** I've become addicted to making (and eating!) granola because of this great recipe

Bet you can't eat just one bite!

I hope February brings you lots of stitching time, my friends! I do enjoy cuddling up under my cozy, red blanket and stitching while watching a good movie this time of year, don't you?  Thank you for visiting today--and a special thanks for those of you who take the time to say "hello!" I always enjoy hearing what you have to say and appreciate each and every comment. As always, if you have a question--make sure to leave your email address so I can reply to you!  Bye for now...

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Gifts given, goodies gobbled, and gorgeous Grumpy Cat

It's 2018--hope everyone is having a wonderful start to their new year! I have a few Christmas ornaments that I gave to friends and family to share with you today, but first, I want to tell you how much I enjoyed your comments on your favorite moment of last year. They certainly made me smile and I could truly feel how much they meant to each of you who shared... Blogging can sometimes feel like a one-way street; I share some of my life and stitching with you, but, often, I don't get to see your pretty stitching or hear about your life unless you, too, have a blog. So, I really appreciate your remarks and experiences and if any of you who don't blog would like to email me photos of your finishes--I'd love to see them. I have a couple of people who do that already and I always enjoy seeing what they have created! So, thank you for sharing a bit of yourself--it meant a lot to me!

This pretty blue and white ornament went to dear June, in England. This is a Renato Parolin design called "Inverno" and I just love the simple elegance of it.  I stitched it on 40 ct. white Newcastle with a Victorian Motto Sampler thread called "Sky Blue." The cording is made out of the same lovely thread and the ornament is backed with the perfect shade of blue gray fabric adorned with tiny stars. A gauzy ribbon and silver bell finished it off nicely. I'm happy to say that June loves it, too! (And there are some very nice freebies on Renato's blog if you click here and then click on "Schemi Free" in the tabs).

"Inverno" in blues

This next ornament was stitched twice and sent to my dear friends, Lois, in Northern Ireland, and Cindy, in Tennessee. Most of you will recognize this as Little House Needleworks' "Season's Greetings." I stitched this 'over one' on 28 ct. black Monaco using a variety of DMC threads and overdyeds.  I was so happy with how this one turned out and I may just stitch it again on black for a little gift in the future. The small ecru x's take a while, but they add so much to the overall look, don't you think?

Little House Needleworks "Season's Greetings"

The last one I'll show you today was given to my middle son in honor of the new (very non-grumpy!) cat that he and his girlfriend adopted. You will all recognize this sourpuss of a kitty--he's the cantankerous Grumpy Cat! He is a freebie from Brooke's Books which you can find right here. I changed up the design a bit; I eliminated the red and white border and added additional snowflakes and beads to turn it into a design suitable for turning it into a round ornament. I stitched this on a 32 ct. blue/gray linen with the suggested colors. My son loved it--but not quite as much as he loves his real cat!

Mr. Grumpy Cat himself

So, yes--I (sadly) have no grandchildren, but I now have a "grandcat!" My son and his girlfriend adopted him a year ago from an animal shelter and he has made himself right at home in their apartment. He came with the name "Spike" (because he has a white, furry "spike" going right up the middle of his forehead) and at first, my son wasn't sure if he would keep such a dog-like name. But, it really suits him--he is so much more of a dog than a cat in many ways and he's quite a handful. One of his favorite tricks is unrolling the toilet paper and then rolling it back up (I guess he's hoping no one will notice!). Hmmm... I'm afraid you can't hide that mess, Spike!!

Who, me? I didn't touch the toilet paper :)

I forgot to share my Christmas baking with you in my last post. I didn't bake nearly as much as I would have liked to because there were only four of us here most of the time  (except for Christmas dinner when we had seven). And you know what happens when there are too many goodies around--yes, the weight piles on! So, I baked just a few cookies which you can see below...

Which one would you choose?

On Christmas morning, we traditionally make some lovely frosted cinnamon buns, but our bread machine broke last year and I just didn't have the time to make the dough. I was simply going to run out and buy a coffee cake or some sweet rolls when this recipe caught my attention. It was so quick and easy and practically baked itself...  Oh, yum! Just click here for these tasty "Land Of Nod Cinnamon Buns" (how cute is that for a recipe name?!). We all loved them--in fact some of us loved them more than our old recipe. I would probably add chopped pecans next time, but the combination of cinnamon, raisins, and melted butter was the perfect way to start off our Christmas morning.

The easiest cinnamon buns in the world!

And there you have it--my first post of 2018 all done and dusted! I have a couple more ornaments to share with you, but I've run out of time today. I'm off to the dreaded DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) to renew my driver's license and you know what that means... Sitting for what seems like hours waiting to have another horrible photo taken that must remain on my driver's license until the year 2022! Oh, my--not one of my favorite experiences...

Wishing you a wonderful week ahead, everyone! Hope it includes lots of time to sit and stitch now that the hustle-bustle of the holidays is over. I do relish these calm winter months so much, don't you? Thank you, as always for your wonderful comments--I do read each and every one even if I am unable to respond to some of you who  haven't included an email address. (Please, please remember to include your email address in your comments if you do have a question for me, okay?). Bye for now...