Thursday, July 26, 2018

Santas, snowflakes, and sweets

Good morning, everyone! I've heard such horror stories of the extreme heat, flooding rains, and forest fires that have plagued many of you in the U.S. and Europe and I'm so sorry... We've somehow managed to escape all of that here in western Pennsylvania. It has even been downright chilly some mornings to the point where I've had to throw on a lightweight bathrobe when I first get up... most unusual for the summer months. I hope Mother Nature can get her emotions under control and things calm down for all of you very soon!

It's been two weeks since my last post and I want to thank you all so much for your kind and very insightful comments on my walk across the border into Mexico and on those interesting creatures that have been visiting my yard (especially that very odd groundhog who thinks he is a member of the family and settles down on our front porch from time to time!). Since my previous post, I've traveled up and back to  New York State for a visit with my mom (all of my siblings were there, too!) and to attend my 45th reunion (more about that later). Thankfully, I've also managed to finish my Christmas ornaments for June and July. Would you like to see them?

For my June ornament choice, this classic Prairie Schooler Santa (the 2016 design) caught my eye. Isn't he cute with his arm wrapped around his reindeer buddy? I chose a 40 ct. linen--Vintage Country Mocha Newcastle--to stitch him on and I was really pleased with how well the white shows up. I'll definitely be stitching more of the PS Santa series on this same fabric.

The 2016 Prairie Schooler Santa

I am so happy that Prairie Schooler is continuing their designs of their yearly Santas even though they've retired. Someone on Instagram asked me how many I've stitched through the years and I think the answer is about 10 of the annual Santas--I have many, many more waiting their turn! If you'd like to see what others they've designed through the years, here is a link to all of them from 1984 up to 2016: Prairie Schooler Santas list. I used the suggested DMC threads except for the green which I changed from DMC 502 to DMC 520. And here he is all finished up! A simple classic finish for a classy looking guy... 

Another ornament for my tree!

Since this has been such a busy month, I stitched this quick and easy JBW design called "French Country Snowflake" for my July ornament.  I love the dusty blue fabric, but have no idea what it is called--it was just a small piece of 32 ct. mystery linen that I had in my stash. The fabric color in my photo is not true to life, but the second photo of the actual finish is pretty close. The original design had the word "Snowflake" charted underneath, but I wanted to create a round ornament so I simply left that off.

JBW "French Country Snowflake"

How many little winter motifs can you spot in the snowflake? I think the reindeer right in the center is my favorite.  But, then again, that sweet little cottage at the very bottom is pretty cute, too! I made a two toned cording from DMC 932 and 3865 to finish this one off. So, I'm all caught up with my monthly ornament challenge--on to August!

Blue and white--my favorites!

Throwback Thursday... Here is an oldie, but goodie! I stitched this way back in 1987 when we were living in Silver Spring, Maryland for a year and I was pregnant with my youngest son--nice memories! Some older pieces look, well, o-l-d--and tired--and like they really belong to a long ago decade, don't they? But, this one has held its own--I never tire of it and see it daily as it hangs right by the door in my family room. The name of this Ann Taylor Nelson design is "Town Square" and it so reminded me of my little home town with the pretty houses and the church in the lower right. We had no town square, but we did have a park with a lovely band stand/gazebo where people would often meet up. I'm not sure what fabric I used, but it might be Davos--and I'm sure I used the suggested thread colors as I wouldn't have dared change a color way back then! I did a little search and you know what--the designer has a website where she still sells her older charts if any of you are interested:  ATN Designs.

"Town Square" stitched more than 30 years ago!

Giveaway Winner... There were a half-dozen entries for the Butternut Road "Children's Garden" chart and the name that was drawn from the hat is:  
  Karin Carnine!
Congratulations, Karin--please email me your mailing address and I will get the chart off to you as soon as possible. And for those of you who didn't win--keep an eye on this spot! More chart giveaways will be appearing in the future. 

Winner of this chart is: Karin Carnine!

So, my high school reunion... 45 years had passed since I saw most fellow members of the Class of 1973! What did I expect? I was SO nervous and on the 3 1/2 hour drive up to New York, I began breaking out in hives! Yes, at least three appeared on my face by the time we reached the hotel. I took a Benedryl which calmed them down as I attempted to relax. But, you know what--I was being silly because as soon as I walked through the doors of the venue and saw my old classmates, it was as if time had melted away.

My three best girlfriends (who had attended school with me since we were just five year old kindergarteners!) were all there and we spent the evening chatting and reminiscing and laughing and making new memories together. Oh, everyone in the class looked a bit different--some had lost a little (or a lot!) of hair, some had spread out through the middle, all of us had wrinkles, and still others had blossomed! But, it was such a fun evening and I'm truly glad I got up the courage to go. There were only  100 students in my graduating class so I really knew most every one of the 30 who showed up that evening. I hope to see everyone again for my 50th (gulp!) in five years, but until then we've been emailing and texting and simply renewing our friendships. There is just something special about old friends who knew you "back then," isn't there?

A funny thing happened the morning after the reunion when we met up with two of my girlfriends for breakfast at the hotel. The one showed up with a copy of the local newspaper folded under her arm and said she had a surprise for me. As I opened it up--who should be pictured on the front page, but me and my husband as we were checking in at the reunion! (It must have really been a slow news day in my small town for them to feature us :) It is a horrible photo, but, yes, there we were right in the middle of the photo--me with my back to the camera and my husband looking on as we find our name tags. So,  does this mean I'm famous now?!

Yep--front page story! Ha ha :)

Baking news... I've been doing a bit of baking lately and wanted to share one of my favorite recipes with you today: No Fat Banana Applesauce Muffins.  You can find it right here--it is the perfect way to use up those overly ripe bananas that seem to appear overnight. So moist and dense; I love them--and they whip up in no time!

The little blue and white pitcher was something I picked up at Goodwill last month for $2.99!

We celebrated a couple of big occasions earlier this week--my husband's birthday (he caught up with me in mid-July!) and our 41st wedding anniversary on Monday. I wanted to make a simple cake and what better one to try than our very own Mary's Raspberry/Wineberry Cake that she posted on her (and RJ's) blog, Stitching Friends Forever on July 14th. I had never heard of Wineberries before, but had just purchased some juicy, red raspberries so I thought it would be a perfect one-layer cake. Mary, it was fabulous--so easy and oh, so yummy. Will definitely be baking this one again--thank you for sharing!

Mary's Raspberry Cake to celebrate a birthday and an anniversary

I'll leave you with a cute photo of my new "pet!" This sweet baby rabbit visits every morning,  nibbles away at the clover in our grass, and hops up on our patio to sun himself. He is so tame and lets me come within a few feet of him--he doesn't seem to fear me at all! I hope he sticks around for a while--I do miss having a pet in the house, but with all the traveling we've been doing, it just isn't going to happen for quite a while!

The sweetest bunny!

So, that is it for July 2018--another busy month, but a good one! I hope you know how much I enjoy your visits and comments. It takes a long time to put together a blog post and it does my heart good to know someone is actually reading my thoughts other than my mom and husband :) So, thank you all! Enjoy your remaining days of July... and Happy August! Bye for now...

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

A pair of elves, an old red truck, and a surprise destination!

I'm getting better! It's been less than two weeks since my last blog post--can you believe it? Since then I've  lived through that horrid heat wave that hit much of the U.S. and then experienced a string of almost perfect 75° days with low humidity. I think they were our reward for putting up with all of that heat wave nonsense! But, the good thing about a heat wave is that you can't be outside very long which left plenty of time for sitting and stitching in air conditioned comfort. I only have two finishes to share with you today, but two more projects are "almost done."

Oh, it was so hard to part with this little cutie... I stitched this sweet pair of elves  (on a 32 ct. mystery linen from Lizzie Kate's "Tiny Tidings XXII") for a gift for a former co-worker who just moved into her first home. She is a baker and she loves little creatures like gnomes and such, so I thought this cute elf couple sharing a giant chocolate chip cookie would be perfect for a Christmas ornament. If any of you have stitched this, you'll notice I made a few changes... In addition to a few color changes (the main being the face and cheeks where I used DMC 950 and 758), I didn't care for the row of flowers that was charted under the elves. So, I simple stitched "Merry Christmas" and added two small hearts. I also added some "steam" rising from the mug and changed the hair color to resemble that of the recipients. What do you think?

Lizzie Kate's elf couple from "Tiny Tidings XXII"

I thought a wooly flannel in green would be the perfect accent fabric along with a cheery red print and a bit of white ric rak peeking out. The cording is made from the same shade of green as in the elf boy's shirt.  This one just may have to be stitched again for my own tree!

The baking elves finish--so adorable!

My second piece was finished just in time for the 4th of July and is from our friend Nurdan who used to blog, but now has an online Etsy shop under the name Twin Peak Primitives. When I posted this on Instagram last week, I had so many people requesting information on where to buy the chart. Well, all you have to do is go to the Twin Peak Primitives Etsy shop, right here... there are so many cute designs to choose from!  This design is called "Patriotic Olde Truck" and it is stitched "over one" on 28 ct. black Monaco.  I did change a couple of the colors--used GAST Mulberry for the rusty red color and GAST Freedom for the blue. I also changed the tire colors to DMC 844 because, well, DMC black would never show up on the black Monaco, would it? I also changed the font of the words and stitched them in white so they would really pop against the dark background.

Twin Peak Primitives: "Patriotic Olde Truck"

And here is my finish--simple and patriotic using fabric from a checked towel that I purchased at a local store along with ecru colored ric rac and a rusty star that I glued into place. I love it!

A star-spangled finish!

Giveaway winner... I had eight entries for the little Uncle Sam Flatbed chart so I simply drew a name out of a hat (well, really a bowl!) and up came the winner....

Meari, congratulations...  please send me your mailing address and I will get this out to you as soon as possible.

Meari--you are the winner!

If you didn't win, keep an eye on this space. More charts will be given away soon... In fact, why not now? Would anyone like to give this pretty chart a new home?

♥♥♥ NEW GIVEAWAY for July... I was recently given this charming Butternut Road chart called "Children's Garden" from a very generous reader (who wishes to remain anonymous). It is a fairly large chart at 199 stitches X 133 stitches, but it calls for only DMC floss. I think this perfectly captures the innocence of childhood from a bygone era... Since I already own a copy of this chart, my friend wanted me to simply pass it on to someone who might want to stitch it. So, how about you? If you are a follower and would like a chance to win, please let me know in your comments. As always, please include your email address if I don't already have it... Best of luck to all who enter and I will reveal the winner's name the next time I post.

I'm giving away this "Children's Garden" chart

"Oh, the Places You'll Go: Part II"   Do you remember when I teased you with the "Day 3" happenings in my previous post? I asked where you all thought we went during our third day in southern California? There were some great answers: Balboa Park, the beach, the San Diego Zoo, and even Phoenix. Nope... We walked into Mexico! Yes, that's right: walked...into...Mexico! Who knew that you could simply park your car on the U.S. side of the border, 20 miles south of San Diego, and casually walk over into the city of Tijuana  after presenting your passport and signing one quick form!?

Now I can just hear you whispering... "but, was it safe?" I was nervous--I have to admit; but having my wonderful daughter-in-law, (who is of Mexican-American heritage), with us, gave me extra courage. She helped us navigate the city on foot and via taxi and Uber rides very easily. Things have improved, in terms of safety, since the major drug cartel era of the 1990s and early 2000s--and as long as you stay within the heavily traveled tourist areas, it is supposed to be pretty safe. We had no problems whatsoever on the day we spent in Tijuana.  At the same time, I felt like I needed to be quite vigilant and aware of my surroundings. The city has come a long way from the drug wars that engulfed it a while back--but it has a long way to go. There is a lot of poverty and street crime (and much worse) outside of the well-traveled tourist spots.

So, would you like a little tour of Tijuana? First of all, I learned that I've been mispronouncing Tijuana my entire life--I had been putting an extra "a" in there (Ti-a-jua-na) and that is not correct. It is simply Ti-jua-na.  From the time we stepped onto Mexican soil, it was just a short walk to the main touristy area:  Avenida Revolución. Restaurants and souvenir shops abound and the strangest thing for me was how the owners of these establishments would stand outside their shops and call for you to come in and shop or dine. 

This huge arch was the first thing we spotted as we began our walk down Avenida Revolución.

It was a rare cloudy, cool day in Tijuana, but these vibrant banners helped brighten the visit.

My husband and I pose behind the colorful Tijuana sign. It was very chilly--so glad I wore a jacket and long pants!

A zonkey?? Some of the most interesting sights were all of the "zonkeys" that were waiting on many of the street corners. What is a zonkey? Well, from a distance--they truly do look like zebras, but they are really just donkeys painted to look like zebras. This is a long-standing Tijuana tradition (going back over 100 years) in which serape-draped donkeys carrying sombrero-wearing tourists are photographed for a fee. Years ago, with only black and white photography,  the donkeys would simply fade into the background and the customers were disappointed with their pictures. So someone came up with the idea of painting the donkeys with black paint, hair dye, etc. to resemble zebras. It worked! The newly created "zonkeys" were a hit and many a Tijuanan has made money photographing his favorite animal and a willing tourist. Of course, there are arguments about whether or not this is hurting the donkeys, but the "zonkeys" have become an important part of Tijuanan culture--there is even a basketball team named the Tijuana Zonkeys.

Barbi the Zonkey chomps on corn as she waits for her next customer!

Colorful street art and Mexican flags lined Avenida Revolución

My son suggested taking a taxi ride over to the Pacific Ocean and it was quite an unforgettable experience. At this spot, is the westernmost point of the 1954-mile border between the United States and Mexico. As you can see, there is a rusty 15-foot high fence that separates the two countries and juts out into the Pacific Ocean for several dozen yards.

On the left: Tijuana, Mexio  ~  On the right, California, U.S.A.

The Mexican side of the fence has been painted with different sentiments and names and photos of various Mexican deportees

In this photo, a Mexican woman visited through the fence with her family or friends who were on the U.S. side.

There are many large decorative fiberglass hearts on display. This one overlooks the Pacific Ocean and says "El amor es una verdad,  la unica verdad" which translates to:  "Love is a truth, the only truth."

So, would I go to Tijuana a second time? Probably not... although I'm glad I went once. I've heard that people are braver when they are on vacation--that they step out of their comfort zone and try new things. This was definitely the case for me! Have you ever tried anything out of your comfort zone while on vacation?  It was an eye opening experience that I will never forget and it certainly made me appreciate how very blessed I am to live in the United States of America.

All creatures great and small... Returning to my little corner of the world after being away from home always makes me smile. I am a true homebody, that's for sure. Lately, all sorts of critters have been visiting our yard...

One of the two darling fawns recently born (who promptly bent down and ate my lavender plants as soon as I took this photo!)

This crazy groundhog has made himself right at home. I caught him gnawing on the fibers of our front doormat last week. After he'd had his fill, he just plopped himself right down on our front porch and watched the world go by!

A handsome male Black Swallowtail loves the dianthus plant that my middle son and a friend brought me on the 4th of July!

This fuzzy buzzing bee enjoyed the salvia plant, but was so hard to photograph. Can you spot him in the lower left?

So, what does the rest of July hold? Well, I'll be heading up to New York State to attend my 45th high school reunion! What??? How can I be that old? Several of my best friends from way back then are going to be there also and I haven't seen most of them since I was 18 years old. Will we recognize each other? I have to admit, I'm a bit nervous... I've only been to one of my reunions and that was the 20th--25 years ago.  How do you feel about reunions? Wish me luck! 

Thank you all for stopping by today; whether just to see my stitching photos or to read about my travels--or both, I so appreciate you taking the time you take to say "hello!" I hope to be back in a couple of weeks with the winner of my giveaway and a new finish or two.  Until then, bye for now...