Wednesday, December 11, 2019

2019 Parade Of Ornaments

It's mid-December and long-time readers of Stitching Dreams know what that means... the annual "Parade Of Ornaments" is about to begin! Can you believe this is the 10th annual parade? I certainly can't; I'm really proud of myself for keeping up this tradition of stitching and finishing one ornament a month for ten whole years...  Each one is made with special care--sometimes the finishing takes longer than the stitching! I try my best to make them unique and something my sons and their families will love pulling out and hanging on their own Christmas trees each December long after I'm gone. I hope they'll remember the love that I stitched into each one...

So, listen carefully... can you hear the cadence of the drums and the trumpeting of the horns? The parade participants are lining up and ready to step off.  If there is a theme in this year's ornaments, it seems to be "black and blue Prairie Schooler!" Oh, dear... that doesn't sound very nice, does it? Well, look at the 2019 line-up--half of the twelve are stitched on black, half are Prairie Schooler designs, and three feature blue (my favorite color!) quite prominently.

The 2019 "Parade Of Ornaments!"

The lack of natural light in the winter in our front hallway doesn't lend itself to the best quality photos--especially when taken on my (rapidly aging) phone. Let me zoom in so you can get a better look.

January ~ March 2019

April ~ June 2019

July ~ September 2019

October ~ December 2019

What's that you say? You are still having trouble seeing each one? Oh, I do understand--when you're as short as I am (only 5'1") you can never see anything at parades. Well, this should help you out--and look carefully as I would love to know which is you favorite for this year. If you would like more information about the fabrics and threads I used, just click on the name of the ornament below the photo.

"Grandma's House" by Little House Needleworks

"Santa Rides" by Prairie Schooler

1999 Prairie Schooler Santa

"Happy Christmas" by Prairie Schooler

"Frosty Flakes" by Little House Needleworks


Santa With Goose from Prairie Schooler's "Kris Kringle" booklet

"Snowy Winter" by Little House Needleworks

Prairie Schooler Angel

"A Year In Chalk: January" by Hands On Design

1989 Prairie Schooler Santa

"Jingle, Jingle" by Homespun Elegance

"Snowman Joy" by Twin Peak Primitives

Since I haven't shared my ornament for December (in the photo above), I thought you might want to know the details. Isn't this snowman precious--I just love the sweet look on his frosty face! This is called "Snowman Joy" and is available in the Etsy shop of Twin Peak Primitives as a digital download. I stitched it "over one" on 28 ct. black Monaco with DMC threads (I did change some colors so they would show up better on the black). At the very top, I hot glued a trio of rusty bells and two sprigs of flocked greenery that I cut from a larger piece. I'm so happy with him--a perfect way to end another year of ornament stitching!

Many of you have mentioned you would love to stitch an ornament a month, too. Well, why not give it a try?! On the months you are busier, just pick a simpler ornament. If you get behind, just stitch two the next month... And don't fret about your finishing... Trust me, I have come a long way in the almost 11 years I have been writing this blog. There are so many wonderful tutorials out there from Vonna, The Twisted Stitcher and Pinwheel Ponders and others. Just dive in and watch as you improve from year to year. If you'd like to see how far I've come, check out these past "parades" and see for yourself:  2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018

My mailman has been busy lately delivering little gifts and greeting cards from many of you and I'm so thankful! I'll be sharing these in a post later this month. 

GIVEAWAY WINNER... Thank you to everyone who was interested in the sweet little girl with the forest creatures that I offered last time as a giveaway. The name pulled from the hat was...
Congratulations, June--I'll get this chart out to you soon and I look forward to watching your progress as you stitch it!  Hope you enjoy it...
The Winner of this sweet chart is:  June P.!

NEW GIVEAWAY... I found this cute chart of "Six Busy Santas" by Vermillion Sticher that I thought would make a perfect pre-Christmas giveaway. You could make six ornaments of your own (each has a stitch count of 45 X 45 so they aren't huge) or just choose one or two favorites. If you would like to be included in the drawing for the chart make sure to:  1) Specifically mention that you would like to win it 2) include your email address and name if I don't already have it, and 3) Tell me what your favorite of my 2019 ornaments is. I have to say that I have a real soft spot for the Little House Needleworks "Frosty Flakes" (my May ornament) that I changed to blue tones. He really didn't appeal to me in the suggested greens and I'm so glad I  found the courage to make such a big change!  This drawing will be open until Thursday, December 19th and I'll announce the winner on my next post.

If you would like to be included in the drawing for this chart, please 1) specifically say so, 2) include your email address and name and 3) let me know what your favorite of my ornaments was for this year.

So, that's a wrap for this post! You know what's next, right? My Christmas tree--if I ever get it decorated, that is. Thanksgiving set me way behind and I'm going to New York for the next five days to visit with mom so I won't be getting it decorated until next week. Sad... I told my husband that next year it's going up before Thanksgiving so I can really enjoy all those little cuties that I've stitched over the years. Thanks for visiting me today--and a big welcome to my new followers. A gentle reminder to please leave your email address if you ask a question of me in your comments. I have no way to respond to you if you don't... Enjoy these last two weeks before Christmas, my friends! Bye for now...

Sunday, December 1, 2019

A final fall finish and Thanksgiving memories

And suddenly the house is quiet... My last visitor (youngest son) left this morning after the Thanksgiving break, and that strange feeling has set in. I bet you've experienced that feeling--the one where your house has hummed with activity for the past week and now all that's left are the lingering memories of the week's activities... the laughter around the dinner table, the clicking of the keyboards as several family members pressed on with work duties off and on all week, the teasing and measuring of heights as one son was sure he had grown taller than another. I see and hear these images in my mind and shed a tear or two. It was a wonderful, rare holiday when we could all be together for more than a day or two. And busy as I was, I treasured each moment... 

Luckily, before the busyness of last week set in, I had finished stitching two pieces which I'll share with  you today. First up is one of my favorites--the fall town scene from Book No. 93 called "Harvest Time." This was stitched on 40 ct. Vintage Country Mocha with the suggested DMC threads. Good old Prairie Schooler--I can always count on it to comfort me during stressful times. I think this piece so perfectly captures the fall season in all its glory--you can almost smell the crunchy leaves and feel the cool autumn air as you look at it, can't you? I'll, most likely, be framing this one in the future.

"Harvest Time" all finished up

The colors of autumn

I saved the farmer riding atop his straw-filled pumpkin wagon to stitch last!

And I've finished my November ornament--an oldie, but goodie from Homespun Elegance called "Jingle, Jingle." These were also stitched on 40 ct. Vintage Country Mocha Newcastle (I seem to be in a rut and always use that fabric, but colors show up so nicely on it!). I did change the colors to more of a Prairie Schooler palette, though using DMC 201, 407, 520, 610, 3031, 3828, and white. To complete the finish, I used some red Woolies Flannel and a quintet of jingle bells strung across the bottom.

"Jingle, Jingle" times three!

My finished November ornament--one more ornament left to stitch for 2019!

Yes, I made a total of three--two will be traveling to friends this Christmas.

GIVEAWAY WINNER... I only had a few entries for the giveaway for this pretty Thanksgiving chart and the winner is...

Meg--congratulations! Please send me your mailing address and I'll get this off to you as soon as possible. I so hope you enjoy stitching this one (or parts of it!) and that you'll share your finish with us next year, Meg. For those of you who aren't familiar with Meg's blog--please visit Live To Stitch and say "hello." And be sure to check out Meg's delightful Thanksgiving freebie on her November 23, 2019 post!

The winner of the Thanksgiving chart is Meg!

A new giveaway... So should we do another giveaway for a Christmas chart pulled from an older cross stitch magazine? How about this sweet design called "This Year's Tree?" From the Summer 1993 issue of  "Treasures In Needlework," it features a young girl presenting a freshly decorated tree to her forest friends--love the little raccoon and, of course, the red cardinal flying in to get a better look. The folk art look of this design is so beautiful, isn't it? Just look at that painted red sled! If you would like to win this chart (just three pages pulled from a magazine--not the entire magazine / the pages will be folded and mailed in a legal sized envelope to save postage costs) let me know in your comments below and 1) tell me about one of your favorite Christmas gifts ever and 2) make sure to include your email address if I don't already have it. I will keep the giveaway open until Monday, December 9th and announce the winner on my next post. And in keeping with tradition, I'll answer my own question, too... One of my very favorite Christmas gifts was the Easy Bake Oven I got when I was about 9 years old. I so enjoyed creating little cakes and treats for my family and I truly believe that gift was the beginning of my love for baking. Did any of you have one?

If you would like to be entered for the giveaway of this pretty chart, please let me know in the comments below, answer the question "What was one of your favorite Christmas gifts?" and include your email address (if I don't already have it).

I had a Thanksgiving surprise when, at the very last minute, my youngest son's work trip was cancelled! Hooray--I had all three sons and my daughter-in-law home for Thanksgiving after all! It was a ton of work preparing for 20 guests, but I had a lot of help this year. Everyone brought a dish to share and helped with the clean-up.  As always, it amazes me how an event you spend weeks preparing for is over in a flash! I thought you might like to see a few photos from our day.

To fit all 20 guests,  I push two tables together and we eat in our sunroom.

I love this checked table runner with the white sweater pumpkin that I found at Home Goods this fall.  The little white houses light up and were found for $1.50 each at Target on clearance.

The day before Thanksgiving I bought several bunches of flowers and combined them into colorful bouquets for the table and to set in different spots in the house. The orange gerbera daisies and yellow ranunculus were simply gorgeous!

This turkey, made of meats, crackers, and cheeses was something I saw on Pinterest and asked my oldest son and daughter-in-law to recreate. I think they did a great job!

I love this time of year because I always get to indulge in my second favorite hobby (after cross stitching!)--baking! This year, I baked two pecan pies, nine types of cookies, four loaves of pumpkin cranberry bread, and four dozen applesauce mini-muffins.

So, my "diet" between Thanksgiving and Christmas begins today! Is that even possible? There are just so many tempting treats surrounding us at this time of year, aren't there? I actually don't do a lot of baking at Christmas because I freeze half of the cookies I've made for Thanksgiving--just a little tip to save you time during December. I don't do anything special--just use Ziploc Freezer Bags with wax paper in between each layer of cookies. I then take a straw and suck as much air out of the bags as possible. This keeps them fresh and flavorful for our Christmas cookie tray.

Cruise wrap-up... Several of you had questions for me on what I liked / disliked about river cruising so I thought I'd give you a little run-down. This was the only cruise, of any type, that my husband and I have ever taken and was a special gift from our three sons for our 40th wedding anniversary back in 2017. Due to other commitments, we couldn't take it that year or in 2018, so we finally got it on our calendar for July 2019.  Our sons took care of all of the booking details and, based on some input from us, they chose Avalon Waterways and a cruise on the Danube River from Prague to Budapest. My husband and I want to thank each of them for such a generous and thoughtful gift--how blessed we are to have them as sons! It was truly a gift that we'll never forget...

The cruise line... Avalon Waterways won the "Cruisers' Choice" award for 2019 for "Best European River Cruise Line." And although I have nothing to compare it to, our entire experience with the ship and staff was excellent. The ships are fairly new (ours was just three years old) and impeccably maintained. 

Some of our fellow cruisers board the ship

The name of the ship was the Avalon Passion--fitting for an anniversary cruise, I'd say!

My husband boarding the ship

Our cabin... We were shocked to find out that our sons had booked us into one of two "Royal Suites" on the ship! They said they did it because they knew we would never do anything like that for ourselves (they're right!)... It was so roomy and luxurious-- the Royal Suite is 50% larger than the standard cabins so we had plenty of space to spread out. To tell you the truth--not a lot of time is spent in your cabin. If you aren't off touring the landmarks, you are usually eating meals or sleeping!

The Royal Suite included extra space on the side of the bed with a couch, desk (not shown), bookcase (not shown) and closets. There was a lovely  plate filled with fruit to welcome us when we embarked. The glass doors fully slide open to the outside so you can turn the chairs around and simply sit and relax as you cruise down the river.

The king size bed featured an adjustable mattress and was very comfortable!

Our cabin had two sinks, a large shower and a separate toilet room! Included were L'Occitane bath products.

There was even a gorgeous white orchid in our room!

Dining... On this ship of 150+ passengers there were two choices of dining spots: the main dining room or the more casual bistro which was set up buffet style. Dining was where my husband and I struggled. We are both quite shy and walking into a large, loud dining room with over a hundred strangers was overwhelming for both of us. In the future, if we ever take another river cruise, we will be sure to travel with at least one other couple for dinner companions. We ate with various people and did finally find another couple from New Orleans to eat most meals with. What we discovered is that we preferred the quieter buffet bistro to the noisy main dining room so we gravitated there on most evenings. The food was excellent in both places--especially the soups, breads, and desserts. The waiters were all male (for some reason!) and came from many eastern European countries like Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Romania. They all spoke English quite well, too.

The desserts were little masterpieces! I especially love the musical notes on the one in the upper left!

The passengers: I had a question about the age of the passengers. Well, as you can see in this photo below, they all tended to be on the older side--60s and 70s with a few in their 80s. Oh, you would see an occasional younger couple (and one family who brought their teenage kids), but most were of  retirement age. There was a huge contingent of folks from one Catholic diocese in Missouri who were traveling together that made up over half of the passengers. This made it a bit harder to meet people as they all knew each other and tended to hang out together. All the passengers seemed to be from the U.S., Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. We got to know the people in the background quite well who were from Canada, just four hours north of us!

Celebrating our 42nd wedding anniversary aboard the Avalon "Passion"

Time spent at destinations... This would be my biggest complaint, but I think it is just something you have to expect when on a river cruise. The ship is on a strict deadline as far as docking in the various cities so they must keep to a schedule--and that means you have more time in some destinations than others. For me, Vienna was far too brief a visit--especially the time we spent at Schönbrunn Palace on that extremely hot, humid day. I heard from some seasoned cruisers that a few people actually hire their own guides to take them around the city and are thus able to see and experience more of the local flavor of the city at a faster pace. Definitely something to consider!

Double docking problem... A little known fact--and one that isn't often mentioned in cruise brochures--is that you may be docked right next to another ship making your view not one of the city or a  pretty landscape, but of another ship's rooms! Even worse, your may be sandwiched between two ships (this only happened once, but ended up with us having to have our curtains drawn that entire day!). This seems to happen in the very busiest stops like Budapest and Vienna. The smaller towns weren't usually a problem. 

Two ships double docked in Dürnstein, Austria

More double docked ships in Linz, Austria

The staff... What a wonderful mix of nationalities were represented on this cruise! Our cruise director was Dutch, the captain was Bulgarian, and the housekeeping and wait staff were from countries all over the world. It was interesting to talk with them a bit about their lives back home and to hear just how much the job on the cruise ship meant to them in terms of helping out their families in other countries. Many would work two weeks on, two weeks off, and return home to work another job in between. There was no problem with communication as all spoke (at least some) English. I would assume the people dealing with the passengers in jobs such as receptionists and waiters spoke better English than the cooks in the kitchen and others with behind the scenes duties, but I don't know for sure. 

The actual cruising time... For me, this was the best part of the trip and I wish there had been more hours to just sit in our cabin with our doors open, stitching in hand, lazily watching the world go by as we drifted down the Danube.

It was such a joy to simply sit on the ship and watch the world go by!

Swans were our constant companions. Notice the ruins in the background.

There was a seemingly endless supply of pretty little towns with old castles perched high above!

The trips through the locks on the Danube were always interesting.

The locks at night

Mornings on the rivers were my favorites. I loved hearing the sounds of the world waking up--children playing on the shoreline, bells pealing from church towers, dogs barking in the distance...

Our last morning on the river as we approach Budapest

Would we go again? Yes! But, as I mentioned above, we would prefer to go with another couple to make meal-times less stressful for us. We never dreamed we would be traveling in eastern Europe... You have to remember that when I was growing up, in the 50s and 60s, the idea of traveling to countries behind "The Iron Curtain," was unimaginable. I mean, I grew up in the era of the Cold War, fear of the atomic bomb, and "Duck and Cover" drills in schools (like hiding under our desks would really protect us)!  So, to be actually traveling in countries like Hungary, Slovenia, and The Czech Republic--and to be welcomed there--felt a bit surreal. It was so, so interesting to hear the guides talk about their lives under Soviet rule and it made me even more appreciative of growing up in a democracy. Traveling abroad not only opens your eyes to different ways of living, customs, and history, but it also allows you to understand and appreciate your own life better. So, yes, I would definitely go on a river cruise again to experience a taste of many, many different cultures in a short period of time. 

I hope you've enjoyed this Danube River journey--it sure has been a long one! I appreciate the many comments I've received along the way and I'm so happy that you've traveled the Danube with me. Thank you for reading (or even glancing at the photos!).

Well, it's December--and for those of you who are long-time readers, you know what that means, don't you? I hope you'll stop by and visit me next week! Until then--thank you for visiting today--and a special thank you for those who take the time to comment. Your comments mean so much to me--they really do! Take care now and good luck with all of your Christmas baking, decorating, card writing, present wrapping, but try to take some extra time for yourself, too! I am keeping things simpler this year so I can really sit back and enjoy the spirit of the holiday--I hope you can, too. Bye for now...