Thursday, March 14, 2019

Finishes, Florida, and Flu

Hello, hello! How is March treating you so far? Well, it's been an up and down month for me, but I think I'm finally on the upswing so all is good... As you can tell from the title of this post, March has been a month filled with stitching, traveling, and illness (something I'm not used to!).

Let's start with the fun stuff first! How sweet is this little Plum Street Samplers design called "Hello Spring?" I bought all four seasons of this series when they first came out a couple years ago, but am just beginning to stitch them. I wish my photo was better as the fabric is a lovely pure white evenweave. I changed all of the colors using overdyed cottons and Dinky Dyes silks. The big blue flower is done in Dinky Dyes "Ghost Gum"--a really  lovely color. I also used it for the cording. Many people have stitched this without the words, but, to me--the words really make this piece! I love the beautiful font and the wide spacing of the letters. And, of course, who can resist a skinny leaping brown bunny?

"Hello Spring!"

I finished this as a small pillow since the design ended up being only a bit over 3 X 5 inches on the 46 ct. evenweave... Wait--46 count?!?! Yes, you read that right! An Instagram friend, Jucus who lives in Hungary and creates lovely hand-dyed fabrics and trims, offered a free piece of 46 ct. evenweave to "brave stitchers" who would like to try it. Of course, I took the challenge... I mean as an avid 40 ct. stitcher, how much harder could 46 ct. be? Simply put:  much harder! I don't know if it was because it was evenweave and I had to use a hoop to hold it (I usually stitch in hand on linen) or what, but I really struggled to see the holes. The fabric itself was beautiful, but I'm not sure I would try such a high count again.  Here is the link to Jucus' Etsy shop--she offers beautiful fabrics in many counts and  free shipping on $50.00+ orders: xJudedesign

Stitching on 46 ct. makes for a small pillow!

The yo-yo was made with a Clover "Quick" Yo-Yo Maker  which I tried for the first time. They come in various sizes ranging from Extra Small to Jumbo and I thought it worked very well. I used the "small" size for this yo-yo, but plan on buying the medium and large sizes now that I know they are easy to use.  Clover even make yo-yo makers in heart and flower shapes!

Don't you love yo-yos?!

My other finish was my February (yes, I'm behind already for 2019!) Christmas ornament and I love it! This is a  Prairie Schooler design from Book No. 47 called "Santa Rides."  I used a scrap of 40 ct. mystery linen in a soft sage green color (wish I had more of it!) and most of the suggested colors. The main change I made was to the snowflakes which were charted to be DMC 3046 which I found very strange... 3046 is quite yellow in tone! So I changed the snow to a much more believable ecru. I also changed the color of the third tree to make it stand out from the two bordering it.

Prairie Schooler's "Santa Rides" finish

I knew I wanted to build a frame of twigs for my final finish as soon as I began stitching  this funny Santa driving his Christmas tree-filled truck. This design just demanded a rustic finish, in my opinion, so I channeled my decades old summer camp "arts and crafts" sessions! I made a twig frame, braided some simple twine for the hanger, and added some dried berries and rusty jingle bells on top. I also had the idea to use a very thick cream colored trim to represent the snow under the truck. It came on a spool and I just glued down two strips of it, side by side, to get the look I wanted. What do you think? I have to say, I think this was my most "liked" ornament ever on Instagram when I posted it on Tuesday. By the way, if you'd like to follow me on Instagram just click here! I'd love to see you there, too...

A rustic finish complete with "snow" made from trim!

I made a twig frame once before for a Christmas ornament way back in 2011. This one was done a bit differently as I stacked the twigs rather than cutting and piecing them as I did in my latest finish. I love the look of it except for one thing--there is a gap between the stitching and the twigs on the top and bottom because those twigs lie on top of the two side twigs. It is not visible in this photo, but it is there if you look down at the ornament. I do love this one, though, and it is on my top ten favorite Christmas ornaments--I just adore his little bundle of logs. If you'd like to read more details about this finish, click here. And if you have extra time, you may want to read the whole post as it contains the story of one of the most emotionally rewarding experiences I had in my career as a librarian!

My first twig frame back in 2011

A delightful random act of kindness arrived from one of my readers (and new stitching friend!), Nicole, who lives on the other side of Pennsylvania. She read of my sudden fascination with French designer, Perrette Samouiloff's designs (in this post) and wanted to send me a little book of them. Well, imagine my surprise when not only the book, but  five French magazines, five skeins of DMC floss, mini blue ric-rak, and a sweet silver charm arrived in my mailbox! Oh, my, Nicole--you truly spoiled me! I am so looking forward to stitching these charming designs and I'm even happier to have "met" such a generous and thoughtful new stitching friend! Thank you so very much ♥

Delightful surprise goodies from Nicole!

So, on to more of the "fun" stuff: Florida! Yes, I got very brave and flew by myself to sunny Florida for 5 days to visit my middle sister and her husband.  I had  only flown alone once before when I was much younger so I was quite worried. As luck would have it, I got stopped in the security line for a "random electronics screening" where they had to take each of my electronic devices: (my iPad, my cell phone, and my Kindle), swab them with something, and then test them for explosive residue. I have both TSA pre-check and Global Entry, but I guess this is completely random and happening more often to travelers no matter their security risk. Of course, my devices were fine, but it started my journey off on a bit of a nerve-wracking note! I am an anxious flyer to begin with (are any of you, too?) so that wasn't the best way to start my trip, but, thankfully, everything went smoothly from there on.

Walking into my sister's condo in Daytona Beach Shores was a bit like stepping back into time . You see, my parents had owned that same condo for many, many years and the last time I visited was in 2011 (you can read about that visit right here) when both mom and dad were still living there--the visit where I got the big speeding ticket!  My sister has changed very little and it made me a bit sad picturing  my dad relaxing in his recliner by the sunny window staring at the waves in the ocean, eating lunch at the bar counter,  and sitting on his bed as he tied his shoes. 2011 was the last time I saw him there as my parents soon moved back north to get some much needed help in dealing with his troubling dementia. But, it also brought me a feeling of home and  comforted me as well. I love remembering how happy mom and dad were there all those years during as they escaped our long, cold winter months. My sister and I simply relaxed, took long walks on the beach, and reminisced about days gone by. We had a great time!

Daytona Beach Shores is a very wide beach where you are even allowed to drive a car! My sister's condo is in the first building on the right--way up near the top.
Because the condo is on a barrier island between the Florida coast and the Atlantic Ocean, there are beautiful views of the Halifax river...

... and of the Atlantic Ocean. These photos were both taken from the condo.

I so enjoyed those warm sunny days by the water!

We also went to visit nearby Dunlawton Plantation and Sugar Mills Gardens which contains a few artifacts of a former 19th century sugar plantation along with gardens and hiking trails.

Artifacts of the sugar making process included these giant kettles used to boil the cane juice

At the center of the garden was this huge old oak tree.

The Spanish moss was draped over the boughs of the trees and swung lazily in the Florida breeze.

I love the way the American flag seems to have taken on the shape and color of the Spanish moss!

Some of the pretty flowers and ferns we saw at Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens

I can see why my sister is so happy living in Florida in the winter months! You totally forget that it is winter--no icy roads or shoveling mounds of heavy snow to deal with. It is a very easy, carefree life for her in her retirement years! I actually hated to go back north and face winter again, but it was time to go home...

This was what greeted me as I flew into Pennsylvania! Yes, it had snowed the night before. Can you see the shadow of the airplane on the ground? At least the sun was shining even if it was a frigid 10° when I landed!

And the bad -- the FLU! Unfortunately, the germs of the plane got to me and I came down with some sort of cold/flu bug on the way home. I think it was the flu (although I did have a flu shot this winter, as I always do!) because my whole body ached--even the tops of my hands were hurting. My cold wasn't horrible, but the cough was and it took a good 10 days to finally begin to feel better. I just felt so wiped out and listless... I honestly hadn't been that sick in years! 

So, if I haven't visited your blogs, responded to your comments or emails, or left comments recently, please forgive me. I will catch up--I promise!  I think I've babbled on long enough for now... I'll be back in a couple weeks (hopefully!) with a darling Easter piece that I'm stitching and my March ornament. Until then, thank you all for your sweet comments and emails--I treasure each one! Hope the rest of the month is good to each of you! Bye for now...

Monday, February 25, 2019

Forever & Ever

I've lost my heart to the beautiful new "Songbird's Garden Series" by Cottage Garden Samplings! I can't remember when I enjoyed stitching a piece as much as I did this sweet cardinal pair... Even though, it was one of the most stitch-dense pieces I've ever done, it just came together so beautifully... Very little ripping out of stitches, very large, easy-to-read color chart--a true pleasure to stitch! I began this one on the first day of January 2019 and just finished it up last week--and believe me, I spent multiple hours stitching it--almost every day! But, just look at the result of "Forever & Ever."

Forever & Ever finish

I so love the designer's use of color! I questioned things when I first looked at the shades of floss on their own, but went ahead and used the suggested colors and I'm so glad I did. Look at these gorgeous Christmas Roses (commonly called Hellebores). Aren't they stunning? I've never seen a Hellebore in person and wonder if they would grow in our cold winters here in western Pennsylvania. Of course, even if they did, ours would promptly be consumed by our marauding band of deer!

Such soft pinks and greens!

And look at this tiny house--just so sweet and so unexpected nestled on the flower stems. Each of the eight designs that have been released so far has a miniature house!

Little pink houses (for you and me?!)

But, it is the Northern Cardinals themselves who are the stars of this design... I love the stylized nature of their bodies with the swirls and ovals--really striking, aren't they?

True love--Northern Cardinal style!

My finished piece ended up being 8 inches square and was stitched on 40 ct. pearl gray Newcastle linen. I plan on stitching more charts in this delightful bird series this year and using the same linen for each. They are all the same size and I think they will look wonderful framed individually and hung as a group.  Are any of you stitching this series? Which bird is your favorite? I am having a hard time trying to decide which to stitch next--they are all so beautifully designed!

The first of many finishes in this series (I hope!)

As many of my long-time readers know, cardinals hold a special place in my heart. This wasn't always the case... Oh, I've always admired them as the beautiful birds they are and I love the fact that they mate for life. But, I didn't develop a deep caring for them until soon after my dad died in late 2014. I first mentioned that special cardinal in this post from January 2015--just a bit over two months after his death. And then in this post from a month later, I described learning about the meaning of cardinals and just how much peace I felt when I saw that cardinal sitting atop the tree on that snowy January day.  A blogging friend had written to tell me about cardinals being representative of a loved one who has passed. Suddenly, the feeling of peace and contentment that I got as I gazed at that cardinal made complete sense. 

Flash forward four years and I see cardinals on an almost daily basis.  Sometimes, I just say "Hi, Papa!" and go about my way. Other times--usually when I'm anxious or stressed,  I talk to them and tell them of my worries and thank them for visiting. (Do I sound like some sort of weirdo?!) Anyway, all I know is that cardinals have brought me so much joy and comfort since that day in January 2015 and as soon as I saw this chart, I felt compelled to stitch it...

A bright red male cardinal on a snowy winter day

Aren't they striking against the snow?

Vibrant red male on the left and the fawn colored female on the right... I almost always see cardinals in pairs.

Can you spot the female? She is well camouflaged within the branches of this woody shrub.

More goodies! My middle son's girlfriend celebrated her birthday recently and I wanted to make a special treat for her when they came over for Sunday dinner. I didn't want a large dessert so I simply googled "small batch cupcakes" and was surprised to find so many recipes for four or six cupcakes. I ended up making this one from "Celebrating Sweets" and it was very tasty. The recipe made six cupcakes (I think I could have gotten seven or even eight from the batter, though)--chocolatey goodness with a bit of brewed coffee added to bring out the chocolate flavor. 

Some birthday cupcakes prettied up with tiny chocolate hearts! (The directions for making them are also on the blog that I linked to).

I also made the vanilla frosting found at the bottom of the same recipe, but it seemed to only be enough for four cupcakes (I do like a lot of frosting on my cupcakes, after all--don't you?!). So, what to do about the remaining two naked cupcakes? Well, I found a delicious recipe for peanut butter frosting on a blog called "Peas and Crayons" which you can find right here. Even though I halved the recipe to make only enough for two cupcakes, there was way too much! There was easily enough for four cupcakes... But, the extra frosting didn't go to waste :) (And my treadmill had the pleasure of my company for a lot longer than usual on Sunday to make up for my indulgence)! Anyway, everyone enjoyed them very much and it certainly was a birthday for my middle son's girlfriend to remember! Our power went out due to the 60 mile per hour winds that we were experiencing (along with much of the rest of the mid-west and northeast!). Really crazy weather patterns this year, that's for sure.

Peanut butter and chocolate! What could be better?

I've finished stitching both my February and March Christmas ornaments, but don't have them fully finished so I'll share those with you next time.  Until then... thank you all for your extra kind comments on my Valentine's finishes in my previous post and all of your love for my sweet mom--she appreciated all of your sweet words. Yes, at age 91,  she reads my blog each time I post and is always so complimentary--not only of my writing, but of all of your sweet comments... She reads each of them, too! Wishing you a wonderful week ahead and I hope the month of March brings lots of love and luck your way! Bye for now...

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Feeling the Love (and giveaway winners!)...

Well, all I can say, is I wish everyone could feel the sense of love and the spirit of kindness that I experienced when I read through your wonderful comments on my Stitching Dreams 10th Anniversary post. Your thoughtful and heartfelt messages really got to me--a few even brought tears to my eyes. I've said it many, many times before, but I truly believe the cross stitching community is the most supportive group one could ask for. Don't you agree? I mean how nice is it to have an online community that actually builds each other up, encourages each other, and is there to offer support or a shoulder to lean on in times of need?  Aren't we the lucky ones? Thank you, one and all, for taking the time to leave your comments... Whenever I'm feeling low, all I'll have to do is scroll through the comments from that post and I know they'll instantly make me smile!

I've been doing a little pink and red stitching in honor of Valentine's Day... I'm sure you'll all recognize my first finish as a Lizzie Kate design. This is "A Little Love" and is stitched on 40 ct. white Newcastle linen with most of the suggested overdyed threads. To finish it off, I added a few pale pink beads to the flowers and the middle of the letter "L," and used a few trims to embellish it. Layering the trims on a little pillow like this makes such a difference, don't you think?

Lizzie Kate's "A Little Love" finish

And, although I'm really not much of a "pink" girl, this sweet freebie turned out so cute. It is from the Italian blog Cuore e Batticuore and is available right here. This one is stitched on 40 ct. antique white Newcastle with the suggested DMC threads and is a perfect example of a piece where the finishing took longer than the stitching! Again--note all the layers.  For someone who doesn't really like pink, this one is actually growing on me!

A "Pretty In Pink" Valentine freebie

My final Valentine's finish is something I am truly proud of because it really wasn't charted as a Valentine's piece at all! Over the past few months, I've fallen in love with the charming children from French designer Perrette Samouiloff and decided I wanted to have a Valentine's piece featuring them. My French blogging friend, Nathalie, has sent me several French cross stitch magazines in the past and the two children I used in my finish were taken from the November / December 2017 issue of Création Point de Croix.

The children were actually charted to be part of an Advent Calendar featured in this issue. Here is a photo of it shown below... I had only one year of French in college so it's a bit hard to read the magazine (who am I kidding--I can only make out a few words!!) but, luckily, the language of stitching is universal!

I used the charts of the girl from Day 10 and the boy from Day 16 (stitched in reverse so he faces his sweetheart--simply take a photo of the design in a mirror to reverse the chart and make stitching easier!).  I changed every single suggested color because there were too many orangey reds for me. My tip for changing colors is to simply turn to your favorite designer. Have you ever noticed that most designers tend to design within a certain color palette? Well, you all  know my favorite designs are from Prairie Schooler so, voilĂ --I converted everything to those colors and am so pleased with the final result! This is stitched on 32 ct. bay rum jobelan with all DMC threads.

Two Perrette Simouloff children in Prairie Schooler colors!

In other changes, I made  her bouquet smaller and added a tied bow to the back of her dress. I decided to finish this one as an oval ornament and here is the result.  After ruching some burgundy and white checked ribbon, adding a small bow, and a silver key charm, I'm proud to call this one a finish! Isn't it sweet? I know I'll be stitching more Perrette Samouiloff designs in the future...

Too cute for words!

So, what else is new in my world? Oh, yeah--that's right... I'm another year older. Sigh... It wasn't a "big" birthday, but next year will be. I'm now 64 and can hardly believe I'll be an honest-to-goodness "senior citizen" in January of next year. I mean I don't feel old (well, most days, anyway) and many people tell me I look young for my age, but, wow, how on earth did I get to be this age?  It was a quiet birthday as most of mine are; mid-January in the cold, wintry northeast is not exactly conducive to going out and partying, is it? I've often envied people who had birthdays in warm, sunny months...

Birthday cards and flowers from family and friends helped brighten my mid-January birthday!

I received birthday gifts from two dear blogging friends, June and Cindy.  You two have been such wonderful friends throughout my blogging years--thank you each so much for your thoughtful gifts, but thank you even more for your continuing friendship!

Birthday gifts from June in England included charms, ribbons, bookmarks, and notecards!

Birthday snowman from Cindy in Tennessee. I love the little checked scarf that Cindy embroidered with my initial!

And from a very sweet friend, Barb in Michigan, came two charts that she wanted to pass on to me as she had purchased duplicates (I'm glad I'm not the only one who does that!). Thank you so much, Barb--I will be sure to pass these along when I'm done stitching them!

My brother and sister-in-law took a trip to Arizona last fall and brought back this southwest themed kit for a miniature  rug as a gift for me. I was so touched--and very surprised! Thank you both for feeding my stitching addiction!

And my last gift was a very special one from a blog reader turned friend (who wants to remain anonymous) who wanted to help me celebrate the 10th anniversary of my blog. Just look at these sweet goodies! A cute Christmas banner and buttons and a day planner were included along with the chart for that gorgeous Mirabilia tree and all the beads and specialty threads needed to stitch it--wow!! Thank you so much, my friend--I was so touched that you would think of me...

GIVEAWAY WINNERS... I both love and hate this part! I love giving things, but I truly wish I could give each of you something. At least, five stitchers will be happy and I'm thrilled to know that these little gifts will be flying all over the world to both bloggers and non-bloggers alike. Congratulations to all!   Please contact me (my email is in the "A Bit About Me" in my sidebar) with your mailing addresses and I will get these out to you as soon as possible. Thanks to all who entered--and if you didn't win this time, please know I will be having future giveaways... So without further ado, the winners are as follows.

Winner of the Leisure Arts book is:  Natureluvr57 (no blog -- not sure where you are located)

Winner of the Just Nan "Snow Faces" chart is Katie (Jeremiah's Mom blog) in Indiana

Winner of Lizzie Kate's "A Good Night" chart is Kay (no blog -- in Lincoln, United Kingdom)

Winner of the 2009 Prairie Schooler Santa chart is Jutta (Stoff and Nadel blog) in Germany

Winner of Sue Hillis's "Yankee Doodle Dandy" chart is Karen (no blog -- in Williamsburg, Virginia)

It was so interesting to read the answer to my question about what you most enjoyed in my blog posts. Many of you said (beside the stitching!) that you liked reading about my travel adventures, my baking photos and links, and even the backyard nature photos that I post. Thank you so much! I always worry that I'm boring you so I'm glad you enjoy these non-stitching portions, too...

So, do you celebrate Valentine's Day? We keep things pretty low-key here--exchange cards, eat chocolate, and if I'm lucky my husband brings me some cheery flowers. I wanted to make a special dessert for Valentine's week when my middle son and his girlfriend were over for their usual dinner this past weekend. So, when I spotted a perfect sounding recipe in the Sunday morning paper, I was delighted. I mean what could be a better combination than chocolate and raspberries? The recipe for this Chocolate-Stout Vinegar Cake With Raspberry Coulis can be found right here. It was quite good, although the cake was a bit dry for my taste. I didn't have the suggested 8" round cake pan so I used a 9" and forgot to adjust the baking time so that could account for the dryness. But, hey--plop enough whipped cream and raspberry sauce on and the cake moistened right up!

Chocolate-Stout Vinegar Cake With Raspberry Coulis

A long awaited love... My dear mother received the very best Valentine gift of all in the form of her first great-grandchild, this precious baby boy born to my niece in late December. She held him in her arms for the first time last week and I think that radiant smile of hers says it all... Mom will be 92 years old in just three months--doesn't she look fabulous?! ♥ ♥ ♥

The best Valentine mom could ask for!

And that's a wrap for my Valentine's Day post! I hope you've enjoyed your visit with me on this chilly mid-February day and I want to wish you each a Happy Valentine's Day tomorrow... Thank you all for your sweet comments and emails--I do  read each and every one and so appreciate the time it takes you to let me know you've visited! I'll be back with a big (for me) finish in a couple weeks...  Bye for now...