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, voilà--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...