Wednesday, July 31, 2019

A snowy finish and a new travel adventure begins

Good morning on this very last day of July! Are you ready for August? I am so far behind after being away for a good portion of the month that I still have my patriotic stitching up! Time to bring out the sunflowers and bees and get ready for fall--and after the hot, hot temperatures over the past few weeks, I'm ready... how about you?

I only have one finish to share with you today and that is my ornament for July--hooray, I've caught up on my ornament-a-month challenge and am going to do my best to keep from getting behind for the rest of the year. This Little House Needleworks design is called "Snowy Winter" and is stitched "over one" on 28 ct. black Monaco. I stitched another of the snowflakes and used that as the bottom right corner of the ornament. These ornaments look harder to make than they really are. You begin with four separate sections, sew two sets of  rectangles with two pieces of fabric in each and then sew the two rectangles together to form a square. Then simply finish as a small pillow ornament. Give it a try! (It was a gray day yesterday when I photographed it so I'm sorry it isn't showing up better).

"Snowy Winter" all finished for my tree

I forgot to stitch the rope pull for the sled (as you can see in the photo below) and had to add it after I had finished this into a little pillow--not the easiest thing to do, but, luckily it was just one long, straight stitch. I love the tiny heart imprinted in the snow! A simple, sweet design for my Christmas tree... On to my August ornament!

So tiny and cute!

I've also started a piece of summer stitching, but it is taking much longer than I expected.  For some reason, I have very few summer pieces to display and I'm trying to remedy that! Here's a little snippet for you--can anyone guess what it is?

Can you guess what I'm stitching?

Giveaway winner...  Wow! There were 21 of you who entered for the Frosty Flakes chart. I was so surprised as I assumed most of you owned it already. Anyway, the winner's name drawn from the hat is...

Arlene G!

Arlene--congratulations! Please email me with your mailing address and I'll drop this in the mail to you this week.  I'm sorry I couldn't send each of you a chart, but I will be having future giveaways, so please keep an eye on this space!

Congratulations to Arlene!

A fun idea... My youngest son (the one who is always, always traveling for both work and pleasure) sent me this photo of a framed collage of international currency that he recently made (I guess we now have two crafters in the family)! I thought it was such a creative way to use up any  "extra" money that you find yourself with after traveling abroad. When I asked him how much money was in the frame, he said he thought it was about $300.00! I guess if he goes back to any of these countries, he can always reach in and take that country's currency with him, right?

My youngest son's creative money collage

So, speaking of travel... I so enjoyed reading your guesses as to where we were heading on our latest trip. No one truly pinpointed it, although the few that said Germany got it partially correct! Where did we go? Well, those of you who follow me on Instagram (and if you'd like to please just click here) already know that we went on an anniversary river cruise down the Danube! This was a trip two years in the making as our three sons actually gave us this trip as a 40th wedding anniversary present--and that was two years ago! We just now had the time to plan and go, though, and, trust me--it was well worth the wait!  I want to thank them for this amazing gift and for seeing to our every need from transportation to and from the airport, to answering our many questions about procedures, to simply being the best sons ever!

Prague, Czech Republic

Our anniversary trip began with our flight into the airport in Prague, Czech Republic on July 16th. We were to spend two days there before boarding our river boat and beginning the cruise. Now, I grew up in the Cold War Era and to think that I would be visiting countries that were once behind that so-called "Iron Curtain" both excited me and had me a bit nervous. Driving to our hotel on the bus, you could see a fair amount of the cold-looking, nondescript buildings that were put up in the Soviet era.

After an overnight flight on which I didn't sleep at all (yes, I was up for 36 hours straight!), we arrived at Prague's airport.

Once we arrived in Prague's Old Town Square, however,  it was as if we had entered a storybook complete with beautifully embellished buildings and horse-drawn carriages! A fairy-tale come to life... So come along with me--let's explore Prague (all photos are clickable for a better view).

Your carriage awaits!

Everywhere you looked in Old Town Square was another beautiful building--AND another tourist. Oh, it was so very crowded--obviously July is prime tourist season. If I went again, I would try to go in the fall!
Prague's famed astronomical clock was first installed in the year 1410 which makes it the third oldest astronomical clock in the world! At the top of each hour, the little figurines, put on a show with Death (the skeleton on the right) ringing a bell and the others shaking their heads saying "no, it's not our time to go!"

Scenes from Prague's Old Town Square

Streetcars were everywhere--quite loud, but very efficient.
The beautiful late-Gothic and baroque style St. Nicholas Church in Old Town Square, Prague

The elaborate carvings above doorways and windows were simply breathtaking!

The corners of buildings and tops of windows and doors were often beautifully embellished
The sidewalks in Prague were made of small squares of cut stone (granite, I believe) and were so clean! We saw virtually no litter compared to that seen in U.S. cities.

On the morning of the second day, we visited Prague Castle--the largest ancient castle in the world! It was an absolutely huge complex which covers over 750,000 square feet and is now the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic. Parts of it date back to the year 870. We were only able to see a small portion of the castle complex--you could easily have spent an entire day there.

The church spires of the castle loom in early morning sunlight

The Prague Castle courtyard

The exterior of St. Vitus Cathedral--very Gothic! Construction began on the present day cathedral in 1344.

St. Vitus is the largest and most important church in the Czech Republic.

Stunning details adorned the exterior as well as the interior.

Some scenes from the interior of St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague

We also saw some of the lovely buildings in the city's Jewish quarter.

A sobering visit... On the afternoon of the second day, we could choose from different excursions. We debated about going to the  Terezín Concentration Camp as we had been to Dachau in Germany back in 2011 and it was very difficult. But, I'm so glad we went as this was a very different camp and gave us a much fuller picture of the extent that the Nazi's went to "fool the world" as to what really transpired in the camps. This concentration camp was used for propaganda and put forth to the world as a "wonderful cultural experience for Jewish families."

Our first sight at Terezín was the garden remembering both Jewish and Christian victims.

I learned that the stones placed on Jewish graves like the one above is a way to honor the dead by letting them know someone has been visiting them and that their memory continues to live on through us.

Don't let the idyllic setting fool you--the small fortress was a notorious Gestapo prison for five years.

From 1940-1945, the Small Fortress served as a Gestapo-run prison for political prisoners of all faiths.

The other part of Terezín was where the Jewish people were imprisoned. It looks almost like a college campus, doesn't it? That is why this particular concentration camp was used for propaganda when the Red Cross visited. The Nazis would show them nicely painted rooms with not more than three people living in each and have the children put on little musical concerts while, in reality, prisoners were crammed into tiny, filthy living quarters. The Nazis even set up a shaving room with dozens of sinks and mirrors... the only problem--the sinks weren't actually hooked up to water! It was all for show when the Red Cross visited (and was thoroughly deceived). Over 35,000 people died in Terezín. An additional 88,000 died after being transferred from Terezín to extermination camps such as Auschwitz. At the end of WWII, there were only 17,247 survivors of the 155,000+ souls who had passed through Terezín.

The remains of a secret Jewish meeting room at Terezín

In the museum there were many haunting displays and drawings

Thousands of children were transported to live in barracks at Terezín. Some of the artwork they did is showcased at the top of a stairway in the museum.

The names and birth dates of the children of Terezín

In 1968, when I was 13 years old, my parents traveled to Europe and brought back booklets on some of the concentration camps they had visited. These left a lasting impression on me... I remember pouring over them trying to make any sense at all of how such things could have existed a mere 25 years before. I remember writing term papers and essays on the Holocaust and concentration camps. To this day, I'm still reading about that horrific time in history and am still as saddened and shocked as I was as a 13-year-old. We must never allow ourselves to forget...

Final impressions of Prague...  ***We thought the people we met were very open and friendly. That being said--you do need to be careful as there are a lot of pickpockets (and we were almost a victim as we stupidly stood on a crowded street corner looking at a map!) in the touristy areas. ***I loved the sound of the Czech language--there are so many soft "shhh" sounds and it is very soothing. ***In a way, the Czech Republic is just coming into its own after all those years of Nazi and Soviet domination. It was so interesting to hear from the guides about the "Velvet Revolution" in 1989 when 41 years of one-party rule finally ended for the Czech people. To hear them talk about their lack of freedom and the poor quality of living under Soviet rule, makes me so very grateful to have grown up in a free country.

I doubt if many of you are still with me at this point--that was a long one! But, I like to document my travels as well as my stitching here because I know I won't remember the highlights when I'm old(er) and gray(er)! Thank you all for your sweet comments on my previous post--I was really happy to hear from so many new readers last time... Welcome to each one of you! I'll be back in a couple weeks with (hopefully) my finished summer piece and the next installment of my river cruise adventure... Any ideas of where the next destination will be? Take care everyone--and Happy August! Bye for now...

Friday, July 12, 2019

Catching up on Christmas in a patriotic month

Happy July, all! How is your summer going? Ours has been hot, hot, hot! But, today is the perfect day--sunny and mid-70s with low humidity. If only every day could feel like this one! Before I share my latest stitching finishes with you, I want to pause and thank each one of you who left a comment for me on my previous post--you all leave the best comments--you really do! Many of you don't have blogs and your comments are one of the few ways in which I can get to know a bit about you. Blogging is often a one-way street, so to speak... So, thank you for taking the time to comment--I promise I read and enjoy each and every one.

Anyway... I have "almost" caught up with my monthly ornaments! Yay! I have never been this far behind in the ten years that I've been stitching a monthly Christmas ornament. I'm not sure what my problem has been this year. I've really lacked my finishing mojo and prefer to spend my time stitching (like most of you, I'm sure!). But, I'm happy to present my finish for my May ornament--an oldie, but goodie, by Little House Needleworks called "Frosty Flakes." Have any of you stitched this cutie? If so, you'll recognize that I changed the color of the border, the scarf, and the package from the suggested green to a pretty variegated blue (GAST Dungarees thread). I also changed the checked border underneath the snowman from gold to white to resemble snow.

"Frosty Flakes" in blue!

Once again, I turned to my favorite 40 ct. Vintage Country Mocha Newcastle linen and I'm so happy with how my finish turned out. I had originally planned on making one of my little pillow finishes, but when I spotted this blue plaid fabric (just a scrap of an old miniature decorative towel that I had saved), I immediately knew it was the perfect thing to showcase Mr. Frosty Flakes. On this type of finish, I simply cover the back of the blue plaid fabric with a square of coordinating felt. Why spend extra money on fabric when it is not being seen? I cut two sprigs off the back of my dried boxwood wreath and hot glued them to the cording along with some miniature silver bells. What do you think?

Little House Needleworks "Frosty Flakes" finish

My ornament for June is another oval-shaped Prairie Schooler Santa from "Kris Kringle" Book No. 62. I've now stitched all but two of the eight Santas. I actually stitched this one back in 2012 and gave it to a good stitching friend, but this one is staying here with me. As I did for the other Santas in this series, I used 40 ct. raw natural Newcastle linen and the suggested DMC threads. Many people have asked how I get the perfect oval shape. Well, I use these plastic templates that are sold on Amazon: oval templates. There is no way I could draw an oval that perfectly!

Prairie Schooler Santa and goose from "Kris Kringle" Book No. 62

And, I stitched another of one of my favorite PS Santas carrying the birds and birdhouse to send as a gift to a friend on Instagram. This is from the same "Kris Kringle" Prairie Schooler book and marks the fourth time I've stitched it! Friendships can spring up on Instagram between stitchers so easily--if you'd like to follow me on Instagram, just click here! I'd love to have you visit me...

A gift for a friend!

Since it is July, I just had to get a bit of patriotic stitching in, so I leafed through my notebook of older charts and came up with this beauty. Stitched on 40 ct. Vintage Country Mocha Newcastle with most of the suggested colors (I had all but one in my stash--how unusual is that!) is "Penny America" by Tree of Life Samplings. Isn't it pretty?

"Penny America" finish

To finish it off I sewed a piece of blue gingham (from a thrifted man's shirt!) to the linen with the larger burgundy ric rak peeking out in between. I then carefully applied the tiny gold ric rak with a bit of glue and topped it off with a yo-yo, blue button, and gold star. I love it!

"Penny America" made a nice addition to my July decorating

I'll zoom in a bit closer so you can get a better look at the rustic frame that I got for free! Yes, this beautifully aged frame was on the "free table" at my mom's senior living center when I was visiting last fall and I quickly snapped it up! I plan on just popping out the patriotic piece and possibly using the frame again for an autumn piece late this year. Just look at all of those great "worm" holes--such a beauty!

A close-up so you can see this wonderful old frame

Giveaway winner... I had 12 stitchers enter for the patriotic parade chart shown below and I'm happy to announce that the name picked out of the hat is...

Barb R. (from Michigan)

Barb, congratulations to you--please send me your mailing address and I'll get this out to you as soon as possible.

Winner of the patriotic chart is Barb R. from Michigan!

I'm sorry I couldn't send a chart to each of you, but I will definitely be having more giveaways in the future. In fact, why not now?! Would anyone like to win the chart for Frosty Flakes? I know many of you already own it, but if you don't please let me know--specifically--in your comments that you would like to be included in the drawing to win it. Also, make sure to include your email address and to make it more fun and interesting--how about guessing where I am traveling to on my upcoming trip... I've already told some of you so don't answer if you already know. The winner will simply be determined by a random drawing--there is no "extra credit" for guessing the correct destination. I will keep the drawing open until the 27th of July and announce the winner on my next post... Good luck to all!

If you would like to win this snowman chart, just leave a comment with your email address and a guess as to where I am headed on my next vacation (only guess if I haven't already told you, please).

All creatures great and small... Most of you know that my backyard is filled with many beautiful (and some not so beautiful!) creatures--both four-legged and feathered. I wanted to share some of the animals I've encountered this summer.

The bunnies are out in full force--I spotted this sweet rabbit when out for a walk earlier this month.

And look! A fox! I don't know who was more scared when I confronted him while on a walk at my mom's senior living community! He turned around in a hurry and ran back into the woods.

We recently bought two new bird-feeders and, oh, my--the birds are flocking to them. We bought a green recycled-plastic suet feeder with a tail-prop and the woodpeckers just love it. And the bronze colored feeder is one I purchased at Walmart for the smaller birds--goldfinches, chickadees, wrens, etc. (but, we see cardinals and bluejays there, too, now and then). I get such joy from watching these little creatures as I sit at my kitchen table each day.

Some of the sweet birds that have been visiting daily. They love our new feeders!

And my family has some new "members!" Yes--a quintet of turkeys has made its home in the woods behind our house and makes a habit of trotting down to our "all-birds welcome" feeder almost daily. They are the funniest looking birds with those long, scrawny necks--wouldn't exactly call them pretty!

The turkeys stand right under the bird feeder to chow down on the seed that the birds have dropped.

It's amazing how quickly the babies are growing up--they could barely waddle the first time I spotted them.

And one more new member--not a welcome one, however! Some people have their own guard dogs--well, we have our very own guard groundhog who has made himself right at home on our front porch. Apparently, he is living under it and feels like he is entitled to use the porch just like one of the family! He is making a mess of things including digging into my pretty yellow begonias and scattering the dirt everywhere.

Just watching the world go by on a sunny summer day!

A scary morning... My porch is just a mess in the photo above because yesterday we were "treated" to a torrential thunderstorm with many areas of flash flooding around the county. Our yard looked like it had a river running down the side of it as it sits at a low point and has all of  the other neighbors run-off streaming down their hills into our lawn. Thankfully, a few years ago we had put in some very large 20" drain pipes to help keep our pond from overflowing which (hopefully) keeps our basement from flooding. I'm not sure what would have happened if the rain had lasted all day; thankfully, it only lasted a few hours. I've included a short video that I shot from my front porch of the rain water rushing down the side yard, just yards away from where I was standing--pretty scary stuff! You can see the water rushing down from one neighbors yard and carving paths of mud into the hillside. We only had a bit of water in our basement, thank goodness. My heart goes out to all of my readers who are getting those severe storms down south...

Well, time to hit publish and get back to stitching! My husband has been on a week-long bike trip in Nova Scotia and I am all "off-schedule" without him here! I did get some stitching done--not a lot, but it was nice not to have to think about cooking dinner or doing laundry this week! Back to normal tomorrow and I'll be glad--I really missed him! Thanks so very much for visiting me and thank you, especially, to those of you who take the time to leave a comment... I hope to be back at the end of the month to visit with you again. Bye for now...