Monday, September 30, 2019

I love libraries and cruising down the Danube (Part 3)

As I sit down to write this post on the very last day of September 2019, I have a headache. But, that's okay, because I rarely get headaches except when one thing happens--rain! And yes, it's raining in western Pennsylvania this morning--hooray! We have had next to no rain all month. How do I know that? Well, we had some major landscaping done right after Labor Day and since then, the ground hasn't been touched by more than a sprinkle of rain here and there. Which means, my poor husband has been out watering the newly planted trees, shrubs, and grasses almost every day simply to keep them alive. So--hooray for rain! My headache will be gone as soon as the Excedrin kicks in--I'll be back to normal and so will our new plants...

In my previous post, I told you I was working on a larger piece. Well, after putting in I don't know how many brown and white stitches on a giant house, I am finally done. May I present, "Miss Bingley's Library" by Plum Street Samplers! Isn't it adorable--I mean how could a retired librarian not stitch this one?

"Miss Bingley's Library" is stitched on 40 ct. pearl gray Newcastle linen with the suggested overdyed threads. Aren't those colors wonderful together?

I loved (almost) everything about this one...

... that cheery red bird perched on a stack of books on the library roof as smoke drifts from the chimney

... the prim librarian with her steaming beverage carefully balancing on a pile of giant books

... the big white library with its pretty shutters in Classic Colorworks "Dublin Bay"

What I did not love, though, was the way the word "excellent" was separated into two lines on the original chart as shown below. I know it would have always bothered me if I left it as charted...

The original chart with the word "excellent" separated into two lines

So, that meant a few changes were in order! I centered the wording and omitted the date which left two bare spots on either side of the words. So, I simply duplicated the pretty rose colored flowers from the top of the design and placed them on each side--much happier with the final look! What do you think? 

My rendition of Miss Bingley's Library

I was lucky to grow up right around the corner from this beautiful small town New York library pictured below. Do  you notice just a bit of a resemblance between my childhood library and the one I just stitched? The white paint, the shutter color, the two chimneys? Oh, I spent many wonderful hours there browsing for books, studying, or gathering to gossip with my school friends (and, yes, getting "shushed" by the librarian on more than a few occasions!). Those countless hours spent in this white building inspired me to choose to become a librarian--a decision I never regretted in a career I truly enjoyed.  Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to look back on their career decision and say that! How about you--were you happy with the career path you chose in life?

My small-town library circa 2014

GIVEAWAY WINNER... I really enjoyed reading all of your responses last time for the giveaway question about your favorite fall food--you made me hungry! There were so many entries for the sunflower chart and the winner chosen out of the hat is... 

CHRISTEL  (from France)

Christel, congratulations! Please send me your mailing address and I will get this chart to you as soon as possible. I hope you enjoy stitching it!

The winner of the sunflower chart is... Christel!

I will definitely be offering more charts in future giveaways, so please come back often!

Special gifts... I received two special gifts from family members recently that I wanted to share with you. First of all, just look at the beautiful Delft pieces that my mom gave me... She and my dad brought these back from The Netherlands in the late 1960s and she recently made the decision to break up her collection and let her children select one larger piece and one tile. I happened to be visiting when she decided this so I got first pick. Don't you love the large (9" tall!), blue and white mug (pitcher) that I chose?  The tile was loose and I had the idea to put it in a white frame--luckily, I had one in my stash of frames that worked perfectly. I will treasure these as my dad's paternal heritage is Dutch--they look simply lovely in my blue and white kitchen! Thank you so very much, mom!

The beauty of blue and white--special gifts from mom

And, just yesterday, my middle son surprised me with some stitching finds he spotted at Goodwill. This is the same son who has often purchased small frames for me there, too. He (amazingly!) remembered that Prairie Schooler was one of my favorite cross stitch designers and so he picked up this little bundle of charts (and two pieces of fabric) for the low, low price of 99 cents! He did good, didn't he? And I have none of the charts! In the upper right is a greeting card with a quilt pattern on it that was also included in the bundle with the four Prairie Schooler charts. Thank you so much to my middle son--you made my day!

Prairie Schooler goodies from my middle son!

My next post must include Christmas ornament finishing for August and September--I'm writing this down with the hope that by doing so, I'll be forced to do some ornament finishing! I've been the worst procrastinator this year when it comes to finishing my monthly Christmas ornaments...

The Danube River Cruise resumes... After a short intermission to share photos of our Rocky Mountain Colorado vacation in my last post (which I'm still dreaming about by the way!), I'm resuming my travelogue on the river cruise. If you are interested in reading the first two chapters, check out this post (Part One) and this post (Part Two). I hope you'll join me as we visit four new destinations in the countries of Austria and The Czech Republic...

After leaving the beautiful pastel town of Passau, Germany, we set sail for the next destination and a new country. Just look at what we passed as we sailed down the (not blue at all!) Danube...

This is one of my favorite photos of the entire trip. I just love the castle on the banks of the Danube sharing space with the very modern home in the front right. I mean doesn't every house have a castle in its back yard?!

We made excellent time and arrived at our next port a bit early so we got to walk around a bit after having dinner on the ship. Where were we? Well, we had arrived in...

Linz, Austria

Linz, home of the famous Linzer Torte, is the third largest city in Austria and lies right in the center of Europe. We saw very little of the city as we chose to go on a different excursion (rather than tour Linz itself) the following day. But, we did get to walk around a bit near our docked riverboat that evening and I took these nighttime shots.

Everything had a blue cast to it that night--you can see a couple of riverboats docked in Linz.

A look back down the Danube

This is the Ars Electronica Center which houses a museum for all things science and technology related. The building changes color and the night we saw it, it constantly changed back and forth from blue to green.

The next morning, we awoke early and prepared for a bus ride across the beautiful Austrian countryside and headed back into The Czech Republic. On riverboat tours, you are given options of what activities to do... In Linz, the free option was to tour the city and the two paid options were to travel by bus to Salzburg (which we had seen already) or travel by bus to The Czech Republic to a very special town. We chose the latter and I'm so glad we did!

On our way to our final destination, we stopped in the charming town of...

Rožmberk, Czech Republic

Rožmberk is a tiny town of only 300 occupants, but what is lacks in numbers, it makes up for in old-world charm. Situated by the Vltava River, it is best known as the home of one of the oldest castles in Bohemia, Rožmberk Castle.

Doesn't this look like a photograph on an old calendar? I love the way the buildings are reflected in the Vltava River.

Rožmberk Castle sits high above the river and town and was built in the 13th century.

Rožmberk was just a quick stop enroute to our final destination--the picturesque medieval town of

About two weeks before we left for our river cruise, I happened to see a Rick Steve's travel segment on  Český Krumlov on television. Oh, my--I had to see it for myself! So, we quickly added this side trip on to our itinerary and we're so glad we did. It was like stepping back into a fairy tale land...

Our first view of Český Krumlov

Now walk a bit closer and peer through the arch--what do you see?

A fairytale town come to life!

The Český Krumlov Castle dates back to 1240 AD!
As we were sitting eating lunch in a quaint outdoor cafe, I happened to notice the spire of the castle reflected in the window of an adjacent restaurant. I took mutliple photos and the waiter leaned down to see what I was doing. When I told him and showed him the photo on my phone, he smiled and said, "Very nice! And you will have the only photo like that in the whole world!" What a special thought...

My husband and me with Český Krumlov in the background. We wore little black earpieces to hear the tour guides on the trip--much easier than trying to hear in a crowded tourist spot!

The river in Český Krumlov was a hive of activity! There were many, many paddleboarders, rafters, and kayakers trying to cool off on that hot summer day.

A view from the hill--what did I tell you? It was like a storybook!

We climbed up a steep hill to see the palace gardens (on a 90° day!), but this beautiful sight was well worth our efforts!

Another of my favorite photos from our entire trip!

Me looking quite rested as I had finally overcome the jetlag and was feeling more like myself in this charming town.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Český Krumlov, although it was extremely crowded--probably the busiest of all the towns we visited. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992 making it a "must see" for many. But, even through the throngs of people, the charm of this 13th century town worked its magic! I highly recommend a visit if you ever get the chance. And do try to spend more than a few hours there--there is so much to take in!

Our final stop today on the Danube River cruise today is the town of...

Melk, Austria

Melk is all about the Melk Abbey--a Benedictine abbey founded in 1089. After a short tour of the abbey, which was, frankly, a bit disappointing, we spent some time exploring the town of Melk before heading back to the riverboat for departure.

The imposing Melk Abbey dominates the town

The courtyard of the abbey.

A closeup of some of the statues in the courtyard

Sadly, we were not allowed to take any photos beyond the entryway. To be honest, I found the gold and riches displayed on the remainder of the tour to be excessive and ostentatious. I always pictured abbeys as simple places for thought, prayer, and reflection. This was ornate and overdone, in my opinion. I couldn't help but think of the cost and how this money could have been better spent to improve countless lives.

The view from the top of the abbey of the town of Melk.

This simple wooden cart of flowers was far more beautiful to me than the excessive display of gold and grandeur in the abbey.

I hope you've enjoyed this latest leg of my journey! Two more installments and we'll have reached our final destination. I'm so glad I'm writing this down as I'm already forgetting details from the cruise just 2 1/2 months ago.

So we come to the end of September--thankfully. We all have periods in our lives that are made up of one trying time, disappointment, and worry after another. And for me, September was that kind of month. From deaths of several special friends, to dog bites, to kidney stones, to collapsed vertebra, to dealing with cancer, to heart failure... it really has been just one sad thing after another. My husband and I are fine, but our friends and family members have all had more than their share of heartache and pain. 

I was binge-watching "Call the Midwife" (one of my very favorite series) last week and just happened to catch these words of wisdom at the very end of one of the shows that really struck a chord. I hope they bring some peace and hope to those of you who may be going through trying times, too...

Thank you all for visiting me today--I truly enjoyed reading your comments from my last post--thank you so very much! I'll be back in October with some Christmas stitching and one last summer piece (which is still appropriate since it's going to be near 90 tomorrow on October 1st!). Bye for now...

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Fall finishes and Rocky Mountain highs

Hello, my dear stitching friends! I've had to face the fact that summer is slowly sliding away--with cooler nights and crunchy, falling leaves each day, it's hard to deny. And yet, still, I hate to see it go... Many of you have already put up your fall (and even Halloween!) decorations, but I'm hanging on to sunflowers and bees in my kitchen corner cupboard a while longer. I did feel the itch to allow just a bit of fall into my life through my stitching, though, and I'd love to share it with you today.

A Stitching Dreams reader recently contacted me to ask about the little "Blessed Be" piece shown in my sidebar. It is an older freebie from Plum Pudding Needleart (if you just do a Google images search for Plum Pudding Needleart Blessed Be, you can find it easily) that I've actually stitched five times now! Yes, five times! I gave four of them away and am finally keeping the fifth one for myself.

Numbers four and five of "Blessed Be!"

This is stitched on 40 ct. Vintage Country Mocha Newcastle with the suggested DMC colors except for the pumpkin, the crow, and the border. I used DMC 3371 for the black crow and border and DMC 3826 and 976 for the pumpkin. Can you sharp-eyed stitchers see anything different in the design from the photos above to the finished pieces below? 

Doubly blessed--one for me and one for a friend

Well, I decided to finish off the lower right border even though it's not charted--just three little x's! Here is a close-up so you can see the finish better. I used some gold lace (it is not as yellow as the photo makes it appear), a polka-dot bow, and some of my handmade cording in DMC 3820 for the finish. The tiny pillow below was sent off to a friend as a little surprise. I hope she likes it!

Love the little flower in the crow's mouth!

Now, take a look at the date on the photo below... No, that's not an error! I really did stitch this cutie ten years ago. I stumbled upon this scarecrow recently in my portfolio of finished (but not fully finished) stitching and took pity on him. I mean ten years is a long time for the poor guy to be just hanging around waiting to be displayed. I doubt that any of you remember when I first posted this finish back on September 19, 2009 as most of my original readers from ten years ago have vanished. If you'd like to read about it, please click here. The piece is from an early Just Cross Stitch Magazine dated September/October 1988. The charted color of his jacket was blue, but I thought green fit in better for a fall finish The entire piece is stitched "over one" on 28 ct. Stormy Gray Jobelan. I just love those little birds with pieces of  "straw" hanging from their mouths. And I think you know my soft spot for all-black cats if you've been visiting me here for any length of time!

"Pumpkin Patch" from an older JCS issue

This one was stitched during my very first year of blogging when my goal was to stitch "an ornament a week" and it was my Week 38 finish. If you'd like to see the other smalls and ornaments that I stitched that year, check out this post. I'm happy to say I succeeded in stitching all 52, but sad to say that some of them still remain not "fully finished!" In a way, I'm glad I put off finishing this one because my finishing skills have come a long way since 2009. Since this is such a busy design, I kept the finishing quite simple--just a bit of straw colored cording and a green gingham bow were all that were necessary. It is very small--only 3" X 4" and I love it!

A new fall finish

Giveaway time... With the cooler weather, my thoughts have naturally turned to harvest season and Thanksgiving and I thought this beautiful chart from the July/August 1992 Cross Stitch & Country Crafts magazine would make a perfect giveaway. I have always meant to stitch this basket of sunflowers myself and have kept another copy for that "some day!" If any of you would like to stitch it, let me know in your comments and I will draw a winner. Please, please make sure to include your email if I don't already have it and to make it more fun--I'd love to hear your favorite fall food. For me, it's  Cranberry Pumpkin Bread (click here for recipe) which I make each Thanksgiving--absolutely love it! I will keep the drawing open until September 25th... Good luck to all!

If you are interested in winning this chart, please let me know in your comments. Make sure to leave your email and share with me your favorite fall food, too! Good luck to all!

I'm working on a fun, larger piece (very appropriate for my profession as a librarian--hint, hint!) that I hope to have finished to share with you  in my next post...

On to some vacation photos, but, surprise! We aren't going on more of the Danube River cruise just yet... We spent the final week of August on holiday in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado and I'd love to take you along with me. A family wedding took us there and it was my very first trip to the state. Needless to say, it won't be my last as I simply fell in love with my surroundings. Honestly, this was the very first time--ever--that I didn't want to return home from vacation. I simply loved it that much. My family (husband, three sons, daughter-in-law, and middle son's girlfriend) rented a large home in Estes Park, Colorado which advertised itself as having the "best views in Estes Park." It didn't lie--the view from each and every window was spectacular. 

Sunrises like this one greeted us each morning

The sunrise as seen from our bedroom window

View from our rental home of Lake Estes

The famous Stanley Hotel where the movie "The Shining" was filmed. I never saw it as scary movies and I don't get along! This photo was also taken from our bedroom window.

The first day, in order to adjust to the high altitude, we took a simple hike around Lily Lake.

Even the flowers seemed brighter in Colorado!

The peaceful waters of Lake Estes

Our hike to Emerald Lake was definitely one of the most enjoyable I've ever done

The skies really were the most brilliant shade of blue!

Sadly, other hikers had carved up this beautiful grove of Aspen trees.

Everywhere you looked, it was just one beautiful sight after another. You honestly couldn't take a bad photograph!

Emerald Lake

The water was so clear and clean we could see many fish.

Driving up Trail Ridge Road was spectacular. It is the highest paved road in any of the U.S. National Parks.  As the air thinned, it became harder and harder to breathe easily.

Our ultimate stopping point--12,005 feet above sea level! Walking up to this point left us wheezing and stopping often to catch our breath, but we made it... The land was so different up there above the tree line. This alpine tundra was scattered with rocks and oh-so-windy and cold!

The Lava Cliffs Overlook with its tiny blue glacial lake

Toward the end of the week we hiked to the ruins of an old stone cabin in Estes Park that had burned down over 100 years ago. It was fascinating to look out the "windows" of the structure to those beautiful vistas beyond.

All week we were on the lookout for moose. On the final day, our patience was rewarded as a female moose and her baby ran right across the road in front of our car and scrambled up the rocky embankment.

Pure bliss--stitching in my happy place!

Sunset over the Rocky Mountains

My favorite photo of all--my family at my nephew's "mountain casual" wedding in Estes Park.

And I love this one, too--my siblings and me, left to right are youngest to oldest (yep, I'm the oldest child!)

We returned home ten days ago and I have to admit to being a bit "down" ever since... All of a sudden we were back in our way-too-quiet house and missing our family so very much. But, that wasn't all of it... I truly fell in love with that part of the United States. The sense of peace I get in the mountains can't be matched anywhere else. I've taken to singing "Rocky Mountain High" and daydreaming about moving there. Will it ever happen? Who knows, but I think my husband and I are both ready for a change when he retires. Tell me--is there a place that you would love to move to, a place where you feel so relaxed and worry-free? I'd love to hear about your "happy place!"

I will return to my regular Danube River cruise travelogue in my next post, but I hope you enjoyed my photos of this very special part of our beautiful United States. I think sometimes we forget what a lovely country we have right in our own backyard, don't you? Such varied geography and different scenery in each and every state.  I'd like to welcome my new readers and commenters--so glad to have you here in what seems to be turning out to be a stitching/travel blog! Thank you, as always, for taking the time to leave a comment and say "hi"--I appreciate each and every one of you so very much. Bye for now...