Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Birds of a feather...

How can it be the end of February already? I don't know, but I'm more than happy to bid it "adieu!" Lots of gray and dreary days here... March certainly has to be better, doesn't it? This week was another busy one with my six-month dental appointment (thank goodness I had no cavities this time!) and an informational meeting about Medicare thrown into the mix. I have to sign up for Medicare by April 16th so time is getting short. I'm slowly beginning to understand it more, but any helpful advice would be much appreciated by those of you "over-65ers!" My husband and I are leaning toward signing up for a Medicare Advantage plan--just need to pick the one that best suits us at this stage in our lives. I was relieved to hear that these plans can be changed each year during certain months--doesn't make it quite so stressful in making our selection. I feel like I'm a reasonably intelligent person, but this Medicare process has made me feel really dumb. Thank goodness, I have my stitching to relieve the stress, right?

That "big" (for me, anyway!) finish that I've mentioned in previous posts is finally done and I love it! May I present "Winter's Wisdom" by Cottage Garden Samplings. Oh, what a delight to stitch (although those pine cones about made my eyes permanently cross!).  I'm using 40 ct. pearl gray Newcastle for this series and stitching each one individually. The suggested overdyed threads were used, except I painted the door on the teeny house a teal blue color.

"Winter's Wisdom" all finished up!

The "argyle forest" is so unique, isn't it?

The tiny houses in this series are so sweet... I changed the door color to the teal blue found in the trees.

I saved the darling birds to stitch until last--these are Gold-Crowned Kinglets, which I've never seen. Have any of you?

The colors in this piece perfectly capture the mood of winter!

This is the second of the series that I've stitched... Last year brought "Forever & Ever" (which you can read about in this post) with the cardinal couple. I'm planning on stitching each of them on the same linen, framing them individually, and hanging them together.

Forever & Ever finished in February 2019

So, how many of the Songbird's Garden series will I stitch? Probably six or eight of the dozen offered... I need to step up my stitching if I want to have them hung in my home before I'm ancient, though, so I've decided to attempt to stitch two or three each year. For the next one, I'm trying to decide between these three. Which one do you think I should start next: Faith, Gratitude, or Simplicity? I just love the colors Vinniey (the designer) chose for her Songbird's Garden Series and I can't say enough about the high quality of her charts. Well done all around!

Help me decide which one to stitch next!

In other stitching news--I just received my latest blog book back from the publisher. Every two years I order a new book created through the site. I suggest signing up for emails as they often send you discount codes for your blog book printing. This year, I had one for an amazing 60% off! The book arrived quickly and I'm so enjoying reading through the memories of the years I had printed (2017-2018). Yes, I can read it online, but there is still something so comforting about a printed book--especially when it contains your own words, photos, and recollections.  Here are some photos of my latest book's cover and a few inside pages (not the best photos--as I mentioned above: gray and dreary weather here!).

My newest blog book--all 329 pages of it!

My only complaint is that the captions are not directly under the photos. (But,  I knew that would happen before I ordered the book).

The print is clear and easy to read and the color on the photos is quite good.

I especially like having the memories of our trips in book form. Here is a portion of my post on our "Hike From Hell" from our Panama trip in 2018.

And here are all five of the blog books of my "Stitching Dreams" journey dating back to 2009. As I mentioned, I order two years per book so at the end of this year, I'll order the book for 2019-2020.

There were just a few entries for my last giveaway and the winner of the cute snowman and bunny chart is...

Carol Is Sewbizzy
Carol Is Sewbizzy is the winner!
Congratulations, Carol! Please send me your mailing address and I will get this mailed out to you as soon as possible. (My email is in my sidebar under "A Bit About Me.) Thank you to all who entered. And please keep an eye on this space for future giveaways!

GETTING TO KNOW YOU... It was so much fun reading your answers to my question on my last post about how long you spend stitching each day!  I have often said that blogging is a one-way street--you know a lot about me, but I know little about most of you. So, in an attempt to rectify that, I'm beginning a new little feature called "Getting To Know You." On each post I will pose two simple questions--and I'd love to hear your answers in an effort to get to know you. This is just a fun way to get to know each other a bit better--participate or not. It is up to you! I'll answer the given questions for all of you, too...

1) What is one small living thing that you are scared of? For me--it's bats! I am absolutely terrified of those beady-eyed flying things. Having grown up in an old house with bats in our attic (who sometimes made their way down to our bedrooms and living areas), left me with a definite fear of them. Watching my dad try to chase them out of the house with a tennis racket that he kept near his bed just for that purpose is a memory I'll never forget!

2) What is one healthy food you couldn't live without? For me--it's nuts! I love, love, love nuts of any kind--walnuts, pistachios, pecans, almonds, cashews (well not Brazil nuts or hazelnuts so much!). I often start my day with a small handful of walnuts or pecans. I add them to granola, oatmeal, yogurt--so many things...  Can't imagine life without them!

I'll leave you with a few photos of my feathered friends (and one very unwanted visitor) at our bird feeder last week. I guess you can tell from this post--I love birds, too!

A Tufted Titmouse visiting the feeder right outside my kitchen window. As you can see our snow disappeared almost overnight!

This teeny chickadee is carrying a sunflower seed larger than his beak! They are among my favorite visitors each day--so sweet and delicate.

We had to move the bird feeder due to raccoons repeatedly knocking it down at night and, unfortunately, the squirrels have discovered just how easy it is now to jump onto the window ledge, bypass the cone-shaped squirrel buffer, and leap from the pole to the feeder.
There's the little devil enjoying the birds' lunch!
I want to wish a warm welcome to my new readers--so glad you've joined us! As always, a special thank you to those who take the time to comment. There were over 500 views of my previous post, but very few comments compared to the "good old days." It does get discouraging, at times... I'll be honest with you. So, to those of you who comment--I truly thank you! Wishing each of you a happy, healthy month of March ahead--I'm counting the days until we turn the clocks ahead and have more daylight hours! Yippee!!  Bye for now...

Friday, February 14, 2020

Sending a little love on Valentine's Day

Good morning, my stitching friends! How are you doing on this "lovely" Valentine's Day? (That is actually wishful thinking--it is a mere 22° here this morning, the coldest weather we've had in a long time). The good news is that they are calling for partly sunny skies! Hmm... I'll believe it when I see it--it has just been one grey, cloudy, rainy, depressing day after another here in western Pennsylvania. But, we did get a nice snowfall a week ago (which promptly melted, although it sure was lovely while it lasted!). I'll share some photos with you later on in the post. 

I've finished my ornament for February and it is a cutie, if I do say so myself! This is Bent Creek's "Red Bird Globe" stitched on a piece of mystery color/mystery count fabric. I think it may be 36 ct. linen as I used only one thread, but I did end up using two strands on the white "snow" part to provide better coverage.  The fabric is a very pretty blue/grey color--sure wish I knew what it was as I'd love to buy more of it for winter stitching. The white shows up so well, doesn't it? Isn't this cardinal sweet--I just think his little striped scarf blowing in the wind is adorable. I used Smyrna stitches on the scarf and the lighter brown bands on the globe's base to provide texture. The bird is stitched all in Week's Dye Works "Indian Summer" using the darker portion of the thread for the wing.

My February Ornament finish

I kept the finish very simple on this one--just added beads for the snow (as was charted) and applied a simple white cording and hanger. I seem to be in a "less is more" mood lately as I think too many extras detract from the stitching in many cases. The fabric shown behind the ornament is what I used to back it (another of my husband's old shirts!).  Anyway--so far, I'm happy to say I'm keeping up with my monthly ornament challenge for 2020.

Bent Creek's "Red Bird Globe" finish

For the first time in many years I did no new stitching for my Valentine's Day collection. I did post a few photos on Instagram of a new display which were well received. I got the chippy white basket at HomeGoods last year, but hadn't used it until now. Because the bottom is quite open in each basket, I had to put some shredded raffia in the bottom to get the pieces to stand up. 

Baskets of red and white for Valentine's Day!

These are the more red-themed Valentine's pieces--the pinker pieces are in my corner cupboard. 

Some of my Valentine's finishes from years past

The sweet girl and boy finish on the right is still one of my favorites from my finish last February!

But... I did do some Valentine's stitching for others. Over on Instagram, my dear friend, Claire (Blackberryhill1), wrote on her January 10, 2020 post these words, which ring so true: "As stitchers we carry a long history of creating comfort. A small, handmade item and a few kind words can be a great comfort to someone in need." In an effort to provide some comfort and to let them know we are thinking of them, Claire designed a sweet heart pattern to stitch and make into a pincushion to send to our Australian stitching sisters who have been affected by the horrific wildfires. You can get a copy of the pattern at Wool Penny Rug Supplies by clicking here and then clicking on the button that says Wendy Williams. 

After you've stitched your pincushion, simply sew it up on three sides and leave about 1 1/2 inches open on the fourth side for stuffing.  Turn, press, and you're all set to mail it off--the actual stuffing of each one will be done in Australia. The owners of the Virginia Beach shop, Dyeing To Stitch, offered to act as a collection point in the United States and mail everyone's contributions at once thus saving a lot of money on postage. So, I'll be mailing mine to them next week at Dyeing To Stitch, 5312 Kemp's River Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23464. ***Important: the deadline for getting it sent to the Dyeing To Stitch shop is February 28th, 2020!*** (If you are not in the U.S. and would like to contribute a stitched heart, you can mail them directly to Australia to: Wendy Williams, PO Box 638,  Drummoyne 2047, Sydney, Australia).

♥♥♥ They ask that you include a short note, as well... I hope you'll each consider sending some love to Australia this Valentine's Day--these only take a few hours to stitch up! ♥♥♥

A pretty red heart with its flannel backing fabric

I used Sulky threads for this one and loved stitching with just one thread on 30 ct. fabric. I didn't leave enough room for the outlined straight stitch border, but think it looks just fine without.

Two heart pincushions will soon be finding new homes with two Australian stitchers!

I received some love of my own this week in the form of another birthday package from a friend in Arizona. Oh, my--I was so spoiled! Just look at all of these charts, floss, and other goodies from her! The silks are such lovely pastel colors--makes me want to drop everything I'm working on and delve into a spring project. Thank you so much, my friend--you are one of the most thoughtful people I know.

My birthday gifts continue! Thank you so much to a stitching friend in Arizona!

I had a number of folks wanting to win the cute snowman chart from the last giveaway with the unforgettable name: "Mr. Shivers." I've drawn a name from the proverbial hat and the winner is...

Congratulations, Barbara! You're the winner!

Congratulations, Barbara--please send me your mailing address and I'll get the chart out to you next week. I hope he doesn't melt on his way to sunny, warm Florida! Thank you to all who entered!

New Giveaway... Since the snow has finally fallen here in western Pennsylvania (even though it has now all melted away), how about another snowman chart to give away to one of my readers? I found this adorable snowman and rabbit chart in an old issue of Leisure Arts. How cute is the little bunny in this one? Do you think he's taking the snowman's carrot nose or offering him it? Anyway, if you'd like to be entered into the giveaway for this chart (pulled from an old magazine--I will be folding it to fit in a legal sized envelope when I mail it): 1) Please say so specifically in your comment below, 2) Make sure to include your email address if I don't already have it, and 3) Tell me how you feel about snow! Me? I love seeing it as long as I don't have to go outside. **** I'm sorry, but if you don't include your email address, you won't be included in the drawing. I've had too many past winners who never claimed their prizes and I don't think it's fair to those who regularly read my blog who enter and want to win.****

If you would like to win this cute snowman and bunny chart: 1) Specifically say so in your comment below, 2) Include your email address if I don't already have it and 3) Tell me how you feel about snow!
In my last bit of stitching talk, I was asked on Instagram last week how much time I spend stitching each day. The stitcher who inquired seemed to think I was a fast stitcher (oh, I definitely disagree!) and was curious as to how much time I spent. Of course, it varies from day to day and season to season. I certainly spend more time in the winter than in other seasons. Spring brings more outdoor chores and summer and fall bring more vacations and trips. But, on average, I would say 3-4 hours a day. I try to sit down each morning for a couple of hours and then do the same in the evening. On a really good day, I may sneak in an afternoon session as well. My problem is--I'm very easily distracted. I think I need to just start putting my phone in another room while I stitch so I won't be tempted to look at Instagram, check my email, scroll through Pinterest, etc. I've noticed a big improvement in the amount I stitch when my phone isn't within grabbing distance! How about you? How long do you manage to stitch on average? Do you stitch in peace and quiet, listen to a recorded book or music, watch television? I'm usually watching TV or listening to a book--it all depends on how engrossed I am in a particular book. Anyway, I'd love to hear your "normals" when it comes to stitching times...

Snow... at last!  With what is fast becoming a record "lowest-snowfall ever" winter here, I never thought I would say this, but... I truly miss seeing the snow. We haven't even had to shovel our sidewalks or driveway all winter! So, I was thrilled to see a few inches covering the landscape when I woke up last Friday. And even more thrilled to see it was the "cover everything" type of snow that looks so magical. For those of you who have no snow in your part of the world (or who don't like snow and just enjoy pictures of it!), I thought you might enjoy these photos.

Looking out onto our back yard: February 7, 2020

Picnic in the snow, anyone? Brrr...

The snow looked like icing as it covered every branch and twig in sight!

It even stuck to the sides of the picket fence.

A sweet male cardinal spent a long time gobbling up the sunflower seeds.

Thank you so much for visiting me today--a big welcome to my new followers. I hope the rest of February is good to you--I should be back with a completed larger finish by the end of the month. Thank you, as always,  for your sweet comments and emails--they really make my day! Stay warm now--and happy stitching. Bye for now... 

♥♥♥ Sending each of you a little Valentine's Day love  ♥♥♥