Wednesday, September 30, 2020

For the Love Of Black Cats

Happy end of September! Are you ready for a new month? In some ways it seems 2020 is passing at a snail's pace and in others, it is like a runaway train--speeding by with no sense of direction. It's been a beautiful month here in the mid-Atlantic states with warm days and cool nights--perfect sleeping weather. The cooler weather moved in yesterday, however, and I think it's here to stay. Great stitching weather, though, and I'm looking forward to it. 

Today I have a trio of finishes to share with you on one of my favorite subjects: black cats! Oh, I know... black cats are supposed to bring bad luck and they are even adopted from shelters at a much lower rate than other cats because of that superstition. Well, having had a black cat named Shadow for 14 years when my sons were growing up was one of the best chapters in my life. Ever since then, I've had a love for the sleek felines and, if it weren't for our travels and my husband's allergies to them, I would definitely adopt another one. 

These cute pillows are all designed by Blue Ribbon Designs and were featured in various Just Cross Stitch Magazines. I had stitched the one below on the left last year and decided to make two more and finish them in a similar way to display in this little wooden tray.

A trio of black cat finishes

The chart from the one I stitched last year can be found in the October 2018 issue of Just Cross Stitch magazine and is called "Startled Superstition." Don't you love the expression on the cat's face? Now, hovering right above the cat are two things I do fear--bats! Ugh!!!


"Startled Superstition"


I used 40 ct. vintage country mocha Newcastle for these and changed the colors to all DMC: 311, 3826, 976, 640, 729, 648, B5200. I also changed the outer border from orange to black. To finish it, I added some black ric-rak and a thin border of an orange and black print fabric to the side. Of course, I had to add my cording along with a black button, topped with a rust colored button, topped with a little checked bow.


Love black cats, but don't care for those bats!

The second pillow, called "Midnight Meeting" (from the October 2016 issue of Just Cross Stitch magazine, was stitched on the same fabric with the same thread colors that I chose for the pillow above.

"Midnight Meeting"

I wanted the borders to match on all three, so I changed that up a bit, too. I think the shy smiles on the little ghosts are so sweet! This was the narrowest of the three designs so I did a border of ric-rak and fabric on each side, topped it with a gingham ribbon and an old brass jack-o-lantern charm.

Love the cute ghosts!

The final black cat stitchery is called "Scaredy Cat" and can be found in the Just Cross Stitch Halloween magazine from 2011. It's also stitched on 40 count vintage country mocha with the same DMC threads. I began stitching this one and thought, "Wait a minute! If I'm going to display these together, I want the two cats on each end to be facing each other." So, I took a photo of the chart with my phone and flipped it so it was the mirror image. Luckily, I had only stitched the cat's tail so I didn't have much to rip out!

"Scaredy Cat"

The border on this third design was totally different and done in green so I re-charted it to match the borders on the other two. Here is a close-up of it all finished up... what do you think? As you can see, I put the fabric strip on the opposite side of that in the first finish. I love the way all three look together and think this is a cute Halloween display without being creepy or scary. I haven't done much Halloween stitching since 2014 when my dad died on Halloween, but I'm hoping to do a few pieces now and then. It definitely changed the feeling of the holiday for me.

It was nice being able to use the same colors and fabric for all three!

So, do you have a favorite? I think I like the last one the best--not sure why! I like the happy (rather than scary) pumpkin in it, too. I haven't stitched very many Blue Ribbon Designs, but will definitely be doing more.


One final look at the black cat trio.

Would you like to see a photo of my sweet Shadow who started my love for all-black cats? He was one big black cat--nearly 20 pounds! The vet said he could double as a panther in an action movie--he was that big. And, he was the very best pet for our boys--he followed them around in the yard, slept with my middle son, and really behaved much more like a dog than a cat. He, sadly, developed a tumor in his intestines and, even though we had him operated on, he ended up dying of it about 18 months later. Shadow was 14 years old when he died in 2007 and I still miss him dearly.

Shadow, 1993-2007

Gifts galore! In other stitching news, I've received some lovely gifts from stitchy friends from both Instagram and fellow bloggers. I still feel quite overwhelmed at the sheer thoughtfulness and generosity found in our community and I hope this kindness spreads to other online communities as well. This year, more than ever, we need a lot more kindness in our world, don't you think? Thank you to all of my sweet friends who surprised me with little bits of happiness in my mailbox recently...


Instagram friend Claire, in Canada, made me this darling scissor fob with the tiniest "over one" cardinals and the letter "C."

Instagram friend, Lois, from Northern Ireland sent my grandson this adorable book by two of my favorite children's authors.

Instagram friend, Tricia in Illinois, sent me some delicious honey harvested from her husband's beehives, two beeswax candles and these sweet bee-themed scissors.

Blogging and Instagram friend Stasi, in Virginia, sent this wonderful selection of ribbons for my finishing and two sweet "Handmade With Love" charms.

Blogging friend June, in England sent me a cute beveled frame so I can put some stitching or photos in it for my grandson's room.

Giveaway time... I haven't offered a giveaway in a while so how about the chance to win these two charts? I'm offering both because the chart for one is on the back of the photo for the other and I can't separate them. These are from an old Leisure Arts magazine (sorry, but I don't know the issue). One is a seasonal band sampler called "Peace and Plenty" and is filled with pumpkins and sunflowers and a pastoral looking farm scene. And the other is called "Toy-Lovers Santa" and features good St. Nick carrying a bag of toys and carrying a snow globe with what appears to be a tiny Nativity scene inside.

If you would like to win these two charts, please follow the three steps below and I'll pull a name from the hat and post it sometime in October.

If you would like to win these two charts (which are torn from a magazine and will be folded to fit in a legal sized envelope to keep postage costs down): 1) Please let me know you are entering the giveaway in your comment below; 2) Make sure to leave your email if I don't have it already, and 3) Answer the question in my "Getting To Know You" section below. I'll let you know the winner in late October so you have a while to enter! Good luck to all!

Getting to know you... For today's question, I'd love to know if you like your first name and why or why not? My answer: Actually, I do like my first name even though "Carol" definitely screams "born in the 1950s." My mom and dad named me Carol as I was supposed to be born on Christmas, but just wasn't ready to appear until mid-January. "Carol" originated in France and means "song of joy"  and, to me, it always sounds like a happy name. ♪♫♪ I wasn't named after anyone... my parents simply liked the name and I'm happy they chose it!

So, now it's your turn... Do you like your first name? I'd love to get to know you a bit better...

With fall comes the job of cleaning up the garden which I leave to my husband. This spring he put up a new deer and critter-proof fence  and halved the size of our garden. This fenced in area is the only place we can grow flowers due to our overly abundant and very hungry deer, so the four raised beds are used for both vegetables and a few flowers. This is what it looked like in early summer (my husband surprised me by planting those small sunflowers when I returned from caring for my mom in May). I love the concrete slabs in between the beds as they keep your feet free of dirt when picking vegetables or flowers.

The newly configured garden in spring...

And here is the view at the end of summer. There were lots of tomatoes and butternut squash...

... and in fall 2020

Actually, there are way too many butternut squash--we have almost 20! Does anyone have any good recipes to recommend that would use up some of them? I am not usually a squash eater, but I may have to force myself this year!

I need Butternut Squash recipes--help!!


This year was definitely a transition year and my husband hopes to plant more flowers and a wider variety of vegetables next year. I did manage to get some pretty bouquets from our garden, though!

Love how the pink and white flowers look in the Delft pieces from my dear mother.

These gorgeous mums were sitting beside mom's grave during the funeral service and each of us kids took a pot of them home. 

Mom would have loved these mums so very much... She always enjoyed the colors of autumn in the northeast.

I'm still planning on doing a memorial tribute for my dear mother, just need to get a bit stronger. The good news is that I am getting less weepy--I noticed a distinct improvement this weekend so I'm hopeful... I still miss her dreadfully, though.

Well, that's it for me for September. I'll be taking a bit of a blogging break for part of October... Bet you know what that means, right? Yep--we are off to visit our little sweetheart grandson, "Baby B" who is now nearly 3 months old. I can't wait to hold him again--although he will look nothing like the nine day old cherub in this photo below. I mean look at that sweet dimple... sigh! Once again, we will be quarantining in an Airbnb before moving in with my son's family just to make sure we didn't pick up Covid on the flight to California. Wish us luck! I will be able to read your blogs while I'm gone, but won't be able to comment on them.

I have this photo of my sweet grandson right here in my kitchen where I can see it as I cook!

Don't forget, if you want to enter the giveaway, please make sure to include your email address (and that goes for anyone who wants a reply to a question as well, please). I hope you all have a wonderful October ahead and thank you all for visiting "Stitching Dreams," reading my way-too-long posts, and commenting--I do appreciate each of you so much! Bye for now... 

Happy October to all!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Coming Home and a Final Gift for Mom

Brrr... fall is definitely in the air here in western Pennsylvania! And I'm not sure I'm ready for it... My summer sped by so quickly that I didn't even have a chance to relax and enjoy it this year. But, on to a new season and crunchy leaves and fall decorating and all those spicy fragrances wafting through my kitchen. Today I'm making Molasses Crinkles (using this recipe) which always remind me of my dear maternal grandmother. Those were one of her signature cookies and she always fretted about whether or not they would "crinkle." She learned from experience that the humidity level was key and so today--a dry, cool morning, is perfect for baking. I wish you could smell the ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves in the cookies that permeate my house right now!

I've been thinking about grandma a lot since my mom died. Such a special woman in my life--she was so capable and could do just about anything with a needle and thread. One of mom's biggest compliments was when she told me how much I take after Gram B. Her talents went way beyond mine, but I love the fact that mom saw similar traits in us!

We said goodbye to my mother in a simple graveside ceremony in my tiny western New York hometown on Saturday--just us four kids and our spouses, a few grandchildren, one great grandchild, and the minister. It did my heart good to see her interred and resting in peace at last. I know my dad was thrilled to finally have her there beside him... Knowing them, they were up all night talking!

After the memorial service, my siblings brought me the boxes of items that I had given mom through the years and, of course, my cross stitch pieces were among them. Mom was, by far, my biggest supporter when it came to my cross stitching and blogging. She was always so interested in my next project or the way I had finished an ornament--she truly studied them and always said, "I don't know how you do it, Care!" with such an admiring tone in her voice. I can't even begin to tell you how much I miss hearing her comments about my stitching and blog posts...

So, today, I thought I would take a little trip down memory lane and share with you each stitched gift that I gave my mom starting with the oldest and leaving you with one final gift that I gave her after her death. I tend to tear up just looking at these photos as I picture where they were displayed in her home all these years. Now, I'll have to find the perfect spot in my home for each one.

All of my stitched gifts to mom have come home


My first gift was one I gave mom way back in 1985 soon after I began cross stitching. It was her Christmas gift that year and is framed with a mirror below it as you can see in the photo above. This sweet piece was from a cross stitch book called "The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady"--a truly beautiful booklet filled with the most charming nature designs. Mom kept it right by her door so she could quickly check her hair or make-up in the mirror before leaving her apartment. My mom--even at age 93--loved her lipstick and was applying a fresh coat each morning up to the final days before she died!


The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady cross stitch

This Thanksgiving card, circa 1992, was one of a (very) few I did on perforated paper--it's not my favorite stitching medium, but it held up quite well after 28 years, I'd say! The chart can be found in a very old booklet (1988) called "Greetings Galore" which contained 24 designs for various holidays and special occasions. 


Gobble, gobble! Thanksgiving card from 1992

That turkey may have been the last thing I stitched before my "Great Cross Stitch Break" took place for an entire decade. Yes, between from 1992 and 2002, I was just so busy raising my sons, returning to work at the library in 1996, and supervising the remodeling of our entire home, that I gave up stitching altogether. I know... crazy wasn't I? Stitching brings such calm that I can't imagine exactly why I gave it up for ten whole years...

Anyway, let's flash forward to the next piece that I stitched for my mom and dad in 2003. For you long time readers of my blog, this will look familiar. This is the piece that brought me back to cross-stitching and, because of that, I've gotten to "meet" you wonderful stitching friends! I stitched this beautiful heart and flowers design for my parents' 50th wedding anniversary scrapbook album that I put together for them. I actually did an entire post on it in 2013 when they celebrated their 60th anniversary which you can read in this post. Be prepared to cry, though... it is a heartbreaking tale.

A heart filled with flowers stitched for mom and dad's 50th anniversary album


Here is a close-up for you... I've covered my parents' names, which are stitched at the top, for privacy. I'm sorry, but I can't remember exactly which old cross stitch magazine this chart was in. Their 50th wedding album has come home to live with me and will always remain one of my biggest treasures.  It is filled with letters and memories from friends and family, wonderful old photos, and so much love. I'm honored to be the caretaker of it for the rest of my life and then I hope my sons will treasure it just as much!


Love the sweet pearl heart buttons!


My mom even kept this simple little card that I stitched for her 80th birthday in 2007. I think this design was from a library book filled with cross stitch greeting card ideas. Mom displayed it on her bedroom dresser for the past 13 years and it always warmed my heart to see it there...

Mom kept even the simplest of my stitched gifts.

Mom's birthday was in mid-May, right around Mother's Day here in the United States, so I often stitched gifts for her. May 2008 brought this lovely Just Nan piece called "Robin's Wreath." As you'll notice, the gifts I stitched for mom often were of flowers and birds--she loved both. This hung on her bedroom wall until her death in late July. There are tiny robin's egg blue colored beads in the wee nest on the lower right--so dear!

Just Nan's "Robin's Wreath" finish


2008 was a busy stitching year for me as this one was also given to my parents for Christmas that year. This design is from the 2005 Just Cross Stitch Ornament issue and is called "Outside My Window" by Lynn's Prints. It's always been one of my favorites and it, too, hung on mom's bedroom wall year round.

Love the peacefulness of this finish!


Mom framed this little Lizzie Kate card that I made for her for Valentine's Day in 2009 and she displayed it each February. She was always a seasonal decorator like I am and I've come to truly appreciate how she always made her home so warm and welcoming at any time of the year by putting out special decorations like this one. (If you are interested in the fabric and fibers that I used for "Be Mine Valentine," please check out this post).


I always stitched a lot of love into each of my pieces for mom!


Well, you knew I had to have stitched at least one hummingbird for mom, right? Actually, this one is a mystery as to when I stitched it, but I am going to guess that it was around 2010. Again, the chart was from an old needlework magazine and I have no clue as to which one. I framed it in this pretty pewter frame and she always had it sitting on her bedroom nightstand.

Mom kept this one by her bed for many years.

2011 brought one of the few Blackbird Designs that I've ever stitched. My mom loved violets and I've always associated her mid-May birthday with violets and lily-of-the-valley. So, this was a birthday gift and she loved it--again, it hung on her bedroom wall all those years. I changed the wording a bit on this one which you can read about in this post


Violets and mom just seemed to go together

Many of you recall mom's 90th birthday post (you can read about it here). What a grand celebration we had that day! To commemorate the occasion, I stitched not one, but, two pieces for her that month. The first was a With Thy Needle and Thread design called "Bluebird Out My Window." As I've said many times, mom represented home for me so this one, with the word HOME spelled out in the grass, will always have a special place in my heart. I do love the frame I chose, too. If you'd like to read more about this finish, please check this post


Mom = HOME


The second 2017 birthday piece is small, but it was one of mom's favorites as she kept it right by her bed until the day she died. The little freebie from Snowflower Diaries (which can be found here) was personalized to represent mom and her four children along with dad, who died in 2014, represented by the silver heart hanging from the tree branch. I think seeing this one, more than any of the things I've stitched, makes me cry the most. I'm not sure why--I guess it is just the depiction of a mother bird caring so much for her babies just like mom cared for us for so many years. You can read about "You Are So Loved" right here


Mom, you always will be so loved...


I think most of you will remember this next gift as it was one I shared with you just a few months ago in this post.  This sweet wren was stitched from a chart by Lucie Heaton which was published in the April 2018 issue of Just Cross Stitch Magazine. Although it only lived with mom for a few months, she loved looking at the colors and little bird as it sat on a table in her living room. Her eyesight was so poor by the time she died that I know she had difficulty making out the design, but I know it was special to her just because I made it. 

The last gift that mom saw--her 93rd birthday gift.

One final gift... As I mentioned above, we buried my mom on Saturday, September 12, 2020, a brisk fall day with a bit of sunshine peeking out from behind the clouds. Mom was cremated and there was a small amount of room between her urn and the vault (that you have to place the urn into before it goes into the grave) for some mementos. I thought I would like to add a photo of the two of us playing Scrabble and decided to put it in a little tin that had once housed some mints (it was about the size of a mini Altoid tin). I added a pretty red and white flocked fabric to the bottom (fabric I had once made myself a shirt of when I was in high school) and stitched a border (from the Prairie Schooler February chart) to adorn the top. Some red cording and a bit of ribbon finished it off. 


One final gift for my dear mother

Well, I put the little photo in the tin and it looked rather lonely... So, before you knew it, I was adding all sorts of tiny remembrances to it! Would you like to see what I chose?  I added four Scrabble tiles spelling out L-O-V-E and a copy of a Scrabble-themed greeting card that I made mom years ago to represent our mutual love of playing the game. I included a Canadian nickel for our many family trips to Lake Kashagawigamog in Ontario; two tiny seashells for her love of Daytona Beach, Florida; a button from one of her favorite jackets; a bit of periwinkle floss in one of our favorite colors to represent me and my stitching; a piece of cardinal ribbon in honor of my dad; a brass hummingbird charm; a little embroidered pillow she bought for me in Europe in the late '60s with a lone opal earring attached to it that she and Dad gave me on my 16th birthday (the other earring is long gone); a copy of her favorite cookie recipe, Scotch Shortbread, written in my grandmother's hand; and a tiny white cherub to watch over her. On the back of the photo of the two of us, I wrote a personal note to her. Thinking of, and finding, the perfect treasures to add was actually quite healing for me...

Little tokens of love for mom


And believe it or not--all of these things fit into that tiny tin! They are now resting for eternity with my dear mother and it gives me some peace knowing that some special things chosen just for her by me are there with her...

A final look

Grief is such a strange journey, isn't it? This grief I'm feeling for my mother is much stronger than I felt for my dad. In his case, I know it was because he had dealt with dementia for so many years, and it felt like he had left us long before he actually died. But, my mom was lucid right up until the end. I found this article on grieving which really resonated with me as I've been all over the place since mom died almost eight weeks ago. I've cried more over the past ten days than I ever dreamed possible, but I think that helps in my healing process. Everyone heals differently and at different rates--there is no right or wrong path and, as this article states, grief doesn't just follow five stages as was the popular belief for so many years. I want to share the last paragraph of this article written by Suchandrika Chakrabarti which really struck a chord within me.  


"Mourning is so much more than an act of endurance. Really, grieving is the task of taking the love that was once shared between two people, and transforming it to fit inside one broken but still-beating heart. That’s why it takes time; that’s why it hurts."


Well, my molasses cookies are done--and they crinkled--Gram B would be proud! I hope your day is filled with happy, little times like crinkling cookies and fleeting memories that bring you smiles. I'm looking forward to my (almost) daily FaceTime call from my sweet grandson who I get to visit in person in just two weeks... That now two-month old baby always makes me smile! I'm not looking forward to going to get my flu shot today, but, with the current COVID crisis, it feels especially important this year. Do you have anything special that you are looking forward to today (or not looking forward to)?

Fresh baked Molasses Crinkles--a perfect cookie for fall!


Thank you all for visiting me today--I always love hearing from you in the comment section. As always, if you have a specific question please, please make sure to leave your email address so I can reply. Stay safe out there--there is just so much going on with the wildfires, the hurricanes and flooding, and that darn pandemic looming over us all.  Bye for now...