Thursday, December 31, 2020

Simple gratitude...

The end of the year always brings a mixture of the bitter and the sweet, doesn't it?  I think that holds true more this year than any other year that I've lived. It's been a tough one! And yet, I am still grateful for so many things--especially my family and my stitching friends who have really made living through a pandemic just a bit easier. One of my favorite quotes from Ralph H. Blum states: "There is a calmness to a life lived in gratitude, a quiet joy." I've chosen to find that gratitude this year in spite of some pretty sad happenings... You can choose to dwell on the sad or you can decide to find things in life to be grateful for--because there is always something, no matter how small, to give thanks for!

Well enough of my end-of-the-year philosophizing! How was your Christmas? I can't begin to tell you how wonderful it felt to have my youngest son home for five days after not having seen him since last Christmas. My middle son was able to join us for Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas morning brunch, too. It felt so good to just sit and laugh together (I actually laughed so hard during a game of Balderdash that my ribs hurt the following morning)! How I missed the simple normal things this year like spending days with my family. We ate too much, watched "It's a Wonderful Life" (which, although it is one of my husband's favorite movies, I had never seen!) and episodes of The Mandolorian. As I looked around the table one evening, I smiled to myself: "How wonderful it feels to just laugh and chat and feel normal for a change!" I'm sure most of you can relate, can't you?

One of the normal things in life that I didn't have to miss out on this year was my stitching! I'm sure you all feel that it's been a lifeline at times, just like I do. This beautiful piece is called "Merry Christmas Sampler" by Crown & Thistle. The chart was given to me by my dear friend on Instagram, Claire, from Canada. Although I'm not really a sampler stitcher (I usually need the reward of instant gratification given by smaller pieces!), I truly enjoyed stitching with one color and I think the end result is gorgeous.


It is stitched with a stunning red thread--Gloriana Silk in the very Christmasy sounding name of "Poinsettia." I used, for the first time, a higher count of linen: 46 ct. white Bergen linen. Now, what I didn't realize as I was stitching along, is that this is not an evenly woven linen. I panicked as I saw that right margin growing smaller and smaller as I stitched across the top row of the sampler. You can see it here in the photo below--the right margin is about half the size of the left. I think I can make it work, but I won't have much fabric showing when I frame it.

I hope to frame it in a pretty, tarnished silver frame of some sort. Can't wait to display it for many Christmases yet to come. Thank you again, Claire--your gift was so sweet and I look forward to seeing your finish in the coming year!


But, there's more! I must have been a good girl this year as I got some lovely gifts from stitching friends around the world. I truly appreciate each of them taking the time to make a little something for me!

Cindy D. made me this gorgeous Hands On Design ornament for my tree. She changed the colors to darker blues and I absolutely love it! Thank you so much, Cindy!

From Vickie came this very sweet little bird that she sewed out of an antique quilt. Of course, she chose to make him blue for me! Thank you, Vickie--he is adorable!

Two beautifully stitched cards arrived from two of my German stitching friends. Manuela made the pretty snowflake on the left and Gabi stitched the sleigh laden with Santa's goodies on the right. Thank you both so much--they are lovely!

From Stasi came this darling ornament mounted on a piece of tin. Such a beautifully stitched and finished piece, Stasi (and that little "Spread Love, Not Germs: Go Wash Your Hands" needleminder is a perfect way to remember 2020!) Thank you so much!

Another German blogging friend, Martina, sent a lovingly stitched card and two cuts of cardinal themed fabric. She knows how much cardinals mean to me! Thank you so much, Martina!

Instagram friend, Claire (who also gifted me with the "Merry Christmas Sampler" chart shown above) sent a lovely gift which arrived just in the nick of time all the way from Canada. The beautifully stitched wool strawberry is so special with the added beads, silver holly charm, and cording. I love it, Claire--thank you so much!

From my long-time friend, Robin in Virginia, came the cutest little blue stocking ornament, a cut of one of my favorite fabrics (40 ct. Woodland Newcastle), and a charm pack of pretty flannel squares to use in my finishing. Thank you so much, Robin--you always pick the perfect gifts!

From another Instagram friend, Cindy C. came this pretty jeweled card and a skein of the prettiest Gloriana Silk thread. Wouldn't that deep red be perfect for a Christmas design? Thank you so much, Cindy!

And last, but certainly not least, from my dear friend June in England, came this darling cardinal card, a sweet Merry Christmas bookmark and a cute "I Believe In Christmas" chart. Thank you so much, June--everything is delightful, as always!

What a lovely variety of gifts I received this year! I am truly grateful for your friendships and for these sweet remembrances. I displayed them on my mantle this year and smiled each time I glanced over at it. Over the past 12 years, I've received so many lovely ornaments from stitchers around the world. I display them on my staircase garland (after I move my 12 newly stitched ornaments to my Christmas tree when it goes up) and it looks so pretty and bright.  Here are a few photos of the wonderful ornaments I've received over the years--I treasure each and every one. Some people are no longer active in the blogging world and we've lost touch, but I still think of you when I see your ornament. I hope you know that... I truly am grateful for all the stitching friendships I've had--both old and new!

The ornaments from stitching friends certainly brighten up my stairway!

So much thought and love went into each and every gift!

I think I need a longer bannister, but I love how bright and cheery my friends' ornaments look as I walk up the steps!

Do you have any favorites from the pieces you've stitched this year? On Instagram, my "Top Nine for 2020" (generated from the photos that received the most "likes") were the following. All of them were Christmas related except the lone Valentine's Day photo in the lower right. The numbers are a bit skewed, of course, because as the year goes by, the number of followers grows, so, naturally, the posts at the end of the year will garner more interest.

My "Top Nine" 2020 on Instagram

My number one pick would be none of the above, however; it would be the post that I made in July when my little grandson came into the world in La Jolla, California. Do you remember this one? Yes, far and away, my favorite post of this year!

My personal favorite post from July: my precious grandson, "Baby B"


Where did that helpless baby go? Well, he's almost six months old now and is sitting up, attempting to crawl, and just fascinated by what's going on around him.  My husband and I just shake our heads in awe as we watch the changes in him practically unfold before our eyes when we FaceTime with him each day. Here is my favorite photo from Christmas of the little fellow in his Santa cap. I wonder what is going through his mind? So precious...


I'll share a couple of photos from our Christmas day, too--we didn't take many this year. Although I missed my oldest son, daughter-in-law and Baby B so very much, it was wonderful to have my two younger sons join us for the holiday.

Here are the four of us in front of the tree (blocking the tree, I should say!). In the lower left is my youngest son all ready to tackle our traditional breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, juice, and homemade cinnamon buns. And in the lower right, my middle son surprised me by taking over the traditional manicotti preparation. What a huge help that was--he did an amazing job!

And here I am with my tree! I'm just a wee bit proud of all those ornaments!

Favorite memory of the year... At this time of year, I tend to get quite reflective like a lot of you. I try to think positively and think about the nice memories. To be honest, that was a bit difficult this year with so many losses. But, without a doubt, becoming a grandmother in July was, hands down, my favorite memory. To hold the first born son of my first born son was a feeling I'll never forget. Such pride mixed with lots of love and wonder and a fierce desire to protect (along with a tiny bit of fear). What will this world hold for these children born during the pandemic? Will they be more resilient and adaptable? I choose to think they will be brave and strong, curious, and intelligent. So how about you--do you have a favorite memory from 2020? I'd love to hear some of your happy memories!

Well, this ends yet another year of Stitching Dreams. Next month, will mark my 13th anniversary of blogging! Where have the years gone?  I've so enjoyed getting to see some new names among my commenters this year--thank you for taking the time to say "hello!" It's been a tough year for the entire world... one none of us ever dreamed about, that's for sure. And it's not over... we still have a long way to go until the majority of us are vaccinated and things become safer again. So, on that note, I'll leave you with my word for this coming new year. In 2021, I wish you HOPE! Happy New Year, everyone! Bye for now...

Wishing you hope in this new year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

A Christmas Like No Other...

Merry almost Christmas, my friends! Well, we did it--we've nearly made it to Christmas in this very difficult year... It will certainly be a Christmas unlike any the world has ever seen. So many changes and lives lost over this past year. This was supposed to be the year my 5-month-old grandson would spend his very first Christmas with us. But, of course, Covid took care of those plans--we just have to look ahead and hope he and his parents will be here for Christmas in 2021. 

But, I already got one of the best presents I could ask for--an early Christmas present so to speak. My youngest son, whom I had not seen in nearly a year (since he visited last Christmas!) is home!!! YAY!!! He took two Covid tests, four days apart, and he's been isolating so we feel safe having him home with us for five days. I have to admit I started jumping up and down when he walked through the door yesterday morning and ran over and gave him the biggest hug ever. I still can't quite believe I hadn't seen him in a year (especially given the fact that he lives only a four hour drive away). That's just the way this crazy year has gone...

Because of the uncertainty of the past nine months, I think traditions have become more important than ever. And one thing that remains constant year after year, is my Christmas tree--same old tree, just a dozen new ornaments added to it. 

2020 Christmas Tree


I feel like most of you have seen my tree many times (and are probably a bit tired of it!), but I know I have many new readers here who may be seeing it for the first time. Here are some close-ups... I sure wish I could sit down and share each individual ornament with you, but if you read back through my blog for the past 12 years, you will find details on each and every one. 

My taste in ornament stitching is quite eclectic...

I stitch everything from cute and happy to more traditional ornaments.


And just look outside the sunroom door... we're having a white Christmas for the first time in many years!

Lots of Santas and snowmen!

I love simply sitting in the sunroom and reading by the tree at this time of year.

Many of my favorite tiny ornaments decorate the top of the tree.

The tree takes on a whole new look at night time.

It's hard to capture them at night, but the ornaments sparkle and shine as they reflect the Christmas lights--so very pretty!

And then there is the reflection in all the windows and doors of our sunroom. Isn't it lovely?

One last look... day into night.


I have had many questions about my cross stitch Christmas tree through the years and so I thought I'd share them, along with my answers today. Let me know if there is something else you are wondering about (in your comments) and I'll be happy to answer your questions... 

 1. Is your tree real or artificial? We always used to purchase real trees, but when my middle son's allergies got so bad about 20 years ago, we went to an artificial tree. And, believe it or not we've had the  same tree ever since!

    2. How tall is your tree? It's almost 8 feet tall. I sometimes wish it was even taller as our sunroom has a cathedral ceiling that would nicely accommodate it.

    3. How many cross stitch ornaments are on your tree? I counted them last year and there were 155, so this year, with the 12 new ones, the total is 167.

    4. Do you have a favorite ornament? I have several and I've shared four of them in the photo above. I still think the little Five Golden Rings angels by Cottage Garden Samplings are at the top of the list, though. 

    5. Did you stitch all the ornaments on your tree? Yes, all were stitched by me. I used to put those given to me by stitching friends on it, too, but it simply got too crowded. I now put my friends' ornaments on the mantle and on the garland going up my stairway. 

    6. How long did it take to stitch all of these? Although there are a few that I stitched back in the early 80s when I first began cross stitching, all but half a dozen or so have been stitched since I began blogging in 2009. 

    7. What will you do when you run out of room? Well, I have always said I wouldn't get another tree at my age, but I am seriously thinking of getting a thin flocked white tree to display my black ornaments. They really don't show up well on our green tree and at night, they take on a bit of a "black hole" look!

    8. How long do you think you'll keep up your "ornament a month" stitching? As long as my eyes hold up! In all honesty, I just take it year by year and I'm sure one of these days I simply won't feel like stitching ornaments any longer.

    9. Big or small--which are your favorites? For my entire life, I've loved tiny things. My family often makes fun of me because I remind them of our one grandmother who loved "tiny, darling, cunning, sweet" types of things. And that is me... The smaller the ornament, the more I like it! That's why I stitch so many of my ornaments "over one" or on 40 ct. linen. 

    10. What will happen to all of your ornaments some day? (Or as my oldest son once said, "Mom, what are you going to do with all these things?") Hmmm... it is my biggest hope that my sons and their families will divide most of them up and use them on their own trees some day. If not, I suppose they'll end up at a thrift shop after I'm gone--and that makes me very sad...

Stitching an ornament a month... I've had many people say they would love to stitch an ornament a month like I do. My advice--just go for it! If you don't complete all twelve, that's fine; at least you'll have a few new ones for your tree by the time December rolls around. It definitely gives me a wonderful feeling of accomplishment having done this each year for over a decade. It doesn't take that much time and yet, the reward is great. I'd love to have you join me in 2021... anyone up for the challenge?

Giveaway winner... There were quite a few of you who wanted to win the Santa chart that I offered in my last post. Sure wish I had more than one, but the winner's name drawn from the hat is...

AMARA (in Germany)

Congratulations, Amara!

Thanks to all who participated
and please keep your eyes on this spot--I'll be offering more charts in the future. Amara, please send me your mailing address and I will get this in the mail sometime next week--congratulations!

I hope each of you who celebrates can capture the joy and magic of this Christmas season, even while we endure lockdowns and quarantines, cancelled plans, and missed loved ones. It's not easy sometimes, but look to the future and also to the past; to those special memories of Christmases spent with loved ones long ago.

To honor my relatives, I baked only old family recipes this year for my cookie baking.  At the top of the photo are my dear mother's Date Bars, on the right are my maternal grandmother's Coconut Macaroons, the bottom cookies are my mother-in-law's Almond Thumbprints, next to them are my paternal grandmother's Orange Drop Frosted cookies (my personal favorite!), and the little green trees and red bells are my mother-in-law's Caramel Butter Spritz cookies. Every recipe brought back memories of special Christmas gatherings filled with love and laughter. I'll be missing my mom (and my dad, of course) ever so much this year, but I'll also be smiling at the wonderful memories that I will forever carry in my heart. 

Thank you all for stopping in today. A big thank you to those of you who take the time to leave a comment--that means a lot to me! Merry Christmas to each of you--I look forward to hearing all about your Christmases next week. Bye for now...


Wishing you much peace and joy!

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

2020 Parade of Ornaments

Welcome! Welcome! The 11th annual "Parade of Ornaments" is about to begin! It's going to be a cold, snowy day here in western Pennsylvania--not exactly parade watching weather. But, oh--that's right, how could I forget? No big gatherings are permitted anyway due to Covid-19. So it's a good thing you're all snuggled safe and warm in your own homes... Grab a warm beverage (hot cocoa for me!) and sit back and relax as the parade is about to begin. 

2020 was a difficult year for me to keep up with finishing my ornaments because I was away from home so much. In May and June, I was up in New York much of the time trying to nurse my mom back to health. And then, the months of July and October were spent in sunny San Diego delighting in my new baby grandson. I can't finish ornaments away from home--there are just too many bits and pieces involved. I finish my ornaments by audtioning various combinations of fabrics and cording and buttons and ric-rak and bells, etc. In other words, by the time I've decided on a finish, my house is turned upside down with boxes and drawers scattered here and there, various fabrics tossed on furniture, and buttons, bows, and ric-rak strewn everywhere. (Unlike many of you, I do not have a craft/sewing room).  This process happens each and every time I finish an ornament as I search for the "perfect little combination" that makes me smile, nod my head, and say: "That's it!" When that perfect combination happens, it's like a "Eureka" moment. Sometimes it comes right away, sometimes I let things sit for a while, sometimes I let things sit for days! Very rarely do I have a finish in mind when I begin stitching an ornament. How does your finishing process work?

This year, there is no theme to my 12 ornaments, although, as usual, most of them are Prairie Schooler designs. In fact this year half of them are! I needed a lot of "comfort stitching" this year due to my mother being so ill and her eventual death in July and I can always count on Prairie Schooler to offer me that solace. Here are all twelve lined up on my bannister--same old yellow hallway, same old red dining room in the background. Each year, I tell myself, "Next year your rooms will be painted a different color!" But, after 11 years of parades--I still haven't gotten around to painting my walls. Procrastination is my middle name, sometimes!


The 2020 "Parade Of Ornaments!"


My photos really aren't the best with these dark winter days. I'm hoping to upgrade my phone soon (in order to get a better camera) so, perhaps, by next year, my photos will look better. How about some close-ups for you? As always, I'd love to hear which one is your favorite of the 2020 collection. I'll be letting you know my personal favorite down below...

January ~ March 2020

April ~ June 2020

July ~ September 2020

October ~ December 2020


Hmmm... that's not much better, is it? How about close-ups of each ornament. If you would like more information on fabrics and threads that I used in each finish, just click on the name of the ornament below each photo and it will take you to the appropriate blog post. The information for December's ornament is in this post as I haven't shared that finish with you yet.


Little House Needleworks "Firehouse" 



Bent Creek "Red Bird Globe


Prairie Schooler 1991 Annual Santa

Prairie Schooler "Kris Kringle" Santa with dove

Prairie Schooler: "Santa's Night"


With Thy Needle and Thread:  "Merry Mouse"


Prairie Schooler: "Angels" (Book No. 42)


Prairie Schooler: "Father Christmas" (Book No. 43)



Prairie Schooler "Santa Moon" (Book No. 53)



Hands On Design "Cranberry Christmas"



Just Nan: "Blitzen Glistens"



Little House Needleworks: "Hot Cocoa" (details below)

Since I haven't shared my December ornament with you until today, I wanted to tell you a bit about it. The design is Part Five of the Little House Needleworks "Jack Frost's Tree Farm" series and is called "Hot Cocoa." As I mentioned above, hot cocoa is the only hot drink I enjoy! Aren't I strange? People always ask me, "Well, how do you get going in the morning without coffee or tea?" Sadly, it's sugar--the first thing I eat (and it's just one), is a chocolate covered almond from Trader Joe's. Naughty Carol... Oh well, I suppose it's no worse than putting a teaspoon of sugar in coffee or tea, right? And, at least, the almond is healthy! Anyway--back to my December finish. Here is a close-up for you as the photo above was taken on a dull December day and this shows the colors a bit better. 

Are you a coffee, tea, or cocoa drinker?

Isn't it cute? I love that tiny snowman with his cardinal buddy resting nearby. For this finish, I used a random assortment of overdyed and DMC threads on some mystery 40 ct. gray linen (which wasn't my favorite). The final finish (shown above under "December"), includes two different fabrics separated by cream colored ric-rak, green cording, a green gingham bow ripped from a piece of fabric, and a little yo-yo made of the same fabric as the bow. 

FAVORITES... So, which one do you like the most? It's a hard decision, but the little mouse, "Miss June," with her sweet apron just makes my heart smile. I truly love the With Thy Needle and Thread mouse designs and I know I'll be stitching more in the future.  But, my other favorite is the beautiful July Prairie Schooler angel that I stitched in memory of my mom who passed away on July 24th. Oh, how I miss her...

GIVEAWAY TIME... I found a charming old Leisure Arts chart that I removed from a magazine (unfortunately, I don't know which issue). The chart features ten red-cloaked Santas in various sizes and shapes. I just love that teeny-tiny one in the front right! I think this would be so cute stitched and displayed with a Santa collection, don't you? If you would like to enter the giveaway: 1) Specifically mention in your comments that you want to win the "Santa chart," 2) Make sure to leave your email address in your comment if I don't already have it, 3) Let me know which of my 2020 ornaments was your favorite and why. I will choose a name on Monday night, December 21st, and reveal the winner in my post next week. Good luck to all!

If you would like to win this chart, just follow the three steps listed above!


So, that wraps up another parade! I still can't believe I've been doing this since 2010... If you would like to look at the previous parades for inspiration, just click on the year and the link will take you right to the annual "Parade Of Ornaments" post for that year: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019. Whew! That is a lot of ornaments stitched through the years. This year, there will be 167 on my tree! I try my best to make each one special and something that will be treasured as they are handed down to my children and grandchildren. I hope they know that each one was made with love...  

Thank you for cheering me on this year during my latest "ornament-a-month" journey--I truly appreciate each and every comment, email, and kind word! Stitchers really are the best, aren't they? I hope you're all winding up your Christmas preparations (I still haven't finished my cards or even my tree, but I'm almost there). My goal is to have everything done by Sunday so I can just sit back and relax until Christmas day. It will certainly be a different Christmas for all this year, but we just have to make the best of it. We're planning on opening presents with our grandson via FaceTime--I hope he likes what I got him--ha ha!  Enjoy the countdown, my friends! Bye for now...