Sunday, January 31, 2021

A couple of firsts!

As the snow falls quietly on this last day of January, I'm wondering how on earth this first month of 2021 has passed so quickly? January usually drags for me, but, thankfully, that wasn't the case this month. I am so appreciative of all of the birthday wishes I received via comments and emails--thank you very much! I also received some lovely cards from a few of you, too--thank you for brightening my day!  I have to admit that my birthday felt like one of the few "normal" days that I've had over the past year. My middle son and his girlfriend made a tasty dinner (calzones, kale salad, and carrot souffle) for me at their apartment. (They have been socially isolating, just as we have, so we felt safe celebrating with them). Their always delightful cat, Spike, provided the evening's entertainment! Such a good feeling to forget about the problems of the outside world for an evening and just relax and enjoy ourselves...

Although my youngest son, oldest son, daughter-in-law, and baby grandson could not be there, I received some lovely gifts from them. My oldest son and his family sent me a very generous gift certificate for Etsy. Oh, you know that will be well-used, don't you? I already purchased some lovely ric-rak and satin ribbon with a portion of it! My middle son and his girlfriend gave me a darling gazebo bird feeder and their cat gave me some tasty chocolates. And my youngest son sent me some gorgeous blue and white flowers and a massage device to target the muscle that's been causing the sometimes excruciating sciatic pain down my left leg for the past three months (thankfully, it doesn't happen often, but when it does, it makes me yelp right out loud!). 

Beautiful blue and white flowers from my youngest son!

I think the wee chickadee likes my new bird feeder from my middle son and his girlfriend just as much as I do!

After dinner, I received a decadent chocolate cake with a single candle! Can you guess what I wished for? I'm sure the very same thing every person in the world is wishing for right now... My husband picked up this beautiful cake and gave me some chocolates that evening. But, my big (and very unexpected!) gift, will be arriving in mid-February--a Peloton exercise bike! To be honest, I think this gift is just as much for him as it is for me, but I'm excited to be expanding my exercise routine a bit. Since Covid began, I've been pretty much doing my daily treadmill miles and not much else--time to mix it up a bit, I'd say! These bikes are expensive, but I don't belong to a gym so, in the end, I'd say it's a very good deal--and so much more convenient than hopping in a car and driving to a gym filled with sweaty strangers :) 

I bet you know what I wished for...

I also received some very kind gifts from fellow stitchers...

A sweet bird chart and pretty charms from June!

An adorable snowman chart from Vickie!

A darling needleminder from Instagram friend, Tricia!

This next gift was not a birthday gift, but a sweet act of kindness from my friend, Ginger, on Instagram. She also lost her mother in 2020 and a friend sent her this chart to stitch in her mom's memory. After she finished it up, she passed it on to me, and when I'm done, I'll pass it on to another stitcher who recently lost her mom. We hope to keep this going for a long time... a little string of love between stitchers who truly  understand how it feels to lose a mom.

A very meaningful chart passed on from Instagram friend, Ginger!


And--look! I won a box, jam-packed with stitching goodies, from Shelly, Arizona Stitcher  to celebrate the milestone 10th anniversary of her blog! Wow! Look at all the delights that came my way... A beautiful project pouch in a fun candy-cane fabric, Bohin needles (love those!), rolls of ribbon and pom-poms, a "Let's Stitch" needleminder and floss ring, a cute With Thy Needle Chart and a piece of linen, a new journal to keep track of my finishes, and an array of beautifully colored threads--both DMC and overdyed.

What delightful gifts from the generous Shelly!

But, that's not all! Shelly also made me the prettiest ornament. I'm not sure of the designer, but isn't it darling? She did a beautiful job on both the stitching and the finishing. This is the very best part of your wonderful giveaway, Shelly--thank you so much! I'll think of you each December when I display it. Thank you for every single item you included--I truly love it all and feel honored to have won your very special giveaway!

Such a lovely ornament from Shelly!

So... that was my fun January--filled with lots of gifts and love and well-wishes. Thank you all! 

I do have one more "gift" to mention, though--and it's a big one! I got my first Covid shot on Monday!  They opened up our state to ages 65+ and, although we could find no appointments in our county, my oldest son (all the way over in California!) found appointments online for us (and quite a few of our friends and family members) in adjacent counties. We were so thrilled and my son has enjoyed helping all of us old folks out. Other than a mild sore area at the injection site, I had no side effects. Hopefully, the next shot later in February goes as well. I truly feel blessed to have gotten the first dose! I'm beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel...

I think this pharmacist needs to go back to school for remedial lessons in handwriting--yikes!

Another first--my first ornament of the year is complete! I chose another Prairie Schooler Santa (from Book No. 80 called "Old World Santas)." As usual, I stitched it on 40 ct. raw natural Newcastle, but I did change some of the threads. I changed the red to DMC 221, the green to DMC 501, the color of his sack to DMC 844, and the staff and a portion of the bird to DMC 839. The rest of the colors remained as charted.

A new Prairie Schooler Santa from Book No. 80

You'll notice in the photo above that I added some Smyrna-stitched snowflakes in an oval shape, too--love how the final finish looks! Isn't this Santa cute with the birdhouse tucked into his backpack and the sweet holly-carrying bird perched on his outstretched hand?

My January ornament finish

Here is a photo of the "Old World Santas" chart alongside my finish. You'll notice that I'm leaving off the rectangular base that each Santa is standing on in order to finish them as ovals. I'm sure I'll be stitching more from this chart during the coming year. I hope I never run out of Prairie Schooler Santas!

In other stitching news, I started a stitch-along on Instagram! Yes, me, that shy "sit in the back row of the class" girl, who hates being the leader of anything... But, I've had a great number of people joining in and we'd love to have you join us, too. The idea is to stitch an ornament each month and finish them all by year's end. I've done this for 12 years now and am (honestly) getting a bit weary of it... I'm hoping that by having others posting their ornaments, we can cheer each other on and have a dozen brand new stitched decorations by Christmas time. If you'd like to participate on Instagram, you can use the hashtag #12in21ornamentstitchalong. Hope to see some of you posting this year... even if you don't get all twelve done, a few new ones to add to your tree is always a delight! 

I was planning on taking my snowman stitching down today, but with this fresh snowfall, I'm re-thinking that idea! Here are a few photos of my tiered basket tray that I've had on my kitchen sideboard this month. Those cheery little snowman smiles certainly brighten up that corner of the kitchen. All of these were stitched by me through the years and hang on my Christmas tree. I just pin the hangers behind them when I use them in displays like this one.

Snowman smiles brightened my kitchen in January

Here are a couple of close-ups for you. I took these photos earlier in the month when there was just a dusting of snow--the background would look quite different today!


So, on to February! Do you have any plans for Valentine's stitching? I have a couple little things that I'm trying to get finished up before February 14th rolls around--wish me luck. I can only work on finishing when the desire strikes--and that doesn't happen often...  Thank you, each and every one, for your visit today. And a special thank you to those who leave comments. I know it takes time, but I truly appreciate each kind word. As always, I'm happy to answer your questions, but make sure to leave your email so I can respond to you, okay? Have a wonderful Sunday, my friends... and Happy February! Bye for now...

Saturday, January 16, 2021

A new year and another birthday!

Well, it's a new year! Does it feel like one to you? In some ways,  it feels more like a continuation of 2020... and yet there is a feeling of hope in the air. I was reading over my first post from last January and I really had to laugh as the final sentence of that initial paragraph ended with the words "... it is going to be a good year!" If only I had known then... Well, at least I was optimistic! It was a very difficult year as we all know--dealing with COVID-19, the unrest in this country and around the world, all of the natural disasters that devastated so many, the death of my beloved mother, and the loss of both of my daughter-in-law's parents. Not what I could ever even begin to call a "good year." But, I have hope for the future and that is what keeps me going at times... 

Because 2020 was such a hard year for all, I tried to send out a lot of little gifts at the end of the year to bring a smile to some of my fellow stitchers. If it was at all possible to have sent something to each of you, I would have--you kept up my spirits and sent me so much love last year. And I truly appreciate each of you. But, I'm only human--and can only stitch and finish a few things to give away each year. Anyway, I thought you might like to see them, so here is a new parade--a parade of gifts to inspire you!

This sweet design is from the 2007 Just Cross Stitch Ornament magazine. It is a Little House Needleworks piece called "Snow Bunnies" and was stitched on 16 count Stardust Heatherfield with the suggested DMC threads. The bunnies are now making their home with a friend "across the pond" in jolly, old England.

You'll all recognize this as a Prairie Schooler piece! The chart can be found in PS Book No. 25: "Up On the Housetop." I used 40 ct. pearl gray Newcastle linen and most of the suggested DMC colors. I did change the house color to DMC 676, however. Just can't resist a tiny yellow house! This ornament is now residing in the beautiful state of Virginia.

This nostalgic design recalls simpler times and is a free design from Leisure Arts Magazine which you can find right here. I stitched only the top third of the "Winter Sampler" using Hand-Dyed Fibers silk in "Rubbed Magpie" on 28 ct. white Jobelan (stitched over one). A beautiful square of Woolies Flannel was used to accent these--love how well the blues coordinate! They went to friends in Michigan and Idaho.

This is the second time I've stitched this "With Thy Needle and Thread" cutie! It is called "St. Noel" and was stitched "over one" on 28 ct. Bayleaf Jobelan. I had to stitch the top part of each "X" in the white twice to get it to show up well enough. Not an easy feat with "over one" stitching! I also changed several colors to my favorite Prairie Schooler palette... This ornament is now living with a stitching friend in Illinois.

Having stitched this Prairie Schooler Santa for the third time, I think I have it memorized! You can find the chart in PS Book No. 62 called "Kris Kringle." I couldn't resist stitching this handsome guy carrying his pet Canada Goose for my sweet friend who lives in a gorgeous part of Canada!

I'm sure you will all recognize this sweet JBW gingerbread boy as this is now the fifth time I've stitched it... The other four went to the babies of friends and relatives on their first Christmases. FINALLY--I get to stitch one for my own grandson, Baby B (I have blacked out his name for privacy). This sweet design is stiched on 32 ct. black Belfast linen and is from the JBW chart "Baby's First Christmas." The ornament is happily living in sunny southern California!

For some reason, I found stitching this design to be of great comfort this year. I love how the sentiment, "Glory To God," is shown in this mini-sampler. The chart is from a very old issue of Just Cross Stitch Magazine (November-December 1988). "A Primitive Christmas Heart" is a pattern by Sheepish Designs and was stitched with DMC 336 on various scraps of white and antique white evenweave. Again these are stitched "over one." Two traveled to  friends in Virginia and one now lives with a friend in Ohio.

I also made a lot of cards this year and added tiny bows for interest. The same Sheepish Design that I described above was mailed, in card form, to two other friends in Virginia. I seem to have a lot of stitching friends in Virginia!

This sweet card is a freebie from Durene Jones on Facebook in her November 1, 2019 post. Although not typical Christmas colors, I fell in love with the shades of aquas and turquoise and thought my friend in Germany could display this all winter. I did leave off the bottom border so it would fit into a circle shape a bit easier.

Just Nan is the designer of this quartet of snowmen--aren't they darling? This is called "Snow Faces" and is stitched on 28 ct. glass blue Monaco with the suggested colors. I left off the corner motifs to make it circular to fit the card's opening. This card went to another friend in Germany.

I've always loved star-shaped Santas and this one is no exception. I forgot to write down the name of the library book that the chart came from, unfortunately, but doesn't he make you smile? Love the little polka-dot bow, too. He is now enjoying his new home in Germany. Sending cards to international friends is a much more cost-effective way to let you know you're thinking of them. Sending packages overseas has just become ridiculously expensive compared to when I began blogging in 2009!

And surprise!! A non-stitched gift! This hexie tree was my first attempt at making anything with the hexies that I've been experimenting with and I was pleasantly surprised with how nice it looked in the end! (The rose in the far right lower "branch" is fussy cut from a pair of slacks that were my mom's). This pretty pink tree is now with a stitching friend in Wisconsin and she loves it! If you'd like to experiment making this and other English Paper Piecing ornaments, check out this very helpful tutorial on YouTube: hexie tree tutorial.

So, there you go--lots of love was spread over the world in the form of my little gifts. I just wanted to send an extra dose of joy this year with all the sadness and challenges that people experienced last year.

But on to some happy news... Today is my birthday--yay! I made it through another year. It's hard to believe I am now 66 and on the downward slope heading towards 70. Really??? How on earth did I get to be this old? I look "just a teeny bit" different in this photo below from my first birthday on January 16, 1955... Love the little lace pinafore over my dress and those sweet vintage cards. And it appears that I loved chocolate even back then by the look of that frosted cake. Some things never change...

A one-year-old Carol in January 1955

But, as happy as a birthday is supposed to be,  this is going to be a difficult day for me... It marks my very first birthday without my mom. I'm crying as I write this so I know the tears will be appearing on and off throughout the day. As you can see from the photo above, Mom always tried her best to make our birthdays very special. We got to choose our favorite meal when we were older--for me, it was always spaghetti and meatballs and garlic bread. Dessert was always the famous "Tunnel Of Fudge Cake" that won the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest in 1966. Anyone else remember that cake? Oh, my--it was fabulous; a rich blend of chocolate cake with a "tunnel" of gooey chocolate and nuts buried inside. Unfortunately, a powdered frosting mix was one of the key ingredients and Pillsbury no longer manufactures that so they've come up with this recipe to replace it. It's good, but not quite the same, in my opinion. 

I had the most wonderful dream about my mom earlier this week! Now, I rarely remember  my dreams, but I'm so thankful to have remembered this one in such detail because it gives me hope... 

In my dream, mom and I were driving through a sad-looking little town with many boarded-up store windows. In many ways, it reminded me of the small towns I used to drive through on the way up to my childhood home when I would visit my parents in New York State. On the outskirts of the town, we came upon a large greenhouse and mom said she wanted to stop and "buy some plants for her new home." The parking lot was almost filled to capacity and we had to park quite a distance from the greenhouse. I asked mom if she was sure she wanted to go in as it would be quite a walk for her. She replied, "Oh, I'll be fine" and then easily stepped out of the car and proceeded to walk through the long parking lot toward the greenhouse. As I glanced over at her as we walked side by side,  I was shocked to see that she was whole again--her body was straight and tall, no longer hunched and twisted from the effects of her battles with osteoporosis and scoliosis that she suffered from for so many, many years. She appeared younger, too--more like she did in her 40s. At that point in my dream, I woke up... I was filled with a feeling of peace--and of hope. I now know my dear mother is safe and well and settling in to her "new home."

My middle sister recently sent me this photo of mom and me that I'd never seen before. It was from December 2016 and we were toasting my brother on his 60th birthday. I love it!


As I mentioned in my previous post, my "word" for 2021 is hope--and as soon as I saw this beautiful design below, I knew I had to stitch it. It is one of two freebies from "Hello From Liz Matthews" that she offers to her newsletter subscribers. I think this may be the quickest piece that I've ever stitched and fully finished! I began stitching it on Wednesday afternoon and had it framed and ready to display 24 hours later... The piece is so simple, yet so striking, don't you agree? The frame is a very old one that my middle son bought for me when he spotted it at Goodwill several years ago. And the blue flannel in the background is from one of my son's old shirts. Having all boys, I have a never-ending supply of old flannel shirts to be repurposed!

My finish of "Hope" by Hello From Liz Matthews


Well, that's it for my first post of 2021! I'm still here (for at least a while) blogging away. I seriously considered ending my blog after my mother died as my heart just wasn't in it. Blogs are fading away for some sad reason and readers are turning to other sources. I still love my blog, though, as it is a wonderful record of my stitching life and a journal of my travels, baking, and a peek into my family life. I know mom would want me to keep up blogging a while longer. There will come a time when I'll stop my writing, but I promise to let you know when that happens--I won't just disappear like so many bloggers have done. 

I wish you all the best in this new year, my friends! Thank you again for visiting me and a special thanks to those who take the time to leave comments. I truly appreciate each and every one of you! Bye for now...