Thursday, September 30, 2021

Simple Beauty and a Big Surprise!

I'm hoping you are all feeling as happy as I am on this, the final day of September?! It's been a great month and an especially wonderful last week for me, so read on for the very best surprise of all... First of all, let me share my latest finish with you. I worked on this piece of summery sunshine on and off over the past few months and am proud to show you my completed "There Is Beauty In Simplicity" today. (It was a cloudy day when I took the photos so they don't accurately show how pretty this piece really is). The goldfinch is so beautiful, isn't he? And I think the choice of daisies depicts simplicity at its finest!

"There Is Beauty In Simplicity"


Some of you may recall my post about finding the goldfinch feather (pictured above) soon after my mother died in July of 2020. In that post, I wrote about seeing an abundance of goldfinches, receiving a card from a friend with a goldfinch on it, and then finding a goldfinch feather right outside my kitchen window. After doing some research, I learned that different colors of feathers have specific meanings and that a yellow feather represents joy and happiness. It also serves as a reminder to slow down, enjoy life, and be more mindful of the present. I've kept the yellow and black goldfinch feather in my Pottery Barn cubby ever since I found it and truly believe it was a message from my dear mother. If you'd like to read the entire post on the feather you can find it right here

The colors in this piece are so cheerful, aren't they?


Now you know why this finish is so special to me. This is the fourth of the Cottage Garden Samplings "Songbird's Garden Series" that I've completed. Would you like to see all four? I'm stitching each of them on 40 ct. pearl gray Newcastle with the suggested threads. I think my favorite parts of these designs, besides the stunning birds, are the little houses--aren't they charming? I especially love the newest one as the wee golden brown house looks like it is sprouting right out of the daisy!

Which one is your favorite?

And, I had another start which I'm absolutely loving: Prairie Schooler's "Christmas Village" (book number 79). I just don't understand why I put off stitching it for so long?! Honestly, I could have had this stitched and on display at Christmas (or even all winter!) for many, many years. I don't think I'll have it finished by this Christmas, but I truly am loving every stitch. I'm using 40 ct. antique white Newcastle with the suggested DMC threads. I "only" have 1 church, 1 snowman, 2 sleighs, 3 deer, 6 geese, 6 houses, and 54 trees left to stitch. I'm trying to do a few trees for every house so I'm not left with them all at the end. For me Prairie Schooler designs are my "comfort stitching." What is yours? 

I love all the details in this sweet village!

On Monday, I received a lovely surprise from one of my Instagram friends, Cindy C. from Virginia (she is cindycstitches on IG). She sent me this darling bee pillow to add to my bee display next summer. Isn't it cute? So beautifully stitched and finished, too. Cindy, I love it and will think of you each time I put it out--thank you so much, my friend. You are always so kind and thoughtful--and I truly appreciate our friendship!

Thank you so much, Cindy--what a great addition to my bee display!


So, what else have I been up to since my last post three weeks ago? Well, I became a great-aunt to a sweet baby girl who was born to my nephew and his wife just over a week ago. This was the first girl baby born on my side in this generation--how my mother would have loved having her first great-granddaughter. I also went to Connecticut for another nephew's wedding (the second of three nephews who are marrying within three months of each other!). It was a long, long drive as we dealt with the horrific traffic around New York City (I can't imagine living in that busy area), but we made it and were rewarded with a beautiful Airbnb which was our home for three nights. It was right on Long Island Sound and this was the view that we woke up to each morning--that beautiful blue water glistening in the sunlight. So relaxing and peaceful!

The view from our bed at the Airbnb in Connecticut


In addition to the wedding (which was so much fun as we hadn't seen some of our relatives in over two years!), we went for a relaxing beach walk along Long Island Sound. The beach there is filled with shells and large rocks although there was a sandy beach further down from the house we were renting. The weather couldn't have been nicer--low 70s, clear blue skies, and sunshine. Here are some of the photos I took last Saturday morning before the wedding.

Scenes from our beach walk with views of Long Island Sound


And because we were so very close to Yale University (the third oldest university in the United States), we spent a couple hours walking around the campus (and now I can truthfully say, "I went to Yale!"). Since it covers 260 acres, we only saw a tiny portion, but made a point to track down the oldest existing building on campus. That was Connecticut Hall, built in 1750 which housed such notable Americans as Eli Whitney (the inventor of the cotton gin), Noah Webster (the author of the first American dictionary), and Nathan Hale (the American Revolutionary War patriot who purportedly stated, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country" as his last words before he was hung by the British in 1776). Connecticut Hall is pictured in the lower right below. It is now used to house Yale's Department of Philosophy.

Scenes from Yale University include (clockwise from upper left):  The quad at the Old Campus, Battell Chapel, Connecticut Hall, and Farnum Hall

Fall is very slowly creeping into western Pennsylvania and the leaves are a bit late turning color this year. The temperature at night has begun dipping into the 40s this week, though, so that should surely hasten the bright reds, golds, and oranges that we all look forward to here in the northeast at this time of year. My husband and I took a walk around a local lake last week hoping to see some color in the trees, but very little was to be found. It was still a lovely day, though, and I took a few photos to share in the collage below.

Hints of fall are beginning to appear


With the cooler days, fall baking is on my mind and I made a cake that had both my husband and I saying "Yummmmm!" as we took our first bite. Now, it sounds like a strange combination, but, trust me--this recipe is a keeper. You must use very ripe bananas for it, though--very important! It is so moist and tasty and, although I don't even drink coffee, the combination of the banana cake and coffee flavored frosting was out of this world! Give it a try and let me know how you like it? You can find the recipe for "Potluck Banana Cake" right here. Does your family have any tried and true fall recipes that you're planning on making soon?

Banana cake with coffee frosting anyone?


And, I've saved my most happy news for last... We will no longer be making that exhausting cross-country trip to San Diego, California to see my grandson and his mom and dad, because, guess what?!?! 

They have moved to the east coast! 

We've known about their plans for a while, but I didn't tell many people because I was so worried that something might go wrong. However, as of Sunday, the little family is living in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC.--just a four hour drive from us and only 30 minutes from my youngest son who also lives down that way! We couldn't be happier for them and, although it will take some adjustment on their part to having four distinct seasons and dealing with snow, ice, and cold weather, I truly think this will be wonderful move.  My daughter-in-law has taken a new job at the National Institutes of Health and since my son has always worked from home, he can follow her wherever her career takes her. This new job offers her more normal work hours, less stress, and a great bunch of co-workers. She's been working remotely for the past six weeks and I can already see a big drop in her stress level.

My sweet grandson after landing in Maryland enroute to his new home! I think he's excited about being closer to Gramma and  Grampa (but it could just be that big smile is a reaction to his tasty snack :)


So you can plan on reading about lots of road trips to and from Washington DC--in fact our first one is coming up tomorrow. We plan on helping them unpack, organize, and clean their new home (they are renting for now until they see what area they'd like to buy in) and, of course, spending lots of time with "Baby B" who is thoroughly enjoying the extra space in his new home already. No more apartment living for him! To say we are thrilled doesn't begin to express our excitement. I know for many of you being four hours apart doesn't sound that close, but after living on opposite sides of the country for the past five years, it will seem like they're living next door! I wish them all the best in this new chapter of their lives...

Well, time to bake some goodies to take to my son's family, pack my suitcase (again!) and do a bit of cleaning before we leave tomorrow so I'll sign off. Thank you all for visiting me today and a special thank you to those of you who leave such nice comments. I love reading each and every one and appreciate the time it takes you to write them. I'm still hanging in there with my blog for now, but thoughts of when to stop writing it are increasingly on my mind, so we'll see. Take care, my friends. Bye for now...

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

The good, the bad, and the sad

It's only been a little over three weeks since I last posted, but so much has happened that it seems like three years have passed! Since mid-August, my life has included some special visitors, a wedding, a  sad farewell, a hurricane, and an invasion. Oh, and a bit of stitching, let's not forget that! I'm so glad you've stopped in for a visit today. I hope you've each managed to fit in a bit of stitching to help deal with the stressful times being felt all around the world. Honestly, I don't know where I would be without my needle, thread, and fabric...

I was a bit behind on my monthly ornament stitching, but managed to catch up and finish both my August and September ornaments this past week. Love how they turned out!

My August and September ornaments


My August ornament is called "Winter's Song" and is an older chart from Plum Pudding Needleart. Fortunately, you can still download it from their Etsy shop (right here) if you are interested. I truly love the simplicity of this sweet design... This was stitched "over one" on 28 ct. bay leaf Jobelan using most of the suggested colors. I did change the green to DMC 3362 and the cardinal's legs to DMC 844. Some cording made of the same DMC 3362 floss, a simple green gingham bow and hanger, and a swag of holly and berries finished it off. For you long time readers (if there are any of you left from over a decade ago!), you'll recognize this one as I've made it several times for gifts. Finally, I have one for my own Christmas tree!

"Winter's Song" by Plum Pudding Needleart


My September ornament is from the Prairie Schooler Book No. 80, "Old World Santas." This handsome Santa is stitched on 40 ct. raw natural Newcastle with DMC threads. I did change a few of the colors and left off the bottom border as I wanted it to be an oval shape. The little white snowflakes are all Smyrna stitches--now those took a while! But, I love the final finish!

Another oval-shaped PS Santa finish joins the gang

This is the second Santa I've stitched from that booklet and finished the same way. The first was my January ornament and in the photo below you can see both of them together. I'm sure they'll have more buddies joining them in the next few years. 

Mr. January meets Mr. September!

It "only" took me 14 years, but I finally managed to frame one of my favorite Prairie Schooler Samplers from Book No. 45 "Garden Samplers." Yes, I tend to procrastinate (just a bit!) as I've even had the frame for it since 2012. This was stitched all the way back in 2007 and I first showed it on my blog in 2010 in this post. Now, do you notice anything missing when you click on that link and study the picture from 2010? YES! I actually forgot to cross about a dozen stitches in the lower left border! Thank goodness I finally realized it and was able to add them before I framed it. 

Stitched in 2007 / Framed in 2021!


The rustic black frame was one I ordered online from Franken Frames--always have wonderful service from them and they will even provide you with free samples to hold up next to your stitching before you place your order. Check them out! And I know I've mentioned it before, but the tutorial I use for framing is this one from Brenda Gervais: framing tutorial. It is much easier than you think it would be--and boy, does it save money when you frame your own stitching!

I think this rustic black frame works so well with this sampler!

One of my favorite things about Prairie Schooler samplers is that you can select individual motifs from them to make into small pillows or ornaments. This white Martin house surrounded by sunflowers is one of my favorite little pillows that I stitched back in 2012. I love bringing it out each summer and fall to decorate my kitchen corner cupboard. This pillow was stitched "over one" on 28 ct. sage Jobelan using the suggested DMC threads.

This little PS pillow is one of my favorites


Giveaway winner... Thank you all so much for participating in the "Getting To Know You" portion of my previous post! First of all, I can't tell you how much I enjoyed reading about three of your favorite things that you could see as you looked around the room where you were sitting. If you get a chance, read through the answers on my last post--I guarantee you'll be smiling by the time you're done. The lucky winner of the sweet "Proverbs 7:4 Sampler" is...

Melisa V.!

Melisa V.--you are the winner!

Congratulations, Melisa... Please send me your mailing address and I will get this right out to you. More charts will be given away in the future so please keep an eye on this space--thank you to all who entered.

So, back to my busy three weeks... whew! My oldest son, daughter-in-law, and grandbaby flew in for a week before my nephew's wedding. They had to work remotely so my husband and I gladly kept "Baby B" entertained. Now, a 13 month old is in constant motion and we went to bed each night at about the same time (or before since he was still on West Coast time!) as the baby. We took him over to visit his uncle's cat (scare is a more accurate description as the cat was frightened of him!)  where we had pizza for dinner, drove him up to Ohio to visit another uncle, aunt, and triplet second cousins for a fun swim and picnic lunch, watched as he explored every drawer, cupboard, and closet that he could get into, and thoroughly enjoyed watching him make new sounds and discover new sights. He is just the sweetest (I know all grandparents say that, don't they?!) and as his shirt says in the photo below... definitely "one of a kind!"

"Baby B" with my husband and me at my nephew's wedding and playing at our house

At the end of the week, we drove almost 5 hours to my nephew's wedding in the beautiful Finger Lakes area of New York State. Masks were required in the church, but, as the reception was held in my brother's back yard, we could go mask-free. But, oh, my--it couldn't have been a hotter day... almost 90° with very high humidity. By the time we'd been there just half an hour, we were each a sweaty mess. But, I was so glad the sun shone as my brother had worked and worked for months to get his yard and garden spruced up for the wedding reception, and boy, did he do a great job. Below is the back of his pretty stone house and some of the flowers. (The actual tent where the wedding dinner was held is not shown--it was off to the side).

My brother did an excellent job of preparing his garden and home for my nephew's wedding reception. Thank goodness for no rain as the dinner was held outdoors.

An international flavor... I don't know if you can see them, but to the right of the portico in the photo above are a few of the many international flags that my brother had hung in honor of the ever growing diversity in our family. There were flags hanging from both the house and the barn representing the United States and India (where the bride's parents were from); Thailand and Italy (where their former exchange students were from); Germany, The Netherlands and Great Britain (representing our parents' ancestors);  and Sweden representing his wife's relatives. As I mentioned, my nephew married a young woman of Indian-American heritage, my dear daughter-in-law is Mexican-American, and another nephew is married to a girl of Panamanian-Mexican-American heritage. I love the culture and history that each of these young women has brought to our family. The beautiful children they have (and will have in the future) will, hopefully, be part of a kinder world where the color of one's skin is not even given a second thought. We've come a long way and still have a long way to go, but I feel like we are finally making strides.

The news of the natural disasters is heartbreaking, isn't it? I feel so sad for the people affected by the wildfires and for those victims of Hurricane Ida. We got a small taste of Ida herself when the rains swept up through western Pennsylvania on their way to inflict damage on New Jersey and New York City. Getting almost 5" of rain in less than 24 hours was more than our yard could take and we did get some water in our crawlspace. Below is a video of the water raging down our side yard not five feet from the entrance to our finished basement. If the rain had kept up, we surely would have had flooding in our basement as it happened before when Hurricane Ivan hit in 2004. We did install a much larger drain pipe leading from our pond to the storm sewers in the street right after Ivan hit so perhaps that is what saved us this time. 


An invasion... as if rising water wasn't bad enough, we were invaded! Ever hear of armyworms? Well, I hadn't either, but I noticed our lawn turning brown right before my eyes as we were leaving for the wedding on August 27th. I mentioned it to my husband, but he is slightly colorblind and didn't notice the difference in color on the lawn. By the time we returned from the wedding, the area turning brown had grown significantly and my husband went out to take a closer look. His diagnosis: armyworms! UGH!!! I just imagined an artillery of these horrid creatures eating their way right up to my kitchen window. Apparently, they've always been a problem down south, but now that our climate is changing and our weather is becoming warmer, we are seeing them here in Pennsylvania, too. 


You can see the difference in the brown grass (behind the path of water from Hurricane Ida) and the green grass in the photo below. Luckily, the treatment is easy and a man came out and sprayed the lawn with a treatment to eliminate the worms. For all my friends in the north and midwest--be on the lookout! This army may be heading your way.

Notice the large browned out area of grass behind the water--armyworms in full attack!


And the end of an era... Sadly, my last remaining uncle passed away on August 26 (which also happened to be my late father's birthday making it doubly sad). Uncle Mitch was a force of nature--a big, jolly guy who always had a smile on his face and chatted away with complete strangers as if he'd known them his entire life. He was my mother's beloved big brother--two years her senior and they were always close. Her tales of them growing up together and spending summers on their grandparents' farm always made me wish that I'd had an older brother of my own. Like my mother and both of their parents, Uncle Mitch majored in journalism in college and then he went on to work in newspapers eventually becoming the editor of The Janesville Gazette in Wisconsin in the 1980s. 

My Uncle Mitch was the middle child... He and that sweet curly haired tot (otherwise known as my mom!) were best friends growing up.

Uncle Mitch and Mom about 8 years ago. Oh, how I miss those beautiful smiles...

What I will always remember most about my uncle was his never-ending optimism. He was a longtime member of the Optimist Club organization--a fact which always made my family smile. It's a wonderful way to live your life... not always easy, especially in times like these, but it certainly is worth exploring a life lived with positivity and a glass half-full attitude.

I'll leave you today with a copy of "The Optimist Creed." I challenge you to read through it and work on the promises outlined below. It worked for my uncle--he  passed away at the lovely age of 96, still mentally sound and still bringing a smile to those around him. I hope I can be as blessed and as positive-minded in my later years. Sending all good thoughts your way today; take care my friends. Bye for now...