Monday, November 22, 2021

Random thoughts in late November

Can you believe it's almost time for Thanksgiving here in the U.S.? I think, for many of us, this year's feast will look a bit different than that of 2020. I remember last Thanksgiving sadly sitting alone with my husband as we ate, not a traditional turkey, but a simple chicken breast, a photo of our far away family members propped on the table. It was a hard day... the first Thanksgiving without my beloved mom and without anyone other than my husband to help me get through it. Thankfully, this year more and more families will be reunited to give thanks for our blessings once again! I'm excited to be traveling to Ohio for dinner at my niece's house (and pretty excited that I am not hosting it this year, if truth be told!). What are your plans? 

This time of year my stitching always seems to take a back seat to baking, decorating, Christmas card writing, etc. But, I did manage to get my ornament for November done. As soon as I saw this adorable design with the cheery Christmas mugs stacked three high and the smiling gingerbread boys peeking out, I knew I had to order it from Whitehouse Stitchery on Etsy. You can see what the original chart looks like, and purchase your own copy if you're interested, right here. I used my favorite 40 ct. Newcastle linen--this time in a new-to-me color called "Water Green." It's the prettiest shade and I love how Christmas colors look on it.

"Sweet Christmas" finish for my November ornament

I did make a few changes to the colors and rounded out the gingerbread boys' heads a bit more. I also stitched only half of the charted design to make it ornament sized. And because I wanted an oval ornament, I added a few snowflakes to both sides to shape it. It's hard to see, but there are red beads representing berries  next to the holly in the top mug. As there is so much going on in this design I kept the final finish quite simple merely adding white cording and a red and white gingham bow and hanger. I've always loved gingerbread boys and this one truly makes me smile each time I look at it.

Such cute little grins on the gingerbread boys!

I've also made some significant progress with my Prairie Schooler "Christmas Village" which I first shared with you in this post. At that time, I had only two of the nine houses stitched and now I'm up to five so I think I'm about at the half-way point. I feel like I could stitch those little trees at the top in my sleep by now, but they are a good thing to work on while watching television. I honestly can't tell you how much stitching this piece relaxes me. Even those long, solid roofs don't bother me! That's Prairie Schooler for you! Just the best!

Progress! About half-way done!

Randomness... thoughts on what I've been doing, reading, watching, baking!

*** Who else is watching less and less network television?  There just seems to be nothing that captures my interest these days. I've been turning more and more to Netflix and Hulu and have been really captivated by the Dopesick series on America's opioid epidemic (on Hulu) and  Maid (on Netflix)--a fictional account of a young, single mother who takes a job at a cleaning service while trying to raise her child and navigate the confusing legal aid system. And I finally watched the delightful Lark Rise to Candleford series on Hulu... Oh, if they would only make more shows like that one--love the characters so very much. The British do know how to make such charming series!

*** YouTube favorites... Unlike many of you, I'm not a Flosstube watcher. I find most of them move way too slowly for me and they're much too long! But, I've discovered several fun decorating/thrifting/makeover type YouTube channels that I enjoy ever so much. Do any of you watch: Canterbury Cottage, The White Cottage Company, She Holds Dearly, or Jessica Giffin? I enjoy all of these women because they are working within a budget and trying to recycle/reuse when they can--talk about creativity! Anyone else have recommendations?

*** Of course I've been baking for Thanksgiving--I've made nine different kinds of cookies so far, freezing half for Thanksgiving and half for Christmas. These are the goodies I whipped up this morning--so light and flaky. Not to mention--they have raspberry jam in the centers! My favorite! You can find the recipe right here. Do roll the balls of dough in sugar before baking and pressing the indentation for the jam--it makes that process much easier. 

"Evelyn's Christmas Cookies"


*** I've read several very good books lately! Meet Me at the Museum is a charming tale (told in letter form) of an older couple whose relationship develops through correspondence. A first time author at the age of 70, Anne Youngson, created a very sweet story with such memorable characters. I've read many Susan Meissner books and have enjoyed most, but this was my favorite to date: The Nature of Fragile Things is set in San Francisco and weaves a tale of mystery, romance, and female friendships during and after the great earthquake of 1906. Finally,  Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer takes on a very difficult subject--postpartum depression. It's hard to read at times, but explores a subject that definitely deserves more attention and discussion. I'd give each of these 4 1/2 stars out of 5! Can anyone else recommend a must-read book?

***I've been bit under the weather since we last talked... The reaction I had to my Covid Booster on November 10th caught me by surprise as I'd had nothing but a sore arm and mild tiredness with the first two shots. This time I experienced chills, a fever of 100.6°, and general body aches. BUT... I'm so glad I had it as I feel safer going to Thanksgiving and traveling again. On top of that, I somehow injured my lower left rib area when we were visiting my grandson. Oh, it felt like I was being stabbed every time I coughed, sneezed or laughed. And rolling over in bed or simply sitting in my stitching chair was pretty painful, too! I didn't know if I had broken a rib, bruised a rib, or torn a muscle. Since it is starting to feel much better ten days in, I think it was the latter. How did it happen? Um... roughhousing with my grandson and picking up and carrying a 27 pound toddler surely had something to do with my injury. I really need to be more careful given that I have osteoporosis... sigh! 

*** Decorating... Since we aren't having Thanksgiving here this year, I did very little in the way of decorating other than putting out a few of my cross stitched pieces. I did decorate my mantle, though, with a collection of copper pieces, candles, and white pottery. I really love how warm and cozy it looks on these cooler autumn nights. I also convinced my husband to bring the boxes of Christmas decorations down from the attic last night so Christmas decorating will commence on Friday--I can't wait!

My decorated mantle with my blue stitching chair on the right

Some of these copper pieces belonged to my mom which makes this display even more special


Speaking of mom, below is a throwback photo to Thanksgiving 1963. I think my siblings and I are being Native American Indians (apparently none of us wanted to be Pilgrims!) and entertaining my parents before dinner. My middle sister is wearing a headband with what I'm sure are turkey feathers because there was a large turkey farm down the street from us. My brother is beating on a drum while I imagine I (sporting those "lovely" short bangs my mom used to cut for me!) am, most likely, making some sort of Indian whooping sound. Probably totally politically incorrect in this day and age, but that was life in the '60s! My dad was the photographer and my youngest sister, just a couple months old, was, most likely, asleep in a nearby bassinet. Such nice memories... My mom always made sure that our holidays were very special and now, being a mom myself, I know how much work goes into that process! I don't think you can truly appreciate all that a mom does until you become one yourself...

A 1960s-style family Thanksgiving!


So, it's time to end this longer-than-expected post! I hope you know one of the things I'm truly thankful for is all of you. Honestly! I have such a nice group of readers and commenters--I hope you know how much I value your friendship and love hearing from you. As I've said many times, if only all the world could be as supportive and loving as the stitching community, it would be a much better place. I wish all of my U.S. stitching friends a blessed Thanksgiving with your families. And I hope all of my international readers have a lovely last week of November. Do take care now, and I'll see you in December! Bye for now...

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Two small finishes and another family wedding

Happy November! It's only been three weeks since my last post, but it seems like a lot longer since I've visited with you, doesn't it? Since then, there's been some stitching, some traveling, some new recipes being tried, and now I'm getting ready for my favorite thing in the world--a visit with my little grandson this weekend. I really can't put into words how wonderful it is having him here on the East Coast. I know, I know... for many of you a four hour drive sounds horrible, but, honestly, it feels so easy after our day-long travels to San Diego, California all those years. Like many things in life... it's all relative!

I have a couple of finishes to share with you today... The first one may surprise you because I'm not a coffee drinker at all! But, this one is not for me--it was stitched as a birthday gift for my dear daughter-in-law who is. She has a small corner spot in her new kitchen which is perfect for her coffee/tea station and I thought this little piece would be a nice addition to the tiered tray she has on display there. This is called "Coffee First" and is another charming design by one of my favorite designers, With Thy Needle and Thread. 

My finish of "Coffee First" by With Thy Needle and Thread

For this piece, I used 40 ct. vintage country mocha Newcastle linen using a combination of DMC and overdyed threads. The main changes I made were to change the hair and skin colors to resemble my daughter-in-law a bit more (although she certainly doesn't dress like that little woman--ha ha!) and I used a different color of thread for the dress. I changed it to Gentle Arts "Blue Jay" using the darker blue portion of the skein for the skirt and the lighter blue portion for the blouse. The other change I made was to add a comma after the word "first." Here is a close-up for you:

Don't you love those tiny shoes?!
To finish it into a little pillow for the tiered tray I added two coordinating fabrics, a jute bow, and a covered button. When making pillows for tiered trays I like to add a bit of accent fabric to the bottom to raise it up from the tray so the design is clearly visible. I love the twisty vines of coffee beans sprouting from the giant cup, don't you? And if anyone is wondering about those tasty looking Banana Carrot Muffins in the first  photo, you can find the recipe linked in this post from August.


My other finish is my ornament for October which is a delightful freebie that can be found on my friend, Melisa's, "Pinker n Punkin" blog post right here. I love the fact that not only will this adorn my Christmas tree, but it can be displayed all winter long. It is called Winter Saltbox and is one of a series of saltbox freebies that she has designed. I know I'll be stitching a few more in the future!  Of course, the beautiful blue house is what drew me to this one immediately. Isn't it sweet? I love how it turned out--thank you so much, Melisa, for sharing your talent so generously with all of us stitchers!

My finish of "Winter Saltbox"

I did make a few changes to the colors, stitched the cardinals "over one," added more snowflakes, used satin stitch on the snowman's hatband, changed the door to red, and used smyrna stitches for the snowman's eyes and buttons. The colors of blue I used in the house and stars are DMC 930 and 931. Here is a close-up so you can better see the tiny birds...

Teeny cardinals stitched "over one" on 40 ct. linen

The only other stitching news I have is that, after two years, our little group of four friends was able to reunite for our mini-retreat last weekend. We rented an old 19th century era farmhouse in Ohio and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves... stayed up way too late, ate way too much, and stitched and chatted and laughed the entire time. The very first year we did this was 2010 according to my blog records and we've only missed one year since (I think!) due to Covid. If you aren't one for huge and sometimes expensive cross stitch retreats (those aren't for me!), I highly recommend this method of renting an Airbnb with a few close friends for a few days and having a mini-retreat!

Our third and final family wedding of 2021 took place in late October in a city I'd never been to before: Louisville, Kentucky. Actually, I had only been in the state of Kentucky once in my life and that was for a work trip my church youth fellowship group took when I was about 12 years old. We traveled all the way from New York state to a very rural KY  community to undertake various projects to help them out. As I recall, I was on the committee to paint the inside of the church. Yikes! Not sure how they turned a group of junior high kids loose and let them paint the church, but they did. I wonder if they had to repaint it after we left :) 

Anyway, Louisville was a very interesting city and I wish we had had more time to spend there. It was a real treat as all of my sons were there along with my daughter-in-law, my middle son's girlfriend, my youngest son's girlfriend, and my grandson. As always, we rented an Airbnb where we could all stay together--so much more enjoyable than being stuck in individual hotel rooms (not to mention less expensive!). The house was an old 1900 era Victorian house with lots of charm: very high ceilings, unique fireplaces and tile, and a steep carved staircase. In the kitchen, there was a mural of the house painted on one wall and that was the first time I noticed the owl perched on the top of the house. What a fun addition to the roofline of this old home. It was plenty big for the nine of us and we would definitely return.

The city of Louisville is the largest city in Kentucky and the 29th most populous in the U.S. It would have been fun to explore more of the city, but with the wedding and (rainy, chilly, outdoor!) reception taking up most of Saturday, we didn't have much free time. We did spend Sunday morning visiting the Big Four Bridge, an 1895 railroad bridge which connects the cities of Louisville in Kentucky with Jeffersonville in Indiana. The Ohio River, which runs under the bridge, is at its widest point (one mile wide) just north of Louisville. In 2013, the Big Four Bridge was converted into a pedestrian/bike route so we decided to make the 2-mile round trip trek on Sunday morning morning. Although the clouds threatened rain, we still enjoyed great views of the skyline and the other bridges that traversed the Ohio River. 

View of the Louisville skyline from the Big Four Bridge

My family beginning the hike across the bridge in the top photo. My grandson was in his stroller going over, but on the return trip he insisted on walking most of the way!

A very curious toddler fascinated by the bark of this tree in the park near the Big Four Bridge. He's getting big, isn't he? I sure wish I could slow time down...

After one half of the family departed for the airport for their flights back to Washington, DC, the rest of us (my husband, middle son, and his girlfriend), enjoyed a hike through nearby Cave Hill Cemetery. I have always enjoyed strolling through cemeteries for some reason--I find them to be very tranquil and they seem to help me simply relax and slow down. Now, I don't think I'd feel the same way if I were walking through a cemetery at night!

The leaves were just beginning to change in the cemetery

This trio of cherubs marked three members of the same family who died before the age of one. So very sad...

Some cypress knees growing alongside a peaceful lake

The more unusual gravestones always fascinate me. Remarking on the one in the lower left, I said to my husband, "Look--there's one that looks like a tree." He said, "That's because it is a tree." When we went to investigate--no! It was a very, very realistic looking sculpture!

The most famous inhabitant of Cave Hill Cemetery is the boxer, Muhammad Ali. I was expecting a grand monument, but his grave was actually quite simple and tasteful.

Brightly colored autumn leaves were beginning to carpet the grass in some places. Glad I don't have to rake a cemetery!

So, that's it for the family weddings for this year--whew! We drove to all three weddings (in New York, Connecticut, and Kentucky) for a total of over 2400 miles. Honestly, I'm welcoming the next six months of being able to cozy up at home with an occasional visit to see my grandson in Maryland. I think I'm just plain worn right out. But, it truly was wonderful seeing members of both sides of the family after the long Covid-enforced separations.

I do have a couple of recipes to share with you today--both quite healthy! Like many of you, I'm trying to cut back on sugar and lately find myself attracted to more savory than sweet foods. But, this cookie recipe was quite unusual in that there is no added sugar. In fact it can be made with just two ingredients: oatmeal and bananas! I did add the optional cinnamon, walnuts, and raisins that the recipe mentioned and they were quite a tasty treat. Definitely had a different texture, but for anyone trying to cut back on sugar and eat healthier, I can highly recommend these. You can find the recipe right here.

Healthy Banana-Oatmeal Cookies

I took some of my lentil soup to our recent cross stitch retreat and everyone loved it so I thought I'd share that recipe here on my blog, too. This is from the cookbook by Lorraine Wallace called "Mr. Sunday's Soups"--a great book filled with many delicious sounding soup recipes. You can find the recipe right here. I followed it exactly as written except I omit the green pepper (which my husband and I really don't care for at all!). 

I love making and freezing a big pot of lentil soup in portions for winter dinners!


I'll leave you with this little pumpkin at Halloween. I know I'm a bit partial, but isn't he adorable? He looks just a bit unsure of what the day was all about as he prepared to carve pumpkins with mommy and daddy. He's got an ever-present car in his one hand--can't seem to go anywhere without one these days!

My lil' punkin!

So, next up is Thanksgiving. We are not hosting it this year so I am only making two pies, a tray of cookies, and our traditional strawberry-pretzel salad. How about  you? I'll also be doing some last minute gift ornament stitching and trying to figure out how to display my Christmas tree with a very active 17 month old visiting for a week! Any suggestions? I'm so excited that everyone will be home for Christmas as we haven't all been together for the holiday since 2018! 

Enjoy this mild fall weather while you can... I've heard the typical cold November weather is moving in over the weekend. It's honestly been the nicest fall I can remember, hasn't it? Thank you for your visit today--hope I've given you a bit of inspiration or made you smile somewhere along the way. Take care now, everyone, and happy stitching! Bye for now...