Friday, December 29, 2023

Winding down the year

The final days of each year seem to signal the end of yet another chapter in one's life history... It's always so hard to believe that another year has flown by so quickly, isn't it? We end the year on such a busy note with the preparation for Thanksgiving in late November right into the excitement and bustling days of the Christmas season. I have to admit, I'm truly looking forward to the peace and quiet that a new year brings--how about you? 

Our Christmas was nice, but not quite the "whole family together" time that I had pictured. My middle son came down with some sort of stomach flu and neither he nor his girlfriend were here on Christmas morning. The hardest part of his illness for him? Having to miss out on our traditional once-a-year homemade cinnamon rolls (you can find the recipe right here)! Oh, we saved a couple for him, but it wasn't quite the same as sitting down for  Christmas brunch with the whole family. We also saved his presents and the ones he had given all of us and opened them two days later when he felt well enough to come over again. Unbelievably, not a single one of the rest of us got sick!

Another odd thing about Christmas this year was the weather... it was such a warm and rainy week! We did get a bit of sunshine on Christmas Day itself, but that was it. And the temperature... it was 60° here in western Pennsylvania--the eighth warmest Christmas on record! I never thought I'd say this, but I'm actually missing snow right now.

As the end of this year draws near, I have a number of folks I'd like to thank--there are just so many kind and caring fellow stitchers out there! I enjoyed opening each gift and card so much and  want to share what I received for Christmas this year...

From June in England: a beautifully stitched card, a sweet Tralala chart, some finishing accessories and a Christmas towel. Thank you, my friend!

From Manuela in Germany: the cutest little snowman card, a pretty-in-pink hexie mug rug, and two floss tags. Thank you, my friend!

From Cindy C. (cindycstitches on Instagram): a beautifully stitched ornament featuring Santa and his deer. Thank you, my friend!

From Stasi in Virginia: an adorable (and very appropriately named!) ornament. This is a design by Mani di Donna. Thank you, my friend!

From Vickie in Wisconsin: a charming little star ornament. Thank you, my friend!

From Claire in Canada (blackberryhill1 on Instagram): The most darling woolen strawberry adorned with a sweet angel and a Santa Claus floss holder. Thank you, my friend!

From Robin in Virginia: a beautifully stitched Silver Bells ornament. Thank you, my friend!

From Cindy in Tennessee (cindyderosa on Instagram): a lovely blue bird ornament. Thank you, my friend!

From Martina and Gabi in Germany: sweetly stitched cards which I plan on making into ornaments. Thank you, my friends!

From Nathalie in France: some pretty pastel ribbons, lip balm, and incense. Thank you, my friend!

What a lucky stitcher I am, wouldn't you agree? And thank you, too, for the lovely Christmas cards I received from many of you... Sandy P., Marilyn, Tricia, Barb R., Karen Y., Lee, and Kim H. I do love receiving a real Christmas card in my mailbox even though that tradition seems to be fading away these days. Just call me old-fashioned! 

As Christmas draws closer, I move my newest dozen ornaments from the garland going up my stairs to our tree and replace them with stitched ornaments I've received from so many of you throughout the years. These will stay up until the new year. 

My garland now bears many, many ornaments sent from stitching friends over the years.

Both sides are covered with so many wonderful gifts!

Here are the six lovely new ornaments I received this year.

The saga of Mister B and the elf... Do you all remember the photo of the little mechanized elf I showed you in my last post? For those of you who missed it, here is the impish fellow once again...

The little elf was met with a lot of suspicion by Mister B!

I was sure that my 3-year-old grandson would love him. Wrong! He was quite wary of him and  simply stared at him with wide-eyes for quite a while. At first he refused to go near him, telling me, "he looks dangerous!" He slowly got up his nerve to draw closer and proudly told me, "I touched his hat!" And, after being told many times that the elf's saw wasn't going to hurt him (that it was actually made of wood), he finally got up his nerve to touch it. Watching the whole scenario develop over a few days time was so cute. He was very proud when he and the elf finally became "friends!"

Mister B's not quite sure if that elf is to be trusted or not!

It was such fun watching Mister B discover each one of my Christmas decorations--the Nativity Set, the little tree on my kitchen table, the Christmas lights shining around the house and in our neighborhood...

Helping to rearrange Nonna's little Christmas village

As always food (well... sweets to be exact!) was a big part of our holiday. I ended up making my grandmother's homemade caramels, slowly stirring them for nearly 2 1/2 hours. Oh, they were delicious--so smooth and buttery! My husband nicely wrapped each one in wax paper--the part of making these goodies that I really don't enjoy.

Gram B's yummy homemade caramels--a Christmas tradition

I've been asked for this recipe many times, so I thought some of you might like to try making them for yourself. Just make sure to have a good candy thermometer and lots of patience!

A very special family recipe


Of course, Christmas cookies were also on hand and below are some of our favorites. 

I sure went through a lot of butter in my baking this year!

We spent an afternoon decorating gingerbread  cookies a few days after Christmas. What fun to watch my grandson with some of his "creative" decorating style (read that: dumping a lot of sprinkles on to each and every cookie!). And, of course, those were his favorite ones to eat, too!

The more sprinkles, the better!

I could go on and on posting photos of our Christmas, but I'll  leave you with this last one.

Christmas morning with Mister B!

So, that's a wrap on 2023... it was a quiet year for us. I have to say I'm relieved after the ups and downs of the previous few years. We do hope to travel more in the coming year... We realize we aren't getting any younger and know that, one of these days, traveling will be out of the question. Do you have any plans for your coming year? Whatever they may be, I hope your new year is filled with much love and laughter, good health, and happy days. Try to enjoy the simple things in life... often they bring the most joy, don't you agree? Thank you, one and all for taking the time to read my little blog, leave a friendly word or two, and inspire me with all of your stitching. I'll see you next year! Bye for now...

Wishing you all the best life has to offer in the New Year!

Thursday, December 21, 2023

200 and counting!

Ornaments, that is! Yes, this year, I reached a milestone as I passed the 200 mark (203 to be exact) with my stitched ornaments. There are actually only 181 on this tree, though, because 22 of them are displayed in my Pottery Barn cubby. My tree is up and the presents are patiently resting underneath just waiting to be opened on Christmas morning. In keeping with tradition, we'll let my grandson open one present on Christmas Eve and I bet I know exactly which one he'll choose--the largest one! Do you have any traditions when it comes to your tree or gift opening? We try to open our gifts one by one, but with nine people this Christmas morning, that may take a bit too long. We'll see what happens! I'm so looking forward to this entire weekend and the following week--family time with all nine of us present is so rare these days. I'm going to treasure each moment... (well, maybe not all of the cooking :) 

My cross-stitch Christmas tree: 2023

Here are a few close-ups for you from top to bottom...

Love the trio of Prairie Schooler angels

And here is the view from my sunroom  into the family room where I have another tiny tree on my bookshelf. 

 The little tree on the bookshelf  on the right is just two feet high and has a mixture of gingerbread ornaments and snowflakes.

Did you happen to notice the tiny elf peeking out at you in the first photo on the left? He is making an appearance after many years of being boxed up in the attic because my grandson will be here this year and I know he'll love him! This elf was a constant Christmas companion when my sons were growing up. When he is turned on, his arm moves back and forth as if he were sawing wood. (It actually looks like he's about to cut his own arm off, but... ) I can't wait to see my grandson's reaction when he first sees him. 

I'm sure 3-year-old "Mister B" will be enchanted by this 21-inch elf!

Love the view at night, too--my sunroom is filled with windows, skylights, and doors and the reflection of the tree lights is almost magical.

"Blue Christmas"... I mentioned earlier that 22 of my ornaments are not on my tree, but are displayed in my Pottery Barn cubby this year. I chose to pull many of the blue-themed ornaments and display them in the cubby in my family room. If you look closely, you'll see that most of them are snowmen or Santas, but there are a few houses and a pretty bird, as well. You probably know by this time that my favorite color is blue so this display certainly makes me smile each time I walk by!

My "Blue Christmas" cubby

Here are some close-ups. I'm sorry, I don't have time right now to identify each ornament in this post, but if you have a question about a particular one, just email me (make sure to include your email address, too!), and I'll get back to you with an answer.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite? I think mine is the crescent-shaped Prairie Schooler Santa in the lower left space. And you know what one of the best things is about this display?  I can simply replace the Santas with other snow-themed finishes and leave it up all winter! 

♥ And in the very center, as always, is the silhouette of my dear mother ♥

This is actually one of my favorite days of the year! Why, you may ask? Well, it's simply because, after today, the days will start getting longer again. I relish the extra light in the evenings, even though it may not be noticeable for a while yet. I still remember, very vividly, a moment with my second son who was born in early December 1985. Like any young mother, I was exhausted and a bit depressed. One January evening, while I sat in his bedroom singing to him as we rocked back and forth in the creaky wooden rocking chair, I happened to glance out the window. My eyes widened and my tired face brightened as I realized it was still light out--even at almost 6 PM! Somehow, that fact soothed me and I knew brighter days were coming. From that moment on, I always associated the Winter Solstice with the start of lighter, brighter days...

In four days another Christmas will dawn. I hope it's a very special one for each of you. I'll have my entire family with me this year so I'm sure it will be for me. But, I know some of you are far from your families or dealing with serious illnesses or worries. I'm sure it's hard to be "merry" under those circumstances. So, my wish for you is a peaceful Christmas, my friends. Take care now and I'll see you soon. Bye for now...

Wishing you a peaceful Christmas

Saturday, December 9, 2023

2023 Parade of Ornaments

Greetings! And a warm welcome to the Stitching Dreams annual parade of ornaments! Can you believe this is the 14th year of the parade? Every year when I share my twelve newest little creations with you, I am so proud to have accomplished this. To be honest, as I get older my stitching has slowed down--I noticed that this year in the little notebook where I record my finishes. But, for some reason, I still get a little thrill with each ornament finish... Amazing at how something that small can be so rewarding. It's helped that I have so many wonderful stitchers who are now stitching an ornament a month with me over on Instagram (#12in23ornamentstitchalong). Is anyone in for 2024? I'm not going anywhere and still plan on stitching a little treasure each month. 

So, who's ready for the parade? It's a cloudy December day here for parade watching, but I'm hoping the dozen entries into the 2023 parade will brighten all of our days. So relax, sit back, and enjoy. And as you watch, keep track of your favorite ornament--I'd love to know which one you like best in the comments!

2023 "Parade of Ornaments"

And yes... I still have that red dining room! How many years have I been talking about painting it? Although I love the color this time of year, it makes the room very dark and the older I get the more I crave light and bright. So perhaps, next year, there will be a new backdrop for the parade? I've actually purchased the paint so that's a step in the right direction. Now to get to work and get it painted after Christmas is over! That cute red and white snowflake rug was purchased on sale at Target this year for less than $10! I love it--it's just so cheery!

I'll zoom in on the parade for you as I know the above photo is a bit small. 

January ~ March 2023

April ~ June 2023

July ~ September 2023

October ~ December 2023

It's funny, I didn't think I had stitched many Prairie Schooler designs this year, but it turns out that five out of the twelve are PS: February, March, April, November, and December. As always, I'd love to hear what your favorite is. For me, it's a tie between my December ornament and my May ornament. What's that you say--you'd like a closer look at each so you can really decide? Well, here you go...  (You can click on the name of the ornament under each month to be taken to the post containing more information on each one).


With Thy Needle and Thread: "Rudolph & Friends"


Prairie Schooler: "A Merry Mini Surprise" Skating Santa



Prairie Schooler: "Angels" Angel of Plenty



Prairie Schooler: "Old World Santas"


TraLaLa: "Christmas Day"


Jeannette Douglas: "Noel Stamp"


Heart In Hand: "A Very Merry Christmas"


Lila's Studio: "Spirit of Christmas, Set 2"


The Victoria Sampler: "Merry Christmas 2012"


The Trilogy: "Secret Snowdrift"


Prairie Schooler: 2012 Annual Santa


Prairie Schooler: "O Christmas Tree"

So, which one do you like the most? As you can see, my taste is quite eclectic. I love the little pillow finishes the most, but round and oval finishes are also among my favorites. I'm honored that so many of you have told me that my ornaments have inspired you--both here on my blog and on Instagram. I hope that you'll take the time to browse through my past parades and, perhaps, find even more inspiration! You can simply click on each year and be taken directly to the post that has information on that year. If you count them all up, including this years, that is 168 different ornaments. Of course I've stitched more over the years, but these are the ones featured in my parades since 2011. Enjoy! 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010. I also stitched an ornament-sized piece a week (not all Christmas themed, though) in 2009 when I began blogging. If you'd like to browse through that year, you can click right here: 2009

My little red and white Santa keeps guard over my parade again this year. I'm curious to see how this little display holds up when my 3-year-old grandson visits over Christmas ;-)

This little Santa watches over the parade each year.

Here is one last look at the 2023 ornament collection...

A final look at my 2023 dozen

I'll be transferring these new ornaments to my Christmas tree very soon and replacing them on my stair garland with ornaments received from friends over the years. Friends from all over the world will be represented and I love seeing their special gifts each year. It always reminds me of our special friendship and of the wonderful online stitching community we are blessed with. A special thank you to all who have sent me ornaments over the years--I treasure each one.

I hope everyone is enjoying the countdown to Christmas--just a bit more than two weeks until the big day! I still need to get my cards sent out and some presents purchased. I'm also excited to start my baking next week although I won't be baking as much as normal because everyone seems to be on some sort of diet or other these days. Not me--my motto is everything in moderation year-round! Enjoy your weekend everyone! Bye for now...