Monday, April 29, 2024

Santas and Spring

Greetings on what has been a glorious spring day! The temperature reached the mid-80s today and I loved every minute! Isn't it wonderful to have the windows open after a long winter and hear the birds chirping, the bees humming, and the lawnmowers droning on and on (okay--well, maybe not that last one so much!). Amazing how a nice, sunny day can lift one's mood...

It's been a quiet couple of weeks since I last posted and I've managed to stitch and finish both my ornament for April and another for May. It always feels good to be a bit ahead of the game! On Instagram, the #12in24ornamentstitchalong that I host is going swimmingly. It's wonderful to see so many international stitchers participating this year, too. It's a lot of fun getting to know stitchers from so many countries!

For April, I stitched a Homespun Elegance chart that was so generously passed on to me by Catherine over at "I Love to Stitch." (And, as always, I like to keep the kindness going with charts that have been passed on to me so I'm having a giveaway for this particular chart below). Isn't this guy the most whimsical Santa? There he is, just relaxing on his bike as he pedals through the falling snow. "Avery's Cycling Santa" is stitched on 40 ct. vintage country mocha Newcastle with a mix of DMC and Weeks Dye Works threads. I added burgundy colored beads to the Christmas tree in his sack and a small bell to the end of the stick that he is carrying. 

A Homespun Elegance finish for April

To finish it off, I sewed on two pieces of Woolies flannel with a bit of ecru rick-rack peeking out, topped by a polka dot bow. My husband is a big bicyclist (in fact he's away on a bike trip right now so you know what I'm going to be doing this week--stitching each and every day away!) so he thought this one was pretty cute (even though Santa is not dressed quite properly for biking!). I ended up switching out the silver bell that is shown in the above photo for a tinier gold one--just thought the scale was better.

Doesn't he just make you smile?


And for my May ornament, I stitched the 2024 annual Prairie Schooler Santa. Isn't he a handsome fellow? Once again, I used 40 ct. vintage country mocha Newcastle with most of the suggested DMC threads. I did change the belt buckle to gold (used Gentle Arts toffee) and changed all the green to DMC 520. Don't ask me why, but I have  always used 520 on all of the PS Santas along with that signature Prairie Schooler red: DMC 221. I accidentally made his pants one stitch too long so all of the lower tree trunks are a bit elongated as a result. No problem, though--I bet you wouldn't even have noticed if I hadn't pointed it out!

2024 Prairie Schooler Santa finish

I finished the 2024 Santa in the same way that I've finished other PS Santas over the years with a simple cording in DMC 221 and a gingham checked bow. Easy and classic... I really love the back stitching on this one--it's very different and those trees were a lot of fun to stitch! This one is definitely one of my favorite of the PS annual Santas.

My May 2024 ornament


Two more for my tree!

Giveaway time... It's been a while since I've offered a giveaway and I thought the "Cycling Santa" chart might be perfect for this time of year when everyone is getting outside and, perhaps--riding a bike. Would any of you like to enter this giveaway? If so, please follow the guidelines below and I'll announce the winner in my next post.

I'm having a giveaway for this chart. Please follow the guidelines below if you want to be included.

To be included in the drawing for the Homespun Elegance chart shown above, please...

1) Specifically mention that you would like to win it in your comment 

2) Be a follower of Stitching Dreams (in my blog's sidebar on the right)

3) Make sure to leave your email address in your comment if I don't already have it

4) Answer the "Getting to Know You" question below.


Getting to Know You... For today's getting to know you question, I'd love to know what favorite book(s) you've read recently that you would recommend. I've been doing a lot of reading (well, even more listening to audiobooks) this year. I tend to listen more and more while I stitch as there is just nothing on television these days. That way I can enjoy two of my favorite hobbies at once! Win-win! 


Two of my favorite reads so far this year.

Two favorite books that I've read recently just happen to be by the same author, Tracy Chevalier. I so enjoy historical fiction and these both fit the bill. The Last Runaway, (published in 2013) centers around a young Quaker woman who, in 1850, moves to Ohio from England. It portrays her trials and tribulations as she adjusts to a very different culture and way of living. She soon finds herself caught up in helping runaway slaves escape North through the Underground Railroad. The story line and characters are so well done and the scenes centering around the importance of quilts and quilting are especially endearing.

A Single Thread (published in 2019) is set in the early 1930's in Winchester, England. Violet Speedwell is one of the "surplus women"--those women who lost husbands or  fiancés in WWI and are considered "old maids." She moves to Winchester and soon becomes involved with a society of broderers who embroider kneelers for Winchester Cathedral even though she's had no experience with stitching. Both books invoke the feeling of  peace and satisfaction that comes from doing handwork of any kind which is one reason I think I enjoyed reading them so much.

So, now it's your turn... what is a favorite book that you'd like others to know about? I'd love to add some new titles to my "must read" list.

Signs of spring continue to abound now  that it's finally warmed up...

Such brilliant color in front of our home.

This beautiful crabapple tree (hybridized by my husband's grandfather) is something we look forward to each Spring. I only wish the blooms lasted a bit longer!

This little fox was photographed by my oldest son after chasing a squirrel up a tree in my son's yard. The squirrel escaped, but that sly fox appears to still be looking for him!

How can the year be one-third over already? I saw this very relatable Snoopy cartoon (always my dad's favorite Peanuts character) the other day and it is so very true. How I wish time would slow down... 

Can anyone relate?

On to May! It is a month filled with doctor's appointments for me and I'm not looking forward to it at all. (Does anyone ever truly enjoy going to the doctor)? I have my annual physical, dentist, endocrinologist, colonoscopy, and mammogram appointments scattered throughout my May calendar. UGH! I'll sure be glad when they are over. How about you? I hope you have something fun waiting for you in May?  Thank you so much for popping in today and leaving such nice comments. I really look forward to hearing from you... Hope everyone has a wonderful week ahead! Bye for now...

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Reindeer Games In a Soggy Month

Finally... a sunny day! I know many of you almost always have sunny (or partially sunny days), but that isn't the norm for southwestern Pennsylvania. And this spring has been rainier than ever. In fact, it's been our wettest spring on record going back to 1871! As of Thursday, we had received 10.54 inches of rain since March 1st beating the old record from 1967 by over three inches. The only good thing about all the rain is it makes for great stitching weather, right?

One of my goals for this year was to finish some large Christmas pieces along with my usual monthly ornaments. What can I say? I just love stitching Christmas! "Reindeer Games" by Erica Michaels was such a fun piece to stitch for my first larger Christmas piece. It is stitched on 40 ct. summer khaki Newcastle with most of the suggested threads. I did substitute DMC 498 for the red and DMC 3865 for the white. The whole time I stitched this, I thought of my dear mother who absolutely adored doing crossword puzzles. She enjoyed doing them well into her late 80s when the macular degeneration in her eyes made it impossible for her to read or do puzzles. Oh, how she missed her crossword puzzles and books. She would have loved this particular finish so much.

"Reindeer Games" by Erica Michaels

All of the reindeer names are stitched in Classic Colorwork's "Black Coffee" thread and the remaining words are done in green and red. The little gold bells were created using Rhodes stitches and add such a nice texture to the finish.

Love that teeny elf!

Below is "the most famous reindeer of all," good old Rudolph with his bright red nose ready to lead Santa's sleigh.

The motifs in this design were such fun to stitch.

I did make one major change from the original chart--I changed the name of one of the reindeer from the charted "Donder" to "Donner." Why? Well, that is the way I remember it from that famous song sung by Gene Autry: "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

"You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and VixenComet and Cupid and Donner and BlitzenBut do you recallThe most famous reindeer of all?
Rudolph the Red-Nosed ReindeerHad a very shiny noseAnd if you ever saw itYou would even say it glows..."
Donner or Donder?

In reading about the reindeer names online--there is a lively debate over whether it should be Donder or Donner. Boy, you can really go down a rabbit hole reading about the opinions of which one is correct! Some people say it should be Donner as that is the German word for thunder (and Blitz is the Germany word for lightning). I don't know... I'm just choosing to spell it the way I'm most familiar with. How about you? Are you in the Donner camp or the Donder camp?  However you spell it, I love how this turned out and I'm truly hoping to have it framed and on display by December.  On to my next "big" Christmas piece which I'll show you in May!

Easter update... Although it's only been two weeks since Easter, it seems like much longer, doesn't it? All nine of us were here for at least portions of Easter weekend which was wonderful. Little Mister B was enthralled with the idea of the Easter bunny arriving during the night and leaving him a basket of treats. He had such fun following the jelly bean trail from the bottom of the steps to the Easter basket's hiding place and couldn't believe the bunny had hidden it in the clothes dryer. He thought that was hilarious!
Easter morning with Mister B. He certainly is loving those M&M's. Isn't his little bow-tie adorable?

The bunny also hid plastic eggs filled with treats outside even though our weather was cool and wet from a rain the previous day. And lots of baking was done! We celebrated my oldest son's 42nd birthday with a carrot cake, made a bunny cake, and baked bunny biscuits. Have you made a bunny cake before? They are so, so easy and here is a good write-up on how to create one of your very own. It was my grandson's idea to use candles for the whiskers and I thought they were perfect! He had a lot of fun putting the pastel colored M&M's on the bow tie (although I think more ended up in his mouth than on the cake!). I just used a boxed cake mix, but made my own icing using this recipe--it was delicious! And the bunny biscuits were super easy. You start with a package of refrigerated biscuits, cut half of the biscuits in two for ears and then embellish them however you want. We used big chocolate chips for the eyes and pink M&M's for the noses. We didn't add whiskers, but this blog post suggests using slivered almonds. Really a fun project for your little helpers!

Easter baking 2024

I used to make these bunny cakes when my three sons were little. In fact, here is a photo of my oldest son with one we made in the mid-1980s. The shape of the bow tie is a bit different and I no longer use coconut to cover the whole cake because some family members don't care for it (unlike me--I love coconut! How about you?).

One of the first bunny cakes I ever made with my oldest son back in the mid-1980s.

Of course, we also dyed eggs--the first time my grandson had ever done so! They turned out so bright and cheerful--it was a great family activity. Now, if you look closely, you'll notice that unusual brown egg right in the middle... Well, that was the result of Mister B wanting to experiment with dipping one egg in color after color after color. It actually turned out to be a very pretty shade of brown and it was interesting for him to learn about how the different colored dyes reacted with each other.

Such a lovely Easter tradition...

Looking upward! The other big event that happened since my last post was... the solar eclipse here in the U.S. on April 8th. Although we weren't in the path of totality in southwestern Pennsylvania, we were at 97% which was still pretty amazing to watch. Unfortunately, my husband and I both had doctor's appointments which we couldn't miss, so we ended up watching the peak of the eclipse in the parking lots outside of our respective doctors' offices. (I would much rather have watched with him by my side, but when you've waited over a year for a doctor's appointment, you don't change it). I tried to take photos with my phone, but they didn't turn out well at all. The photo below, though (which I found online), is what it looked like locally at the 97% peak coverage--pretty breathtaking. As I watched the sun become more and more covered by the moon and felt the temperature drop, I realized what a small speck I am in this beautiful universe of ours... It was really something special to experience and I can only imagine how those in the path of the total eclipse must have felt!

Southwestern Pennsylvania's 97% coverage on eclipse day

So, that about wraps up my first post for April. Our daffodils and tulips are blooming right now and are putting on quite a show. 
Daffodils are such a welcome sight in April!
I just love spring flowers--and tulips are my favorites. My husband planted several dozen in our fenced-in vegetable garden to protect them from the deer and they've been putting on quite a show.
Tulip bulbs that my husband planted for me last fall have burst into bloom this past week

Below are some tulips that I cut earlier this week. Such a beautiful color, don't you think?

It's so wonderful having fresh-cut tulips to decorate my table this month!

Thanks so much for visiting me today! I hope you are enjoying the month of April and getting outside more. We are, optimistically, putting the screens in our windows today so I'm hopeful that summer is on its way. I so enjoy your emails and comments. Living in a family of all men, I get  little interest in my stitching so I'm always very appreciative of your kind words! Bye for now...