Wednesday, January 31, 2018

January is over!

Yay! The end of my least favorite month has arrived... I always welcome short February because I know March follows and the days get longer and the temperatures begin to warm up. January has been one busy month which I'll fill you in on after I show you my latest stitching. But first, as always, thank you, thank you for your sweet comments on my last post. My middle son tells me that his cat, Spike, is getting quite the swelled head after reading all of your kind remarks about him. He really is such a fun cat... we were visiting with him on Sunday and he was all personality, that's for sure!

I finished my very first monthly ornament for 2018 and I love how it turned out.  I spotted the Country Cottage Needleworks chart called "Snow Sampler" and thought how lovely it would look stitched on black.  But, with a stitch count of 125 X 82, it really seemed way too big for one of my ornaments.  Hmmm... what to do, what to do? Well, I decided to eliminate the top and bottom borders of pine needles and stitch it "over one" on black 28 Monaco. That did the trick!

The white stitching really pops on the black!

The finished ornament with its blue bead edging measures just 4 inches by 3 1/4 inches--perfect! I used an overdyed blue thread for the house rather than the suggested brownish/gold color and also gave it a little chimney. Oh, let me tell you--this one took a while--those beaded edges are a lot of work because you have to run a border of straight stitches all the way around both the front (as you can see above with the line of blue stitches) and the back and then stitch on the beads. (If you'd like to try a beaded edge, this tutorial is very helpful). But, the end result is so lovely. I also added a small white bow with a bit of greenery and three blue beads to finish it off. 

"Snow Sampler" finish

I have two other ornaments to share today--these were both sent off as Christmas gifts in December. The first one went to my friend, Gabi, and yes, I have stitched it many times before. It is just such a classic and I never tire of it, though. You'll recognize it as a Prairie Schooler design from Book No. 23: "A Christmas Year II." This was stitched on a piece of 32 ct. mystery linen with the suggested DMC threads. The main change I made was to simply turn it on the diagonal for a very different look than is shown on the cover of the chart.

Gift for Gabi from PS "A Christmas Year II"

And to my friend, Robin, went my final Prairie Schooler ornament of 2017.  This one was stitched on 32 ct. flax Belfast with the suggested colors except for the color of Santa's robe... I used DMC 3764. I also substituted a branch of holly for the charted doll in Santa's left hand and eliminated the blue rectangular border so I could finish it in an oval shape. I'm sure this handsome blue Santa is very happy in his new home in Virginia!

Gift for Robin--a PS Santa in blue

I've stitched a few more things this month, but they aren't finished/finished so I will, hopefully, have those for you next time!

So, on to my January. Well, first of all, another birthday has come and gone. Sigh... they just keep coming faster and faster for some strange reason. This year's celebration was very quiet as it was just me and my husband. It felt very strange having none of my sons around for the first time ever. But, my husband spoiled me with cake and candy and a lovely assortment of charts which will keep me busy for years to come... A generous gift certificate to 123 Stitch arrived, also; I'm sure I'll have absolutely no problem spending it!

Birthday gifts from my husband

My oldest son and daughter-in-law also sent me a gift certificate to 123 Stitch and my youngest son sent these tasty cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake. We couldn't possibly eat all 12 ourselves (well, we could, but you know the end result of that!!) so we froze six of them and then took those to my middle son's apartment Sunday for a belated birthday celebration. He and his girlfriend made a very tasty chicken dinner with homemade bread, fruit salad, and a beautiful "beets and sweets gratin" for us. Really nice to have someone else cook! And it was fun to play with their cat while they prepared dinner, too.

Birthday cupcakes from my youngest son

I received two lovely gifts from blogging friends, as well. From June came the prettiest soft blue and rose scarf, a scented sachet for my drawers and a little gold box kit that I can add some cross stitching to the top. Thank you, my sweet friend--that was so very sweet of you!

Birthday gifts from June

And Cindy made me this cute little pouch for holding my scissors, seam ripper, etc. She also included a tiny needleminder shaped like a chocolate chip cookie--too cute! Thank you so very much, Cindy--you have been a lovely blogging friend for many, many years now...

Birthday gifts from Cindy

The other thing that kept me so busy was a trip to Florida for five days. This was not for pleasure, though. I think some of you will recall that my in-laws' home was quite damaged when Hurricane Irma decided to pay a visit to southwest Florida back in September. Much of the drywall had to replaced, cupboards and closets rebuilt, and the roof repaired. All of their upholstered furniture and both cars were lost along with some shoes, clothing, and other miscellaneous items. 

Anyway, my husband and I flew down to southwest Florida earlier this month in an attempt to make a newly renovated house feel like a home again. We rented a bright blue pick-up truck and raced from consignment shops to thrift stores to home stores picking up a kitchen table and chairs, mattress, bed, dresser, mirror, TV stand, rugs and other basics to provide his parents (who will both turn 90 this year) with the basics. I quite enjoyed the consignment shops as that part of Florida (Naples) has amazing ones! (I wished I could have spent more time looking for myself, but that wasn't what we were there for). In addition to the shopping, we cleaned lots of drywall dust, emptied bags and boxes, did loads of laundry, and connected phones and televisions. In other words, we worked from dawn until we fell, exhausted, into bed each night. We never even saw the beach or took a walk in the sunshine. But, my in-laws are now settled in Florida once again and I hope that, as time goes on, their new house will feel more like home to them... As you can imagine, this was quite an upheaval for two people their age.

Retirement update...  Well, I've been retired for four whole months... But, up until now, I have been so very busy that it really didn't affect me. Until last week, that is...  I knew it would hit me in January--that feeling of "now what?" I told my husband I seem to have a lost my purpose in life--for years I was a busy mother and librarian and now??? I really need to learn to manage my time better as I'm finding myself wasting way too much of it. I need to find a place where I can volunteer and feel like I'm adding something to society again--perhaps even back at the library. We'll see... Do any of you retirees have any tips for me on time-management? I am much better when I have a schedule and not a wide-open day ahead of me, that's for sure! Anyway, it is an adjustment--one I will get through, but there have definitely been some tears this month...


*** Are any of you fans of "This Is Us?" Oh, the last few minutes of the show that aired on January 23rd had me watching with tears streaming down my face as this song played. 

*** I'm reading an excellent book, The Invisible Bridge, by Julie Orringer; an epic novel (at over 600 pages) of life in pre-World War II Paris and the horrors of the Holocaust. It centers around a family with three sons, so, of course I'm drawn to it!

*** My youngest son is over 7,000 miles away in a very unsafe part of the world this week for work and I can't stop worrying about him... 

*** I just ordered two more hardcover books of my blog posts from Blog2Print. With a 50% off coupon offer, I couldn't resist. I combine two years into each book to save money, so with the previous two books that I ordered back in 2015, I will now have every year (except 2017) in print. My blog is not only a journal of my stitching, but of my travels, recipes, and family events, too, so I will love having these books to read in my old age.

*** I've become addicted to making (and eating!) granola because of this great recipe

Bet you can't eat just one bite!

I hope February brings you lots of stitching time, my friends! I do enjoy cuddling up under my cozy, red blanket and stitching while watching a good movie this time of year, don't you?  Thank you for visiting today--and a special thanks for those of you who take the time to say "hello!" I always enjoy hearing what you have to say and appreciate each and every comment. As always, if you have a question--make sure to leave your email address so I can reply to you!  Bye for now...

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Gifts given, goodies gobbled, and gorgeous Grumpy Cat

It's 2018--hope everyone is having a wonderful start to their new year! I have a few Christmas ornaments that I gave to friends and family to share with you today, but first, I want to tell you how much I enjoyed your comments on your favorite moment of last year. They certainly made me smile and I could truly feel how much they meant to each of you who shared... Blogging can sometimes feel like a one-way street; I share some of my life and stitching with you, but, often, I don't get to see your pretty stitching or hear about your life unless you, too, have a blog. So, I really appreciate your remarks and experiences and if any of you who don't blog would like to email me photos of your finishes--I'd love to see them. I have a couple of people who do that already and I always enjoy seeing what they have created! So, thank you for sharing a bit of yourself--it meant a lot to me!

This pretty blue and white ornament went to dear June, in England. This is a Renato Parolin design called "Inverno" and I just love the simple elegance of it.  I stitched it on 40 ct. white Newcastle with a Victorian Motto Sampler thread called "Sky Blue." The cording is made out of the same lovely thread and the ornament is backed with the perfect shade of blue gray fabric adorned with tiny stars. A gauzy ribbon and silver bell finished it off nicely. I'm happy to say that June loves it, too! (And there are some very nice freebies on Renato's blog if you click here and then click on "Schemi Free" in the tabs).

"Inverno" in blues

This next ornament was stitched twice and sent to my dear friends, Lois, in Northern Ireland, and Cindy, in Tennessee. Most of you will recognize this as Little House Needleworks' "Season's Greetings." I stitched this 'over one' on 28 ct. black Monaco using a variety of DMC threads and overdyeds.  I was so happy with how this one turned out and I may just stitch it again on black for a little gift in the future. The small ecru x's take a while, but they add so much to the overall look, don't you think?

Little House Needleworks "Season's Greetings"

The last one I'll show you today was given to my middle son in honor of the new (very non-grumpy!) cat that he and his girlfriend adopted. You will all recognize this sourpuss of a kitty--he's the cantankerous Grumpy Cat! He is a freebie from Brooke's Books which you can find right here. I changed up the design a bit; I eliminated the red and white border and added additional snowflakes and beads to turn it into a design suitable for turning it into a round ornament. I stitched this on a 32 ct. blue/gray linen with the suggested colors. My son loved it--but not quite as much as he loves his real cat!

Mr. Grumpy Cat himself

So, yes--I (sadly) have no grandchildren, but I now have a "grandcat!" My son and his girlfriend adopted him a year ago from an animal shelter and he has made himself right at home in their apartment. He came with the name "Spike" (because he has a white, furry "spike" going right up the middle of his forehead) and at first, my son wasn't sure if he would keep such a dog-like name. But, it really suits him--he is so much more of a dog than a cat in many ways and he's quite a handful. One of his favorite tricks is unrolling the toilet paper and then rolling it back up (I guess he's hoping no one will notice!). Hmmm... I'm afraid you can't hide that mess, Spike!!

Who, me? I didn't touch the toilet paper :)

I forgot to share my Christmas baking with you in my last post. I didn't bake nearly as much as I would have liked to because there were only four of us here most of the time  (except for Christmas dinner when we had seven). And you know what happens when there are too many goodies around--yes, the weight piles on! So, I baked just a few cookies which you can see below...

Which one would you choose?

On Christmas morning, we traditionally make some lovely frosted cinnamon buns, but our bread machine broke last year and I just didn't have the time to make the dough. I was simply going to run out and buy a coffee cake or some sweet rolls when this recipe caught my attention. It was so quick and easy and practically baked itself...  Oh, yum! Just click here for these tasty "Land Of Nod Cinnamon Buns" (how cute is that for a recipe name?!). We all loved them--in fact some of us loved them more than our old recipe. I would probably add chopped pecans next time, but the combination of cinnamon, raisins, and melted butter was the perfect way to start off our Christmas morning.

The easiest cinnamon buns in the world!

And there you have it--my first post of 2018 all done and dusted! I have a couple more ornaments to share with you, but I've run out of time today. I'm off to the dreaded DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) to renew my driver's license and you know what that means... Sitting for what seems like hours waiting to have another horrible photo taken that must remain on my driver's license until the year 2022! Oh, my--not one of my favorite experiences...

Wishing you a wonderful week ahead, everyone! Hope it includes lots of time to sit and stitch now that the hustle-bustle of the holidays is over. I do relish these calm winter months so much, don't you? Thank you, as always for your wonderful comments--I do read each and every one even if I am unable to respond to some of you who  haven't included an email address. (Please, please remember to include your email address in your comments if you do have a question for me, okay?). Bye for now...

Friday, December 29, 2017

A year filled with Thankfulness

Happy post-Christmas week, my friends! I hope you are all recovering from the excitement of Christmas and all of that tasty rich food (I'm sure we're all going to amp up our exercise routines next week, right?!). I also hope you got some nice stitchy presents from your loved ones (or yourself!). I was honored to receive some lovely gifts from both blogging and non-blogging stitching friends for Christmas which I'll share with  you today in the order I received them...

From dear June, in England, came this sweet angel ornament. But, wait--it's not only an ornament! It opens up and is a needlebook inside--so adorable. This is a free design from Told In A Garden which you can find right here. So darling and so beautifully stitched...

An angel from June

June also sent a pair of fingerless mittens (so soft and blue!), some sparkly floss, a calendar for the new year, and a flowered pouch that I can use for scissors and other stitching supplies. Thank you so very much, my friend--I love each and every gift!

Christmas gifts from June

From dear Cindy, in Tennessee, came another beautiful angel ornament (it was the year of angels and snowmen and cardinals!). This was another freebie from Told In A Garden which you can find right here. Cindy embellished the ornament with tiny gold beads and gold thread--it is exquisite!

An angel from Cindy

Cindy also sent an assortment of trims and charms to embellish my future finishes. Thank you so very much, my friend... Your gifts are so lovely!

Christmas gifts from Cindy

From dear Lois, in Northern Ireland, came this gorgeous, perfectly stitched Drawn Thread design which she chose to stitch for me because she knew that cardinals have a special place in my heart. Isn't it lovely with those silver bells and green cording? 

Christmas cardinal from Lois

Lois also sent some pretty fabric and ribbon, a cake of beeswax, and a lovely Spring-themed chart. Each present is so "me," Lois--thank you so very much!

Christmas gifts from Lois

From dear Robin, in Virginia, (no blog) came yet more cardinal themed gifts! She stitched this pretty red cardinal on perforated wood. He looks so striking on my tree with that bright blue background.

Cardinal for Christmas from Robin

Robin also gifted me with a set of cardinal notecards and some pretty fabric squares to use in my finishing. I love each and every gift! Thank you so very much, Robin!

Christmas gifts from Robin

From sweet April, in Virginia, (no blog) came a surprise package including this cheery, plump snowman ornament. In April's card, she thanked me for the continued inspiration that my blog gave her. That is just so sweet, April--I love hearing that from my readers! And look how beautifully this is finished with the double layers of cording and lace! I'll have to remember that technique...

Snowman from April

April also included more items for me to use in future finishes: some fun purple pompoms and some poblano pepper ric rac. Thank you so much for the lovely gifts, April--you sure surprised me (in a good way!!).

Christmas gifts from April

From dear Gabi, in Germany (no blog), came another of  those chubby white guys which is now residing on my snowman tree in my kitchen. She also sent this cute Christmas tree ornament--isn't it pretty? Thank you so very much, Gabi--your gifts will be treasured each Christmas for years to come.

Two cute ornaments from Gabi

And last, but not least, sweet Nathalie, in France, (no blog) sent me two lovely red and white kitchen towels, a tiny ceramic Santa, and a wonderful French stitching magazine. Thank you so very much, Nathalie--such lovely gifts!

Christmas gifts from Nathalie

I was just a "bit" spoiled, wasn't I? I have been blogging since 2009 and still can't believe how many wonderful stitching friends I have "met" through my blog. And it's not just those of you who send me things; it is those of you who keep reading--and commenting--even though blogs seem to be fading away. It's those of you who send me emails saying I've inspired you or complimenting me on a finish. What a special community we have here... I love the fact that we are all cheerleaders for each other, don't you? Thank you one and all for making my year so special--I truly appreciate you!

My "Best Nine": As many of you know, I joined Instagram in 2016 and have really enjoyed it--it is quick and easy and I don't find that it is time-consuming at all. I'm so enjoying seeing photos of stitchers' work from places like Japan, Russia, and eastern Europe--places that I don't see in stitching blogs very often. Anyway, each year you can use a little program to generate your "Best Nine"--those photos that received the most "likes." Here is a collage of my best nine. My top photo, the annual ornament parade, received over 660 "likes!" Amazing... If you would like to follow me, too, you can find my account right here. 

My "Best Nine" according to Instagram

At this time of year, I always like to think back and pick one favorite moment. And, this year was tough for me to choose just one--I had so many once-in-a-lifetime experiences: seeing my dear, dear mother celebrate her 90th birthday with her family surrounding her, celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary with a trip to Hawaii, witnessing our oldest son and his beautiful fiancĂ©e joined in marriage, gaining more time for "me" since I retired from the library in late September. What a year of changes! So, what rose to the top for me? It was sitting at the table at the wedding reception watching as my two younger sons toasted their older brother and new sister so charmingly--a wonderful, heartfelt speech filled with the perfect combination of humor and admiration. What a proud mom moment. Those three boys have grown into such independent, loving, thoughtful young men--I guess my husband and I did something right along the way.  So, now it's your turn--what was your favorite moment of 2017? I'd love to hear it!

The end of the year is drawing near... What are your thoughts as we round the corner into 2018?  I know that many of my blogging friends have faced new and continuing health challenges this year. You've met these trials with a courage that awes and inspires me. I truly hope that this coming year will heal you and ease your pain. Please know that each of you has a special place in my heart--I'm not going to name names, but know that I think of you often... So, that's it for Stitching Dreams in 2017--on to a new year... Let's make it a good one! Bye for now...

Happy New Year! Welcome 2018!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Christmas memories

I think this may be the latest I've ever put up my tree! I've missed seeing the soft white lights glowing at the far end of my sunroom throughout the month of December... But, at least I have a week or two to enjoy them. Many of my German blogging friends told me they don't put up their tree until Christmas Eve. My grandmother, whose parents came to the United States from Germany in the late 1800's, followed that same tradition. Christmas Eve was always the day for decorating the tree, followed by a party for her 20+ grandchildren who each received a gift from my Uncle Mark (dressed up as a very unconvincing--somewhat scary-looking--Santa). I think I'd rather put up my tree earlier so I can enjoy all those little cross stitched ornaments a bit longer--can you even imagine how many hours of patiently stitching little x's onto fabric have gone into my tree?

Most of you have seen this scene before--many times! All that's new this year are 12 more ornaments plus a few from friends (which I will share with you in my next post). But, people seem to enjoy seeing it year after year, so I'm happy to oblige.   You should be able to click on all of the photos for a closer look...

Cross Stitch Christmas Tree 2017

Here are some closeups for you: 

Day or night--it makes me smile!

Do you have a favorite ornament on your tree? For me, it is this tiny "Five Golden Rings" stiched over one on 28 ct. black Monaco. I'm not sure why, but I just love the little angels and the delicate rings they are holding--such a sweet design by Cottage Garden Samplings that I stitched back in 2012.

My favorite ornament

The good old days... My brother sent me some vintage photos from Christmas in the early 60s... I'm guessing I'm around nine years old here. My dad took this photo after we had descended the stairs (in youngest to oldest order--a tradition we followed with our own children). I think he perfectly captured our joy on Christmas morning. Just look at my little sister, hands in the air, saying "Oh, boy!!"

Christmas in the 60s!

So, what did I receive that sparked that smile? Well, let's take a look under the tree... Why, it's the Barbie Dream House! Hmm... I was never much of a Barbie girl--it actually looks like I'm more delighted with the tiny guitar in my hands. Behind me is a bowling set that I remember playing with by the hour, too! And does anyone remember Vac-u-form by Mattel? It was a machine that used metal molds and heated plastic to conform to the molds in shapes of cars, little toys, etc. Oh, we played with that constantly down in our basement creating countless worthless things!

Nothing like the joy of children on Christmas morning!

And, there you have it... another year, the same tree with more ornaments! I hope you've enjoyed seeing it. Many of you have written to tell me that I've inspired them to stitch more ornaments and I love hearing that! There is something so immediately gratifying about stitching a small ornament and then seeing all of them displayed on your tree each year. I love it and plan on stitching twelve more next year--it's an addiction! What can I say?

Before I go, I want to thank you for all of your wonderful comments on my "Parade Of Ornaments" post--I'm so glad you enjoyed it! And I want to wish each of you a truly blessed Christmas... I hope you'll have at least some of your family with you. Our oldest and his wife won't be here--it is their turn with her family and the first time he hasn't spent Christmas with us in 35 years. But, we'll be joined for Christmas dinner by my cousin and her husband who are in town for some medical treatments so we're looking forward to that. I'll be back next week to share the wonderful gifts sent to me by some talented stitchers.  Wishing you every joy as you celebrate Christmas! Bye for now...

Wishing you a joy-filled Christmas!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

2017 Parade or Ornaments!

And here we are on December 20th--the very last day of autumn! Welcome to my 2017 "Parade of Ornaments"--one I thought just might not happen given the busyness of my life over the past 12 months! Many people have told me that this annual post (which I have done since 2010) is what drew them to my blog in the first place. So, I really didn't want to let any of you down and have to cancel the parade this year! I know there are some wonderful new followers (a big welcome to all of you!) this year, and if you would like to look back at my previous "parades," just click here:  2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

So, grab some hot cocoa, wrap up in a cozy blanket, and sit back and relax as the parade passes by! In looking at my finishes this year, I would call it the "year of oval or round finishes"... and there is a good reason for that. Remember when my sewing machine broke back in April? Well, for a while I couldn't sew on it at all so I resorted to circular finishes. After we oiled and cleaned the machine, it seems to work just fine so I could resume making my little pillow ornaments. But, you know what? I discovered that I truly love doing the round or oval shapes! So, I'm sure you'll be seeing more of them. As most of you know, I hang the newest 12 ornaments on my banister and then move them to the tree as Christmas approaches.

2017 Monthly Ornament Finishes

Would you like a closer look? 

January ~ April 2017

May ~ August 2017

September ~ December 2017

As always, I love to hear what is your favorite (or favorites!).  I'll give you a closer look so you can make your decision... And if you want more information on fabrics or fibers that I used, just click on the name of the ornament below the photo--it will take you right to the post describing each finish.

"Merry Christmas" by Samplers Not Forgotten


"Kris Kringle" PS Book No. 62

Prairie Schooler cardinal from "Button Up" (Book No. 143)

PS "Old St. Nick" (Book No. 58)

"Joyful" from an old 1992 BH&G Christmas magazine

Prairie Schooler "Kris Kringle" (Book No. 62)

Prairie Schooler Santa from the year 2000

Little House Needlework's "Tree Lot"

Prairie Schooler Santa from "A Christmas Visit"  (Book No. 48)

JBW "French Country Snowman"

"Kissing Cardinals" from JCS Ornament 2014

Hands On Design "Silver Bells"

So, now it's your turn--which is your favorite? Is it one of the six Prairie Schoolers I stitched this year (yes, I am a PS addict and I embrace it!) or one of the others? For me, it is a tie between the LHN "Tree Lot" with all of it's tiny details and the sweet "Kissing Cardinals." But, I'm proud to add each one to my Christmas tree. Speaking of which... I finally got my tree decorated and am just putting the final beads on... will definitely post a photo when I'm finished.

Thanks so much for stopping by, today--I hope you enjoyed the parade as much as I enjoyed creating these little ornaments! Bye for now...