Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Three small finishes

Hello, my friends! How was your September? I know it's a short month, but it seemed to whiz by faster than ever, didn't it? I can't even begin to tell you how absolutely perfect the weather has been for us here in western Pennsylvania since my last post two weeks ago... Sunshine, mid-70s, no humidity, cool nights--honestly, if I could find an area of the United States that offers that kind of weather day in and day out, I'd seriously consider moving. And you know what I've found? Everyone seems happier--everyone has a smile on their faces or a kind word to offer. Just yesterday a woman came over to me at the library's Reference Desk as I worked and whispered, "I just love this place." I smiled back at her and agreed, "I do, too!" And  last week, I had a patron tell me how nicely I interacted with other patrons. Neither of these people had to do that--they just wanted to pass along a compliment. Working with the public, I do try to go out of my way to be kind and patient with others who also work with the public: store clerks, waitresses, receptionists. Working with the public is tough--you just never know who you're going to be dealing with, but I've come to learn that you get back what you give and a smile and a kind word go a long, long way...

I've been catching up on my monthly ornament stitching lately and have two new Christmas finishes to share with you today. Surprise, surprise--they are both Prairie Schoolers! First up is a piece stitched from the  Prairie Schooler Mini-Card Collection E which comes with a variety of ten miniature Halloween, Christmas, and Easter designs. At a dollar a design (or less!), I think these little PS Mini-Card Collections are a great deal. This Santa is stitched over one on 28 ct. black Monaco. Doesn't he look like he's popping up out of the woods to try to scare someone. When I showed the finish to my husband, he asked, "What is  C X?" Ha-ha!! Well, I guess it does look a bit like those letters at the top of the piece, but I explained to him that those are supposed to be the moon and a large snowflake...

To finish him off into my September ornament, I used this fun black and red polka dot fabric and white cording and ric-rak. I thought the fabric fit particularly well with the whimsical nature of the design. What do you think? I did make a few color changes--made all the snowflakes, the moon, and Santa's mittens white, along with the lettering.

My October ornament is a more traditional Prairie Schooler Santa from book No. 48 "A Christmas Visit." This one is stitched on 40 ct. flax Newcastle using the suggested DMC threads. The only change I made was to the teddy bear (my middle son says it looks like some sort of gremlin!) in the bag that he's carrying. I didn't stitch complete x's for his eyes and mouth--just small straight stitches. The ornament is backed with the pretty olive green and burgundy fabric shown on the right. The colors really pick up those of Santa's robe.

A more traditional stitching needs a more traditional finish so I simply added cording and a small gingham ribbon to this one. I'm very pleased with it...

Here is a closer look for you... I dream of stitching every single Prairie Schooler Santa some day. Do you think I can do it?

It's hard to believe I have only two ornaments left to stitch and finish to complete my monthly goal for 2014. I'm certainly looking forward to seeing them displayed on my Christmas tree in December!

I have one other thing to share with you today and that is a little RAK that I recently sent to my sweet friend, Annette, in The Netherlands. I really enjoy reading Annette's blog and seeing photos of her darling children--she is just so upbeat and lively! Her blog always makes me smile so I decided to stitch a little freebie from the Gazette 94 blog which you can find right here. I loved the border so much on this one with the  tiny fish, ice cream cones, kites, and beach huts--adorable!

This is actually stitched on 40 ct. white Newcastle, but the above photo certainly doesn't show the true color! Below is a much better photo and you can see that I added some blue cording and a small seashell to the pillow to finish it off. Annette really loved it and I was so happy to hear that the gifts I sent to her children were also well-received.

I just noticed yesterday how much the leaves are beginning to change--all the glorious reds, oranges, and golds are beginning to paint a lovely canvas in these Pennsylvania hills. I've heard that the autumn foliage is supposed to be especially pretty this year due to our cooler than normal summer. (At least there was something good about that summer)! Our local turkey family happened to pass through the yard last week and I managed to get a quick photo--just look at how much the little ones are growing!

Here are the little guys back in July... Unfortunately, I only saw six baby ones and there were seven before. Poor little thing... I wonder what happened to him? I sure hope the family has a plan to go into hiding as Thanksgiving draws closer!

This deer decided to check out our patio and the new white bench we just added. I think he likes it; he looks quite "at home" standing right outside our kitchen door, doesn't he?

Well, I think this may be the shortest post I've written in a while--maybe more of you actually made it all the way through this one!  I know I tend to go on and on at times when all most of you are here for is to see my finishes, but I really enjoy sharing a bit of my world with you, too. Welcome to all my new followers and, as always, big thanks to those of you who take the time to leave me those wonderful comments--I so appreciate each and every one. 

I hope each of you has a lovely October--it's going to be a busy one for me with a mini family reunion in NY, a stitching retreat in Erie, and my best friend's son's wedding in Indiana. But, today I am off to the dermatologist to have her check out a very itchy spider bite that I got on my chest this weekend--it's always something with me and my weird medical issues lately, that's for sure... I may be a bit out-of-touch this month, but I'll do my best to visit your blogs and say "hello."  Bye for now...

Monday, September 15, 2014

Autumn creeps in...

Good morning, everyone! Can you believe September is half over? It certainly feels like autumn has arrived here in western Pennsylvania--I actually had to break down and turn on the heat yesterday as it was a frigid 40° when I woke up. Does anyone else feel ready for the cooler weather and then the inevitability of winter? Not me--after a cool, rainy summer, it just doesn't seem quite right! With fall comes more work for me as we are open once again on Sundays as well as Saturdays at the library and, this month, I somehow ended up working three of those weekend days. And you know what that translates into--less stitching time. 

As the days get shorter and the air crisps up,  my mind naturally turns to fall stitching--acorns, pumpkins, leaves, and all of those wonderfully muted colors that bring autumn to mind. I have a couple of new finishes to share today which I truly relished working on. First, is this Homespun Elegance design from an older chart called "Birds and Bees." I used the suggested DMC colors and stitched this one on 40 ct. raw natural Newcastle. And surprise, surprise--see that sunflower center? It is filled with French knots--I did it!! I have always struggled with them, but they turned out so well this time--not sure what I was doing differently. The outside petals are simply long, yellow stitches and there are more French knots in the small yellow flowers, too. I have never seen such a tiny bird looking up at the giant crow (or is it an insect of some sort?). Anyway, I had a cute bee charm (is there such thing as a cute bee?) which I attached, too, and I'm very pleased with the overall look of the finish.

After digging through my drawers of fabrics, I found the perfect ones to finish this piece off. I really love the colors in this little pillow--perfect for a fall finish, don't you think?

Homespun Elegance "Birds & Bees" finish

So, I have a nice new addition to my crow themed display on my kitchen sideboard. I took this photo in a rare moment of morning sunshine which streamed through our window yesterday.

Crows have invaded my kitchen!

Does anyone notice another new addition to my crow display? Well, just look at this cute painted wooden bowl that I found earlier this summer. Isn't it perfect?! I was so excited--and it was a mere $3.99! It is small and only holds three of my little finishes, but it adds such a nice touch to the display (which my sons hate, by the way: "Crows??? Come on, mom!"). Oh well, each to his/her own--right?

My second finish was sent to my long-time blogging friend, Myra, for her upcoming birthday. I know she loves fall, so I thought this old Prairie Schooler design would be perfect for her. The "Crow and Pumpkin" design is from the PS "Acorns" booklet No. 65 and was stitched over one on 28 ct. summer khaki cashel linen with the suggested DMC threads. I did add more winding vines along the side to turn it into more of a round shape for the final finish.

To finish it off, I used one of the metal plates that I used for the patriotic piece that I showed you in this post, except this time I used a gold one. I just love how it turned out and Myra seemed very happy with it as well! I think I may have to stitch a second one of these for myself. I wish you the happiest of birthdays, Myra, and a happy, healthy year ahead!

Here is another shot of the whole thing...

Prairie Schooler "Crow and Pumpkin" finish

I continue to pull out older stitched pieces from my "drawer of unfinished finishes" and finish them off one-at-a-time. Look what I found from 2009! This tiny "Tulip Sampler" designed by Rosewood Manor. It is very small--only 2¾ X 3½ inches and was once a freebie on the Rosewood Manor website, but isn't available any longer. (That is why I always advise printing off freebies as soon as you see them (or saving them to your computer) because designers don't keep them up on their websites forever). I backed it with the pretty blue and gold fabric shown behind it and love how well it coordinates with the colors in the design. A simple blue cording finishes it off. Yay--another older stitching is out of storage and on display!

Rosewood Manor "Tulip Sampler" finish

As you all know, I am a Prairie Schooler lover from way back--but of the older designs. If I want to totally de-stress and feel complete relaxation, all I need to do is pull out a Prairie Schooler piece and start stitching. The simple, yet comforting designs just slow me down and seem to take away my worries--for at least a little while. Well, I was lucky enough to win one of the older Prairie Schooler designs, "Garden Beasties" in a wonderful giveaway from a newer blogger, Frances, at A Symphony of Stitches. Isn't it cute--I can't wait to stitch the little beehive in the upper left corner. And sweet Frances included a lovely supply of seasonal fabrics as an extra surprise. She knows I'll be using them--they are one of my favorite things to receive even though I have acquired a wonderful stash of finishing fabrics through the years. You can never have too much fabric, can you? If you haven't discovered Frances's lovely blog yet--please stop in and say "hello!" And, Frances--thank you again for your wonderful giveaway. I'm thrilled to add to my PS collection!

Giveaway win from Frances

You all remember our great garden disaster earlier this year--when that roving gang of neighborhood groundhogs invaded and ate everything in sight? We've had little to no produce this year because of it--not even one single zucchini! I actually had to go purchase a zucchini to make this new recipe that I found online--I haven't purchased a zucchini in my entire life, I don't think! But, oh, what a great recipe this is--Zucchini Brownies. I made them when two of my sons came for Sunday dinner and they were a big hit. It seems like a very odd recipe--the batter seems very dry when you spread it in the pan because there are no eggs. I thought there was no way these would turn out because the batter seemed so dry! But, apparently, the zucchini provides the moisture and these were just delightfully gooey and moist when we tried them. (And the chocolate frosting doesn't hurt either!)...

Zucchini Brownies--moist and delicious!

I hate to admit how many of these brownies I ate (just had to "even them up" in the pan, you know--do you do that?)... And this is the last thing I should be doing since my exercise time is still greatly diminished due to my heel pain from plantar fasciitis. My foot was doing pretty well until I went to the 8th annual Steel City Big Pour (on September 6th) which is a huge beer tasting event held in a large warehouse; yes a warehouse, with hard, cold concrete floors... Floors on which I stood for three hours and, afterward, could barely limp to my car. Will my foot ever get better? I know many of you have told me it can take up to a year and I'm only going on 4 months now, so I need to be patient. But, it's really getting hard--I love to exercise and to walk on my treadmill and am really missing it so much! 

You may ask what I was doing at a beer-tasting event when I don't even like the taste (or smell!) of beer? Well, my dear husband convinced me to be the "designated driver" for him, my brother-in-law, nephew, and one of my oldest son's friends. We met my older sons there and a few of my husband's bike-riding buddies and had a great time. But, what did I drink? Why some tasty homemade root beer, of course! And the food samples were incredible--many local restaurants and stores went out of their way to show us their best dishes and they didn't disappoint. If not for my heel pain, it would have been a great time all around!

In spite of most of our vegetables being eaten by the groundhog and the lack of sunshine and warmth this summer, we do have a few gourds and squash and some lovely flowers (along with a beautiful winged visitor or two) in our garden this fall. It is definitely nice to look out and still see some spots of color in the landscape because, soon enough, it will be covered with frost and then that inevitable blanket of snow. I've heard the winter forecast is calling for lots of snow and cold temperatures here in the northern states... Are you ready???? Sigh... Here we go again! 

 Autumn garden ~ 2014

And that wraps up another long post from me! I thank those of you who have stuck with me this far--and I truly appreciate all of your lovely comments and emails. I'm so thankful of your friendships and the support you have given "Stitching Dreams" through the years. You make me want to keep stitching and finishing and I'm always happy to hear from those of you who say my stitching posts have provided you with inspiration.  Enjoy your week, my friends! Bye for now...

Friday, August 29, 2014

My lone August post...

Hello, hello! Did you miss me? I've missed you! It's hard to believe a month has passed since my last post. August was a bit of an up and down month for me--the first part was very busy with work and extra doctor's appointments to deal with some weird health issues. The second part has been more relaxing with a week at the beach and a string of sunny, non-humid days--absolutely the best weather we've had all summer--finally! I've done a bit of stitching along the way, but seem to really have more time to sit down with my needle and thread in the winter months. So, would you like to see what I've been up to?

I was delighted to see the 2014 Prairie Schooler Santa this year--he's a caroler! (Yes, I'm a bit partial to carols and caroling for some reason--I wonder why?). The newest PS Santa was my beach stitching this year. Although I tried to stitch in the car on the 10-hour drive down to Corolla, NC, I didn't have much luck. I'm not sure if the road was too bumpy or it was just too hard to deal with the 40 ct. fabric without better lighting. So, this Santa got stitched over a number of days while I was away on vacation--usually just an hour or two each morning. What a great way to start my day!

2014 Prairie Schooler Santa

I used the suggested DMC colors on 40 ct. flax Newcastle, but I had to substitute the green color with DMC 500 since I had no 501. I did make a few changes, though: I gave Santa a green and white striped scarf instead of the solid green, made his mouth more of an oval shape instead of the square shape that was charted, changed the color of the wording and border to DMC 844, and changed the ribbon on the top package from red to gold. The ornament is backed with the plaid fabric you can see in the lower right corner of the photo below. I'm so pleased with how he turned out...

Before we left for the beach in mid-August, I made a birthday gift for my dear friend, Lois, in Northern Ireland. I was thrilled to hear from her that it only took one week to arrive--now that is great mail service on both sides of the Atlantic! This is what I stitched for Lois as I thought she would enjoy the colors and the sampler-like motifs. It was my first time stitching the Spider Web Roses and I'm so pleased with how they turned out.

Ewe and Eye and Friends "Petite Exemplary No. 2"

This piece is called "Petite Exemplary No. 2" by Ewe and Eye and Friends and is stitched on 40 ct. flax Newcastle using the suggested DMC threads. I really enjoyed all the specialty stitches in this one--they add such interest and dimension to a tiny piece. Here is a better look at the Spider Web Roses: 

I wasn't quite sure how to finish this one for Lois, but finally decided on a scissor fob. I used DMC in the darker color of the house to make the cording and the pretty floral fabric shown to back the fob. Lois loved my gift and I just want to wish her a very "Happy Birthday" once again!

I was looking through my drawer of "unfinished/finishes" the other day (you do all have those, too, right?) and found a little Santa that I had stitched way back in 2009--the year I began my blog! Oh, the poor thing--he's been shut up in the dark all these years. Time to pull him out, finish him up, and get him ready to hang on the Christmas tree in December. This is from the Cricket Collection's "Woolen Mittens" chart. The backing fabric is the cute black and white polka dot that you see underneath the ornament. In some ways, I'm glad I held off on finishing him because I've gotten more confident in my finishing skills over the past five years and I think he looks better now than he would have looked had I tackled him back in 2009!

Cricket Collection "Santa Mitten" finish

I'm also working on a larger piece, but have run into a snafu! I think I'll show you that next time and get your opinions on just what you think I should do...

BEACH WEEK 2014... Well, this year marked the 30th year that we have traveled down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina with my husband's entire family... How the group has grown! I think there were only 12 of us the first year, but now with added grandchildren and great-grandchildren, our group numbered 25 this year! Only my middle son and my niece's husband were unable to make the trip due to work responsibilities. (Don't feel too bad for my middle son, though--he just returned from two weeks in Japan!).  Since we rented the same house as last year, you can click here to see photos of the giant beach house where we made our home for the week. Here are some photos I took this year, including a day trip to Currituck Beach Lighthouse.

The view from the gazebo at the beach house

Looking down the beach at Corolla, NC.

The Currituck Beach Lighthouse

Another view of the lighthouse

A view from the top of the lighthouse

Gazing down at the lighthouse keeper's home

Looking down through the winding 220 step lighthouse

It was quite a relaxing week overall, although with 25 people at dinner each night, things got a bit  loud for me! I don't know about you, but I really enjoy my quiet time and with that many people in a house, you don't get much of it... I did manage to walk on the beach several mornings which seemed to agree with my plantar fasciitis. My heel felt much better down there than it has since I got home! 

But, I so needed that time away... As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I had a couple of odd health issues to deal with in early August (an emergency root canal due to something called "External Root Resorption." Ever hear of it? Me either! And a diagnosis of Schamberg Disease as a result of some odd pinprick rashes that have been popping up on my legs and thighs. Don't google photos of it--mine looked nowhere near that bad and have disappeared--for now! Apparently, there is no cure, but I'm just hoping mine remains a light case).  Neither of these are horrible--just rare and weird. The doctor who did my root canal was so thrilled to see a case of External Root Resorption that he called his 18-year-old son in to witness the procedure... And the dermatologist exclaimed excitedly that she hadn't seen anyone with Schamberg Disease in over two years! Apparently, I'm a rarity--ha ha!!

I hope those of you in the United States have a fun and relaxing Labor Day Weekend... Do you have any special plans? I'm just hoping this spell of lovely weather continues on through September. We sure could use it before winter sets in. Thank you all for stopping by today and a warm welcome to my new followers--so glad you're here! Bye for now...

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Favorite Freebie Finishes--Christmas Edition

I want my summer back!! Yes, I know many of you are enjoying lovely warm, sunny summers, but we've been experiencing even more days of record low temperatures here in western Pennsylvania. Honestly--wearing my winter bathrobe on these chilly "summer" mornings is not something I want to be writing about as August approaches, but that's my life right now... How are things in your part of the world? Warmer and sunnier, I hope? I think a lot of us thought that after that frigid winter we endured, we would be rewarded with a perfect summer... ha!! Unfortunately, it's been anything but...

In keeping with our chilly weather, I've been working on catching up on my monthly Christmas ornament challenge and have finished three new ornaments which I'd love to show you today. These all happen to be freebies, and, as I've said many times before, I'm so thankful to all of you talented cross stitch designers who share your talents with us.  The first is one I'm sure you'll all recognize: "Seven Pines" by Little House Needleworks which you can find right here. This linen doesn't photograph very well because the holes are so large. I'm not even sure what it is--some mystery 25 or 26 ct. scrap that I found in my stash, but I liked it because the white showed up so nicely. Since the holes in the fabric were so large I ended up using two threads stitched over one rather than the usual "one over one." I like the effect--the stitching really stands out! I used long stitches for the carrot nose rather than cross stitching it as was charted and made a couple of changes to the suggested DMC colors. I used DMC 498, 869, 921, 3051, 3371, and white (just in case you're wondering)...

And here is how I finished it into one of my little pillow ornaments. The size of the snowman stitching is only 1½ inches by 1¾ inches so it definitely needed to be beefed up to make an ornament worthy of displaying on a full-sized Christmas tree. I found three coordinating fabrics, some rope-like braided trim, and a couple of buttons in my stash which finished him off quite nicely! The back of the ornament is the same green fabric shown on the left. So, this counts as my ornament finish for May (I told you I was behind!).

"Seven Pines" freebie finish

My ornament for the month of June is designed by Erynne Chard over at Stitcheree blog and is just a small portion of her delightful "Joy" design. You can find the link for this freebie in her post right here. This one is stitched on 35 ct. natural Northern Cross linen (another great fabric when you want the white to really stand out) using the suggested DMC colors. I really like the blue jay that Erynne designed--a nice change from the cardinals that you typically see in Christmas stitching. As usual, the red in my photo is much, much brighter than the color in real life. I sure wish I could find a camera that photographs reds well...

This was finished into a flat mounted ornament (using the talented Vonna's tutorial).  I forgot to pad the stitching before attaching it to the mat board, but it still looks fine. This was the first time I used the mini-pompom trim on a finish and I love how it turned out--so crisp and fresh looking.  This piece stitched up very quickly and would make a great last minute gift for a stitching friend, don't you think?

"Joy" freebie finish

My third ornament finish is, again, just a portion of a different chart by Erynne called "It Snowed Last Night." I really wanted to stitch a snowy winter scene on this lovely 32 ct. blue Belfast linen that I purchased a while ago and thought this piece fit the bill perfectly. Stitching it over one was a bit difficult, but I love how tiny and detailed the finished piece is. You can see the full chart right here--isn't it pretty? I have a special fondness for sayings with the word "bliss" in them because that is my mother's maiden name. A lovely name... don't you think?

I kept the finish very simple for this one--just added the blue plaid fabric that is shown in the background and some bright white cording. I think the snowflakes Erynne designed are just about the prettiest ones I've seen--the whole scene perfectly captures that special feeling you get when you awake to a landscape that has magically turned white over night.  Again, the red color of the DMC is not coming through properly at all in this photo--it is actually a deep burgundy in real life. Thank you, Erynne, for your darling designs--I will proudly hang them on my Christmas tree each year...

"It Snowed Last Night" freebie finish

So, I'm caught up, for now, with my ornaments... I can't wait to gather them all together at the end of the year for my annual "Parade of Ornaments" photo shoot! I'm really proud of the ones I've made this year...

Gifts in the mail... I was so touched to receive a package of goodies all the way from western Canada from my sweet friend, Anne at Doll's Musings. She sent a beautifully stitched and finished box filled with fabric, buttons, and thread (all in blue, of course!). Just look at this beauty she stitched and monogrammed just for me! Having done a couple of box finishes myself, I know how long they take so the fact that dear Anne would spend her time creating one for me makes it even more special. I love the blue birds and the pretty flowers--I believe Anne said this was a BBD design. Thank you so much, my friend--I will treasure your gift and think of you each time I look at it!

Such sweet gifts from Anne!

Busy July... The month of July is always one of the busiest for our family. My husband and I celebrated 37 years of marriage on the 23rd, my youngest son turned 26 (hard to believe) on the 9th, and my husband finally caught up with me and turned 59 on the 14th (yes, he is a "younger man" by six whole months and he never lets me forget it!). Add to that trips to Washington, DC and upstate New York to visit my parents and it is surprising that I found any stitching time at all. I really miss my needle and threads and am looking forward to our annual beach vacation next month where I hope I can relax and stitch more often. 

A simple gift idea... I wanted to share a gift with you that I made for my husband's birthday. When you get to be our age, you really don't need much of anything so it's a challenge to come up with something a bit different. Have you heard about the Tabletopics conversation starters? Well, I thought about buying him an edition, but at $25.00 each, I thought... why not make my own questions? I discovered that many others have had a similar idea and was thrilled to find an abundance of questions and even a downloadable graphic to decorate the jar that houses them right here. I found another great bunch of questions here and you can easily Google "conversation starters" for more ideas.

 You never know what you'll learn...

I picked and chose which questions to use to best suit my family and spent an afternoon printing them out, cutting them up, and folding them to place in the jar. The jar is a simple clear plastic container that once housed my former (I'm proud to say) addiction--chocolate covered raisins. (Unfortunately, I've moved on to a new addiction--Milk Duds!). I attached a coordinating green ribbon to the lid to jazz it up a bit, too. The questions range from serious, to silly, to sentimental and my oldest son is enjoying them so much he has decided to add a few of his own to the jar. We only pull it out at Sunday dinners when we are together with our older sons, but we've all really enjoyed it and are learning a lot about each other.

Some new backyard creatures... So many of you have told me how much you enjoy seeing the photos of our backyard wildlife. Yes, we certainly are blessed with an abundance of wild animals (well, except when they eat our flowers and vegetables, that is!). On Sunday, I happened to look out and see a turkey--well, not just one turkey, but an entire flock! We've seen one or two turkeys before, but never a papa, mama, and seven little ones (turkey babies are called "poults") running around. Oh, they were darling--you couldn't help but smile when you watched the little ones trying to walk up the hill and keep up with their parents... (You can click the photos for a larger view).

An entire turkey family visits our yard

And here are a couple of close-ups--notice the pretty markings on the father...

Soon after these photos were taken we saw not one, but two Great Blue Herons out by the pond--you just never know what you'll see looking out our kitchen window!

Well, I think that's more than enough from me today... I hope each of you enjoys a wonderful August--not many days left until school is back in session, are there? Thank you all for your great comments on my last post and I'm so appreciative of all of your advice on healing my Plantar Fasciitis pain. It seems to feel better for a while and then I have a set-back, but I think I'm on the right path... I really miss my daily treadmill walks, but filling in with the stationary bike and lifting light weights has actually been great, too. I'm glad I've discovered even more ways to stay fit although I wouldn't wish the pain of Plantar Fasciitis on anybody. Enjoy the rest of your summer, my friends. Bye for now...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A summery finish

Hello! Hello! I hope each of you is enjoying your summer as much as I am. (Although at times I question if this really is summer--it was only 54° here this morning!). We just returned from a wonderful visit with our youngest son in Washington, DC and, although stitching seems to have taken a back seat for me this month, I am so enjoying the extra time spent with family that summer seems to bring. I did manage to finish a big (for me, anyway!) piece and framed a couple of older finishes that I'd like to share with you today. 

From the moment I saw the July Sampler chart by Prairie Schooler, I just had to have it. I think the colors were what first caught my eye, but it really has everything that makes summer so special: the quaint seaside scene with the lighthouse, sailboats, and long-legged seabirds (oh, and don't forget that adorable crab!), the juicy summer fruits, the patriotic fireworks and flags. And I always love the bottom borders on these PS monthly samplers, don't you?

Prairie Schooler "July Sampler"

For this piece, I used 40 ct. antique white Newcastle linen and most of the suggested DMC threads. I did make a few changes (as usual!): I changed the blue to DMC 311 and the dark brown to DMC 3031.  I also changed the grass in the main photo to a lighter DMC 3052, made the door on the large gold house, red, and stitched the door on the small house in the upper left, dark gray. I also made all the words brown except for July.  I think that's it... Oh, no! There's more:  I changed the white fireworks to gold so they would show up better and also filled in around the one bird with more "water."  I plan on framing this one--hopefully, by next summer, but I'm not the best at getting my larger things out of the drawer I put them in after I've finished stitching them.

But, surprise, surprise! I actually do have two framed pieces to show you today, too! The first is La D Da's "O Birdy" which I finished last November. If you'd like to read the details of my finish you can go to this post. I had this rustic looking black frame in my stash and thought it looked perfect with the primitive looking fabric. I have the fanciful framed bird perched on a bookshelf in my familyroom right now--not sure if he'll be staying there or not. I'm trying to find the perfect place to hang him.

 La D Da "O Birdy" framed

The other framed finish is one from last summer--another PS piece from Book No. 50 "Prairie Seasons." If you're interested in the details on this finish, you can read about them here. I used this same frame for the Spring and Autumn finishes in this series--all done now except the Winter design. And look at the bright summery flowers that are resting beside my finish--aren't they gorgeous? My husband is growing them for me inside his fenced in vegetable garden to keep them from being eaten by the deer.

Prairie Schooler Summer framed

"Grrr..." Unfortunately, something else other than the deer has discovered my husband's vegetable garden and just feasted and feasted while he was away on his biking trip out west earlier this month. Yep, it's our gang of "friendly" neighborhood groundhogs. Do you remember this photo of one that we had trapped a couple of years ago? Well, we should never have let his size or those pleading brown eyes fool us--he has "gone forth and multiplied" (many times!) because there is now a whole army of these giant rodents marching through our yard. They apparently crawled right up over the high wire fencing that surrounds the vegetable garden and their weight was heavy enough to bend it over so they could simply fall into the garden, get out their napkins and forks, and sit down to a tasty gourmet dinner. Dinners, plural, I should say, because all of the leaves of the sweet potatoes, beans, squash, parsnips, zucchini, and peas were absolutely devoured. My poor husband was so upset--all that hard work down the drain. We doubt that the vegetables will grow without leaves, but who knows... We may just end up with miniature everything this year!

Don't let that innocent looking face fool you!!

Luckily, we still have a few pretty flowers that neither the groundhogs or the deer or rabbits seem interested in...

 Masses of purple supertunias

 Our lone rose bush produced this yellow beauty!

 First time we've ever grown hollyhocks. 
Such beautiful flowers, but the leaves were 
all eaten by some sort of pest!

The ferns have just gone crazy with
the wet summer we've had!

And my perennial favorite--the beautiful blue hydrangea!

I want to share this yummy dessert recipe with you that I made for the 4th of July.  I saw it on the Balancing Beauty and Bedlam blog and immediately ran out to buy the needed ingredients. Although this recipe called for butterscotch pudding, I had to substitute chocolate. Oh, my--it was so decadent! Very rich and calorie-laden, I'm sure, but worth it! And although it tasted like it took ages to make, it was so quick and easy to prepare. I followed the recipe but added shaved chocolate and toasted pecans to the top to make it even tastier.  Give it a try for a special summer night's dessert and let me know what you think...

Easy Chocolate Torte

Our trip to Washington was so enjoyable, but very hot and humid, and, unfortunately, very tough on my Plantar Fasciitis heel pain problem. We did a lot of walking on hilly concrete streets as I had predicted, but let's just say, my 26 year-old-son's idea of a "short walk" is a bit different than that of myself or my husband who suffers from ongoing foot pain issues himself! Yikes!! I feel like I'm right back to where I started with the pain level over six weeks ago...The icing, stretching exercises, and general babying of my left foot have resumed.

We didn't really tour the monuments or most of the typical touristy things because we actually lived in the DC area for a year back in the late 1980s and also just visited the city in 2011 (you can see photos from that trip by clicking here). The only museum we visited this time was the wonderful National Museum of American History. We thoroughly enjoyed the "America at War" exhibition--so much to take in. I really could have spent the entire day just perusing that exhibit. The "America On the Move" exhibit which traced transportation in the U.S. from the Conestoga wagon to the electric car was quite enjoyable, too. I would have liked to have spent longer in the First Ladies exhibit, but just dashed in long enough to see Michelle Obama's gorgeous red inaugural gown. The guys really weren't quite into that whole exhibit, as you can imagine. And to see the 200 year-old flag (in the Star Spangled Banner exhibition) that inspired our wonderful national anthem and read about how the words to the song were written was truly awe inspiring. Did you know that the song itself was not written by Francis Scott Key? He simply wrote the poem and it was set to the music of a popular British tune called "To Anacreon In Heaven?" I was so surprised to learn that fact!

Courtyard at the National Museum of American History

The National Museum of American History

Entrance to The Star-Spangled Banner Exhibit Hall

My husband and I had never taken a boat ride on the Potomac River so my son suggested we cruise from Georgetown down to Alexandria, Virginia for dinner on Saturday night. You get a whole different perspective of the monuments when you view them from the water. I can't remember the last time I was on a boat and it was surprisingly relaxing with the warm sun on my face and the breeze in my hair--ahhh....

Georgetown Dock area

Potomac River view of the Washington 
Monument and The Lincoln Memorial

A perfect summer scene

I'll have to say we all loved Old Town Alexandria and wished we could have spent more time there. My son thought it would be a great place to live until he checked real estate prices there--I think they're some of the highest in the country!

Old Town Alexandria all decked
out for the 4th of July

Street sign for Captain's Row in Alexandria

Many of the houses on Captain's Row were 
built in the 18th century for sea captains and 
wealthy merchants. It was so picturesque with
the cobblestone street and Federal style homes
painted in patriotic colors.

I truly love the Washington, DC area and am a bit envious of those of you who reside in that part of the country. My youngest was doing his best to try and talk us into retiring there! You never know, do you?!

Thank you to all who commented on my last post--who knew a simple tin plate finish could get so many of you so excited! I'm glad I've inspired some of you to create your own plate finishes and have even received some photos from stitchers who have used that idea. I always love seeing photos of finishes from stitching friends who don't have their own blogs--feel free to email them to me! And I'm always happy to try to answer your questions--just be sure to leave an email address in your comment so I can get back to you.

I'm working my hardest to catch up on my monthly Christmas ornament stitching and I hope to be back by the end of July to share three new ornament finishes with you. Wish me luck! And wish me luck later today, too--I will be spending the afternoon cowering in the dentist's chair as he prepares a back molar for a new crown. I am, to put it mildly, a bit scared as I have never had more than a simple filling installed now and then. But, I suppose it's better than a root canal, right? Enjoy the rest of July everyone--can't wait to visit your blogs and see what you've been up to. Bye for now...