Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thankful...

Thank you... They seem like two such simple words, but I hope you know how much all of your support has meant to me since I lost my dad on October 31st. Your wonderful comments on my last post truly warmed my heart; they made me smile and they made me cry, but most of all, they reinforced what I already knew--that the stitching/blogging community is filled with  the most warm, caring, and generous people. And I am so lucky to call you my friends. Life seems different now that dad is gone--it's almost as if a haze has fallen over things. I know it will clear after a while, but right now, it still seems pretty thick. I know those of you who have already lost a parent will know exactly what I mean. I want to thank you, my friends, for the wonderful cards and caring emails--I was so touched by each and every word that you sent my way. I could feel those hugs you were sending me from far, far away. Thank you--truly...

With Thanksgiving looming (and me preparing for 17 guests this year!) I have had little stitching time, but I do have a few finishes to share with you today. I began Heartstring Samplery's "Let Us Be Truly Thankful" back in October at my stitching retreat, but didn't get very far. I only finished the vine on the left and didn't pick it up again until last week. By then, I had a new plan for it--I decided to stitch it in memory of my dad and in honor of my mom. I changed the date from the charted 1827 to 1927, the year of their births, and added their initials next to the flower on the right.

Heartstring Samplery's "Let Us Be Truly Thankful

Other changes I made were adding another acorn to the right of the word "Thankful," reversing the squirrel so he faced toward the center, and evening up the center flower motif so it was symmetrical. I also stitched the entire word "Thankful" in the darker brown rather than just making the "T" that color as was charted.


The finish is quite simple--just some brown ruched ribbon surrounding the little pillow. The dusty yellow fabric shown in the background is what I used to back it. I plan on placing this newest pillow in my wooden bowl of Thanksgiving finishes, but may just keep it on display all year. After all, I am so very thankful for my dear parents each and every day of the year, not just at Thanksgiving time... I was lucky enough to win this chart in a giveaway from sweet Heather and I would love to pass it on to one of you who wants to stitch it. Just let me know in your comments and I will have a drawing and announce the winner in my next blog post.


I'm pleased to say, I've stitched my final two monthly ornaments for 2014, too! You notice I say "stitched"--not finished... The finishing will have to wait until after Thanksgiving. My ornament for November is from the November/December 2011 issue of Just Cross Stitch Magazine.  I fell in love with the wonderful teal color and the peaceful scene so beautifully designed by Kathy Schmitz. It is called "A Winter's Night" and the silk thread I used was Dinky Dye's "Emerald" color on 40 ct. flax Newcastle linen. To me emerald always denoted green, but this is definitely more on the blue/gray spectrum. Isn't it pretty?

A Winter's Night designed by Kathy Schmitz

And, last, but not least, is my December ornament--this little cutie from New York Dreamer called "Frosty Night." I used most of the suggested colors on 40 ct. Country Mocha Newcastle. Although I use one strand of thread when I stitch on 40 ct. fabric, I did use two strands for the snowflakes to make them really stand out. I also put some fringe on the long-armed snowman's scarf. I just thought the robins were so sweet in this design even though we don't have robins in the winter here in Pennsylvania. Do  you have them where you live? I think they probably do stick around in the more moderate climates... 

"Frosty Night" designed by New York Dreamer

I owe a couple of special thank-you's to two stitching friends who sent me a little something in the mail. First of all, my wonderful friend, Annie, stitched this beautiful condolence card for me. When I returned home after the funeral, this just happened to be the first card I opened and tears sprang to my eyes all over again--not because it made me sad, but because I was so honored that Annie would take the time to stitch such a pretty card for me. Thank you, Annie--I will treasure it...

Condolence card stitched by Annie

And from a new stitching friend, Frances, came a lovely card in which she enclosed this little "Dad" chart. She thought I might like to make up one of my little pillows or a small ornament in memory of Dad. I will do just that, Frances--what a wonderful idea. Your thoughtfulness touched me deeply--thank you again!

"Dad" chart sent by Frances

I received many lovely cards filled with such kind words of love and support over the past few weeks. Here are some of them and even more arrived since I took this photo. Thank you to each and every one of you who took the time to send a little greeting in the mail--they certainly brightened my days...

Sympathy cards from around the world

This beautiful orchid arrived from my husband's co-workers after dad died. They sent it to me here at home rather than delivering it to the funeral home which I thought was such a wonderful idea. I've never had an orchid before and am a bit worried that it won't thrive under my care--do any of you have any tips for me? 


I've been keeping very busy baking for Thanksgiving (now that my oven is fixed--it broke last week, wouldn't you know!). Next to stitching, baking is my favorite de-stressor. Here are some of the cookies and the pecan pie that I've made so far. I love to bake and so I really look forward to this time of year. I put half of the cookies in the freezer and save them for Christmas--sure saves me some time when December rolls around!

Thanksgiving baking 2014

The turkey family that has strutted through our yard for the past few months has been hard to spot recently! Do you think they're trying to remain hidden until after Thanksgiving is over? I took this photo way back on October 9th and that was the last time I saw them--see how big the babies have gotten? What funny looking creatures they are, aren't they?

Doing the "turkey trot!"

The deer have been in hiding, too, now that hunting season has begun. This stately buck is beginning to sprout antlers as can be seen in this photo from mid-October. Now, all those pretty fall leaves have disappeared and the dull, gray November weather is upon us. Better than the seven feet of snow that they got in my hometown of Buffalo, NY, though!!


It's almost time... I've heard some rumblings going on upstairs lately. They seem to be coming from the storage box tucked underneath the bed in my guest room. Hmm... could it be these little beauties are getting anxious to come out of hiding for their annual "Parade of Ornaments??"  Stay tuned!

Almost time to decorate the tree!


It's a small, small world... I was amazed to learn that two of my blog readers had connections to my small hometown. I got two wonderful emails from stitchers who recognized my small western New York town just from the photos I posted in my memorial post on my father. I never named the town or my family, but they both emailed me to say they new exactly where I had grown up. One used to visit her grandparents there and had fond memories of the little town. And even more amazingly, another actually grew up there and attended the same church that my family did in the 1980s and 90s (after I had married and moved to Pennsylvania). In fact, she even became a librarian--just like me! I can't make this stuff up... the world is definitely shrinking because of the internet!

I am way behind on answering emails and commenting on your blogs, but I hope to catch up this weekend after Thanksgiving is over.  Don't forget, if you would like a chance to stitch the "Let Us Be Truly Thankful" chart in my first photo, please leave a comment saying so and I will draw the winner in a couple of weeks.

Again, my friends, thank you so very much for all of your kind words--they really have helped my heart begin to heal. I wish you each a blessed Thanksgiving Day with friends and family. We truly all have so much to be thankful for, don't we? 


         HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

In Loving Memory...


Our "long goodbye" is over.. My dear father passed away on October 31, 2014 at the age of 87 years, two months, and five days. Born in a small town in western New York, he was the third of four children whose parents were the town doctor and a former schoolteacher. A "blessed" baby according to the caption written on the back of this photo by his mother that pictures him at just nine weeks old.

Dad in November 1927: nine weeks old

You would never know it from looking at this angelic looking boy, but Dad was quite an impish child--very energetic, hard to make sit still. I'm sure he and his buddies roamed the streets of his small town cooking up all sorts of mischief!

Dad at age 8 or 9 in the mid-1930s

And he was a bit of a rebel, too. The first time my mom met him in high school she thought he was cocky and a bit full of himself... And I'm sure he was--he was a handsome football star, president of his class, and class salutatorian. Mom and Dad dated a bit, but before too long, went their separate ways and off to colleges far, far apart.

 Dad in 1945--age 18

After a few years, however, they met up again and this time, my mom saw him differently--she saw the hardworking, determined young man he had grown into. I think his time in the Army probably had a lot to do with that along with his decision to attend medical school and become a doctor like his father.

1946--Home on leave from the Army

Dad and mom were married in the summer of 1953 in my mother's nearby New York hometown, and honeymooned in Maine.  Little did they know then that their union would produce four children and nine grandchildren!

Reading a congratulations telegram before 
setting off on their honeymoon--July 1953

What can you say about a man who could fix just about anything? From a broken toy to a broken car to a broken body. My father was a surgeon (on the right in the photo below) and, through the years, saved countless lives and made even more lives easier by "fixing" ailing bodies. I was always so proud and amazed by his profession. Me, who can't stand the sight, or even the thought, of blood, had a dad who went into that operating room each and every day and mended tears, removed diseased organs, and installed pacemakers to extend lives. Yes, I was constantly in awe of his intelligence and self-assured manner.

Steady hands
I don't have a lot of memories of Dad "doing stuff" with us kids. That can be attributed to not only his demanding profession but also, simply, to what being a father was like back in the 1950s and 60s. But, I do know that his family meant more to him than anything. My mother said he absolutely doted on me being the first child and that when I was born he insisted on waking me up and playing with me when he returned home way after I'd been put to bed for the night. I'll bet this was one of those nights!
 
Me at nine weeks with my proud papa

I remember the giant snow storms we used to get in Buffalo, New York when I was growing up in the late 1950s. My dad used to pile the snow right up the front stairs of our apartment to make a small sled run for me and my brother (much to the landlady's dismay!)
Buffalo, NY winter 1959

Another vivid memory happened in high school when a  friend and I had sewn these soft pastel colored dresses with little puffy sleeves and empire waists--very sweet and very much the style of the early 70s. Mine was the palest pink and hers was mint green. The first thing my dad said to me as I modeled the dress for him and mom was, "Carol, you look like a little girl in that dress!" Well, I immediately burst into tears and ran into the other room crying. I was 16 and the last thing I wanted to look like was a "little girl". He came rushing after me, enveloped me in a big bear hug, and said he was so, so sorry and that the last thing he ever wanted to do was hurt my feelings.

As the years passed, Dad and Mom were blessed with nine grandchildren and, oh, how Dad (and Mom!) loved each and every one.  His round face simply lit up each time he saw one of them. He was quite overweight when they were babies and he loved just letting them sleep peacefully on that pillowy stomach of his. Below are my three sons back in 1988 when the youngest was just a few weeks old and sound asleep, thumb in his mouth, on Dad's big tummy. All nine of his grandchildren rested there at one time or another...

 He just lit up each time he saw his grandchildren!

Dad actually did more "stuff" with his grandchildren than he did with his four children because he had more of that elusive thing called "time." He'd take them for long rides in his ancient car (Big Blue), walk with them up to the railroad tracks to squish pennies under the wheels of trains that passed by, and take them up to his "club" (just a cottage really where the local men gathered on Monday evenings for steak, beer, and card-playing) to gather jugs of the fresh spring water. And they loved him back--no one could get them laughing harder than their Papa could! They brought such joy to his life and he to theirs.

Dad worked very hard until his retirement at age 62 in 1989 and then he and mom spent 7 months of each year relaxing in the Florida sunshine. Those were such good years for them... carefree days of setting their own schedules, walking the beach, and marveling at the sunsets each evening from their oceanfront balcony.

Daytona Beach, Florida sunset

Mom is so thankful that they had those years together because within 15 or 20 years, Dad began to change. He became unsure of himself and a bit paranoid. He stopped reading books and doing his daily crossword puzzle. He began to have trouble with simple math. He developed an almost "vacant" look in his eyes. And then four years ago, the hallucinations began and we finally had a diagnosis:  Lewy Body Dementia, the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer's.

 Dad being inducted into his
 high school "Hall of Fame" 2009

It wasn't long before mom knew she couldn't keep caring for him on her own in Florida and so they moved back to New York State year-round to be nearer family. As the next year passed, he became more and more unpredictable--his hallucinations increased. They would often involve water (a river running down the hallway or a glass spilling over with liquid), animals romping across the balcony, or small children hiding under the bed. Nothing scary, thank goodness... But, he was recognizing fewer and fewer people and having more and more trouble putting words together. And then the wandering began and we knew the time had come to move him into a dementia facility in early 2013. The day we moved him was probably one of the hardest of all our lives... for the first time in so, so many years, Dad was living apart from Mom. For the next 20 months he spent his life within the walls of dementia units with others suffering the same or even worse fates.

Christmas 2012


The last time I saw Dad awake was in early October when my two sisters and I went over to see him. Thankfully, he was in a good mood--almost playful. He didn't make much sense when he talked, but he seemed content and happy to see us. All of a sudden at one point in our "conversation," he grabbed my hands, started rubbing them, looked into my eyes with a hint of recognition, and exclaimed, "You little sweetheart, you--I love you so much!" My eyes welled up with tears and I felt that I had just been given the greatest gift in the world. I doubt that he even knew who I was, but just to hear those words from him again, meant so very much.  It was the last time I would ever see those warm, brown eyes of his...

The funeral on November 4th brought many tales from relatives, old neighbors, and former teachers of how he stitched them up "on the kitchen table" or saved someone's life. And even more stories of how he was always so kind to everyone in town, regardless of their race, religion, profession, or status in life. For Dad it was always an even playing field... This is the biggest lesson I learned from him--always be kind and treat others as you hope others will treat you. It was so wonderful to see the many people gathered to remember and celebrate  his life. That is life in a small town--everyone knows everyone else and there is a sense of community not often seen in city life or in the suburbs. 

One last ride... When the funeral ended we took dad on one last ride through the quiet streets of his beloved hometown--the town where he had spent nearly his entire life... The hearse led the way down Main Street where he had ridden his bike and shopped for penny candy with childhood buddies. It passed the street where he grew up and maintained his medical office in a house located right next to the very library that inspired me, his oldest daughter, to become a librarian.


On past the stately brown Presbyterian church where he had sung carols each Christmas Eve and given me away in marriage on a warm, sunny July day 37 years ago.


The procession made a right turn and crept to a halt in front of the wonderful white house where he and mom raised their four children and spent 52 of their 61 wedded years. The house was a constant work in progress for dad--he was always tinkering away in the barn or basement to fix this or that. And there was that wonderful wrap-around porch where the family would gather to observe parades on Memorial Day or to simply sit in cozy wicker chairs and watch the world go by...

 Home

Heading up the street, the funeral procession passed over the railroad tracks where he and his grandchildren had placed pennies and waited for them to be squished flat by oncoming trains. I still recall the joyous voices of my sons as they raced down the street to show me what had become of the pennies that Dad patiently helped them search for after the train had flattened them.


Another right turn and then a left  took the procession past Dodge Creek where dad, as a boy, surely spent many hours happily wading in the knee-deep water and attempting to catch slippery minnows in his small hands. That same shallow creek swelled to a raging river and flooded his hometown twice in his lifetime.


And then, a final left turn up the curving hill and into the most peaceful and beautiful cemetery that I know... Dad's final resting place. My father now lies in rest overlooking the town that meant so much to him...with those beautiful hills in the distance, surrounded by tall trees and crisp autumn air. His mind is now whole again, free of the fog of dementia that imprisoned him for the past few years.

 Chestnut Hill Cemetery

We knew this day would come, and in some ways, we welcomed it. Dad is no longer struggling through the tangled web of dementia. He is free and at peace... He would have hated knowing how he was living the past five or so years--absolutely hated it. He was such a proud man and would have despaired at seeing himself just "existing" at a toddler-like level. And yet, I can't help but weep, and cry, and sometimes sob, for not only his loss, but for the way he lived these past few years. You see, Mom's and Dad's favorite quote, and the one they already have etched on their gravestone, is Robert Browning's "Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be." How sad that they didn't get to realize that "best is yet to be" in their final years together.

At peace at last

My dad was a character in so many ways: a loving husband, son, brother, father, surgeon, rose gardener, sousaphone player, music lover, history lover, bread baker, pickle maker, avid reader, handyman, car tinkerer, limerick reciter. He loved to make people laugh and smile...

I know you've got a whole new audience to entertain now, Papa... And, oh, how that makes your oldest daughter smile!

Me and dad: Thanksgiving 2011


Goodbye my dear Papa...
 I'll miss you ever so much...


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Miles, Moons, and Memories

Whew--it's been a while, hasn't it? I so appreciate the thoughtfulness of those of you who have emailed me to see if everything was okay. I'm happy to say that I'm just fine--I've just experienced one of the busiest months of my life! I am so looking forward to November even though it means preparing a Thanksgiving feast for 18--at least I'll be at home in my own bed each night!

My family and I put over 1500 miles on our car driving to and from our mini family reunion, my stitching retreat, and a family friend's wedding over the past four weeks. I drove to the first two events myself, but my husband drove to the wedding last weekend, thank goodness. I'll give you a recap of my journeys starting with the shortest trip first...

258 miles round trip ~ Destination: Our 5th annual stitching retreat! It's hard to believe that Barb, Lee, Linda, Pam, and I have now been meeting up for 5 straight years at The Grape Arbor Bed and Breakfast! Three wonderful days of stitching, chatting, laughing, and way-too-much eating. Honestly, those breakfasts could feed a couple of hungry football players, but, oh, were they tasty. As has been tradition, we decided to give each other a little something to remember our annual retreat. There are no rules--it doesn't have to be a stitched gift or even a homemade gift--just something that will remind us of each other.  

This year, I stitched them each a Drawn Thread design called "Full Moon." I just loved the design--it is perfect for fall without being too Halloweeny or "cutesy." I stitched the design on 40 ct. natural Newcastle using most of the specified Dinky Dyes silks. I did change the tails on the bats--shortened them up a bit. The spider's body is a wee black button--so cute!


I loved the black boxes that the designer used to finish her model so I immediately called the Silver Needle and they sent them to me in no time--great service! The finishing was so easy--I simply gathered and laced them into a round shape over a padded piece of round mounting board. Each one only took about half an hour to finish into the boxes (if only the stitching time was as quick!).  Here they are all finished up--aren't they darling? Oh, but wait, there are five boxes, aren't there? Yes, the first one that I stitched (shown in the middle), I  made a mistake on the moon and rather than rip it all out, I decided to just make do and keep it for myself. I used a 32 ct. fabric for that one with two threads rather than the one thread for 40 ct. so it looks larger than the others. On that one you can see the longer bat tails, too, before I decided to shorten them. I should say bat "bodies," I guess--bats don't really have tails after all, do they!?

The Drawn Thread's "Full Moon" boxes

Everyone seemed very pleased with the black velvet-lined boxes (which I filled with Godiva chocolates!) and I love knowing my friends will be able to display them each fall for years to come. So what goodies did I receive from my friends at our retreat? Well, just take a look...

Pam went with a cookie-themed gift for us so, of course, I loved it! She stitched a darling peanut butter kiss cookie ornament, added some homemade cookies (which were eaten by the time I took the photo), included some Hershey kisses and a darling pot holder, and even made her own vanilla extract!! I never even knew you could make your own, but I know I'll be trying it out on the dozens of cookies I'll be baking for Thanksgiving.  Thanks so much, Pam!

Lee made us each a little paper pieced pincushion in fall colors. Isn't it cute? She also included a pretty notepad with a "grape" theme since we call ourselves the Grape Arbor Stitchers and a bag of candy. Hmmm... I'm sensing a candy theme here! Yes, we do love our sweets... Thank you so much, Lee!


Barb included some overdyed threads, a new kitchen towel, some lovely smelling Ginger Peach hand lotion, and, yes, more chocolate candy in her gift bag. I just love the colors of thread she chose for us--Jack O'Lantern and Buckeye Scarlet because she hails from Ohio, the Buckeye State. Thanks so much, Barb!


Linda spoiled us by gifting each of us with one of Faye's handmade project rolls. I'm sure you can imagine the "oohs" and "ahs" as we each unwrapped our very own beautifully made project roll in colors specially chosen by Linda. She knows me well as she requested blues and yellows for me and this is what I received--just perfect!! I adore this fabric and know I'll be putting this to good use when I stitch a larger piece.Thank you so much, Linda!

582 miles roundtrip ~ Destination: My mini family reunion in the Finger Lakes area of New York State! Sixteen of us gathered in early October together to laugh, feast, and share our memories from long ago. My 89 year old uncle flew in from Wisconsin and it truly touched me to see him and his little sister (my 87 year old mom) reminiscing and smiling together. I saw a cousin whom I hadn't seen in over 30 years (since our grandmother died) and got to meet her husband and son for the first time ever! My uncle is saying that this will be his last trip east, but we sincerely hope not. He is still so "young at heart" and full of vitality that we hope there may just be another reunion next fall...

While there, I stumbled upon this lovely display of quilts in my mother's senior living building. They have a special room for displays of collections from the residents or from outside groups. October's display just happened to be quilts from a Canandaigua, NY quilting group... Aren't they beautiful? I know many of you also quilt and I truly hope to learn to myself when I retire so I thought you might enjoy these photos.


And here is a collage of some of my favorites (you can click the photo for a closer look)... I especially liked the one one in the lower left corner. The woven fabric basket had a 3-D effect and was filled with Spanish moss and the appliqued flowers were "growing" out of it--so striking!


My sister, cousin, and I visited a couple of local antiques shops while in New York and I spotted this cute little box made of rulers. I seriously doubt if it's an antique, but I just had to have it--and for $5.00 I thought the price was right. 

 At first I thought I would use it to store buttons or charms, but then look what I decided on... my sewing bobbins! I think this would be something you could easily make yourself, don't you?


720 miles roundtrip ~ Destination: A special family friend's wedding in Indiana. And where was the wedding of my best friend's youngest son held? Why, in one of the most beautiful Catholic churches in the United States: the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame. I was only able to capture a few images to share with you, but I think you'll see for yourself how breathtaking it was. Of course, I teared up as the bride walked down the aisle. Do you cry at weddings? I always do--the bride and groom are so full of hope and so in love on their special day. The weather couldn't have been more perfect with a brilliant blue, cloudless sky, filled with good-luck lady bugs on a surprisingly warm end-of-October day. What a great start to married life!



Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Notre Dame

COOKIES, COOKIES, COOKIES!  I was so happy to see that the groom's family had brought the southwestern Pennsylvania tradition of the "cookie table" to this Indiana wedding. You can click here and here to read more about the wonderful cookie table tradition. I had never heard of a cookie table before I moved to Pennsylvania from New York State 37 years ago, but I just love the idea. The families of the bride and groom lay out long tables of home-baked cookies  for guests to not only partake of at the wedding, but also to take home by the dozen in boxes or bags. Just look at all the work that went into the cookie table at the wedding... The long tables were piled high with every type of cookie you could imagine so, of course, I had to take samples of each one! This is not the main dessert, there is still a wedding cake, but I so love the cookie table tradition. Do any of you have these at weddings in your locales? I know if I'm ever lucky enough to be a mother of the groom, I'll be crossing my fingers that a cookie table will be a part of the wedding reception...


Cookies galore--which would you choose?

A Halloween Finish: One thing that was good about the miles we spent driving to and from Indiana--I managed to stitch a little Halloween piece. This is from Mary Gary's Sewing Cabin's "Seasonal Mementos" leaflet. I've been wanting this chart for so, so long, and finally snagged it on Ebay for $5.50 last month. The little witch is stitched on 32 ct. bay leaf Belfast linen using the suggested colors. I had to change the alphabet around a bit as I stitched the large pumpkin in the wrong place, but it looks fine to me... I hope to finish this into a little pillow or hanging ornament this weekend. I just love the little witch (she is a good witch--I made sure to put a smile on her face :)

 Mary Gary's Sewing Room "Seasonal Memories" witch

I'll leave you with this vintage Halloween photo from circa 1964. I'm guessing I'm about 9 years old and dressed as a gypsy and my little brother is a gorilla. It looks like a cold, cold Halloween night as I'm padded from head to toe with warmer clothes underneath my costume (I didn't go through my "chubby phase" until a couple of years later!). Do you remember those horrid plastic masks? Ugh! How sweaty and smelly they got by night's end... And notice the "witch" Barbie complete with black mask and pointy hat that my mom made for me standing between the two pumpkins. It's all those little things that moms do that we don't truly appreciate until we're older. Thank you, mom--you were, and are, the best!

 Halloween circa 1964

Unfortunately, we're supposed to have an equally chilly, rainy night here for Halloween trick-or-treating--a shame as we've had such a lovely autumn up to now. But, I so look forward to seeing the neighborhood kids and their parents as they stop by at our front door to collect their goodies.  Happy Halloween!! Bye for now...