Thursday, October 8, 2015

Fall finishes and helping out a stitching friend

Happy October to you! October is one of my favorite months of the year and it's been a great month, weatherwise, so far. We started off with cooler, wet weather, but the past five days have been just perfect. My heart goes out to all of you in the Carolinas, though--such devastation from the rains and floods and broken dams. Oh my--it is just heartbreaking to watch the news coverage... 

Well, I've had  more stitching time lately as I continue to recover from the bone bruise on my left foot. When you hear the word "bruise," it doesn't sound serious, but a bone bruise is very different than a bruise suffered on your arm or leg when you hit it on something.  The pain is much more severe and can last months. I've been following the RICE treatment plan: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation and it seems to be working. It's been three weeks now, and the pain is subsiding, just leaving me with a bit of tenderness and swelling. I so miss my daily treadmill workouts, but they will have to wait until I am completely healed. I've just begun riding a stationary bike for a bit of exercise this week and it feels so good to be doing something physical again! I have been able to work and my new odd gait as I hobble across the floors at the library has earned me a new nickname: "The Limping Librarian!" Hopefully, by my next post, I'll be feeling significantly better.

I have a few finishes to show you today and the first is a big one (for me anyway!). I finished the Prairie Schooler Band Sampler (Tall Oaks) from Book No. 40 that I showed you in my previous post. Isn't it pretty for this time of year? I'll be framing this one--eventually! All of you know, I'm much better at finishing smalls, than getting larger pieces framed!

Prairie Schooler's Band Sampler (Tall Oaks)

I just love all of the squirrels in this piece--the two little guys holding their acorns below the tree, the wild looking giant squirrel climbing up to the top of the tree and the two tinier squirrels scampering away in the bottom border.

I did make a couple of changes to the piece. Notice the vacant space above the two squirrels under the tree? That was supposed to be personalized with my initials and year. I really loved the empty look, though--I think it gives the eyes a place to rest. So, I simply stitched my initials and the year 2015 discreetly at the bottom of the sampler. I also changed the color of the acorns to DMC 3045 so they would more resemble acorns in my part of the country.

One of the reasons this piece is so special to me is because of this tree:

It is an oak tree--the only oak tree in our yard--and the story behind it is one that most mothers will appreciate. It all started one day back in the mid-80s when my oldest son was about 3 or 4 years old and he noticed a teeny tiny sapling that had sprung from an acorn (probably carried over by a squirrel from one of our neighbors giant oak trees) growing right beside the parking place in our driveway. He basically claimed the tree as his own--it fascinated him and he enjoyed watching it grow year by year. The oak sapling soon became too large to remain in its place right beside the driveway so we moved it to the front yard. When we totally remodeled our home almost 20 years ago, we had a decision to make: should we cut down the tree or move it? With the pictures of my son and his love for that tree  in our minds, we chose to pay to have it moved to its present location in the back yard. It is now about 30 years old, growing straight and strong and every time I look at it, I am reminded of the saying "Tall trees from little acorns grow" and of one very dear little boy.

A couple of blogging friends recently celebrated birthdays and I wanted to stitch them something special. To my friend Lois in Northern Ireland, I sent a small pillow as a token of our friendship. This is a design by Annie Beez Folk Art and is appropriately called "Such Friendship." Stitched on 40 ct. raw natural Newcastle with a mix of overyded and DMC colors, I just love its simple message and I hope it conveys to Lois just how much I treasure our friendship!

I made a wee pillow so she can set it on her mantle or bookshelf or place it in a bowl full of other small gifts. It is backed with the fabric shown behind it and finished off with just a bit of lace and some handmade cording.

"Such Friendship" finish

And for one of my very first blogging friends, Myra, I made this cute Halloween witch. Yes, you've seen it before--this is the third time I've stitched her, but I never get tired of that cute little face! The design is from Mary Garry's "Seasonal Mementos" booklet and is stitched on 32 ct. bay leaf linen with the suggested DMC colors. (And aren't those autumn hued mums in the background pretty? A nice "get well" gift from my oldest son and his girlfriend after my oral surgery last month). Myra loves anything Halloweeny and I know this gift will fit right in with her decorating this month!

Mary Garry's "Seasonal Mementos" witch

Helping out one of our own... Have you ever asked yourself, what you would take from your home if you had to leave suddenly? For me, it would be my family photos and my giant box of stitched Christmas ornaments. But, what if you could take nothing? What if you had to vacate suddenly and leave everything behind. Well, this is what one of my long-time blogging friends faced recently. Cindy and I bonded over our love of stitching smalls--especially Christmas ornaments and we've exchanged both birthday and Christmas gifts over the past six years. This summer, when Cindy kept getting sicker and sicker, she found that her apartment was contaminated with a deadly black mold and, to save her life, she had to leave literally everything behind and move out. You see, the black mold spores can spread everywhere and, you guessed it, all of her stitching fabrics, threads, charts, finishes, and gifts had to be thrown away. Can you imagine? Cindy has posted about the black mold problem and is attempting to do her part to shine awareness on just how serious it can be. You can read all about it in  her post.

Would you like to help? As soon as I received her email about this crisis, I began putting together a care package for Cindy of charts, threads, handmade cording, fabrics, and a gift card to Joann's and sent it to her last week. She was so touched and since then, I've had others asking me for her address because they want to help her re-build her stash, too. Would you like to help, too? If so, please email me (my address is in the sidebar--just click on the little girl with the black cat in my profile to find it) and I will send you Cindy's new address. Stitchers are such generous folks and I know she would appreciate any bit of help--even a skein of DMC in an envelope would be appreciated. And if you can't help by sending a little something, please keep those prayers and positive thoughts coming her way... Right now, Cindy is focused on getting her health back and returning to work. I really think receiving little care packages from the stitching community would go a long way toward helping her recover, don't you?

And here I thought this was going to be a short post! Ha! I always love October for another big reason, too, and that is that I'll be going to my annual stitching retreat in a couple of weeks. Just five friends sitting, chatting, eating, and stitching for 3 days--what could be better? This year, we are taking a break from making each other anything--it's just been a crazy year for some of us (do you think I'm one of them?!) and it will be really nice to just show up and enjoy myself without worrying about getting four gifts finished up...  Until next time, happy stitching, my friends, and thank you all for your much appreciated comments and email! Bye for now...

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Finally Fall!

Good morning, my blogging buddies, on one gorgeous autumn morning here in western Pennsylvania. I think this September may have been one of the nicest (and warmest!) on record and I've loved every second. The sunny days and the crisp, cooler nights are just my "cup of tea"... I've been stitching a couple of fall things and putting out a few autumn-hued decorations and my house just seems much cozier these days--like it's welcoming me to spend the colder days ahead all curled up in my stitching chair. Sounds like a nice plan, doesn't it?

Of course, real life interferes sometimes and that precious stitching time is hard to come by...  This past month has been so busy that I'm afraid I don't have much to share with you today. But, I hope you'll stick around and read through my lone September post. First of all, I want to wish a warm welcome to my new followers--there are over 1500 of you now and I'm so thrilled to have you visit! I began this blog in 2009 as a simple way to keep track of my finishes--never in my wildest dreams did I imagine there would be so many of you who enjoyed reading it! Thank you all for your wonderful support--especially this year. It has been one difficult year around here, but things are looking up. My husband's broken neck has healed to the point where he has returned to biking--I do worry, but he is absolutely elated to be "back in the saddle," as he puts it. Amazing how far he has come in just four months. The numbness/tingling in his fingers on his right hand continue, but it is nothing that he can't learn to live with...

So, on to stitching! I have one small finish and one larger work in progress that I'd like to share with you today. The finish is a Prairie Schooler from an issue of Just Cross Stitch magazine and couldn't be more perfect for this time of year. "Autumn" is stitched over one on 28 ct. black Monaco using the suggested DMC threads. The finished design is so tiny--just 1¾ by 1¼ inches!! You know me and my love of anything tiny!

To finish this off, I used some miniature rust-colored ric rak to frame it and backed it with the cute acorn printed fabric you see in the background. I thought of adding buttons or something to the corners where the ric rak meets, but I felt they would overwhelm this tiny piece. Sometimes, an understated finish is just better, don't you think? I am so happy with the final look...

Prairie Schooler Autumn finish

I've also begun a larger Prairie Schooler Sampler from Book No. 40 "Band Samplers." I've wanted to stitch this one for so long, but have avoided it because of the abundance of browns in the design--I simply don't like stitching with browns! But, I finally just took the plunge and I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying stitching this piece--even that crazed-looking giant squirrel making his way up to the tree top! I'm using 40 ct. flax Newcastle with DMC threads and, hopefully, I'll have it finished up for you next time I post.

Tall oaks from little acorns grow...

As I mentioned, I've also been doing a bit of fall decorating and the first thing to get a makeover was my kitchen corner cupboard. Down came the patriotic stitching and accessories that I shared with you in this post and out came the autumn colored leaves, pumpkins, and squirrels.

Here are some close-ups of each shelf so you can see them better... The carved wooden squirrels belonged to my grandmother and I think they're perfect to display alongside the PS stitched September Squirrel and the Midnight Stitching "Quaker Acorns I" piece.

The middle shelf contains a bowl full of sunflower finishes from Prairie Schooler, Homespun Elegance, Heart In Hand, and an old freebie that is no longer available online (just a reminder to print out those freebies when they are offered online as the designers often remove them).

On the bottom shelf are some crocheted sunflowers from my sweet blogging friend, Annette in The Netherlands in a wire basket of leaves and pumpkins, my little Lizzie High doll with her crows and giant sunflower, a tarnished old baby cup from a distant relative, and a sweet quote about September that I printed from one of my favorite home lifestyle blogs, On Sutton Place.

Here is a closeup of of the print which you can find and print off for yourself right here. I used some mottled beige scrapbook paper to print it on and had the frame in my stash. A cute and inexpensive addition to my corner cupboard, don't you think?

I wanted to share a few photos from our annual trip to the Outer Banks last month. In spite of the not-so-great weather, I so enjoyed spending time with my family and catching up with relatives we only see once or twice a year. This year we all (24 of us) stayed in a giant house right on the beach. This was the view from the front deck. See those whitecaps? Yes, there were some very rough waters this year and the "red flag" of danger/no swimming was posted for much of the week. You can actually see it in the middle right side of the photo. I didn't care as I don't go in the ocean anyway, but my sons were so disappointed.

Just the five of us went out together on August 26th which would have been my dad's 88th birthday--just wanted some time away from the crowd to remember dad and raise a glass in his honor. This was the peaceful view from the restaurant in the calm sound. Just lovely!

As always there were some glorious sunrises...

And equally glorious sunsets...

I am much more at home lounging by a lake or hiking in a forest, but there is something so very special about the beaches in North Carolina, too. We've been going with my husband's family for 31 years now and it's been fun to see the family grow. Next year, we might actually need to expand to two houses!

Thank you all for your well-wishes for my youngest son who is studying in Argentina this semester. I'm happy to report he got there safely and is settling in nicely. He's finding the Spanish to be somewhat of a challenge as they speak very rapidly and Argentinian Spanish is a bit different than what he learned. He may have to record his lectures and break them down so he can understand things more easily. We are still  hoping to go visit in late November or mid-December and take an extended trip to Patagonia!

I'll leave you with a photo of this sweet little fawn who made his way up to munch on some sunflower seeds. Each year, after the sunflowers have finished blooming, my husband lays the giant flower heads out on the fence that surrounds his garden next to the tool shed. The birds, chipmunks, and deer all delight in this unexpected feast!

Thank you all for visiting today--so sorry for the long time between posts. I went through some dreadful oral surgery last week and now appear to have hurt my left foot. I dropped something on it and it is swollen and painful when I walk. Boy, it's just been one thing after another since I turned 60! I hope this isn't a sign of things to come... I'm actually heading up to New York to visit my mom tomorrow--after the month I've had I need a big, big hug from her. There's just something about mom's hugs that takes away the pain even at my age! Anyway, thank you for your very kind comments and I hope the rest of September brings you much to smile about. Bye for now...

Friday, August 21, 2015

Late summer finishes

Ten more days left until September... Where did our summer go? I heard the summer of 2015 described as "The Tale of Two Summers" yesterday on a local news program--a perfect description of the season here in western Pennsylvania. Until mid-July, we had nothing but rain, rain, rain--over 10 inches! But since that time we've had nothing but sun and humidity with just a bit over 2 inches of rain. Things are drying out quickly here and it's looking like late fall--the yards are all turning brown as many of the leaves are crinkling up and falling way before their time. The big tulip tree outside of our kitchen window has dropped so many leaves, we actually need to go find our rakes and get busy!

In many ways, I look at this as "our lost summer," due to my husband's broken neck and all the things that we never got to: the paint can that sits, unopened, in a bedroom we intended to renovate, the mulchless garden beds, the many weeds popping up in places I've never seen. But, thankfully, things will return to normal next summer as my husband's neck is healing beautifully. He still has to wear the neck brace when he drives and has the problem with numbness in his fingers, but he can deal with those issues... Thank you, again, for all your prayers and well-wishes--we will feel forever blessed that he had the outcome he did!

With the busyness of our family weddings and all the cookies I made, I have had little time to stitch, but I do have a few late summer finishes to share with you today. Of all the seasons, I have the fewest things stitched for summer, so, in an attempt to help remedy that, I stitched this peaceful harbor scene from Prairie Schooler's "Weather Wise" (Book No. 145). It is stitched on 40 ct. white Newcastle with the suggested DMC threads.

I found a perfect fabric which mimics the flying birds (or, I suppose, the design could be interpreted as waves) in a Moda charm pack that I had purchased called "Lakeside Gatherings." I just love purchasing charm packs to use in my finishing and this gray fabric didn't disappoint. The only bad thing about charm pack cuts is that they usually aren't big enough to cover the back of the pillow or ornament--I use them more for little accent pieces. Luckily, I came across this lighter gray fabric that has what look like bubbles on it and I am so pleased with how it turned out. I was inspired by my sister's wedding invitation, which had a nautical theme, to make a reef knot (commonly known as a square knot) for the front of the pillow and I was really excited to see that it "tied up" this finish quite nicely!

Drawn Thread is another of my favorite cross stitch designers due to, not only her beautiful designs, but also the use of specialty stitches which add so much to a finish. This one is "Free and Brave" and is stitched on 36 ct. summer khaki linen. I used the suggested overdyed threads, but substituted the suggested green with Needle Necessities 142. Isn't it pretty? I truly love everything about this one from the patriotic colors to the sweet birds to the winding vine.

I really struggled with the specialty-stitched red flowers! Yikes--I must have ripped them out three or four times before I got them to look acceptable. But they, along with the Rhodes heart and the satin-stitched leaves help make this design even more special. I plan on framing this one and am thinking a rustic looking black frame would be nice. Here is a closer look of the specialty stitches for you:

The Prairie Schooler Santa Sunday SAL that I had been doing with Melissa in Canada and Hilda in Austria has fallen by the wayside this summer. We just don't seem to have any free time on Sundays to stitch! I did finish up a fourth Santa, though, way back in May which I had forgotten to show you. This one is from Prairie Schooler's "Old World Santas" (Book No. 80) and is stitched on 40 ct. raw natural Newcastle.  

And here is a shot of the four I have stitched this year for February, March, April, and May. Melissa, Hilda, and I hope to get back on track and resume our Sunday Santa SAL this fall. I don't know when I'll have time to finish these guys into ornaments, but I'm determined to have them hanging on my Christmas tree in December! Which is your favorite?

I had admired a beautiful finish on Marie's blog and she kindly offered to send me the chart. I just love all the little motifs and I can't wait to stitch it. Just look at how beautifully Marie's finish turned out! Wow!! Thank you so much, my friend--I will certainly pass along the chart to another stitcher when I am done and keep the kindness going...

And all the way from France came a surprise package from my friend, Nathalie (no blog). She stitched me this darling patriotic ornament and included a lovely French cross stitch magazine along with some sweet treats. You spoiled me, Nathalie! Thank you so much for your beautiful package and your friendship...

I've been busy preparing my dinner for our upcoming trip to the beach in Corolla, NC. Each family takes one night to cook and I always make lasagna ahead of time. This time I made 2 1/2 large pans of it along with 3 dozen meatballs, and an assortment of cookies (yes, more cookies!!) to take down. I freeze everything and then by the time we arrive at the beach it is mostly thawed and ready to heat up for an easy dinner... just have to make a salad, garlic bread, and dessert. Everyone prepares such yummy meals--we eat very well on this trip, let me tell you! The hard part is juggling the timing and serving 24 people when I am only used to our small family. Wish me luck...

Changes... I have been in the same job as a librarian at the same library, for my entire career. I'm coming up on almost 28 years there (having taken 10 years off when my sons were young). But these days, it's rare to find a young person staying in the same job for his or her entire career. My youngest son recently made the decision to leave his job at the Department of Justice to go study abroad in Argentina. He leaves in September and will return to the U.S. in December. It was a hard decision as he truly loved (most parts!) of his job, but he, as part of his studies for his Master's Degree in International Affairs, wanted to better his Spanish speaking ability and decided that to be immersed in a Spanish-speaking culture and take classes at the The Universidad Torcuato Di Tella would be his best bet. I am, as a mother, both nervous and excited for him... Argentina is so, so far away. We are thinking of trying to visit him in late fall. Have any of you ever been there? I hope this new chapter of his life is fulfilling in every way...

Well, that's about it for today... I thank you for your kind comments and lovely emails as always and I hope what remains of the summer is enjoyable in every way! Thanks for visiting. Bye for now...

Thursday, July 30, 2015

And a good month was had by all!

It's hard to believe that almost a month has passed since my last post! July is always our busiest month of the year with two family birthdays (my youngest son turned 27 and my husband celebrated his 60th--he finally caught up with me!) and our wedding anniversary (38 years on July 23rd). But, this July we had a big family wedding thrown in as well--my younger sister was married on July 25th up in New York. All were very happy occasions--but the happiest day of all? That came this Tuesday, when, after 10 weeks of wearing a hot, uncomfortable neck brace after he suffered his broken neck, the doctor told my husband he no longer needs to wear it except when he is in the car! We feel so incredibly blessed that that potentially crippling fall down our front stairs left him with only one lingering injury... The numb / tingly feeling in his fingers on his right hand has never improved since his accident on May 21st. Luckily, that does not affect his ability to use his hand--it is just a slight lack of feeling (for instance, he can't feel the little nubby bumps on the "F" and the "J" on the computer keyboard). So, we truly had some grand things to celebrate in July, don't you think?

In between all of these celebrations, I actually have found time to stitch a bit. Having fallen way behind on my monthly Christmas ornaments, I decided to concentrate on them and got all caught up (of course, since August begins soon, I will be behind again--oh well!). My choice for my May ornament was an obvious one--it had to be an angel, for I truly believe my husband had an angel on his shoulder as he fell down our stairs that night. This little LHN design "Joy to the World" had been in my stash forever so I decided she would get the honor of being my husband's angel.

For this ornament, I used 40 ct. gray Newcastle and good old DMC threads. Ivory colored Mill Hill Beads were used for the snow. The fabric shown behind the ornament is used as the backing and the green and cream gingham ribbon is ruched and used as the trim and hanger. A simple finish for a very special little angel!

Little House Needleworks: "Joy to the World"

My June ornament is another LHN design called "Deer Valley Inn." I was a bit unsure about this piece as there was so much brown in it (not a fan of stitching with brown threads!), but I do love the way it turned out.  I used a mixture of the suggested threads--both overdyed and DMC--and a few of my own choosing with 40 ct. raw natural Newcastle for this finish. The main change was the color of the door--I changed it from brown to red! I especially love the pretty tree in this one and the regal looking buck standing beside it.

The ornament was made up with a combination of two fabrics, some ivory ric rac, and an old-fashioned gingham ribbon. This is actually one of my favorite ornament finishes ever! The colors in the stitching and the finishing fabrics just came together so nicely--don't you love it when that happens?

Little House Needleworks:  "Deer Valley Inn"

And finally, my ornament for July is a tribute to my favorite designer: Prairie Schooler. I, like many of you, feel so sad that they are retiring, but luckily I have accumulated a wonderful stash of their old charts which will last me well into my 80s (do you think I'll be able to even thread a needle by then?!). I've written, many times, of the comfort these designs bring me when I stitch them--and, of course, anything with a small boy always captures my heart...

The chart for this small lad bringing home his Christmas tree, along with a sprig of holly, is from Prairie Schooler Book No. 143 "Button Up." I used most of the suggested colors, but changed the green to DMC 520. Two red fabrics and two buttons, along with some handmade gold cording finish this one off quite well.

Prairie Schooler's "Button Up" finish

Here is a photo of all three together... do you have a favorite? It's so hard to believe that Christmas is in just five short months, isn't it? At least my tree will look good!

Finished Christmas ornaments for May, June, and July
I also had a wonderful surprise earlier this month when I received this beautiful Chessie & Me chart from sweet Maggee. I had written in a previous posts about how much I loved Linda's designs and the specialty stitches that she uses so Maggee immediately thought of me when she was de-stashing and sent "The Breath of Autumn" my way. I just love it, Maggee--thank you so much for thinking of me. I can't wait to stitch it!

Random Act of Kindness sent from Maggee

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, my next younger sister got married last week. It was a lovely, casual wedding held at her home on the shores of Lake Ontario. We held our breath as the rain fell that morning, but it passed by the time the late afternoon ceremony was held and it couldn't have been nicer. Since my sister and her husband had been married previously, they didn't want any wedding presents, but suggested a gift to our favorite charity (I gave to the Lewy Body Dementia Association in memory of our dad). They also welcomed what they called "gifts from the heart." So, we all pitched in: my youngest sister acted as the official photographer, my mom purchased the flowers, my brother-in-law made the music playlist for her wedding reception, and I made the cookies--of course!

I've written before on my blog about the popularity of the cookie table at weddings here in western Pennsylvania (you can read that post here, if you're interested). I ended up making eleven kinds of cookies (35 dozen, if you're counting!) for the wedding and here they are all displayed on the dessert table. What kind do you think was gobbled up first? Well, it was the Reese's Cup Cookies shown second from the left in the front row. Most of them were devoured before dinner even started! I've used a recipe very similar to this one for years (I just use 1/2 tsp. of vanilla, though, and roll the dough balls in sugar before setting them in the muffin pans).

35 dozen bites of sugar and butter!

Since the wedding had a nautical theme, I made these cute blue and white cards with the cookie names on them. They added a nice touch and pulled the whole look together on the cookie table at the recption. My sister said they were a big hit although I didn't eat a single one--after weeks and weeks of baking (and tasting!), they just no longer appealed to me!

Since there were the five of us from my family (plus two girlfriends) attending the wedding, you can imagine what it would have cost us in hotel room fees! Luckily, my sister came to the rescue and gave us the use of her whole house (since she was staying at her lake house) for those days. It was so nice to be able to relax and spend time together while not having to go out for every meal. I wanted to find some way to thank her so I made her a gift card bouquet... Have you seen these on Pinterest? You simply cut out some flowers printed on cardstock, glue them onto skewers, and then glue another piece of cardstock on the back to hold the gift card. I chose to write little words of appreciation on the flower heads.

Then you simply place the skewers into a pretty purchased flowering plant and voilà... you have an easy, fun thank you gift. My sister was just thrilled with it and immediately called to tell me so. It really was the least we could do for her for opening her home to the seven of us...

Gift card bouquet for my dear sister and new brother-in-law

Whew! And so ends my busy month of July--in looking at August, things won't be slowing down much. We have yet another family wedding up in New York (with more cookies to be made, but not nearly that many!), extra work hours for me, and our annual family trip to the Outer Banks. It will be a different kind of trip for my husband this year as he is not allowed to boogie board or be in any waves that may hurt his neck. He is also not allowed to ride his bike which has been the cruelest form of torture for him throughout his recovery. Riding a bike for him is what stitching is to me--a passion and something that he can hardly bear to do without. He is hoping the doctor gives him the okay to return to biking in September; I am hoping it's not until next Spring. The thought of him falling and injuring himself again just scares me to death. But, you can't simply stop doing the things that bring you so much joy, can you?

Thanks so very much for your kind comments and emails--especially throughout my husband's fall and recovery. I can't tell you how much your supportive words, positive thoughts, and prayers meant--to both of us. It truly is a miracle, in our opinion, that he will be okay--not perfect, but perfectly "good enough!" Bye for now...

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Heartfelt thanks and patriotic finishes

Happy July, my stitching friends!  Can you believe 2015 is half over? Before I show you my stitching finishes, I just want to send each of you a huge "Thank You" for your many comforting emails and thoughtful comments on my last post. They meant so much to me--and to my husband. When he first broke his neck on May 21st, he didn't want me to post about it on my blog. But, I explained to him that I need support from my friends as we go through this recovery period, just as much as he needs support. And I couldn't ask for better friends than all of you who read my blog, could I? Even though I've never met 98% of you, I feel so very close to you--we've been through a lot together since I began my blog in early 2009. We've celebrated each other's success--not only in our stitching, but in our lives. And we've been saddened by losses of each other's family members and worrying health challenges. But, through all the ups and downs of life, your kind and thoughtful words have continued to mean so much to me. Thank you, my friends...

Since this is still mainly a cross stitching blog, I want to begin with two new finishes just in time for the 4th of July. Many of you know how much I love Chessie and Me designs because of the fun specialty stitches the designer includes in each chart. The grass is satin stitched, the border is done with Smyrna stitches, and the doors are done in Rhodes stitches. There is even some "over one" stitching in the ship and the date! This came in the form of a kit which was so very handy--I loved being able to just sit down and get started right away and not wait for the correct fibers or fabric to arrive if I had had to order them online.

This finish is called "1776 Harbor" and is stitched all in Gloriana silks--just wonderful and soft to work with! Don't you love the giant American flag waving across the harbor--so whimsical... I finished this piece quite simply as a little pillow with some star-strewn burgundy fabric, handmade gold cording, and an attached star button. It will be a perfect addition to my bowl of patriotic pillows, don't you think?

Chessie and Me "1776 Harbor" finish

Along with Prairie Schooler pieces, I consider Little House Needleworks designs to be my favorite form of "comfort stitching." Easy to read charts, no backstitching, not too many colors--just what I need as I go through the worries with my husband's health this summer... I bought this LHN "Old Glory" design last summer, but am just getting around to stitching it now. It is done on 40 ct. raw Newcastle with a variety of overdyed threads. I didn't have each one that was suggested, so I substituted a few and am very pleased with the result.

For this little pillow, I used a blue star-filled fabric along with some burgundy fabric, white ric rak, a red and white striped ribbon, and a stack of buttons. It is backed with the solid blue fabric shown behind it. This photo isn't the best due to our complete lack of sunshine lately, but it really looks quite cute!

LHN "Old Glory" finish

Since I try to stitch at least two new patriotic pieces each year, I now have quite a collection--in fact it has outgrown my original bowl. Here it is when I took the photo last year--see, already "bursting at the seams" so to speak!

So, I've had to spread out my little creations and luckily, my new kitchen corner cupboard is the perfect place to display some of them.  Here it is all ready for the 4th of July in all of its red, white, and blue glory...

Patriotic corner cupboard in kitchen

On the top shelf, I have my two little Lizzie High characters proudly waving their pinwheels. In their opposite hands they are holding tiny hotdogs--so cute! Next to the little boy, I've place a tiny crock of blueberries (thanks, Mom!).

The middle shelf contains several pieces of my stitching: Chessie and Me's "Love Liberty," a Prairie Schooler design from Book No. 13, "A Prairie Year," and an old freebie from Prairie Grove Peddler which you can still find right here.

And the on the bottom, you'll find this cute Williraye figurine holding an American eagle and nest in his right hand and waving the flag in his left hand. Next to him is another freebie from The Stitcherhood that I stitched last year. This freebie is still available right here. As always, I'd like to thank the designers for sharing their talents with us through their generous free designs! And way over on the right sitting in the little blue bowl is an old patriotic design from Homespun Elegance.

Here's one last look at the whole display. It's really brightened up the corner of my kitchen and I plan to leave the patriotic shelves up through late August when I'll switch things up for a more autumn look. 

Hooray for the red, white, and blue!

Gifts from a new friend... I've made a special new blogging friend named Shirley who just happens to reside way across the ocean in Cape Town, South Africa! Shirley just began a new blog called The Artfull Place and I hope you'll go say "hello" and welcome her to our blogging community. She is so multi-talented and she sent me this darling Christmas ornament and hand-painted tag. I told her the tag will be a part of my annual spring display on my corner cupboard--it is just so sweet. 

Gifts from Shirley, in South Africa

Here is a close-up of the little tag so you can see the marvelous detail. Shirley has just started her own Etsy shop and you can read all the details on her blog. Thank you again, my new friend--I will treasure your gifts!

Gift tag painted by Shirley

Medical update... Well, I had hoped to have better news for you regarding my husband's broken neck. He had an appointment yesterday and the hoped-for switch from the hard neck-brace to the soft collar didn't happen. The surgeon wants to keep him in the hard brace for at least another month to make sure the vertebrae that aren't quite aligned have not shifted. As I mentioned in my last post, there is no way to tell if this misalignment is something my husband was born with or if it happened after his fall down the stairs in May. So, unfortunately, surgery has not been totally ruled out as we previously thought...

Our spirits were flagging yesterday after the doctor's visit, but there is nothing we can do except try to be patient, wait, hope and pray. I've been having a lot of trouble sleeping lately as I just keep ruminating about that night six weeks ago when my husband fell down the stairs. I sure hope this passes soon as insomnia can really take a toll on your health over time... Anyway, keep praying and thinking positive thoughts, please; we're not out of the woods yet!

I'd like to leave on a cheerier note so I'm share this very addicting recipe for granola that I've gotten "hooked" on. They sell a treat called "Kimberley's Bakeshoppe Granola" at Sam's Club and I made the mistake of buying it one day. Oh, my!! Amazingly delicious and just filled with everything I love--lots of nuts, grains, and dried fruits. I stumbled upon a recipe online for a copycat recipe from Yammie's Noshery which you can find right here. It is fabulous--but addicting (don't say I didn't warn you!!). Hope you enjoy making (and eating!) it along with your other picnic foods this 4th of July weekend...

I dare you to eat just one bite of this tasty granola!

Wishing all of my U.S. friends a fabulous Independence Day! Thanks again for your kind comments and supportive emails--they mean so much to me. Bye for now...