Monday, July 24, 2017

Bits of blue and big celebrations!

Hello, everyone! Another one-post month, I'm afraid, unless I can get another one up within the next week and that isn't looking very likely at this point. But, I do have a good excuse... July is our busiest family month for celebrations! Every family seems to have one--you know, the month that is filled with birthdays, anniversaries, etc. What is yours?

I do have a couple of stitching finishes to share with you and another non-stitchy project that I finally finished. This is "Summer" from Little House Needleworks stitched over one on 28 ct. white evenweave. As you can see, I finished this one the same way as I did the "Spring" LHN monochrome piece (which you can see right here). I hope to do Fall and Winter in the same series this year, too.

Little House Needleworks "Summer"

Aren't the blues in this lovely? I used the prettiest silk thread from Hand Dyed Fibers (no longer selling silks, unfortunately) called "Rubbed Navy." I found a coordinating checked fabric (another old shirt from one of my sons) which worked perfectly for the background. A simple jute ribbon and pair of buttons completes the piece. For this type of finish, I simply apply a piece of felt to the back--very quick and easy!

I never get tired of blue!

And I finished another ornament--this one is for April (yes, April, she said as she hung her head in shame).  I actually have all of my Christmas ornaments stitched through July, just haven't had any desire to finish them for some reason. I had to force myself to get this one done yesterday! This Prairie Schooler Santa is from Book No. 58 called "Old St. Nick." I used the called for DMC colors on 40 ct. raw natural Newcastle, but did change his beard to DMC 3865.

A new blue-robed Santa for my tree

I have really come to love finishing this series in an oval shape so that is what I went with once again.  Matching blue handmade cording and a snippet of fabric (the same fabric that I used for the backing) finish him off quite nicely, don't you think?

Prairie Schooler Santa from "Old St. Nick (Book No.58)

I met up with my friend, Lee, for lunch last week and she surprised me with this project pouch! Isn't it gorgeous? She's been experimenting and trying to use up stash and thought this blue and yellow print would be perfect for me. I just love it, Lee--thank you so, so much. And I'm already using it to hold my latest Prairie Schooler project!

Lee made me this gorgeous project pouch!

My non-stitchy project was started way back in November of last year when I picked up these pretty tiles on my very first visit to San Diego. My son and his fiancee took us to a Mexican market and I selected these four blue and white designs with the intention of turning them into coasters. At only $2.00 a piece, they were quite the bargain!

Pretty Mexican tiles

For this project, I simply painted the edges a dark blue (as I didn't want to leave the raw edges showing) and then glued on some cork backing that I found at a local craft store.  And there you have it--some cute new coasters that fit in perfectly with my blue and white kitchen... When my oldest son saw them he jokingly (I hope!) asked if I could make 250 more for his wedding in October!

New coasters all finished up!

Along with some stitching, crafting, and just getting on with my normal every day life--there were some family birthdays to celebrate. And birthdays = cake = baking!! Yay! You know that I love baking almost as much as I love stitching, don't you? I don't get to bake much these days because my sons no longer live at home--and I really miss it (and them!). But, my youngest son did come home for his 29th birthday and he requested a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. So, that's what he got.  I had never made a yellow cake from scratch before, but I found this recipe and it looked so good that I had to try it. And when topped with this frosting--oh, my rich and decadent--a little piece went a long way! I did make 1 1/2 times the amount of frosting to cover the cake completely.

Lots of July birthday baking

My husband celebrated his birthday (he caught up with me as he is 6 months younger!) five days later. So, out came the baking pans once again and I whipped up this carrot cake which my friend Myra posted on her blog several years ago. It is a winner and I've made it many, many times. I cut the recipe in half to make a smaller cake, though. Oh, it is heavenly! Pictured above with the two cakes are some blueberry banana mini-muffins. I used this recipe, but halved it and made muffins instead of bread--they turned out so moist and tasty. That's it for the family birthdays now until December.

But, I do have one more celebration to share with you and it's a big one! Yesterday, July 23, 2017, was our 40th wedding anniversary. It seems like I just blinked and that young 22-year-old couple on the left, newly graduated from college,  morphed into the 62-year-old couple on the right--a bit wrinkly, but still smiling! I'm happy to say that most, if not all of our dreams have come true. Oh, there have been bumps in the road--no marriage is free of those, but I can't imagine sharing this journey with any other man by my side. Our three sons are our greatest blessing and, hopefully (fingers crossed!) we'll be blessed with grandchildren in the not-too-distant future. I am truly thankful...

Then and now! 40 years have flown by!

For our anniversary celebration, we had a quiet dinner overlooking the beautiful Pittsburgh skyline. For those of you who haven't visited this area, the view of Pittsburgh from Mt. Washington is one of the prettiest of any city around. I mean just look at it... those rivers, those bridges, the wonderful hills!

The beauty of Pittsburgh as seen from Mt. Washington

After our seafood dinner, we ordered a very chocolatey dessert and they brought it out on a plate specially decorated for us. We shared this one, but should have ordered one for each of us! Anyway... that was just our little 40th anniversary celebration. The big one is coming this fall when we head to Hawaii--a first for me. I'm counting the days!

A bit of chocolate to top off our anniversary dinner


Insta-versary! July also marked my first anniversary of being on Instagram. I was so reluctant to join, but I can't tell you how glad I've been to be there. It really has been a joy to catch up with former blogging friends and meet so many new stitchers from around the world. It is quick and easy and if some of you are on the fence about it, I strongly encourage you to give it a chance.  My account (if you wish to follow me) is under caroling55 or you can click here!

And, that's my July! Busy and not quite over--we plan to visit our youngest son in DC later this month as we haven't been down in over a year. He is only 4 hours away, too! Just a shame that we don't get there more often. 

I know many of my blogging friends are going through some tough times and my heart goes out to each of you--serious illnesses, deaths of loved one and pets... You know who you are and please know you are in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you all for taking the time to visit me--and an extra thanks to those of you who take the time to say "hello!" Bye for now...

Thursday, June 29, 2017

A lone finish in a month of travel

Well, that was quick! June that is... As I mentioned in my last post, it was going to be a month of traveling for me and my family and I feel like I'm still recovering. Within the time span of three weeks, we drove over 800 miles to and from Connecticut for a nephew's wedding, flew almost 2500 miles to San Diego, California to spend a couple of days with my son and his fiancee before driving over 200 miles north to Santa Barbara for another nephew's wedding. Then we drove 100 miles back to Los Angeles, flew another 2500 miles back to Pittsburgh, and then last week I drove 600 miles to and from New York to visit my mom. And I wonder why I'm so tired! I'm 62 years old and my body just doesn't bounce back like it used to, that's for sure!! But, we enjoyed the weddings so very much--one from each side of the family so there were a lot of laughs and reminiscing. The next time that we'll see all of the relatives will be for a very happy occasion--my oldest son's wedding in October!

So, I hope you'll forgive this post for its lack of stitching. I have been stitching ornaments, but, you know me--I don't like to share them until they are fully finished off. Today, I have just one finish--a patriotic one that I'm so pleased with. You'll recognize it as one I stitched back in 2015: "Free and Brave" designed by The Drawn Thread. I found the red clipboard at Kohl's for only $5.00 (picked up a black one and a gray one, too!) and thought it would come in so handy for displaying future Christmas or Valentine's Day finishes. For the blue fabric on the background, I used an old shirt (not sure which one of the men in my family it belonged to!).

Final finish of "Free and Brave"

I love this design for the wonderful specialty stitches that comprise the leaves and flowers.  I remember really struggling with the flowers as I stitched them, but I'm so happy with the way they turned out. Here is a closer look:

Love those special stitches!

And that beautiful extra-long  American flag waving in the breeze--love it!

And that sweet bird on the roof--so cute!

I'll try my best to finish up some Christmas ornaments to share with you next time. I don't think I've shown any finished ornaments since February! Oh, I am more behind than I thought I was with my monthly ornament challenge...  Sigh... Just one of those crazy, busy years!

GIVEAWAY WINNER:  I had a number of entries for the little patriotic chart so I pulled a winner from the hat and the name chosen was:


Congratulations to Mary! Please send me your mailing address and I'll get the chart off to you as soon as possible. It's probably too late to stitch it for this 4th of July, but you'll have it done by the next July 4th in plenty of time!  And, if you didn't win this giveaway--don't worry! I'll be having more in the future. I'm so happy these old charts are going to my stitching friends!

Winner of this giveaway chart is:  Mary!

A special present... I wanted to share this sweet gift that my youngest son gave me for Mother's Day. He purchased it when he traveled to Abu Dhabi for work last month and it is just so delightful... filled with all shades of blue and those lovely birds--he knows me well! The wall hanging measures about 2 feet by 3 feet--not sure what fibers it is made of.

Wall hanging all the way from Abu Dhabi!

Here are a couple of close-ups...

Love those colors...

...and those beautiful birds!


I'm not sure where I'm going to hang it yet--perhaps at the top of my stairs or at the end of my kitchen. Or perhaps I'll use it as the starting point when I re-decorate one of the boys' old bedrooms? I have to think about it for a while still--it is so beautiful that it needs to be showcased somehow.

My son's trip to Abu Dhabi was his first and he was so impressed with the splendor of the architecture and beauty of the city. I was a bit worried about him being there, but he said he felt extremely safe.  Here are a few photos he sent us--not sure that it will ever be a place I'll travel to, but never say never. I'm sure he never dreamed that he would be there either!

Abu Dhabi photos taken by my youngest son

As I mentioned, we were in southern California earlier in June and we just had to take advantage of the ever present sunny blue skies and get outside. We went on two hikes--the first one was in Mission Trails Regional Park. Hiking out there is very different than in western Pennsylvania--it is more desert like; we are used to forests of green trees and moss covered rocks! But, we still managed to spy some lovely wildflowers and even one small cactus.

Desert flowers in Mission Trails Regional Park

A couple more lovely scenes we came across...

Old Mission Dam

Some of the rugged terrain at Mission Trails

We also drove up to Mt. Soledad Veteran's Memorial to enjoy the spectacular views of the La Jolla coastline... Wow! What a sight!

The La Jolla coastline in the distance

At the top of the mountain is a war memorial and a huge cross which was the subject of much controversy (dealing with separation of church and state.) But, in 2015 a private group purchased the land under the cross and the case was dismissed as the cross is no longer on public lands.

Mt. Soledad Veteran's Memorial

We took one other hike to the Gaviota Wind Caves in the Santa Ynez Mountains west of Santa Barbara. It had to be one of the hardest hikes I've ever done as it was very steep with lots of loose gravel and no shade. On the way down, I spent much of the time crab-walking so I wouldn't fall flat on my back! I didn't do a good job of taking photos as I was too worried about falling (and watching out for mountain lions and snakes!). But, the caves are those two little black things in the upper left of my photo...

Gaviota Wind Caves off in the distance

So, my month of travel has ended and July looks like it will be quite restful. I'm hoping for lots of porch-sitting weather and more beautiful flowers like these purple and blue beauties that have been popping up in our garden... Even though I love to travel, home will always be my favorite place to be. I never get bored with all the books, stitching, and lovely nature scenes that surround me. Right now we have a pair of twin baby deer romping around our pond under the watchful eyes of their mama. I feel most at peace right here at home...

Pansies, clematis, lavender, and hydrangeas--a few of my favorite things!

I'll try to pop in and visit your blogs very soon--I missed all of you while I was gone! Thank you again for your wonderful comments--I love reading each and every one... Take care now and for my U.S. friends--Happy 4th of July! Bye for now...

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A big finish and a tiny giveaway...

Good morning! And how are my stitching friends on this final day of May? Summer has "unofficially" started with the Memorial Day weekend, but it is still feeling rather cool and springlike here--I am longing for those warm 75° days when I don't have to dress in layers and the furnace is no longer coming on in the house! Hopefully, by the next time I post, we will have some true summer weather.

Before I show you my "big" finish, I want to express my thanks for your wonderful comments on my previous post. You were all so sweet with your compliments about my mom's 90th birthday party (and my beautiful mom!). As I told some of you--the smile on her face made all of my hard work worthwhile. She loved reading everyone's comments and wants to thank you all for your kind "Happy Birthday" wishes! Throughout my blogging journey, my mom has been one of my biggest supporters--always reading each post, telling me "that was a good one," and being amazed at,  and interested in, the friends that I have made (from all around the world) as a result of my little old blog... So, thank you--stitching friends are the best!

So, after five months, my "big" (for me!) finish is done--"A Walk In the Woods" was completed last week and I love it more each time I see it.  I began stitching this Cricket Collection design as my "New Year's start" and have worked on it intermittently since then.

"A Walk In the Woods"--all finished up!!

I used 40 ct. flax Newcastle linen with most of the suggested DMC threads for this piece. I did change the dark purple color to a less vibrant 3740 as I thought it looked better with the subdued colors of this sampler. I also made quite a few changes to the letters. Many of them had a straight line running across the tops of the "open" letters like the U, V, X, and Y that closed the letter off and I didn't like that look. So I omitted the lines and redesigned a few of the letters of the alphabet.

Love that little nest!

My biggest change was to the right of the date--there was supposed to be a crown there. What? I know samplers often include crown motifs, but I just didn't understand what it had to do with this sampler. Everything else is nature related so I found a simple bouquet motif in one of my stitching books, changed the colors to blues and purples, embellished it a bit, and voilĂ --I had my final motif! You can get a better glimpse of it in this photo... I thought it looked as though I had walked through the woods and picked a delicate bunch of posies to take home with me!

I added the little bouquet

So, what is your favorite motif on our nature walk? I really love the nest with the lone blue egg, but that border of violas is what first drew me to this design. I am just thrilled with this finish and I am considering sending it to be framed by Jill Rensel. I'm sure it will be quite expensive, but I've long admired the magic Jill does with her frames. Have any of you sent things to her? I just love scrolling through her blog and seeing her work!

Nature's beauty in stitches...

Unfortunately, not much other stitching has been going on. Like a lot of you, this is a busy, busy time for outdoor chores. We've been planting, transplanting, pruning, and mulching in our free time. At times, it feels rather hopeless, because, chances are, the deer will eat what we've planted. But, they usually avoid the geraniums, petunias, and ferns that we chose, so--fingers crossed! Things are looking a bit sparse right now, but I hope to fill in with a few more plants in the coming weeks.

Our patio garden

Ferns seem to love our yard, so we transplanted several to the front of the porch. We've put out the porch furniture since I took the photo below, too--I can hardly wait to sit there and stitch on a warm June day.

Transplanted ferns seem to be loving our front porch!

Just love the bright yellow of these tuberous begonias. Sam's Club was selling these--all potted up with the English Ivy--for only $14.99! Wish I had bought more than two pots...

Floral sunshine
Blue salvia and pink coral bells come back year after year

We've had tons of bunnies (yay!!) visiting our yard and I caught these two playing hide and seek behind the rose bush (which hasn't bloomed yet because the deer keep attacking it!).   Do you see the deer antlers lying on the ground? My husband found them in the woods behind our house last year and placed them in the garden as a sort of decoration (and to ward off the deer--ha ha!). Anyway, I noticed that the antlers seemed to be "melting" and getting smaller and smaller over the past year. Then one day, I spotted a tiny squirrel nibbling away at them! It seems that the antlers provide needed calcium to squirrels, chipmunks, and other rodents and also help sharpen their teeth! Who knew?!

Bunny hide and seek!

Patriotic stitching, anyone? Since many of us are stitching patriotic pieces this time of year, I came across this chart in an old magazine that I thought one of you might like. If you are interested in giving this chart a new home, just let me know in your comments. This is just two pages torn from a magazine--not the whole magazine. If more than one person wants it, I will do a drawing.  PLEASE, PLEASE make sure to include your email in with your comment--I won't be trying to track anyone down if they haven't included their email address... Also, just so you know, I will be folding this up and mailing it in a legal sized envelope to save on postage. I'll announce the winner the next time I post...

I'm having a giveaway for this cute patriotic chart

Lots of traveling will be happening in June as we have back to back family weddings on opposite coasts of the United States. Yep--almost 3000 miles apart! Two different nephews from each side of the family are getting married a week apart and, although I'm looking forward to seeing all the extended family, I'm not looking forward to all that travel. But, after these trips are over, we can relax for the summer--can't wait!

Thank you so much for visiting me today--and a special thanks to all of you who take the time to comment. I do appreciate each and every one! Hope you have a lovely day and manage to fit in at least some stitching time during this busy, busy season. Bye for now...

Thursday, May 18, 2017

You Are So Loved and a Very Special 90th Birthday Celebration!

Hello, hello! And another month is speeding by! We've passed the half-way mark of May--can you believe it? I was so busy getting ready for my mom's 90th birthday party that the past few weeks have simply passed in a blur. It was truly a wonderful celebration and I hope you'll enjoy reading about it in later on in this post. Thank you all so much for your "Happy Birthday" wishes for her--she really appreciated each and every one!

First of all, I'll share the stitching I did for mom's birthday. I thought this little freebie from Snowflower Diaries was the perfect thing to stitch for her on her milestone 90th birthday. As any of you who have stitched this will recognize, I changed it up a bit to fit our family.  The original chart (which can be found here), had only two baby birds with a mama bird. But, our family has four "chicks," so I added two more birds to represent me, my younger brother, and two younger sisters. Of course, that meant adjusting the branches, too--I think it turned out so cute!

Freebie finish of  "You Are So Loved"

I used a peachy salmon-colored fabric (which is not nearly as bright as is showing up in this photo) to pick up the colors of the flowers and edged it with the same color cording. The finish also has a tiny, silver heart hanging from the little falling branch which I added to represent my dad. Although he has been gone over two years, we still feel his love surrounding us each and every day. Mom loved it and was very touched, I'm happy to say. And so happy to finally own a "Carol pillow" of her very own. I've stitched and framed pieces for her before, but had never made a little pillow so she was thrilled!

"You Are So Loved"--all finished up

And for her special birthday/Mother's Day gift she also received the finish that I shared with you last time, "Bluebird Out My Window." I decided to add a black Smyrna stitch  for his eye rather than leaving just the fabric showing and I'm much happier with it. In real life, bluebirds have very dark, beady eyes so he looks more realistic to me with this dark eye. I found the perfect 4" x 6" frame at Marshall's and framed it using the lacing method--a first for me! Here it is--what do you think? I thought this would make a lovely gift for mom because of the word "Home" on it--she has always been the center of our home, no matter how far afield us kids are scattered...

Bluebird Out My Window--framed and ready for its new home

So, on to the big 9-0 party! Oh, it was fun--a lot of work for me, but so rewarding to do this for my dear mother. First, of course, came the invitation. I got my inspiration from Pinterest and created it using a photo of her as a little girl along with a more recent one. Just look at those curls--was she not the cutest little thing? Sort of a brown haired Shirley Temple! (I have covered up the personal information and the dotted lines weren't there in real life).

The invitation that started it all

Next, I created some personalized wrappers for Hershey Miniatures chocolates--because what's a party without chocolate? I simply experimented using Microsoft Publisher until I was able to get the correct size to cover the little bars. These are the designs I came up with...

Personalized candy wrappers in pink and black

I ended up making 125 of them which were scattered down the center of the tables along with sparkly pink and silver sequins. Thankfully, listening to a good audio book (The Women In the Castle) made the wrapping go pretty quickly. I used two pieces of double sided tape--one to hold the paper label to the original candy wrapper and the other to close up the wrapper that I made. Funny side story--at the birthday lunch, my youngest son decided it would be funny to take the wrapper off one of the candy bars and put it on a wrapped butter patty. He kept offering it to other guests as a "special" candy bar and then let them in on the joke before they unwrapped it. After the party, he placed it in the butter dish when he left--wonder what the poor waitress thought when she spied what she thought was chocolate "candy" and then realized it was actually a pat of butter!

125 miniatures all ready to eat!

The chocolates were quickly gobbled up by the party goers, but luckily, I had made mom her very own gift box for later on... For her special box, I added a couple of wrapped bars that said, "Love you Mom!" ♥

Mom's personal box of chocolates

I found these cute photo props on Etsy, downloaded and printed them, and added skewers for holders (using my hot glue gun). To display them, I stuck the skewers in floral foam and covered it with pink packing "peanuts."

Photo props from Etsy

They helped create such fun photos as you can see by the smiles below! That's my mom in the lower right--she truly is "90 and Fabulous!" My youngest and oldest son are at the top left, husband in lower left, two nieces on the left and a good family friend is at the top right. Love them all!

Who are those masked men and women?!

Another idea I spotted on Pinterest was to highlight the birthday girl's year of birth using mason jars filled with flowers. A very simple idea that turned out so cute! I used Columbine from my garden--just loved the rustic look. Another funny story, though... I picked the flowers right before we drove up to New York on Friday. Little did I know that they housed many, many tiny ants which kept crawling out of the flowers and up my legs during the entire trip! My husband even found a couple on the steering wheel as he drove. Glad they weren't bees or something that bites!

1927: A very special year

I placed the mason jars on a table filled with old photos. Everyone enjoyed looking at mom as a child, a college coed, a young bride, and also those of her in her adult years.

The photo table

The party was held in the social room at my mom's senior living center--a perfect size for the 31 guests. I requested that the tables be set up in a "U" shape and thought it worked out so well. Mom and the four of us kids sat at the bottom of the "U" where we could clearly see the guests and they could see us. A buffet lunch consisting of pasta and meatballs, chicken, rolls, veggies (no, I did not eat them--for any of you long-time readers, you know vegetables are just not my thing!) and a green salad. It was prepared by the senior living facility--they have such tasty food!

All ready for a party!

As you can see, there was lots of pink:  polka-dot balloons, linen napkins, and pretty spring  colored flowers. My youngest sister ordered the sweet floral "Happy Birthday" banner you see in the photo below from Etsy. Absolutely loved it!

Pink polka-dot balloons and purple and pink flowers

There was even dancing--well one dance; a very special one featuring mom and my middle son. I just love that photo! Doesn't my mom look fabulous--her smile says it all. And look! There is a very rare photo of me on my blog! And even more rare--I have a dress on and a pink sweater! A miracle! After lunch, the residents of the senior living community all came down and joined us for cake and punch. It was so enjoyable to chat with them and hear the wonderful things they had to say about mom.

My beautiful mom, middle son, and me!

Since the first cake didn't have candles (her facility doesn't allow them--even for birthday cakes!) we wanted to have a second cake later on so she could make a wish and blow out the candles. We ordered a positively decadent chocolate cake--oh, my! D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S! We enjoyed this one when we gathered at my brother's house that evening for pizza and subs. No one was very hungry, but somehow we found room for that cake!

I wonder what she wished for?

I made mom one last gift--a Scrabble themed card/picture. Another Pinterest idea and one that was so perfect for her as we play "Words With Friends" online each night. I had some old Scrabble tiles that had belonged to my grandmother (another avid player) so I used them along with a printed hummingbird and some puffy flowers to create this little picture. 


Whew! So, that is the party round-up. I hope you enjoyed it and found some ideas you can use for your next big family celebration. I told mom I'm going to start planning for her 100th birthday party and she just laughed. But, you never know, do you? She is still so, so sharp--I only hope I inherited her genes... She truly is my best friend--can't imagine how I got so lucky to have her as my mom :)

Thank you all for stopping in to say "hello" today! I appreciate each of your comments so very much. I'm way behind on blog reading and commenting, but hope to catch up today. AND, I really do hope to be back by the end of the month with a BIG finish... I'm working more days than usual, though, so we'll see! Bye for now...