14 January 2020

Sneaking up on the New Year

Breaking news: I'm back and I have a finish. I repeat: I'm back and I have a finish. 

Happy New Year, everybody! Grab your favorite hot beverage and snuggle down because we have a lot to catch up on!

I've finally emerged from the fog that was December. I didn't bounce back from the strep throat (and the trip) as quickly as I'd hoped. If it had been one or the other I think I would have, but both at the same time knocked me out for a while. This beautiful little design shouldn't have taken as long as it did, but I just poked at it now and then when I felt like it so it took a few weeks. Believe in Magic is available in this Etsy shop. I stayed pretty close to the suggested colors, except I swapped out the blue for GAST Weathered Barn. This is stitched on 28 ct. PTP Wren with GAST: Oatmeal, Baked Clay, Weathered Barn, Maple Syrup, and Wood Trail, and Weeks Garrison Green. More subdued than my usual color choices, but I like it. It's peaceful and quiet.

My 2019 blog book arrived last week! This is one of my cherished New Year traditions, having the previous year's posts turned into a book. I use Blog2Print and have always had excellent results. They often have great discount codes on Facebook and Twitter, so if you decide to have a book made, make sure to take advantage of those.

New fabric ALERT! This gorgeous grey fabric is new from Zweigart. It's called Basalt Splash and is available at 123 Stitch. I ordered a small piece back in early December just to get a good look at it and liked it so much I ordered (and just received) a larger piece. It's a bit darker and not quite as blue as this photo. I'd say it's a bit more bluish than DMC 04 but not quite as bluish as DMC 414. A nice, dark grey. Lovely color. Already have a project chosen for it.

Wee fabric bundles from my LNS. It's like choosing chocolates from a candy box!

It's been years since I've bought a regular issue of JCS magazine, but the February issue has a few winter projects that caught my eye. I have plans for this one!

I'm knee-deep in winter stitching--or about to be--but I couldn't resist this little spring sheep and all his lovely green shamrocks. I have no power to resist green fabrics and threads.

My Christmas treat for myself was a couple of new Russian kits from this Etsy shop. It's a rare treat indeed because the shipping will make your eyes water (though the kits themselves are often less expensive than American kits), but I have ways to justify it! (Let me know if you need reasons!) I've raved about my love for Russian kits before, and at length. For my taste, there's just nothing in the American market that compares right now. The designs are beautiful, colorful, and detailed. The kits are well-made with huge charts. And there are oodles of them available on Etsy. The one on the right is a particular favorite. New Year designs are few and far between and I just love this one.

Everybody knows about the devastating brushfires Australia is battling. But you may not know that there's a growing list of designers and shops working to raise donations for relief efforts. The fund raising efforts vary, from designs like this one that are free, with the shop making a donation for each stitched finish, to designs offered for sale, with the proceeds going to fire relief. I've chosen to stitch this one first. Once finished, you simply share a photo of your finish with the shop--via email, Facebook, Instagram--by 29 February, and they'll make a donation. 

Here are a few more fire relief efforts from designers/shops:

Links to three designs here 

Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery

Heaven and Earth Designs (only available until 13 February)


The Little Stitcher

Tiger Lily breezed through her trip to Texas and had a lovely Christmas with a fat stocking. Santa brought her a pretty new orange collar, with glow-in-the-dark snowflakes!

So that gets us all caught up on the stitchy happenings at my house. Hope your new year is off to a safe and peaceful start. Many prayers being offered on behalf of our Aussie friends. Mr. Wonderful has served with Aussies and has nothing but good to say about them. I wish we could send y'all some of our snow and ice.

Happy Stitching, all! (And don't forget to stitch a koala or two!)

26 December 2019

It's the most wonderful week of the year!

It's Stitchy Planning Week! Long-time readers are nodding their heads, new readers are wondering what all the fuss is about. If you need to catch up on this most wonderful tradition of mine, you can check out this post and this one. It's that time of year when I take a whole week to wallow in my stash and plan for the next year's stitching. It's so fun. It's only  the first day, so I haven't plunged headfirst into my stash yet, but I do have a few ideas for next year that I've been chewing on for a while.

I'm feeling the need to snuggle down and do some wintry stitches early in the year. Not Christmas, but winter. I love winter, but my stitching focus always seems to be Christmas, and I did Christmas ornaments all year this year. So winter it is. I've got a couple more small Christmas projects I'd like to finish up before the New Year first, though. I did manage to get my 2019 ornament stitched, and hope to get it finished this week. This is from the 2019 Just Cross Stitch Christmas Ornament issue. I stayed close to the original thread colors, but swapped them out for DMC Etoile so it would be really sparkly. The fabric is sparkly, too.

I also haven't stitched any Halloween in a very long time, and I've got a backlog of cute designs that need attention. Halloween here in our new neighborhood is a big deal and we had such a nice evening with oodles of little trick-or-treaters, it really made me want to do some new Halloween projects. So I hit upon a theme for my summer stitching: Summer of Halloween! Just Halloween, all summer. I think that'll be fun. I spend all summer looking forward to fall anyway! Mr. Wonderful knew I was planning this, and made sure there were a handful of beautiful fallish threads in my Christmas stocking!

I think I'll also finally tackle my dream project, Russian Hunt. If you've been here for a while, you'll remember this project that was supposed to be a New Year start a couple of years ago (here are a few posts about it). I ran into a couple of delays and never got going on it, but I'd like to take another run at it. 

So those are a few of my ideas for next year, and I'm sure I'll be adding to them as the week goes on. If you'd like to begin a Stitchy Planning Week tradition of your own but think there's no way you can manage to take a week during the holidays for it, don't think you can't do it at all. Keep in mind: 1) it doesn't have to be a whole week, and 2) it doesn't have to be during the holidays. Adapt it to whatever you need it to be. If January is much slower for you, do it in January. If summers are better, do it in the summer. Do it for your birthday. If a week is too long, make it a Stitchy Planning Weekend. It's so much fun to drag out all your stash and play with it and plan projects. Make it a tradition just for you. 

I'm off to spend the week in my sewing room! Stay tuned for SPW updates!

23 December 2019

Back From Texas

We hadn't been home to Texas in 3 1/2 years, and this was our fourth attempt to get down there since we moved back in April. Such is military life. We finally made it home.

We brought back a box of groceries--because as y'all know, they don't have groceries where we live. Mr. Wonderful brought home 9 (n-i-n-e) jars of salsa. Everything we got (besides his favorite coffee) is spicy. Everything. (*waves at fellow Texans)

Yes, those are pickles--the best pickles in the whole world. Even Mr. Wonderful, who is not a fan of pickles, likes these. 

It's a 15-hour drive one way, and we do it in one day. Tough, but not impossible. I came down with strep throat about halfway through our visit, but I was able to see a doctor and get some antibiotics so the trip back home wasn't too bad. Now we're in recovery mode (me, literally) and hoping for a restful Christmas.

13 December 2019

A Custom Christmas: George & Martha, Red & Green Conversion

Welcome back for the Grand Finale of A Custom Christmas! Here it is, the design that sparked an idea and started it all! I have wanted to stitch this lovely freebie (click on the tiny picture of George and Martha) by Brooke Nolan for so long, but I knew I wanted to do a color conversion and that it would be rather involved. So I put it off and put it off, and years went by. But I finally got it done and I couldn't be more thrilled with the results!

Oddly enough, I've spent all week sharing my departures from traditional Christmas colors--a pink Mrs. Claus, brown Christmas trees, a blue Santa--but today I'm sharing a conversion to traditional colors. As lovely as the pink and blue original is, I've only ever seen this design in my head as red and green. It's stitched on 28 ct. Vintage Country Mocha with DMC and one shade of DMC Etoile.

Here are the details of my George & Martha, Red & Green conversion. Please forgive the handwritten notes. There was no way I was going to be able to type the chart symbols as accurately as I could write them. (chart symbol followed by my DMC choice in parenthesis)

I am a lemon fanatic, and I know a lot of y'all share this passion. It's pretty hard to get something too lemony for me, and it's not unusual for me to be disappointed in trying new lemon-flavored recipes that just don't have enough lovely lemon flavor. This is not one of those recipes. These sandwich cookies, filled with fresh lemon curd, have a wonderful, bright lemon flavor that's a nice change from the usual Christmas flavors. And though sandwich cookies don't sound like they fit with my "quick and easy" theme, they do: we're using sugar cookie mix and a super easy microwave lemon curd recipe! 

Lemon Snow Bites

1 (17.5 oz.) package sugar cookie mix
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
zest of one lemon
2/3 c. lemon curd*
2/3 c. Cool Whip, thawed
powdered sugar

Prepare cookie mix according to package directions, adding lemon juice and lemon zest to mixture. Cover and chill dough about 30 minutes. Shape dough into 1" balls and place 2" apart on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets. Bake at 375 for 7-9 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are lightly browned. Cool on cookie sheets for 1 minute, then remove to racks to cool.

For filling, stir together lemon curd and Cool Whip. Place a rounded teaspoonful on bottom side of half the cookies, and top with the remaining cookies, bottom side down. Press together lightly and sprinkle tops with powdered sugar. Store in the fridge. Yield: about 2 dozen.
*Lemon curd. Make your own, using this recipe. Yes, I know you can buy it in the store, but this is so much better and it's quick and easy and you will be glad you did.

We've come to the end of my 6th annual Christmas Open House. Thank you for coming! I'm so glad you stopped by, and I do so appreciate all the kind comments. I hope I've been able to spread some Christmas cheer, and share some recipes you'll enjoy, and maybe even inspire you to look at Christmas designs with different eyes. Not everything has to be red and green... although George and Martha did! I hope this blog is for you what it is for me: a happy, quiet, safe, creative place to snuggle down into the joys of stitching--and Christmas. From our home to yours, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Oh, one more thing! I've already chosen the theme for my 7th annual Christmas Open House! There will be much adorableness... I can't wait!

12 December 2019

A Custom Christmas: Time for Tea, Winter Conversion

When I saw this cute little design, my mind started spinning with ideas for conversions. I went back and forth for quite a while, trying to decide whether I wanted to do a Christmas conversion, or a more general winter conversion. I finally settled on a winter conversion that I could display for several months, instead of just at Christmas. 

Here's my winter take on Time for Tea by Country Cottage Needleworks!

I stitched this design on 28 ct. Twilight/silver evenweave from Fabric Flair, available at 123 Stitch, using DMC and DMC Etoile. The snowflakes are tiny buttons with the shank clipped off. For the berries, I simply rounded the corners of the blossoms (see the second picture) and I replaced the center roses with leaves. Ta-da! It's winter time!

My winter conversion details:

words, berries, dots on teacups: DMC Etoile C816
branches: DMC Etoile C3799
leaves, borders on teacups: DMC Etoile C318
teacups: DMC Blanc
steam: DMC Etoile C415

For years and years I searched for a spicy chicken soup recipe, after that glorious concoction saved me during a bout with pneumonia. It was made for me and delivered and I never got the recipe. Last year I stumbled across a good base recipe and fiddled with it just a bit. I call this Emergency Chicken Soup, for a couple reasons, and there are three versions of it, or I should say, three heat levels. It's emergency soup because you can keep all the ingredients on-hand all the time (everything is frozen), and because you can put this together while you're sick. Yes. If you can drag yourself to the kitchen and function for about 10 minutes, you can make soup. Also great if you're taking care of someone and have your hands full, and you don't have the time or energy to stand in the kitchen chopping ingredients to make homemade chicken soup. Also great if you just want to throw some stuff in a crockpot and go stitch. Needing to stitch can be an emergency, too.

Emergency Chicken Soup
Heat level: you probably want to start (and stay) here

2 c. frozen cooked & diced chicken
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables
1/2 c. frozen onions
4 oz. can chopped green chilies
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. cumin
2 dried bay leaves
2 Tbsp. chicken powder
8 c. water

Add all ingredients to slow cooker and cook on high 2-3 hours.

Version #2, heat level: spicy, but not fatal
*increase red pepper flakes to 1/2 tsp.
*add 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Version #3, heat level: have your affairs in order
*1 tsp. red pepper flakes
*1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
*1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Version #3 is the way I first tried this recipe. It is delicious, but it will take the hide off your mouth. Through trial and error, I finally ended up at version #1 for my go-to recipe, but it's great to finally have a recipe for a spicy chicken soup for when my quadrennial cold rolls around.

Come on back tomorrow for the Grand Finale of A Custom Christmas! You'll want to see this one!