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!

11 December 2019

A Custom Christmas: Wild Blue Yonder (Air Force) Santa

It's about time this house had an Air Force Santa! My dad served nearly 30 years, and Mr. Wonderful has served 16 years and counting. The Air Force has been my whole life. When I saw this freebie I had a dozen ideas for conversions but at the top of the list was an Air Force Santa, and here he is, in all his blue and silver glory!

Three great things about this design: 1) it's free! 2) it uses only a handful of colors so it's easy to do a color conversion, even if you've never done one, and 3) the space between his mittens is exactly an inch (on 14/28 ct. fabric) so you can put anything in his hands as long as it's about an inch wide. The possibilities for this little design are endless. I may do one every year!

Here are the details for my Wild Blue Yonder Santa: (original color--->my choice)

733--->mittens: DMC Etoile C318; border of coat: Petite Treasure Braid, silver
165--->DMC Etoile C415
730--->DMC Etoile C3799
309--->mouth: 3778; coat: 797

I found the Air Force wings pin on Etsy. It's just pinned into the foam core the design is mounted on. I found the trim in the Christmas gift wrap section at Wal-Mart. He's stitched on 28 ct. natural linen with silver, from Fabric Flair, available at 123 Stitch.

Yesterday's soup recipe needs some biscuits, doesn't it? These are perfect with tomato soup!

Cheddar-Garlic Biscuits

4 c. Bisquick
3/4 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/3 c. milk
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. onion powder

Mix ingredients well and drop by 2 tablespoonfuls (I use a small cookie scoop) onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake at 375 for about 11 minutes. Meanwhile, combine:

6 Tbsp. melted butter
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. onion powder
pinch of salt

Brush onto warm biscuits. Using my small cookie scoop yields about 3 dozen.

See y'all tomorrow for Day 4 of A Custom Christmas!

10 December 2019

A Custom Christmas: Mod Christmas Trees, Manly Colors Conversion

Welcome back! Day 2 of this year's Open House features Mr. Wonderful's 2019 Christmas ornament. We choose our ornaments every year from the current issue of Just Cross Stitch Christmas Ornaments, and I always tell him, "Don't let color put you off a design; I can change anything." He likes very traditional Christmas colors, and that's usually what I stitch for him, but when he chose this design, I said, "Do you trust me to do what I want with this?" He did, and I did, and here it is, my Manly Colors conversion!

This design is from the 2019 Just Cross Stitch Christmas Ornaments issue, and you can see the original colors above. I stitched it on 28 ct. Vintage Country Mocha using DMC Etoile threads (the sparkly ones). Be prepared, the next few days are essentially going to be a commercial for this thread, because I used it in everything. It's a bit fussy to get started smoothly, but once it calms down it stitches nicely and the results are beautifully sparkly. The pictures don't do justice to it. This ornament shimmers.

My Manly Colors conversion (original color--->my choice, all DMC Etoile, denoted by the "C" before the number)

large tree:
checkered bottom of tree:

small tree:

trunks of both trees: 3772--->C3371

See how pretty and sparkly?

Since we're talking about Mr. Wonderful's ornament, how about a Mr. Wonderful recipe? He's a dedicated tomato soup fan. In fact, it's really the only soup he will request. Happily, he'll eat whatever I put in front of him (super important quality in a potential husband!), but he's not wild about soup, generally. Except tomato soup.  This recipe is easy and delicious and you can use either fresh or canned tomatoes. In the summer, when you can get gorgeous, luscious tomatoes from your local farm stand, use fresh. It's more labor intensive, but it's worth it. In the winter, might as well use canned. It's still lovely, and it's a lot faster.

Tomato-Basil Soup

6 medium-ish tomatoes, peeled/seeded/diced, or 2-3 cans diced tomatoes
4 c. tomato juice
8-10 leaves of fresh basil, depending on your taste 
1 c. heavy cream (do not substitute half n half or milk... that's an order!)
1/2 c. butter
salt & white pepper to taste

Simmer tomatoes and juice about 30 minutes, add basil and puree. (I use an immersion blender; you can transfer to a blender and then back to the stock pot, but an immersion blender is much easier. If you don't have one, ask Santa!) Over low heat, stir in cream, butter, salt, and pepper. Heat through, but do not boil.

Join me tomorrow for a very special custom Santa!

09 December 2019

A Custom Christmas: Mrs. Claus, Pink Conversion

Welcome, welcome, welcome to my 6th annual Christmas Open House! I am so glad you're here, and I'm so glad I'm here! It's been a challenging year and there were times when I wondered if I would get this done, but I was determined not to let this tradition lapse, and I was too excited about this year's theme to skip it.

Y'all know how much I love color conversions (there's a tab at the top of the page you can check out), and last year while working on A Christmas Tea, I was mugged by an idea, and A Custom Christmas was born. This week I'll be sharing Christmas projects that I've customized to fit Christmas at my house, and as I do every year, I'll also be sharing some of my favorite recipes. This year, I'm focusing on really easy recipes that go together quickly with ingredients it's easy to keep on hand, to leave more time for stitching and relaxing this holiday season. So join me here every day through Friday, bring your favorite hot beverage, and just wallow in Christmas! The kitchen and the sewing room are open!

Without further ado, here she is... my pink Mrs. Claus! This is Spirit of Mrs. Claus by Brooke Nolan and she's available in Brooke's Etsy store.

Here are the details of my pink conversion (original color--->my substitute):

border of dress:

dress (I used Cosmo threads for the dress, but DMC has a couple of pink ranges that are similar):
666--->Cosmo 431 (lightest shade)
321--->Cosmo 432 (medium shade)
815--->Cosmo 433 (darkest shade)



321--->Cosmo 432

cake stitched in ecru and 433

Kreinik #8 braid:

Mill Hill beads:

DMC Memory Thread (roses, details on wings, glasses, braids): white, pink, white luster, silver

I omitted the lazy daisies stitched on the bottom of her dress, as I wanted more of the pink sparkles to show. As I always do, I gave her brown eyes instead of green, and I skipped stitching the puppy. And I changed the cake to white with chocolate frosting because that's Mr. Wonderful's favorite.

I used Cosmo for the dress because I wanted a muted, dusky pink and DMC doesn't have the exact range of pinks I was looking for. The range on the right is close, but richer and has more red. The range on the left is pretty, but much rosier than I wanted. Either would make a lovely pink Mrs. Claus, if you can't get hold of Cosmo threads.

UPDATE: A very helpful update from reader Joanne--she found a reliable online source for Cosmo threads! Thank you so much, Joanne!

And here are instructions for how I finish perforated paper, and my thoughts on the joys of perforated paper, in case you've never worked with it. 

And now for a recipe! As I said at the beginning of this post, this week's recipes are all about quickness and convenience. If you've been reading for a while, you know that I am serious about slowing down the holidays and making them quiet, cozy, and enjoyable. (I rambled at length about this subject a while back: Part 1 and Part 2.) With that in mind, I'm sharing a few of my favorite throw-it-together-and-get-back-to-stitching recipes.

This one is wonderful for breakfast or snack time. Get some bagels (I like the mini ones), toast them, spread this goodness on them, and enjoy. Scrumptious.

Orange Cream Cheese Spread

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 Tbsp. orange juice
1/2 tsp. orange extract
3/4 c. confectioners sugar

Beat cream cheese til fluffy, then beat in orange juice and orange extract. Gradually beat in confectioners sugar. Store in the fridge. Try not to eat it all the first day.

Hope you've enjoyed the first day of this year's Christmas Open House. Come on back tomorrow to see Mr. Wonderful's Christmas ornament for this year!