Friday, November 29, 2013

Christmas Season Greetings!

Lolly, Ty and Bane were all tuckered out after a big day of turkey and fun at our house.  Dinner was, oh my gosh, so good.  (One of our guests said the dressing was the best he had ever had.)  And now I've got Christmas music on my iTunes and am thinking where I might put the tree this year, now that I've got the old tree spot loaded up with my needlework business things.

Before we eat, we go 'round the table and say what we're thankful for -- and my sweet husband said he was glad that I quit my way-more-than-full-time job at the shelter that was causing us both a lot of stress.  I said that I was thankful to be back with my family, and I can't tell you how utterly happy, relaxed and contented I feel.

Now that I'm back at it, I'm looking to clear space, so I'm starting to list some of my old shop models on my Etsy site: "Letters Great and Small."  I got a lucky 13 listed today, and am still digging through the piles.  Of course I've only got one left of each of these models -- so go look quick, before they're gone.  (The one pictured is a Ewe & Eye & Friends piece called Joyful Heart.)

Also, don't forget to look for my French Cathedral Sampler Graph, which will only be on sale through Monday for $7.

This afternoon, I'm going to try to get a new model finished and start the printing.  Tomorrow, I'll be uploading hand-dyed linens to my Etsy site.  Such fun, so good to be back, so happy.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving Door Buster ... and Belly Buster!

Last Thursday was my final day as manager at the animal shelter, and although I do miss my employees and the animals, I am so thankful this week to be back with my family, cooking them meals (that didn't start out frozen in boxes) and visiting with them.  I feel like I've been away for six months.

I was reading on Facebook about how large the newspapers are going to be this week, stuffed with holiday specials.  I thought it might be fun to offer y'all my own little door buster.

Euphrasier Enout's French Cathedral Sampler

This is a sampler I picked up a few years ago, one of the first ones I purchased, actually.  I am still charmed by the cathedral, the acolytes, the birds and CATS!  The saying at the top says that fortune fades, but beauty is forever.

Anyway, I still really like this one, and it was fun to stitch, so I'm offering it to you through next Monday for just $7.00 (regular price is $20).  You can find it on my Etsy shop, Letters Great and Small at  I also just listed some great holiday patterns by The Primitive Hare and Lizzie Kate, and this week, I'll be beefing up my store with lots and lots (and lots) of hand-dyed linens.

I am stitching on a primitive Christmas sampler.  I worked on it yesterday while watching Ken Burns' documentary about prohibition.  After that one was done, I started another of his films about the dust bowl.  If you've never seen any of his work, you should.  He's got great films about the national parks, Mark Twain, Thomas Jefferson, jazz, baseball, and most famously, the Civil War.  Netflix has got them where you can watch instantly from your computer.

This morning I prepped my grocery list for the feast on Thursday.  Steve and Harrison came in and tried to see what I needed to add, but I hadn't forgotten anything.  I've been making this meal for years, and think it's the most delicious meal you can make, and it's not that hard to do.  Everything is homemade here at the house -- and I can't wait for those familiar smells: turkey, potatoes and gravy, stuffing (outside the bird), cranberry sauce (with apples and orange juice), green bean casserole, Mississippi sweet potatoes, apple pie, pumpkin pie.  

Our friends Joy and Michael will be joining us this year, and they have ordered kuchen from South Dakota.  Kuchen is sort of pie, sort of cake, sort of pastry filled with a custard-like's a dessert commonly served in areas of the country settled by the Germans.  Peach and strawberry are my two favorite flavors, but there are lots of other varieties, including fig, apple, rhubarb, blueberry, cinnamon, you name it.  If you're looking, there's a pretty authentic recipe here:

We start Thanksgiving Day with the Barefoot Contessa's favorite party starter: whiskey sours and dill dip.  The boys help with cutting up the vegetables.

Ina Garten's Herb Dip:
1 brick cream cheese (8 ounces)
1/2 c. sour cream
1/2 c. mayonaise
4 minced green onions
2 T. chopped parsley (fresh)
1 T. fresh dill (minced)
1 tsp. Kosher salt
3/4 tsp. black pepper
Sometimes I run this through the food processor, or sometimes I use my beaters.  It's always good with cut up cucumbers, carrots, celery, and bell peppers.  I also add to the tray various pickles, olives, and cherry peppers.

Ina Garten's Whiskey Sours:
3/4 c. whiskey
1/2 c. fresh lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
1/2 c. fresh lime juice (about 4 limes)
2/3 c. chilled simple syrup (simmer in a saucepan 1 cup each of white sugar and water until the sugar is completely dissolved)

We sip these while we make the food -- the citrus flavor is so refreshing.  Make sure to serve on ice with a maraschino cherry (or two...or three).  We always make a sticky mess of the counters with all of that sugar syrup and hand-squeezed citrus juice, but it is worth it.  These put a little blush on everyone's face, and soon everyone is relaxed, chatting and having fun.

Whatever you'll be doing this week, I hope you'll be doing it with family.  Happy stitching, and I am thankful for all of you!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hannah Carter's Christmas Tree Sampler

When I found and purchased Hannah's sampler last year online, I felt really lucky.  It's always fun to add another sampler to the collection, but also, a Christmas tree on a sampler is extremely rare, especially in the 1830's.  Christmas trees were uncommon with simple folk in Britain until the 1840's -- and in fact, only royalty (and the rich) had such an extravagance.  As a teen, Queen Victoria had a Christmas tree in her room in the 1830's.

I also love that Hannah finished her sampler just a few short weeks before Christmas.  It makes me wonder if her family had a tree, or if she really just wished that they did.  Note the moth that is drawn to the tiny lights all over the tree.  How charming!

The sampler itself is fairly simple in its style -- a number of stark black alphabets against the linen ground.  The negative space around the letters and alphabets gives if kind of a Quaker feel (as do the particular alphabets chosen.)  It was typical of a Quaker sampler to be stitched in just a color, or a few, but I can't be absolutely certain that is what this is.

The linen she used is a 30-count, and it has aged nicely.  There is a little thread loss here-and-there, but overall, it's just in grand condition.  Hannah was a fairly good little stitcher -- there are some flubs here and there in the border and in the lettering (the verse is especially quirky, as a lot of the letters are different from word-to-word.)  The fibers are silks, and I am recommending Gloriana Florimell Antique Black and Needlepoint Silk 693.  Stitch count is 208 by 255.  The stitches used are cross stitch, cross over-one, Algerian eye, and four-sided stitch (MY FAVORITE!)

The verse is one found in a New England children's primer brought to America on the Mayflower by the Puritans.  The poem is called "Learn These Four Lines by Heart."  I found a charming snuff box online (from a previous auction) with this same little poem on it.  I love the idea of it -- a virtuous statement along with the purpose of the snuff box: "Please, please try to be a virtuous and Godly here, stick this up your nose."  (The box is thought to be from the late 1700's to early 1800's.)

Hannah would no doubt be proud to know that so many of you are looking at her work today.  You can purchase the chart by going to my Etsy site Letters Great and Small.  Or you can have your favorite shop order the chart for you from Norden Crafts or Hoffman Distributing, who will have their copies in the next couple of days.

In personal news, I am nearing the end of my time as manager at the animal shelter -- the 21st is my last day.  I am anxious to get back home to my family, and feel almost like I have been away for six months.  I was able to bake an apple pie and make ham soup yesterday -- how wonderful.

I also have a number of foster kittens, including dear little "Shoe" (above) who came in to the shelter late on Saturday.  A local man went out to his mailbox that afternoon and heard squawking.  He looked around and found a shoebox in the road with the lid on.  When he opened it up, there was a little cold and hungry kitten inside.  She is a Siamese/tabby mix (pale creamy grey with faint striping.)  And she would not have made it the night without his help.  She's only 10 ounces and probably 2 1/2 weeks.  But boy, is she cute and spunky.  She uses the litter box like a champion, and has a hearty appetite, as you can see by the food all over her face this morning.

She'll be with us through the holidays, no doubt, and we're glad to be able to help her out.

Happy stitching -- I'm excited to be getting ready to come back to the world of needlework!