Saturday, September 30, 2017

Meet Garin

*WARNING* Cuteness overload.
Today, I want to introduce you to the (soon-to-be) newest addition to our family - he will be joining us at the end of October. We are pretty sure we will be naming him Garin (German for warrior). He is a long-coat German Shepherd...and is actually related to Schatzi. Miss Schatzi and Caldonia (the mother of the puppies) have the same father. After losing Simba last fall, we talked about getting a playmate for Schatzi - I went back and forth on getting a smaller dog or another was a really tough decision. We actually decided on another German Shepherd back in December and started the process, but (as some of you know) my husband was put on special assignment with UPS and has been in Chicago three weeks of every month since January - I didn't want the entire responsibility of a new puppy on my shoulders (they are a lot of work to add to my already full schedule!), so we had to postpone adding to our family. My husband will finally finish his special assignment at the end of October and then this fluffy little boy will be ready to join our household! We are excited and counting the days...

20-days old.

4-weeks old.

5-weeks old.

6-weeks old.
As you can see, he is growing fast...pretty soon those ears will be up! I'll try not to overload you with puppy pictures, but I will keep you updated...

Thursday, September 28, 2017

"Frosty Friends"

My copy of the Just CrossStitch 2017 Special Christmas Ornament Issue arrived yesterday, and I am pleased to share my contribution with you. My ornament is titled "Frosty Friends" and can be found on page 11, with my Christmas memory and recipe found on page 104. This year, I included my grandmother's recipe for Candy Cane Cookies, a childhood favorite (which I will also share later in this pre-holiday post). My 2017 ornament features a pair of snowmen, pine trees, and snowflakes, and complements my woodland ornaments from the past several years. Stitches include: Cross Stitch over two linen threads, Back Stitch, Smyrna Cross Stitch, and several French Knots. I stitched the model on 40-count Mocha linen from Weeks Dye Works (same as previous ornaments in this series) and used Weeks Dye Works cotton floss (DMC conversions are provided). I opted for a flat-finish with two-tone twisted cord to match my previous holiday ornaments.

This is the eleventh year I have been included in the annual Ornament Issue...WOW, that doesn't even seem possible! If you would like to see all eleven of my contributions, you can visit the "Publications" tab on my website (my ornaments from the Christmas Ornament Preview Issues are shown there, as well). This magazine has gone through a lot of changes over the years (just like my design style), yet still continues to be a yearly fan favorite. I remember getting my first designer invitation back in 2006 to be in the magazine - I was so excited - it was an honor to get that invitation each year to be included. Over the last few years, I have read quite a bit of criticism regarding this issue - complaints that the ornaments seem too simple and/or without thought, complaints that favorite designers are missing, complaints the photography isn't good and the magazine is of lesser quality...even complaints that the holiday memories and recipes are in the back and not shown with the designer. As a designer and contributor (who puts a ton of thought and time into EVERY ornament design), this is quite discouraging. I definitely agree with some of those issues and, to be honest, I too have wrestled with myself the last couple years on whether or not I want to be involved. For me, the magazine has taken away quite a bit of the prestige and excitement that came along with being included in this publication. Let me clear -  this issue has always been an "unpaid" assignment and designers do not receive any compensation for being included...years ago, it used to generate quite a bit of excitement and a designer had to receive a special invitation to be included - back then, it was always a treat to be involved - but that excitement has changed and now designers receive an invitation to "submit a design idea" (which let's face it, takes away most of the incentive, especially when there is no payment)...also, included designers would always receive a handful of copies of the magazine (which I would give away in contests to my readers and social media followers) - now we get one copy...these may be just a few of the reasons you aren't seeing some of your favorite designers in the 2015-2017 issues. The needlework industry is going through growing pains and constantly changing, who knows what the future holds - but I have been proud to be a part of this special publication for the past eleven years! I can't wait to sit down with my issue and look through each page - at quick glance, I see a diverse selection of lovely designs from some very talented creators, that love needlework so much they contributed their time and talent...
I would love to hear your comments on this year's issue - what are your favorite ornaments??

Candy Cane Cookies

½ cup shortening
½ cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla
2½ cups flour
1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon red food coloring
½ cup crushed peppermint candy

Mix in order given, except food coloring and peppermint candy. Divide dough in half. Blend red food coloring into one half. Roll one teaspoon of each color on a lightly floured board to 4” long. Place side by side; press ends together and twist like a rope. Place on greased sheet; curve top for handle.

Bake 375ยบ for nine minutes. While warm sprinkle with peppermint candy.

Blooms, Bees, and a Barn

As an artist, I am obsessed with nature...the colors, textures, shapes, shadows, values, and lines. Just being outside sparks my creativity to no end and provides me with inspiration for all of my original designs. Earlier this month, my husband and I took a road trip to Illinois to visit my mommy and her husband Dan - they live on a gorgeous lakefront property that my mother has lovingly nurtured and gardened. Her green thumb is evident throughout every nook and cranny of their yard. She's planted vegetables, trees, shrubs, berry patches, flower gardens, even a quaint woodland garden...and she has things blooming year-round. The manicured grounds truly look straight out of a gardening book...and it really makes me wish I had more time/space/money for landscaping. Every time I visit, I take hundreds of photos that get my creative juices flowing. Here is just a sampling of the photos I snapped during our stay - some of which, I have already printed and tacked on my "art in progress" board...I hope one or more of these images will inspire you (click on any image to enlarge)...

If those photos aren't enough, on the same trip, we visited a fabulous apple orchard in Wisconsin  - the Ten Eyck Orchard in Brodhead, WI (side note: they have a wonderful Facebook page, with all sorts of inspiring images). We enjoyed a journey through the corn maze - Travis and I actually made it all the way through and came out the exit without a map (not too bad for our first time in a corn maze). We sampled a few fresh apples...and I flipped over a really cool bee skep and the incredible round barn. It was a delightful morning and I would definitely recommend this orchard to anyone in the area...

I hope you enjoyed your visit today! I'll be back again soon with more sewing projects and needlework finishing, plus a little announcement on a new addition to our family...stay tuned...

Monday, September 18, 2017

Finishing Touches

Hello friends - it is another late night post - it seems this is the quietest/easiest time of day to sit down and visit with you! I thought I would stop by and share some recent needlework finishes I completed for a favorite customer. I've been trying to balance the abundance of needlework finishing jobs with project bag orders...and I think I finally have a system down with everything in dated trays in order of arrival and have been steadily working through each. These needlework pieces were all for one customer...and she is GREAT to work with - a box of needlework arrives with a list of each piece and any details...and all of these were requested as flat-finishes - the only details were not to put hangers on the Prairie Schooler Santas, as they would be on easels...and she wanted the patriotic heart to be round....oh, and minimal fabric allowance around the edges. I truly adore orders like these, as I get to choose all the backing fabrics, shapes, and embellishments...and truth be told, that is my favorite part!! I had fun picking coordinating fabrics for the backs and making the twisted cord...and, as always, adding the finishing touches...

Cross stitch designs are by Misty Hill Studio.

Cross stitch designs are by: Misty Hill Studio (left), Blue Ribbon Designs (center),
Country Cottage Needleworks (right).

Cross Stitch designs by Prairie Schooler.

I am now back to sewing project bags until I feel tired enough to sleep. Yes, friends, the insomnia is real and is still schedule is completely out of sorts...but after some medical testing over the last several weeks, I finally have some answers and new medication and I hope to start feeling back to myself in the next few weeks (Ruth - if you are reading this - I received the fabulous book you sent me this week - it was perfect timing and is proving to be quite helpful - THANK YOU!!). I have a list of multiple things to share with you, so I should be back another late night this week...I have some very inspiring photos I took of my mother's gorgeous flower gardens...along with photos from a lovely Wisconsin apple orchard to give you an autumn fix!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Zigzags and Zippers

It is another late night post for days have been filled trying to keep caught up with customer orders (which is a great thing!).  I have been making all sorts of project bags in a variety of sizes and fabrics and I still have large quantities on I have been working on tons of needlework finishing for some of my favorite clients...and oh my goodness, there are some fabulous photos coming in the next few days! I have some very talented clientele and I am honored that they trust me to finish their handwork. I've been cutting fabrics most of the day for the next batch of custom bags and started some sorting and planning for my next needlework fishing order (which is so large, it is almost overwhelming!)...the day flew by and now, it is almost midnight here...

Here are just a few of my latest project bag finishes...I have created so many custom bags in the last couple months that I had to spend an evening organizing what was left of my zipper supply and place an order for 200 more of my most used colors....

Zipper organizing...

My zipper order...
I did get to take a couple hours off on Wednesday afternoon to spend time with a very dear friend...we enjoyed a leisurely lunch, then walked over to the local quilt shop. I wanted to pick up a special tin to house my Pinmoor Pin Anchors (a good excuse for a quilt shop visit!)...I found the perfect size (it was part of three tin nesting set from Moda Fabrics) and several fat quarters (and a 1/2 yard) of fabric that may have ended up in my purchase... 

I just finished packaging today's orders for tomorrow's's been a long day! Tomorrow will be spent at the sewing machine (after watching the Michigan game, of course)...I have bunches of bags to sew. I'll be back in the next few days to share some of the needlework finishing I have completed...lots of fun Christmas ornaments. See you then...