Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Happy Belated Christmas

Well, I had plans to post yesterday, but the day got away from me.

Here are a few snaps of the festivities:

the tree, Christmas morning, adorned and perfect,

and the stockings hanging at the chimney,

I made the stockings last year from a vintage wool blanket found at the thrift store, felted, sewn and trimmed with giant plastic and pom pom bobble fringe and needle felted monograms. I'm still not sure if I really like them, but the contrast of countrified felted wool and glam plastic makes me chuckle.

Our Christmas mornings start out very dignified, we file into the Living-room at a reasonable hour, about 8:30 in the morning, have a quick photo session of the kids under the tree (by the stockings this year) and then open our stockings. Then we break for breakfast (this year we had lox and bagels), then the gift opening begins.

Half an hour later it looks like this,

I always get a gift from a certain red fellow,

the number of gifts we give each other is completely overwhelming, so I'm going to spare you the excess. I'll just say that we all got books, Cd's and DVDs. The girls got craft supplies and tools and the boys got jammies, the kids each got gift cards and cash from the family. Nigel found some booze, and Ian got a telescope, which came with bonus binoculars with which he promptly used to spy upon the neighbours.

The dogs each received new collars with tags. Gus was very excited,

Here's Whimsy wearing two Starbucks mittens,

After all that the day spirals into debauchery. I spent the day chatting with family (we're scattered over Canada, this means criss-crossing a number of time zones) and nibbling on Christmas chocolate, missed lunch, and ended up with a pounding headache by mid-afternoon.

The day is saved, though, as my mother-in-law and sister-in-law make the Christmas dinner. Hurrah!!!

I hope Christmas found you surrounded with family (in person and/or over the phone) and only as much debauchery and excess as you could manage.

Happy Belated Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Little Closer to Christmas

Well, the stockings aren't hung by the chimney with care (we do that on Christmas Eve):

But I finished those cream and red mittens:

And the narcissus bloomed:

And here is the tree:

We generally decorate with red, orange and bronze. However, it's always the strange exceptions that are the family favourites:

the lemon, I love the lemon,

the blue jay, another favourite of mine, they're such wretched, though beautiful creatures,

the spider, there's always a little tension as to who gets to put this on the tree, as both the kids like it (it has a bell inside),

the grasshopper, my son's second favourite after the spider,

yoda (he's looking a bronzey-green, but he's really more swampy),


and, for Nigel, Darth Vader.

Here's a second shot of the tree, with presents this time:

I chose lime-green and black wrap this year. It's making me very happy.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Friday, December 14, 2007

All Done Elliphantoms with Poms

They're done...

poms and all...

washing instructions included...

Happy Birthday, Tracey!

Next up, Christmas...

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Snugness and Smugness

Remember my last post, the one where I complained that so many of my projects have multiple starts and stops. Well, I've proved myself wrong once more.

I have a friend living on Vancouver Island, a place cold and damp through the winter, and for Christmas I thought she'd like a lovely, cosy felted-wool cover for her hot water bottle. Time is ticking away, and rather than knitting and felting one, I thought I'd maybe find a thrift-store wool turtleneck and start there.

The first thrift-store I went to I found this:

Beautiful pale grey and thick, but wait it's not just wool:

That's right, 100% cashmere. And thick and heavy too:

Wow! That's quite the find.

Yes, I know.

So I threw it in the washing machine. On hot. Twice.

Now it's the right size:

For all you non-knitters out there, once a woolen garment has been felted, the fibres fuse together and it can be cut and sewn just like fabric:

I shaped the bottom a bit, leaving enough to fold over at the back:

Then, with some matching thread:

whip stitched the edges closed:

I added some decorative blanket stitch in black silk yarn around the edges, using an embroidery reference book (because I'm hopeless at embroidery):

And I added a mother-of-pearl button to close it at the back:

And a little bit of needle felting for the front:

So it's all hers:

This entire process took a morning, and I'm feeling pretty pleased.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Another Adventure on the Needles

First things first. My November Button-of-the-Month arrived! If you recall this is a birthday gift from my sister, each month she's sending me a button for my collection.

This month's is a black cat (I love black animals), and another hand-made card:

Here's a closer look at the wee cat:

I love this button, it looks old-fashioned and spooky. Thank you Jane!

As for my adventure on the needles, well. You know, nothing can ever be simple. There was a time in my life when everything was exactly as it should be, when ideas would come to me and projects would be executed lickety split. Those days ended, I don't know when, and now, well, if it takes me a half dozen times starting and stopping a project, it doesn't seem unreasonable. Maybe I'm more indecisive now, or maybe my standards are higher, who knows?

I decided a while back that I would knit a pair of mittens for an old friend who will be turning forty in mid-December. I had made her a pair many years ago (very nice Scandinavian style in pale blue and cream) and while she was in her son's school picking him up for lunch, someone SWIPED THEM from the sled. Terrible. Worse is, I've meant to make her a replacement pair for years and never got around to it. Now, time is at hand (no pun).

I thought the Herringbone Mittens at Elliphantom Knits were particularly nice, so off I went. I bought some Smart yarn in red and cream and knit the first one:

Lovely? Yes, even without the pom pom, which I've yet to make. The only problem is they fit me, in fact they JUST fit me, and she's bigger than me. I had to abandon this half pair (they'll get finished and fit my daughter Elly quite well, so she's going to have to wear them, like it or not). So I started another pair. This time I chose Debbie Bliss Rialto in green and cream, and, you know, this yarn is much nicer than the Smart yarn and I think my friend would prefer this colour combo anyway, so perhaps it's meant to be. I'll show them to you when they're all done, poms and all.

One more item, about my cursed landing, I bought another plant for the same spot. I brought in a lovely pink poinsettia for the season. My thinking was that it only had to last a month anyway. A good idea?

Here it is two days later:


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Quilt and Cookies

Have you seen Hazel's new quilt? I think it's a lovely way to commemorate her Grandmother. I was mentioning to her that I made a similar quilt a few years back, though not as sweetly sentimental.

Nigel has always bought beautiful shirts to wear to work and when they would begin to wear out I couldn't bear to throw them out. So, I saved a few and then made a quilt.

The idea came from a Kaffe Fassett book called Glorious Patchwork. He calls it a "Bricks Quilt", though I've seen it in older books referred to as "The Canadian Soldiers Quilt". The story goes that wounded Canadian soldiers would work on quilts as therapy. If I remember the story correctly, the quilts were made out of discarded woolen uniforms. I had a quick search on the web, but couldn't find a reference to the tale, but, well, I read it somewhere at sometime.

Now, Nigel's shirts are hardly made of military grade wool, in fact, the cotton is very fine, and after many wears and washes, it becomes almost delicate. Not really the best choice for a quilt, and as a result I've had to patch it many times. Some of the rectangles go the same direction as the originals, and some the opposite.

It continues to disintegrate, and I had to artfully photograph around all the worn bits. It's a good thing I've got tons more shirts to cut up and use. It's also a good thing that Nigel consistently buys blue and white. There isn't any lurid canary yellow to have to contend with.

It was our turn for treat day at the office this week, so I made Linzer cookies. Now, for purists, Linzer cookies always contain almond extract or ground almonds, but I cheat a little in case there are allergies.

I make a basic shortbread dough (though this one is a little sweet and has a teaspoon of vanilla extract), you could also use sugar cookie dough.

Roll and cut the dough into hearts or circles, half plain and half cut with a small heart out of the centre.. Normally I use a little heart cutter, and then a smaller one for the centre of the tops, but I thought I'd do things differently this time and I used a fluted circle (this was a minor disaster, as the cookies were bigger than usual and I had to make more cookies to have enough for treat day). After they've been baked and cooled, spread the bottom halves (the solid ones) with seedless raspberry jam (or whatever seedless fruit spread you like), and dust the top halves with icing sugar, then sandwich them together.

Why, it's almost easy-peasy, except for all the effort.

The other cookies (the one's I made so that everyone could have a cookie) are super easy-peasy, no-bake, fantastics. Just take two ready made meringue cookies (I used Miss Meringue plain vanilla) dip the bottoms of each half in melted chocolate, a good one (I used Bernard Callebaut semi-sweet baking chips), stick them together, chill a bit in the fridge, et voila. And, even better, I made a batch in under fifteen minutes. Low-fat, wonderful, quick and impressive looking little cookies.

I suppose I should mention the idea came from the December issue of Weight Watchers magazine. I didn't actually read the recipe, I just looked at the picture and guessed, still though, I suppose they deserve the credit.