Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Welcome to the stash!

Welcoming some new yarn into my stash today.  

First, some bee-U-tiful handpainted Blue Sky cotton that I scored out-of-the-blue at a random yarn store "pop-in" in Portsmouth.  If I come across any more of this stuff in future yarn store wanderings, I will surely horde it.   And if YOU come across some, buy it and send it to me, or ELSE!! 

Love love love this yarn.  Just love looking at it for now.  and BONUS - it is 100% organic grown and dyed.  

Next, this lovely merino wool, a Christmas gift from my sister.  Very chunky, handpainted, pastels blues and pinks.  Not sure what this will be someday but it's beautiful!

A pile of baby alpaca from Michael's mother for my birthday.   This will most likely be a crochet project,
because from my experience, baby alpaca is very soft but it doesn't hold it's shape well and tends to fuzz like crazy.  But lovely, none-the-less.

So gorgeous, and simple, Berocco's pure pima cotton.  Love this stuff, wish it was organic...  <sigh>
Probably a lacy spring wrap.  

Jasper merino wool.  I bought this on impulse because I had a $20 credit at my local yarn store.  And I love the colors.  It's rare to find a "pretty" variegated yarn in more masculine colors.  Maybe some new gloves or hat for Michael.

And lastly, a picture of the boys reading with daddy.  These winter afternoons where it gets dark so early, brings us all inside a bit sooner in the day.  This extra time indoors, in that time of the day while dinner is cooking and the day is winding down, Michael and the boys have carved out some extra reading time together.  So sweet to see them all curled up together.  Happiness.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Crazy project almost done!

Stayed up much too late last night.  Cast off on the project sweater was finished around 11:45.  Auditioned several buttons and chose the winners by 12:00 a.m.  Went to bed, bleary eyed and exhausted.  All that's left to do is block the sweater, pack it up, send it to it's recipient (look for a package if your middle name begins with "D" and if you were born on Black Friday 1980)...

and then finish editing the pattern.

I am on target for the magazine deadline of January 2nd (possibly) and I can't believe it!


Monday, December 27, 2010

First snow!! and Raspberry Pie

The first snow of the season has come!

And it couldn't have come at a more convenient time, I must say.   The day after Christmas.   After a cozy morning in pajamas, and an unhurried breakfast of left-over ham and quiche, we dug through the winter bins to get all bundled up in our snow gear.   Michael found a perfect path through the trees in our back yard for a sledding hill and the kids had a blast trudging up through the path in the woods, and then down the little hill on their sleds.  Rosy cheeks, lots of giggles and frozen snow-covered bottoms!!  Then inside for hot chocolate and lunch.   A great day.  Now the children are resting, and I'm at the computer with my coffee and a slice of what's left of our Christmas pie.

It is a well-established tradition in my family to serve up a slice of black raspberry pie after nearly every holiday meal.  And it is a tradition that has given me a fair bit of trouble since we moved our little family up north away from my Pennsylvania "folks".   Black raspberries, it turns out, are not as abundantly plentiful as I was led to believe.   Not only are they hard to come by in New England, but I have come across a good many people who do not believe they exist.  Or rather, who believe they are one and the same as blackberries.   This has been a sadness to me, as every holiday since our move, I've had to just give up and serve one of the, uh,  lesser pies in my repertoire.  Like pumpkin (yawn) or apple (snore).    
But this year, I just couldn't go without ONE MORE TIME!   I compromised and made a Christmas Berry Pie without black raspberries.  And it worked - pretty successfully.    Red raspberries, blackberries, and 2 apples stood in place of my beloved black raspberries, and they did a respectable job!   I will continue to hunt the elusive black raspberry, but until I track them down, this pie will do quite nicely!    What a relief!

Christmas Berry Pie

1 pie crust ( I make these ahead of time and keep them in my freezer)
8 - 10 oz bag frozen blackberries
8 - 10 oz bag frozen red raspberries
2 golden delicious apples - chopped
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp quick cooking tapioca (I just pour a mound in my hand and dump it into the mixing bowl)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss all of the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.  I didn't bother to thaw the berries, but if yours are frozen in large clumps you may have to leave them in the fridge for a bit, so that you can break the larger clumps apart.)

Pour into crust and prepare the crumb topping:

Pulse in food processor:  
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/3 cup butter (5 - 6 tbsp)

Sprinkle crumb topping over berry mixture (set 1/3 cup aside to sprinkle over the pie right before you pull it out of the oven later) and bake for 40 - 45 minutes until bubbly and golden.

Let cool completely.

Best served after a holiday feast with a side of vanilla ice cream.   

** We believe, in my family, that this is an acceptable breakfast food as well.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Christmas Carol

Today I wanted to simply send you all a musical Christmas greeting.     (A lovely carol written by one of my favorite composers, Charles Ives.)  

I will be back next week with more posts, but in the next few days you will find me in my living room with my family, where we will be gazing at the christmas tree, eating cookies, singing by the piano, watching snow fall (hopefully) and just being together.   

I wish you a peaceful, simple, and beautiful holiday with all of your loved ones.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Greetings from Fantasyland!

First of all, for the doubters, I wanted to share with you a paint-by-number that's hanging in my bedroom.   

Ah, isn't it lovely?   

Now let's talk about me!  

I am not a person who deals well with stress.  However, for reasons unclear to me, I habitually avoid heading in directions that would enable me to BE more relaxed and carefree.  To "kick back."  To "chill out."     Whenever I sense that I may be heading into some free time, I feel panic in my core even while outside I'm saying "Ahhh, finally I can sit!"

I am a mystery to myself.    

I came coasting toward Christmas with (almost) all of my 'list' taken care of, everyone's gifts made (or bought), my BIG project (it's very hush hush - sorry) is well on it's way...   and so I felt the need to suddenly sidle myself with a HUGE knitting deadline at the eleventh hour.  I decided I must try to get a pattern published for the Spring issue of a knitting magazine.   After further research, I found out that the whole design, written pattern, professional photographs, written diagrams, etc is due JANUARY 2nd!!!    

Very do-able.   I nod confidently to myself.  That gives me, gosh, about three weeks.  No problem.  I share my new idea with Michael.  

I ignore Michael's raised eyebrows and cast on for my sweater.  I have plenty of time to finish this, it's not like I've got all that much else to do.   

Of course there are other things to do.  Lots of other things.  Take care of the plants, for instance.  

Or the laundry.   

 I will not offend your sensibilities, reader, (yes I said reader -  I am not deluded enough to think that my readership is in the plurals yet)  (Hi Mom!) and show you pictures of my bathroom.     Good god, the bathroom!   

Why on earth can she not just put down the needles and scrub a toilet already? 

What?  Did you say something?  It's so extremely hard to hear you out here in Fantasyland...  come visit.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

On the shelf

Oh how I love reading!  Today, I thought I would simply share some recent additions to my bookshelf(shelves) with you.    I absolutely read all year-round, but winter especially is good for a book, you know?  or 10, or 12...  whatever.   

When the boys were born, I knew we would read to them often, but I didn't take what was actually ON their bookshelves too seriously.  Their shelf was a collection of gifts from loved friends and family, and then whatever books I came across from friends who were cleaning out their own children's shelves, or tag sale finds, or ... hm, I don't really know where all of them came from actually.  I DO know that lately, the sheer number of choices has become too overwhelming for them, as attested to by the fact that most days one of their favorite activities is simply pulling all of their books off of the shelf and leaving them there on the floor in a monstrous pile.  Nice.  After the 3rd or 4th time mama got wise.  mama learned.  and mama cleaned ALL of the books off of their shelves and started over.  Some were donated back to the thrift stores, some are in the basement waiting to enter back in to our regular rotation (on a one in- one out basis of course)... and then I added one or 2 new books to catch their interest again in the actual reading and not just the piling.  What we have now is a slimmed down, easily manageable pile of our most favorites, and it's working quite nicely!
The one we're loving the most is The Story of the Snow Children.

Such a sweet book, with beautiful pictures.  Reading about snow has been especially nice since we haven't had any real flurries yet to speak of... but the anticipation is mounting!
Next, because I have high high hopes for our garden next year.. 
This book, and this one

were recent gifts from a dear friend who knows my passion for food and cooking, and who has also given me a book to help me with the problem of what to do with all of the cooking scraps and leftovers.  Maybe in a future post, I will share with you the compost pile that Mike built this summer, and our progress...

And of course, some crafting books, which I received as birthday presents last week.. Luv Luv Luv them both!  (thank you mom!  thank you Michael!)

And lastly, because when I'm not actively parenting, I enjoy reading about parenting...

Actually that "Saying Grace" book is just a collection of beautiful simple poems for saying grace at dinner.  We read a new one before dinner every now and then... I recommend this book to you, as some of the poems are lovely in their simplicity and really start off dinner nicely :)

What about you?  What is on your bookshelf right now?

And because I promised this about a week ago, here...  finally, are Johann's finished winter pajamas.

I am most proud that I managed to get the size right, and the elastic waistband in there.  It was my first wearable sewing project (I'm not counting my sister's apron) and I am much indebted to my friend Lill who helped tutor me through the whole waistband process.  I ironed on some extra fabric snowman to a plain white tshirt, and finished the embroidery last night. 

Goodbye friends until tomorrow!~

Monday, December 13, 2010

Warm weekend home

We had a relaxing couple of days at home as a family this weekend.  It was very nice.  Lazy mornings, lazy afternoons, followed by dinner, and a warm, snuggly evening together.  The weather has been cold, raining, windy... which adds to the coziness of just staying inside.  We had a lot of indoor activities to keep us busy, so I guess I cannot say we were completely "lazy"...
There was cranberry stringing.  Here are our finished ornaments. 

We're going to give one to each of Johann's preschool teachers on Wednesday, before school is out for Christmas break.
There was (finally) some tree decorating done. 

The poor tree has just been sitting there in the corner patiently waiting since the day after Thanksgiving for someone, anyone, to hang a single ornament on it.   On Saturday, Mike found a broadcast on our local public radio station of the Nutcracker, and I think the music got all of us more in the mood to decorate.  I pulled the box of ornaments out of storage in the basement, and we hung up all of our favorites.  Johann added the paper chain.  Now the tree is very much happier.

On Sunday we decided to open the gingerbread train kit that Nonni sent us.  

Always fun to decorate with candy!   Our tradition is to break our house (er... train) on New Year's day and eat it with a side of hot chocolate.  I don't think anyone really eats it, but the tradition keeps the boys from asking me every day if they can have some...  phew.

Lastly, there were some new projects begun and completed.  The above is mine.   More on that later.  And below is Johann's...

Yes, we had a lovely, stay-at-home weekend, filled with nothing much except each other.    Exactly what we all were craving, I believe.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hi Fiddle-dee-dee

a fiddlehead for me!   See my new mittens-to-be!  I am most excited about these as I am emphasizing with all! of the!  exclamation! points!   This beautiful pattern
has been in my "someday" pile for some time.   "Someday" for a number of reasons.

#1: I am not one for messing with a bunch of color changes, for one thing.  I like a yarn that does the work for me.  like this:
for instance. 

also #2: I had a hard time justifying buying 7 skeins of yarn for one pair of mittens.  That's a lot of alpaca!  Plus the mittens are lined with Cashmere... oooooh.  Cashmere!

and #3, well, I just have a lot "on my needles" right now (see previous post), and who has the time to concentrate on colorwork mittens !!?!! 

But, then... I SAW a pair, a sample pair, at my local yarn store, and I made the mistake of picking them up and trying them on.

And it was love.  The kind of mitten love that only comes around once in your life.  So, what can I say?

pour l'amour de mitaines  :)

edited: stay tuned tomorrow for an important pajama update.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Def: adj., characterized by or liable to sudden unpredictable changes in attitude or behavior; impulsive; fickle.

Um, yes.   I have ECCD.  Extremely Capricious Crafting Disorder.

Most of the time, there are multiple crafts lying about me in the evening after the kids have gone to sleep.  And I am simultaneously working on all of them.  I flit back and forth.  For instance, I'll reach into my basket and pull out a ball of yarn and start a mitten.  I'll LOVE the mitten, for a couple of minutes.  Then I'm thirsty, so I go make myself some tea.  mmmm.  tea.   
I come back to my chair and plop down.  I cast about, trying to remember what I was working on a mere 10 minutes before.  Ah yes!   George's slippers! 

I pull them out, I only have a cuff started, but it's something.  I promised myself he'd get a pair of slippers, so slippers he will get!  I knit 9 or 10 rows.  The tea kicks in.  Bathroom break...
... and I'm back.  now where was I?   I see my notepad lying on the coffee table, and remember I had planned to sketch out a design for a snowflake sweater.   I start to doodle.   I think, it would really be a better idea to do this on graph paper, so I can match up the stitches to my design.  I might need some colored pencils and tracing paper too...  Where is that tracing paper? 
I spend 20 minutes rifling through one of my craft supply "bureaus" which to all the rest of the world, look like bureaus that a normal person would probably store their clothes in.   I find 4 unfinished paint-by-numbers (yes, I have a thing for those.  they're so pretty, and not at all tacky, as you may believe.), a huge pile of tissue paper, another pile of origami paper (from the great paper folding craze of 2009)... but no tracing paper.
I'm back at my seat now... should I sew a bit?  Yes probably...  Now it's time for bed...  Tomorrow there will be new projects, old projects re-found, and more mess.   It's all good.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Happy Birthday to me

I am celebrating the beginning of my 34th year today.  My sister sent me these lovely bracelets (from my most favorite store!) I love sparkly things!    I have many blessings to be thankful for today, and every day.  A loving family, 2 beautiful sons, a dear husband, and a home that I feel grateful for each and every day. 

And to mark this day,  I have a gift for you.  A sweater pattern!  Michael advised me to "start small" when I told him I was going to write and publish my first knitting pattern on my blog.  He is very wise.

So I did... very small.  Teensy small.  The finished sweater is 4", so if sweater knitting is new to you, this may be a good place for you to start as well!  Please enjoy! 

Mini Sweater Ornament Pattern

Monday, December 6, 2010

Home, Ready for winter

I've been busy "winterizing" here... every morning we watch out the big picture window as a handful of snowflakes drift past.  Soon it will be more, much more, and I'm trying very hard to get ready.   Our new "wipe your feet please" mat arrived yesterday, and I'm so pleased I went with the red.  It's very welcoming, I think, to see color when you step into the house.  I'm training (re-training) the boys to immediately sit down on the step and change into their slippers... which I've placed in a nice basket underneath my plant stand.  It took me a while to find everyone's long lost slippers in the far away dark places of our closets, but I did find them eventually.  So now everyone's feet can be nice and warm, AND the house will stay clean(er).  :)
Mike and I also finished painting the craft room, and the new blackboard.  We went with yellow again, but it feels a lot brighter and cheerier than the previous shade.  I'm finding happiness in my colored chalk too, as I play around with little pictures and doodles during the days. I especially like this set, because the big blocks of chalk don't break as easily when dropped on the floor by accident (which happens, ahem, sort of frequently around here). 
I finally managed to get my nature prints hung up nicely in a row too...   Right now, we're busy bird watching, so we're checking the bird poster frequently.  Mostly we have woodpeckers.  A whole lot of woodpeckers.    But occasionally we see some other visitors at our feeder too.   Perhaps I should try a different type of food or feeder...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Christmas Tree family!

I finished the Christmas tree ornaments from the Rhythm of the Home winter issue.  What a great issue!  I'm reading it in bits and pieces today whenever I get a minute.    I love the tree pattern!  I made one (which is now my medium sized one, and knew I needed to make a couple more.  (Because the first one just seemed too lonely sitting there all by itself).  And the boys cannot keep their hands of this little family of trees!  I didn't realize they would become the new favorite plaything around here when I started making them, but I was amused yesterday with all of the "tree family" scenarios that they have been imagining since I finished them and placed them as the stars in the middle of the living room coffee table the other day.  Maybe I'll need to knit up some companion snowmen next, to round out the play scene  a bit   :)

I know now why the cobbler's children have no shoes...

and it's because shoes, or slippers in this case, are not all that easy to whip up.  At least, the stitching of the suede bottoms onto the wool sock part is not flying by for me.  And it's really kind of fiddly to get down into the toe part with that needle... Tricksy.
But oh, they are turning out so cute!   I cannot wait to see them on the boys this winter with their new matching pajamas.  (which are also in my "not yet finished" pile.  more on those in a later post!)
I have 1 pair just about sewn up and finished, and then I'll have to make myself immediately cast on for the second pair before I lose my nerve.  Because George deserves a pair just as much as Johann...  Tonight after all is quiet in the house, I'll do that.  Atleast the second pair is a size or two smaller, so they should go a bit faster.  Right? 
Mike asked for a pair when he saw Johann's coming along last night, and I laughed at him.  I just let out a big "ha!"  He looked confused, but he doesn't realize, I guess, how I'm teetering here on the edge of insanity in these weeks leading up to Christmas.  He'll know soon enough.   I know each morning when I wake up I must look a little stranger, a little more unraveled...  These late nights of knitting are starting to show :)
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