Thursday, December 25, 2008

I'm dreaming of...

A white Christmas is ours this year. Winter has come in all its glory bringing ice, then snow, then wind and more ice, snow and wind. Good thing Santa saw fit to shower us with ice skates, sleds, poles and snowshoes this year!

Now that the holiday rush has passed and we can enjoy our time together more leisurely, I've begun to prepare for baby. I knit this striped stocking hat with the pom pom for baby and can't wait to see it on. Savannah wants one too so I've begun one for her as well. For newborns hats are supposed to fit over a grapefruit and I think mine is slightly larger so it will have to be saved for the fall or winter. I created my own pattern since I couldn't find a pattern for exactly what I wanted.
New hat on bunny.

Baby's new stocking hat.

The elven view.

Savannah spent her Christmas Eve playing in the ice-covered snow making snow people and then smashing them down and making an old-fashioned garland as an offering for the birds and squirrels on Christmas day. There are few reds as beautiful and varied as that of cranberries. They may not be as sparkly and uniform as pomegranate jewels, but what other fruit could match their range of reds and still be suitable for everyday wear?

Stringing together cranberries and popcorn for the woodland garland - our offering to the birds.

Christmas Day we snuggled in bed until 8am, then opened our stockings before breakfast. After breakfast it was time for presents! Savannah opened her presents from Santa first, then had to be encouraged to open her other gifts half an hour later. I guess you could say she's mesmerized by her furbies.

Savannah asked Santa for a very specific limited edition furby this year. Little did Santa's helper know that furbies are a collector's item that have not been produced by the elves since 1997. TGFE (Thank God For Ebay!).

Savannah on her sled with baby and big sister furby. These cute little things talk and sing to each other in Furbish. Savannah is teaching them English.

Savannah played with her pirate Jack-in-the-box from Dearest over and over again.

Savannah even got a present from baby Eastler!

Savannah models her homemade beanie. Look for these on etsy from the Portland Beanie Company.

Santy Claws even saw fit for the furbeast to have some fresh organic catnip toys made by this elf named MeowWow.

Kevin opens one of his gifts from Grandpa.

After presents we made a big Italian lunch (fresh marinara sauce, salad with apple cider vinegar dressing, chicken parmigiana with organic whole wheat spaghetti) to share with our neighbors. They brought nature photos over and we looked through some amazing pictures of coyotes, garden spoils and other wildlife that they'd captured on film over the years from their yard. Soon we'll have our own collection. Then we spent the afternoon snowshoeing and sledding and enjoying the great outdoors. Ahh, country life.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A cowl for the cold

I like to hand make as many gifts as I can for the holidays. To me there's nothing that says I care about you like taking the time to make something with my own two hands. First there's the idea, which takes time, then selecting the fabric, yarn or ingredients, planning the time to make the gift and then making it and wrapping it - each step during which the recipient is thought of. Holiday packages from our house usually include homemade toffee, hot pepper jelly, candied almonds, and other handmade items for the little ones like aprons or craft sets and blankets. Most of the gifts I've made this year I have to keep mum about until Christmas day but with less time this year than in previous years, I also bought some homemade gifts on etsy - my favorite place to shop for inspiration and for homemade items that I can't make myself.

Yesterday a project I had to complete for work was stopped abruptly so I had the evening all to myself to finally make a Christmas present I've wanted for a long time - a cowl to keep my neck warm inside and out. Cowls are all the rage at the moment in the knitting community ever since big bulky knits started appearing all over the runway. Many of the cowls are either too bulky for my tastes or too lacy making them impractical for the weather here. So I decided to make my own pattern in a bulky weight yarn by Lion (Wool-Ease Thick and Quick). I learned a lot from making it and though I will wear this one, I'll make some changes to the next one I make before writing down my pattern. I think the height of 10 inches is too much for me and I should have stopped between 6 and 8 inches. Trouble is, I love cables so much it's hard for me to stop cabling! I also learned that by decreasing stitches by about 5-6 at the end and beginning is important to help it keep its shape, to prevent rolling and keep the cold out. Of course, Savannah wants one now and when I told her I'd be happy to make her a matching one, she said, "No! In pink please!"

It fits over my head easily, even though mine is the largest in the house. At the top you can see where I learned to decrease a few stitches to help the cowl keep its shape. Next time I'll do the same at both ends.

A terrible picture I took of myself wearing the cowl. Next time, I'll make a somewhat shorter one but it's nice to have the option of pulling this one up from beneath my jacket collar when I'm outside braving the Northwest wind. It also folds over like a turtle neck.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Old-fashioned apple fritters

I recently bought a series of small pamphlet-sized cookbooks, each with a subject on the fruits of your gardening labor. The recipes are old-fashioned grandma, county fair, farmhouse-style recipes on topics such as squash and zucchini, apples, tomatoes, herbs, etc. They have proved to be brilliant! This morning we tried apple fritters (a breakfast recipe for this time of year when the crispy apples for eating turn a bit softer) and they were delicious. They tasted a lot like the fried dough you can buy at county fairs except much fresher like a warm doughnut out of the frying pan and into your hand. We would definitely make these again! Since I modified the recipe from the original, I'll post it here.

Old-fashioned apple fritters

  • 1c flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (heaped or rounded)
  • 3 Tb sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
Sift together dry ingredients in a bowl.

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2-3 Tb plain or vanilla yogurt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 c apple, diced
Mix together wet ingredients then blend with dry ingredients. Add diced apple.
Drop about a 1/4 c into hot frying pan with 1/4 inch of vegetable or canola oil and fry on each side until golden brown. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and nutmeg and serve plain or with maple syrup and butter drizzled on top.

Notes: You could substitute for the water and yogurt 1/3 c of milk if you prefer.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Reduce your fabric stash for a good cause (and maybe win a contest)

Every quilter I know has a fabric stash that includes much coveted fabric as well as fabric that makes you wonder, what was I thinking when I bought that? Anyway, now's your chance to do some good and reduce the sinfully large size of your stash (making room for new fabric, of course) AND enter yourself in a charms contest for 36 random 5 inch charms. The link to the contest, called Charms for Charity Contest, is posted below.

Charms for Charity Contest

The neatest thing of all is that the fabric will be donated from quilters all around the world to make quilts for charity. Definitely something I'd like to be a part of!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Christmas Spice Cookies

Today was our day to go to the library to get Christmas books but we agreed Savannah wasn't yet well-enough so we traded in today's Christmas calendar activity for baking cookies, which was not a hard sell! Here's our recipe for Christmas Spice Cookies - kind of a hybrid between spice cookies/ginger snaps and sugar cookies. It's a great one for using up all the colored holiday sugars in your baking cabinet that seem to last for years otherwise.

Christmas Spice Cookies

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease baking sheets with butter or line with baking paper.

  • 1c unsalted butter
  • 1c packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg (plus an egg yolk)
  • 1 Tb vegetable oil

Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy, then add the rest of the wet ingredients and blend.

  • 2 1/2 c all-purpose flour (scant)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp coarse Kosher salt (or 1/4 tsp if you use any other kind of salt)
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 3/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • course granulated sugar with or without coloring

Sift together all of the dry ingredients reserving the course granulated sugar for rolling the dough in.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet until incorporated then roll into small balls to dip or roll in the coarse granulated sugar before arranging on the baking sheet. These balls will "melt" like little snow balls in the warm oven to flatten so give them plenty of room on the baking sheets. Bake for 9-13 minutes depending on size of balls. 11 minutes usually does the trick for us.

Notes: The cookies should come out crispy on the outside and slightly chewy on the inside. For a spicier cookie, increase the cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon to 1 tsp each. You could also omit the coarse sugar and bake them plain or drizzle a homemade icing on top. Enjoy them before Santa does!

Here's one happy little Santa's helper, even if she is not yet at 100% today.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Easy microwave cleaning

Sara's secrets:

In recipes it's rare that you use an entire lemon - both the zest and the juice or even the whole lemon. Save these lemon leftovers (squeezed or hard, dried lemons work too) to clean the microwave with. I place any leftover lemon pieces in a microwaveable bowl filled halfway with water and microwave for 1-2 minutes until the microwave is filled with condensation. Then I wipe it down with a paper towel and all the grease and things that go "pop" in the microwave come right off. I never have to scrub the microwave anymore.

Make the microwaved lemon solution do double duty by dumping it down the disposal with some ice cubes to freshen up your sink.