Monday, December 28, 2009

Merry Christmas

Three steps to an easy handmade stocking that is sure to become a family heirloom

1) Purchase felt appliqué Christmas stocking kit at your local craft store. I am partial to snowmen. Be sure to check package for extra materials needed (tissue paper for tracing and quilt batting/stuffing).

2) Assemble kit as per instructions*

3) Hang on fireplace mantel. That's it! See how easy it is?

Here’s the stocking I made for Audrey this year!

Christmas stocking

My parents and sister came to Cleveland this year for Christmas. We had a fresh cut tree (Wilcox Farms in Lagrange, OH – I recommend it for a great “cut your own” experience), way too much food, and enough presents to open our own toy store.

Best new recipe (for me. I guess it's been hot in the food-blog world since 2006): No-knead, Dutch Oven crusty bread. OMG this is the best, easiest bread recipe EVER! I’ve been able to make decent white and French breads in the past, but they never quite hit the spot. They’re good enough to say – this is homemade and better than the factory made presliced bread at the supermarket. But never as good as the loaves from a real bakery or bread store. Not the type you want to sit down with a stick of butter and stuff yourself. This bread though, was that good. The recipe includes a link to a YouTube video of a guy in a real bakery testing it. Note that in the recipe, she sets her oven (which I assume is a standard household range) to 475°F, while in the video, the baker says 500 - 515°F. I had trouble getting my oven to stabilize at a high temperature and the independent thermometer on the rack read everything from 450 - 510°F during the first 30 minutes. The top was already starting to color up when I took the lid off, and I left it in only an additional 10 minutes. The color was great and the loaf had a good hollow sound on the bottom. Although the crust seemed rock-hard right after cooking, I left it on a wire rack until it was fully cooled and the crust softened quite a bit. When we ate it at dinner, it was exactly the chewy, crunchy crust you get at a good bakery or restaurant. I’ll be making it again for New Year’s Eve for sure!

Christmas gifts were well received – DH liked the hat I made him (although I think he thinks it should be a tiny bit smaller) and was very impressed with the handspun yarn.


Pattern: Ranger Hat

Designer: Anni Laine

Yarn: handspun black BFL fiber, purchased from Sheepish Creations (Etsy)

Needles: US2

I finished it on December 23rd, turning under the hem at lunch at work. Then washed and blocked when I got home, and tried to accelerate drying by laying it next to the heat vent overnight. I stacked the drying racks in front of the vent so he wouldn’t see it. This is the first project I’ve ever made from fiber to finish, intentionally spinning the yarn to suit the planned project. I’m pretty happy with it, and I’ve got a couple hundred yards of extra yarn left over.

And guess what Audrey gave me: sparkly, self patterning green sock yarn. Christmas in a skein!

Do I have a great kid or what?

*Step 2 – Follow steps 1 – 46 on the 10 page instruction sheet included in the kit. Total time to completion: approximately 15 – 20 hours spread over 10 evenings.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Everything's better with bacon

Don't you agree?
Tonight we had roast chicken, roast red potatoes, and collard greens seasoned with... you got it, bacon.

Doesn't compare to the bacon wrapped crackers I had at the Cleveland Knits West party yesterday though. Here's the recipe (Trish, hope you don't mind if I spill the secret - not too many people read this anyways). Wrap raw bacon around Club crackers. Season lightly with garlic powder. Sprinkle a little fresh parmesan cheese over them. Arrange on a cookie sheet and bake at 225F for 2 hours. Apparently there is no need to drain the grease after cooking. It's all soaked in to the crackers.

Anyway, I had about 6 of these suckers at the party yesterday, in addition to spinach and artichoke dip (Thanks Michelle!), homemade marshmallows (Trish!), Mississippi Mud cake (Tim!), and too many other goodies to keep track of. I'm afraid to go to weigh-in on Tuesday. Maybe if I skip all my meals on Monday?

It was a wonderful party - we each had a secret Santa, and brought stocking stuffers for everybody. Everybody brought the most thoughtful little gifts for the stockings - candles, stitch markers, ornaments, handmade cards, candies! Here's a couple of the ornaments:

emergency knitting

and the rest of the goodies:

stocking stuffers

And here is what Santa (Andrea) brought me!

Midnight Optima

It's a 4 oz. braid of Chameleon Colorworks Optim in Midnight colorway. It feels like silk - but it's merino. Mechanically stretched and set! I've never seen this before, but apparently it was selling like hotcakes at a recent fiber show. Seriously, this feels so soft you wouldn't believe it came off a sheep if you didn't read the label. It's going to the top of my spinning queue. A scarf? A hat? I don't want to attempt socks, I'm afraid it would be too delicate for hard foot wear, and besides, something this soft can go around my neck or ears for sure without itching. Hmmmm, I'll have to plan carefully!


I'm now in panic mode. The black BFL I spun for Mike's surprise Christmas hat took a LOT longer than I was expecting - almost 3 weeks of spinning.

"black" BFL

Which means I got a very late start on the actual knitting. Then the knitting got interrupted for a felt applique Christmas stocking for Audrey (almost done, but it's taken 10 days). I couldn't very well bring it along to the wedding in Seattle (wonderful amounts of knitting time on the plane and while hanging out at my BIL's apartment) - there would be too many nosy relatives asking what it was and could they see it - so I worked on a sock - Wanida by Cookie A (in Sock Innovations).


And I couldn't bring it to Thanksgiving in Michigan (same problem), so I made a scarf for the Red Scarf Project.

One row red scarf

I finished the Bird's Nest Smoke Ring with my handspun merino/silk (Ashland Bay fiber):
No, I don't usually wear a purple cowl with a green sweater, I was just taking advantage of some decent indoor light to knock off a few photos.

Birds Nest Cowl

There you have it!