Friday, December 31, 2010

Lovely Christmas Days

Though we're quickly heading into a new year, I'm still savoring Christmastime. I do love the gift-giving and getting, but my absolute favorite part of Christmas is the time spent with my family and friends. There's such a rush of busyness--cooking, baking, making, wrapping--followed by a restful lull. Here's what I did with my lull time.

Ate Italian Cream Cake with lots of coconut and pecans. Mom and I make this every year for Christmas. When all of the party guests have left Mom's house, we each have a slice for a late night snack. 

Of course I crocheted during my downtime. It's what I do. 

The drive to K's hometown was beautiful. The roads were clear, but the surrounding fields were covered with a dusting of snow. The cows and horses looked so pretty silhouetted against the white, munching their Christmas hay breakfast.

I had a hickory nut-cracking party with Korey and my friend Kristie. Hammers pounded and shells flew. Now I've got a bag full of hickory nuts to use up. I'm thinking cookies or bread because it's not enough for a pie. Any other ideas?

Gin! K and I became a little addicted to gin rummy. 

We drove through downtown Maysville with K's parents to look at the Christmas lights. 

K played Christmas carols. He doesn't usually play piano anymore, so this was a special treat. Thanks, K!

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Happy New Year's Eve, everyone! I will see you back here next year.

In case you were wondering about my bobble-y pattern, I've extended my self-imposed deadline to January 10th. Wasn't that nice of me?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Whole Wheat Cable Blanket

Finally, the big reveal! This is the lap blanket that I made for my mom this Christmas. It only took me four months and eleventy-billion hours of crocheting. Well, it felt like eleventy-billion. I lost track of the exact number of hours sometime after a billion. I think it had to do with each row being only single crochet. Those tiny stitches took a long time to build a blanket. Seriously, this blanket was time- and yarn-consuming. The cables seemed to just gobble up the yarn. The end count was around 2850 yards of yarn, making this by far the biggest crochet project I've ever undertaken. 

Was it worth it? Yes yes yes! The cables came out just as I imagined they would. This blanket would be right at home in a mountain lodge or woodsy cabin somewhere. It's so warm. I fell asleep under it on the couch one night (What? I had to try it out.) and woke up sweating. So maybe my mom can save a little on her heat bill this winter. I hope you like it, Mom.

Once you get the hang of this pattern, it's pretty mindless work. However, I wouldn't recommend it if you've never tried Front Post Double Crochet (Fpdc) before. Here's a pretty good video tutorial that shows how to do Fpdc. I'd suggest trying a simple pattern to learn Fpdc first. Something like this potholder is a good place to start. Before you know it, you'll be addicted to the textures and designs you can make from Fpdc and then you'll want to make lots of cabled projects.

Pattern: Crochet Cable Afghan (free pattern)
Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease Worsted
Hook: J
Made for: Mom, Christmas 2010
Washing instructions: Washer and Dryer friendly!

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I hope you're all staying warm! One more day of 2010 to go. I'm busy thinking up resolutions and getting excited about the big UK/U of L basketball game tomorrow. Go Cards!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Slouchy Hat

My sister asked for a slouchy hat for Christmas. She wanted one like Ashlee Simpson wears. That girl and Ashlee Simpson. She's always been a fan, even during the SNL lip-synching debacle. 

I found a pattern on Ravelry called Combination Summer Hat that looked like something my sister would wear. The original pattern calls for using cotton yarn, but we don't really wear hats during Kentucky summers. It's too hot and humid around here. So I switched the cotton for wool and figured it will keep my sister warm on sunny winter days. She could probably stretch the wear into summer and fall if she wants. 


Pattern: Combination Summer Hat (free download on Ravelry)
Yarn: Knitpicks Wool of the Andes in Coal
Hooks: K and H
Made for: Julie, Christmas 2010

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And even though I already revealed this present a few weeks ago, I'm showing you the Lemon Drop Swirl Hat again. It took all the will power I have to pry it off my head and give it away this Christmas. I made it for my goddaughter Jill whose favorite color (like mine!) is yellow.

Thank you everyone who gave me advice on the flower. I ended up sewing a pin back on it so that Jill has the option of wearing the hat with or without it. I see more flower brooches in my future.

This photo shows the true color.

I realized this morning that I forgot to include washing instructions on the gifts I made this year. Yikes! I'm having visions of tiny felted crocheted hats. I better send out some "Handwash only" emails.

I hope the final days of 2010 are delightful for you.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Orange You Lovely Headband

This is the first of my "Christmas presents revealed" posts.

The moment I saw this headband pattern (via virginia blue), I knew I had to make one for my friend Christine. She lives in Minnesota and has to battle with cold and snow for months on end. Christine also hates hats. She favors warm woolly headbands for keeping her ears from getting frostbite.

Back in May, Christine gave me my first knitting lesson. While I sat around practicing stitches, she whipped up a green headband for herself. So I knew I needed to make this headband a little different to entice her to wear it. I picked a bright orange color called Mulling Spice (mmm...just the name makes me feel warmer) and a pattern with a bold flower. I met Christine in Japan, where she pedaled around the city on a fancy orange bike. It stood out from all the other bikes, so that when we met up at a restaurant I could quickly scan the bikes parked outside to see if she had arrived yet. Orange always reminds me of her.

This is a really fast project. It came together in a few hours for me. All the stitches used are basic, so this would be a satisfying beginner's project. I finished the headband with a cream-colored button, which I forgot to take a photo of. You could also stitch the two ends together to finish it. 

Pattern: Crochet Flower Earwarmer from Cut out and Keep
Yarn: Brown Sheep worsted in Mulling Spice
Hook: H
Made for: Christine, Christmas 2010

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you a happy day filled with family, friends, and good times!

Friday, December 24, 2010

A winter walk

Imagine quiet. Cold cold quiet. It's broken with the rhythmic crunch of your footsteps over the icy yard. Stop and look at the small details. The frost on an oak leaf.

Ice sculptures on seeds.

A woodpile in the sun dripping with melted ice.

A cabin for gnomes built by your sister out of twigs, mud, and pine needles. 

Breathe in gulps of frozen air. Breathe out clouds of steam.

Welcome Winter.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Cards have been sent. These pine cone stamps are what motivated me to send cards in the first place. Sure, keeping up with old friends was a factor too, but I really wanted to use these stamps. Aren't they pretty?

The tree is up. Isn't it lovely? I think I outdid myself this year. 

Parties are in full-swing. My mister and I got all fancied up for a party at the Brown Hotel. And if you must know, the tree above is in the Brown's lobby. I played total tourist and snapped lots of photos of the place.

Christmas records are in near-constant rotation. The Dean Martin one is my favorite because I love "June in January" and "Baby It's Cold Outside." 

We also have an autographed copy of "Christmas with Colonel Sanders." It may be the most unusual album we have in our record collection. I'm not certain, but I think it came from my Grandma Trudy. She used to work for KFC, so perhaps that's how the autograph came about.  

And finally, the nativity is set out. It's up on a table this year instead of under the tree. I like being able to see it more. I'm very curious about what new addition my father-in-law might be making for it this year. Wise man? Sheep? Angel? 

As much as I love doilies and lacy things, I'm not usually one for covering my tables in them. However, I made an exception because I think it looks like snow and because this tablecloth was crocheted by my childhood next-door neighbor, Mrs. Piper. I wanted her hard work to be put to some use.

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I hope you're enjoying the holiday season!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

good morning

This morning feels good. It's a gray and cold winter day outside, but snug and warm inside. I woke up to the most beautiful song on the radio. I'd never heard it before, but it was perfect to listen to in the early morning hours because it is both sweet and sad. It captured that place between waking and dreaming for me, that time when in my mind contradictions are possible. Everything is possible. The song is called Rest and it's by Cheyenne Marie Mize. You can hear it in the video at the bottom of this post.

I woke up with a picture of this crochet project in my head. I was counting imaginary stitches in my sleep. You see, I finished my big Christmas project last night. All I have to do is weave in the ends! I am so excited to give my mom her present and to show all of you after Christmas. 

I ended up with a partial skein of yarn leftover to play with. I'm really into interesting textures lately; I can't get enough bobbles and cables. And so first thing this morning I grabbed a cup of coffee that the Coffee Fairy left for me and picked up my hook and yarn. The star-spangled quilt kept me warm and cozy. 

I've been so torn lately about what to crochet. On one hand, there are so many amazing patterns out there that I want to try. I've got a hat, scarf, mittens, cardigan, and hood on my list of things I'm itching to make. On the other hand, if I spend all of my time crocheting from patterns I'm never going to get any design practice, and I really want to design. I think one of my new year's resolutions will be to spend more time on my own designs. 

I'd like to share the pattern I'm making for this bobble-y project. I'll get back to work and see if I can't get it posted here before the new year. Look at me, setting deadlines for myself. I work best under pressure!

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How is your morning/afternoon/evening going? 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Handmade Ornaments

Clothespin Rudolph. I think we made these with my Girl Scout troop.

When I was growing up my mom, sister, and I had a tradition of making homemade Christmas ornaments every year. We'd make lots and give them as gifts to our teachers, neighbors, and relatives. I don't know when we stopped making ornaments--maybe around the time I reached high school and life got more hectic. I would love to start the tradition back up again because I loved the time we spent together crafting, and also because I love remembering each year when I spot the ornaments on my tree. I find myself drawn to handmade decorations and thought I'd share some that I've collected. 

Okra Santa. Made from real okra! I bought this one at a craft fair a couple of years ago.

This sweet screenprinted kokeshi doll is a new addition this year. I bought her from my blog friend Amy. She's got more in her shop.

A wooden snowman that K's uncle Gary made for us last year.

A little felt bird that I sewed in Japan.

A pipecleaner and bead snowflake made by Mom.

I love this tiny flowerpot snowman that my mom made. His earmuffs and scarf are so cute!

And finally a cross-stitched Santa that I picked up for a dime at a yard sale.

As I write this I'm remembering all of the ornaments I've left out. There are so many special ones on our tree! 

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Do you have a favorite ornament? What's its story? Is it homemade?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Real Wish List

A couple of weeks ago Liesl posted "real" things she is wishing for. The list was full of things she wants to do, people she wants to spend time with, and how she wants to feel. I think this is the best kind of wish list! And so I was inspired to make my own.

My real wish list:

Have a movie-marathon slumber party with my mom and sister.

Bake cookies and make peanut butter cups.

Go thrifting. And then go thrifting some more.

Take a hot bath with candles, bath salts, and a good book. Let the semester melt away.

Rent Northern Exposure Season 3. Watch it straight through.

Walk in the park with K.

Have a wine and cheese night with Dad.

Crochet every day.

Play in the snow.

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What's on your "real" wish list?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Lemon Drop Swirl Hat + giveaway links

Meet the Lemon Drop Swirl Hat, a complete Christmas present! I can show it here because I am pretty sure the recipient doesn't read my blog.

I used the Divine pattern again and got inspiration for the flower from Deb at Virginia blue.

I personally love the flower, but I don't know if the person I'm giving it to will. I haven't sewn it on yet because I just can't decide. What do you think? Flower or no flower?

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Don't forget that today is Sew Mama Sew's Giveaway Day! If you're anything like me you'll want to spend oodles of time visiting crafty blogs and signing up to win cool things. I really wanted to participate but ran out of time this year. There are three giveaway lists, so be sure to check them all out. Sewing/Knitting Supplies, Handcrafted Items, Handcrafted Items + Supplies

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Tonight we made a big salad for dinner. It was a nice change from all of the soups and rich holiday food we've been eating. We needed a little something more, though. It's been bitterly cold (for Kentucky) lately. So when we got home tonight with cold noses and toes, we needed something more than salad. Luckily I remembered that I had some sweet potato biscuits squirreled away in the freezer. In twenty minutes we had steaming hot biscuits to accompany our salad. Perfect.  

I've tried a couple of sweet potato biscuit recipes lately. One is from here. Stephanie's biscuit photos are beautiful. Swoon-worthy. Her recipe is top-notch, too. It makes a savory biscuit that would be great accompanying soup (we had ours with miso sweet potato soup) or alongside a salad.  

I also tried a recipe that my mom passed along to me. It's from a restaurant called Blue Pete's in Virginia Beach where she ate sometime around 1978. She'd saved the sweet potato biscuit recipe all these years and to my knowledge never made it. I thought the time had come. When I had her over for dinner a couple of weeks ago I made the Blue Pete's recipe. It was definitely a hit. This recipe makes biscuits that are a bit on the sweet side. We had them with dinner, but I think they would be better for breakfast. You could even play up the sweetness by adding a little cinnamon to the dough or serving them with maple syrup. 

Click on the image to enlarge.

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Have you tried any new recipes lately? I'd love to hear about them.

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P.S. To all of you lovely readers who have left comments lately: Thank you. They always make my day! Soon (oh so soon) I will be on winter break and can't wait to visit your blogs once again. See you then.

Friday, December 3, 2010

My Cold, Cold Hearts

It's December. The holiday heart bunting is up! 

The tree is decorated. I've been spending my free moments cozied up next to it crocheting. I'm trying to finish up a big project by Christmas morning. 

Stockings are hung. Hip hip hooray for the holiday season! I love this time of year.

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If you want to make some Grandma Hearts of your own (they'd be great ornaments or present toppers), the pattern is here.

If you want more details about the bunting I made, my ravelry project page is here.

The inspiration for bunting name is from the song Cold, Cold Heart. I've been enjoying the Aretha version.


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