Sunday, December 28


We are back from our holiday travels, and we are breathing a sigh and starting to relax. I am not a big fan of the holidays, to be honest. Too many people to see, too many expectations, and not enough time for regrouping and relaxing.

There were a few highlights to our trip, however. Isaac tried on his mouse mittens and then ran into the other room to show them off. Alden immediately ate (or tried to eat) his new bib.

And I made cookies with my mother.

The cookies were inspired by Meg's post on speculaas, since my parents have a speculaa mold and I am always game for making something out of the ordinary. Meg recommended lots of flour to keep the dough from sticking in the mold, and I emailed my mother a recipe I'd found online before we headed to Philadelphia. My mom made the dough and it was ready in the fridge for whenever inspiration struck. Which was right before Christmas dinner. Check out the awesome new vest that my mom knitted for me with Jacob's Sheep wool from the Hope Spinnery.

I rolled out the dough, and we pulled of pieces of it to press into the floured molds. Meg was right- lots of flour was the trick- and we quickly got the hang of it. Here's the hitch though: the recipe was wrong. I mean, the cookies were delicious, but I should have read it a little closer, or followed the link from Meg's blog to her favorite recipe. Our recipe contained eggs, which meant that they expanded and lost their shape when they baked. Which meant that pressing them into a mold was a waste of time. Oh well, maybe next year...

Thursday, December 25

a very happy

A very happy holiday to you!
We've just returned from the morning at Christopher's family's house, and are going to rest a bit before my parents return from visiting with their friends and we do a second round of holiday celebrating with them. Phew! Does anyone else wish they could just hunker up and be alone for the holidays? How about a desert island? Just kidding (sort of).

Cute baby-eating-knit-bib pictures forthcoming. (I still haven't made the French press cozy, but maybe I can whip it up while Christopher naps. it's quick, right??)

Wednesday, December 24

we're off

Last night we managed to put away some of the tools and return some of our kitchen items to their places, which cleared the way for a little Christmas decorating. We didn't get a tree this year; I am still smarting from an offhand comment last year referring to our tree and involving the words "Charlie Brown."

(For those of you who aren't familiar with buying Christmas trees in a city, you should understand that trees must be imported from New England, which means that they tend to be rather expensive. We can't just go cut one down. Around here they go for around $10 a foot, and since we don't have children and aren't here for Christmas itself, buying a 5' tree for $50 is a real extravagance.)
Anyway, Christopher picked up a wreath on Monday, and last night we put up some lights, wrapped presents, listened to sappy Christmas music and ate popcorn. I'm feeling a little more in the spirit, though I am unsure how we ended up with just one measly present for Christopher's stepfather (actually, I do know how that happened-- he only requested one thing, and we have no idea what else he would like. Socks? A paperweight?)When Christopher gets up, we'll open the presents we got for each other (he's getting new t-shirts from me, not so exciting unfortunately) and then we'll pack and head off to Philadelphia for a few days of family time. I still have some gift knitting to do, a pair of mouse/cat mittens for our nephew, who is 4. (the pattern is for a mouse but I thought I'd do a cat instead.) The body of the mittens are done, but they still need to be made into an animal. I knit on an ear to see what it looked like, but I think I need to go bigger.

I am also considering whipping up a French press cozy for Christopher, since I'm feeling so bad about giving him mostly t-shirts this year. The main question is, how can I make the cozy when I'll be with him non-stop from now until Christmas morning??

Sunday, December 21

the pre-holiday weekend

I have something to admit: We haven't done any holiday preparation. In fact, we've only really thought about Christmas shopping; very little has been purchased. We have no tree, and only a decoration here or there.

This weekend was going to remedy that. I was going to bake Christmas cookies, and get a tree and put up lights. We were going to take control of our Christmas lists. None of that has happened.

Instead, we worked on our kitchen.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. We started renovating it almost 2 years ago, and though we've come a long way, we still had a lot still to do. Here is what it looked like when we moved in:We replaced the cabinets and tore out the soffit as soon as we could. The rest of the work- tiling, replacing the appliances and painting- has taken longer. You may remember that my father tiled one side of the kitchen a few months back.

Here is what we did this weekend:

Christopher sanded. I primed the area across from the fridge with special magnetic paint. 3 coats.Christopher primed the areas where the soffit had been.I tiled the other side of the kitchen (above the sink) & Christopher painted the kitchen. (there aren't any action shots of me tiling; you'll just have to notice that this is now tile where there was not.)He's actually still painting it, but I'm done with the tiling (for now, it still needs grout). I should move on to writing Christmas cards. Or to reading a play that I've just agreed to work on. But I'm up for a break, and I'd still like to make those cookies...

Friday, December 19


Thank you all for your support with the Metropole. I guess I wasn't clear; I'd already washed and blocked what I'd knitted, and those were the measurements I'd gotten. I think I'm going to knit a larger size, as suggested by Lisa. If I go up yet another needle size, I'll end up with a coat that doesn't do much to keep out the wind. I also hope I can use the gauge information that I now know in order to make the appropriate adjustments when knitting the next size up. Oh, it will be hard to motivate on this yet again.

I've basically given up on gift knitting. I still have plans to make some very cute mittens for my other nephew, but I haven't found the right yarn yet. (I actually haven't looked, but I know my local yarn store doesn't have what I want, so again this requires motivation.)

The real reason that I've not started on these mittens (which I know will be very fast to knit), is because I've started some new mittens for myself (Vinterblomster mittens by Heidi Mork), and I'm totally addicted to them. (Some people love knitting socks; I love knitting mittens.) I'm just about done the first one, and I've sworn that when that is done I'll make the Christmas mittens.

Our leaky windows are being fixed! Some contractors arrived yesterday and set up some scaffolding, and I woke up this morning to banging. They apparently have to take off some of the brick above the problem windows. I'm a little nervous that they'll break something, but for now I've just closed the curtains and let them do their thing. I wonder what will happen when the snowstorm hits this afternoon. I can't imagine they'll work through it...

Sunday, December 14


I've been having issues motivating recently. Both this weekend and the last one have been washes in terms of getting things done. Real things, I mean. Knitting doesn't count. On the list have been Christmas shopping, Christmas cards, house cleaning (mopping would be nice), and general maintenance. So far this weekend, I've hemmed curtains and hung a shade in our den. That took maybe an hour. (I left the sewing machine out with the idea that I'll do some more fun sewing projects, but somehow I think that mopping might be more important.)

Christopher and I took a very pleasant walk to the hardware store today, where we got paint for our kitchen. This is the last room in our apartment to paint, and it will be a relief to have the years of food oil streaks painted over (is that TMI?). I also need to finish tiling the back splash, but that might take more motivation than I've got a the moment.

Anyway, my reason for blogging today: the coat that I'm knitting, Metropole, still has the wrong gauge. I seem to be knitting it at a tighter gauge than I knit swatches. I need 3.5 stitches per inch, which translates to 7 stitches to 2" or 14 stitches for 4". I'm getting 14.5 stitches for 4". Minimal, right? Well, it's supposed to be 23" wide at the bottom, and it's 21.5".
The waist should be 17", but it's 16". Either I have to frog and reknit it again, or I need to make the front really big, or... I'll have a coat that is too small for me. It does knit up fairly quickly, but man, I'd like to move out of the washing and measuring stage. Ideas?

Saturday, December 13

Chinese water torture

Our windows leak, but we mostly see evidence of it only when there is a real soaking rain. The rains on Wednesday and Thursday were hard enough to seep through and stain the shade in our bedroom, and it dripped enough that we put out bowls to catch the water on Thursday night. The dripping sounds weren't so bad, or maybe I was just really tired. I remember sleeping terribly the first time this happened. Maybe it's just peace of mind; on Monday our Board approved repairs to our lintels. This may be the last rain storm that we experience in our bedroom.

I have been really non-committal about knitting Christmas presents this year, but my sister-in-law sent an email yesterday with their Christmas wishes, and on the list was a bib for her almost 6 month old baby, Alden. I set to work immediately, grabbing some yarn I've had forever. I'm not really sure what it is or where it came from; perhaps it's Debbie Bliss Cotton DK? In any case, it worked perfectly. The bib pattern was so quick and fun; I clearly need to make bibs for all the babies I know.

Pattern: Modern Cable Baby Bib by Gibsongirl
Yarn: I think it's Debbie Bliss Cotton DK in stone
Needles: #8

Wednesday, December 10

a new toy

I have been thinking about alternate ways to make a living. Not that I want to quit designing, but I'd love to quit my day job. I'm not yet ready to announce my new money making scheme (and everyone seems to have one these days), but it involves photography. And that means that I need a better camera. An SLR.

I've always had cameras, and I used a 35mm SLR (my trusty, vintage, no batteries required Nikon F) from high school until I made the break into digital in about 1999. And that also meant moving to a point and shoot camera, which was alright. If you haven't noticed, many point and shoot digital cameras offer many manual settings. In 2003 I upgraded to a Canon Powershot S50 (another point and shoot), and that's what I've used until now.

Last night, I opened the box to my new Canon Rebel Xsi. It's beautiful: light, quick, a huge screen on the back. Even more interesting is that it makes really dull shots look good. Hopefully this won't make me into a lazy photographer.

I started reading the manual last night, and there's a lot to learn about those buttons on the back. What does the one with an asterisk do?

It's all good. A Christmas present for myself.

Thursday, December 4

a warmer neck

I don't know about the rest of you, but my neck gets cold. In fact, if there's a little cold air on my neck in the winter, it really gets me down. I need a big scarf in the winter, something that seals all the cracks, something toasty that I can wrap around my shoulders too, to keep any stray wind from getting me.

But I am not a big scarf knitter. The endless rows of the same thing over and over really bores me. It was a miracle that my father received that brioche scarf from me last Christmas. He must realize that I really love him. For myself... well, I've turned to cowls, but they aren't so snug. They don't keep the air out quite as well. Has anyone noticed this?

I've been searching for the perfect cowl pattern, something snug and warm. This is hard, because a cowl has so go over your head and therefore has to be wider. Many cowl patterns seem to be all about the drape, which looks great but doesn't do much to warm, in my opinion.

Then I saw Pam Allen's Ariosa Cowl in the most recent Twist Collective. It looked nearly perfect, except that I would rather use stash yarn and I had nothing in the required weight. Plus it doesn't quite cover one's shoulders.

And so I designed my own. Using stash yarn.
Can you believe it? I'm very pleased with how it turned out. An extra bonus is that the yarn is so light and airy and soft that it is warm without being heavy, and the brioche stitch allows for quite a lot of stretch going over one's head. It also seems to breathe fairly well; I didn't need to take it off once I got on the subway yesterday. I think I'll be wearing this quite a lot this winter. Specs:
pattern: my own. Should I name it?
yarn: 1 skein each of Blue Sky Alpacas, Alpaca Silk (50% alpaca/50% silk)
Colors 122 and 129 (bought on sale last summer at The Yarn Tree)
needle: #6 circular

Wednesday, December 3

new projects

When I went to the Mason-Dixon book signing at the BPL back in October, they had all of the samples from the book, and I tried on the Metropole coat. I'd never considered knitting a coat before, but this one fit me perfectly, and I'm not so satisfied with how warm my current coat is or how it looks. So I bought various colors of Cascade 109 (which is on clearance at Webs), swatched and washed the swatch, and the ordered more, in the color that I chose.

Those of you who don't knit might think it's funny that I decided to knit myself a coat. It is ambitious, but the pattern calls for a bulky yarn and chunky needles, so in theory this could be easily achieved. It's basically like a big sweater, really. (Sort of how a wedding is just a big party.)Problem is, getting 4 stitches per inch isn't the same as getting 3.5 stitches per inch. You can't really fudge that, and somehow I imagined that I could. I'm not really sure why I was surprised that halfway up the back of the coat I noticed that it was going to be way too small. I washed and blocked my knitting, and yes, it's still way too small. I've got to frog it and start over. It's very sad.

In other news, when I went through all my fabric on Sunday I came across this: I think it must have come in a bag of material that Terra gave me a few years ago. In any case, I like it a lot and there's enough of it to recover the old ottoman that came from my grandfather's house. It's a very similar green to what we painted the walls in our den, which could be good or bad. I'm going to go ahead with it anyway. I just need to learn a little about piping, and brush up on my upholstery skills. (I've done it before, but only for something that's used on a stage and therefore only had to look good from 30 feet away.) Any pointers?

Monday, December 1

a new hobby?

Yesterday I was feeling a little more perky (though not enough to brave the rain) so while Christopher did the laundry and corrected his students' essays, I hemmed some curtains and made chicken noodle soup.

Once the sewing machine was out, I decided to pull out all of my fabric - bags of scraps and random things I've bought or inherited over the years - and took stock. There's quite a lot, and some of it is really interesting and inspiring. I also pulled out my Denyse Schmidt Quilts book, which Derek and Terra gave me for my birthday. I've been longing to make a foray into quilting, but have been terrified by the amount of skill that seemed necessary. There is a simple sachet project in the book, and I decided to try it. Recently I've noticed that our sweaters have grown little holes and I know it's time to take some action against what is probably a small moth infestation. It could quickly get out of hand, especially with so much yarn around. Though greater action is needed, some sachets filled with lavender might help keep them at bay.

I chose some tan linen and some fabric that I designed back in 1994, when I had a silk screening apprenticeship at the Fabric Workshop and Museum. My finished object is a little bigger than it needs to be, and I didn't have as much lavender as I thought I did, but I think it will work.
My sachet was quickly done. It was a lot easier than I'd imagined, and SO FAST. I realize that I'm comparing sewing to knitting the equivalent object, but still. Fast. Christopher rolled his eyes when he saw my excitement. I'm not sure what I'll make next, but I think that a small quilt is on the horizon...