Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Knitting until my hand stops working

Being a smart (lazy) person, I did not attempt to knit any holiday gifts for people. It's just too much pressure (on me, by me) and I can never remember to start early enough. Maybe next year? I have been furiously knitting though. The MKM has been selling items at Republic Coffee, our weekly hangout, to raise funds to help me pay for this. I can't thank my MKM friends enough for giving up their precious knitting time to make items to sell. They are made of awesome. These are some of the things I've been knitting recently (with stash yarn!)
Neckwarmer in an alpaca/wool blend
Ribbed man hat
Chunky button hat

Queen Anne's lace hat (I made this in October but forget to post a picture)

 Apple/pear baby hats 
Also in progress, baby sweaters for my very dear friends who are expecting twins in February. The green one needs to be blocked, have the sleeves seamed and buttons sewn on. The blueish/gray one is still being worked on. Both are knit in Madelinetosh sock, one in Thyme and one in Celadon. The sweater pattern is Maile and is free on Ravelry. I'm desperately trying to finish them in the next week or so, I wanted to finish them by Friday but that is so not going to happen.

I also have some new yarn porn to show. In order to save funds for the baby-making, I limited myself to  buying just two skeins of yarn in Seattle. This is Blue Moon Socks that Rock in Rosemary Rocks. I bought it at Churchmouse Yarn and Teas on Bainbridge Island.
This is Madelinetosh Vintage in Colbalt and I bought it at Little Knits in West Seattle.
Since I had already signed up for the Madelinetosh yarn club and couldn't cancel, I've gotten two shipments of it. Although I did sell some stashed yarn on Ravelry. This was the first installment, the colorway is Laurent and it's 80/20/10. It's very soft and springy and the color is so pretty in real life. I'm planning on using it to make a set of Snapdragon mittens and a tam.
This was the second shipment, it's Tosh DK and the colorway is Geode. I'm not sure what I'm going to make with it but I really like the color.
My poor hands have really felt the burn lately, I've been knitting so much my hands are stiff. I think I need to start wearing one of those hideous braces, at least at home.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Rewind - Swedish Visiting Cake

Okay despite the fact I have sweets coming out of my ears, I still made this cake. I made it back in April when it was first chosen but I took it somewhere else for others to eat and didn't get to taste it myself. Since I had almost everything I needed to make it in my pantry/fridge I choose it to rewind. My only alterations were to use orange zest instead of lemon and to up the almond extract from 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon. This cake is one of my favorite TWD recipes. It's so simple to make, takes almost no time and has such a good flavor. Perfect!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Made with love (a little bit of snark)

Two weeks the MKM had our Christmas party/ornament exchange. Each of us handmade a dozen ornaments to exchange. My original idea was to print off a black and white graphic of a whisk onto fabric and then sew little pillow style ornaments. Unfortunately neither my printer at home, nor my printer at work would cooperate. Plan B was to make the same kind of ornaments I made last year, the glitter cupcakes (instructions are found here at Bake It Pretty). Of course I ran out of the Martha brand glitter glue I bought last year and couldn't find any at Michael's so my cupcakes didn't look at 'frosty' as I wanted them to. 

Everyone made such cute ornaments and every time I put them on my tree I'll think about them!

We also had a potluck and I brought an orzo salad with baby spinach, feta, sun dried tomatoes, olives, etc. and I wanted to try something new so I made Nanaimo bars. You can read all about them here. I used the recipe on the City of Nanaimo's website  . I couldn't find any vanilla custard powder so I subbed vanilla instant pudding mix instead. These three layer bars were deeelicious. The base was coconut/almond/chocolate graham crackers, the middle was a vanilla frosting/custard and the top was chocolate ganache. Very yummy and pretty simple! 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

From my favorite book

Wednesday was the birthday of Betty Smith, the author of my favorite book ever, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I have read and re-read that book countless times. One of my most treasured possessions is a well-worn first edition of the book. Over at The Writer's Almanac they reprinted a small portion from one of the chapters, especially relevent during this holiday season:

At midnight on the Eve of our dear Saviour's birth, the kids gathered where there were unsold trees. The man threw each tree in turn, starting with the biggest. Kids volunteered to stand up against the throwing. If a boy didn't fall down under the impact, the tree was his. If he fell, he forfeited his chance at winning a tree. Only the roughest boys and some of the young men elected to be hit by the big trees. The others waited shrewdly until a tree came up that they could stand against. The little kids waited for the tiny, foot-high trees and shrieked in delight when they won one.

On the Christmas Eve when Francie was ten and Neeley nine, mama consented to let them go down and have their first try for a tree. Francie had picked out her tree earlier in the day. She had stood near it all afternoon and evening praying that no one would buy it. To her joy, it was still there at midnight. It was the biggest tree in the neighborhood and its price was so high that no one could afford to buy it. It was ten feet high. Its branches were bound with new white rope and it came to a sure pure point at the top.

The man took this tree out first. Before Francie could speak up, a neighborhood bully, a boy of eighteen known as Punky Perkins, stepped forward and ordered the man to chuck the tree at him. The man hated the way Punky was so confident. He looked around and asked, "Anybody else wanna take a chance on it?"

Francie stepped forward. "Me, Mister."
A spurt of derisive laughter came from the tree man. The kids snickered. A few adults who had gathered to watch the fun, guffawed.
"Aw g'wan. You're too little," the tree man objected.
"Me and my brother — we're not too little together."
She pulled Neeley forward. The man looked at them a thin girl of ten with starveling hollows in her cheeks but with the chin still baby-round. He looked at the little boy with his fair hair and round blue eyes — Neeley Nolan, all innocence and trust.
"Two ain't fair," yelped Punky.
"Shut your lousy trap," advised the man who held all power in that hour. "These here kids is got nerve. Stand back, the rest of yous. These kids is goin' to have a show at this tree."

The others made a wavering lane. Francie and Neeley stood at one end of it and the big man with the big tree at the other. It was a human funnel with Francie and her brother making the small end of it. The man flexed his great arms to throw the great tree. He noticed how tiny the children looked at the end of the short lane. For the split part of a moment, the tree thrower went through a kind of Gethsemane. 

"Oh, Jesus Christ," his soul agonized, "why don't I just give 'em the tree, say Merry Christmas and let 'em go? What's the tree to me? I can't sell it no more this year and it won't keep till next year." The kids watched him solemnly as he stood there in his moment of thought. "But then," he rationalized, "if I did that, all the others would expect to get 'em handed to 'em. And next year nobody a-tall would buy a tree off of me. They'd all wait to get 'em handed to 'em on a silver plate. I ain't a big enough man to give this tree away for nothin'. No, I ain't big enough. I ain't big enough to do a thing like that. I gotta think of myself and my own kids." He finally came to his conclusion. "Oh, what the hell! Them two kids is gotta live in this world. They got to get used to it. They got to learn to give and to take punishment. And by Jesus, it ain't give but take, take, take all the time in this God-damned world." As he threw the tree with all his strength, his heart wailed out, "It's a God-damned, rotten, lousy world!"

Francie saw the tree leave his hands. There was a split bit of being when time and space had no meaning. The whole world stood still as something dark and monstrous came through the air. The tree came towards her blotting out all memory of her ever having lived. There was nothing-nothing but pungent darkness and something that grew and grew as it rushed at her. She staggered as the tree hit them. Neeley went to his knees but she pulled him up fiercely before he could go down. There was a mighty swishing sound as the tree settled. Everything was dark, green and prickly. Then she felt a sharp pain at the side of her head where the trunk of the tree had hit her. She felt Neeley trembling.

When some of the older boys pulled the tree away, they found Francie and her brother standing upright, hand in hand. Blood was coming from scratches on Neeley's face. He looked more like a baby than ever with his bewildered blue eyes and the fairness of his skin made more noticeable because of the clear red blood. But they were smiling. Had they not won the biggest tree in the neighborhood? Some of the boys hollered "Hooray!" A few adults clapped. The tree man eulogized them by screaming, "And now get the hell out of here with your tree, you lousy bastards."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Apple-Coconut Family Cake

I've been on a TWD break for two weeks, between my trip and school finals it was hard to find baking time. Thankfully finals are over (for me at least) so I found the time to make this week's TWD selection, chosen by Amber of Cobbler du Monde.
The recipe was apple-coconut family cake, it's very moist and not too sweet. I liked this cake but I think the coconut threw off the taste a little. If I make it again I'll omit the coconut just to see what difference it makes.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Seattle Part II - Shopping, eating, walking

Saturday morning we woke up early and had breakfast at the 5 Spot in Upper Queen Anne. After breakfast we walked around for a bit, stopping at a few shops. When we left Queen Anne we drove to Archie McPhee's and got a contact high from the distinct plastic smell. At eleven Urban Craft Uprising opened so we headed back to Queen Anne for that. The Seattle Center was packed with people and crafters, lots of people I 'know' from Etsy and blogs. Doug got a very cool tshirt from a local artist and I bought a pair of simple silver earrings. 

That afternoon we picked up our friends and we all drove down to West Seattle. I drug my non-knitting friend to Little Knits and then bought two skeins of yarn (such restraint!) and Doug found a comic shop next door. We also had pie to Shoofly Pie down the street before heading over to Delancey for dinner.

We got there right before they opened and there was already a line. The pizza was very, very good and we were so glad to have time to enjoy dinner with our friends. I got a pepperoni and Doug got that night's special which was bacon and onions and something else. After dinner we took our friends back home, went back to our hotel and called it a night. 

On Sunday we had donuts and coffee at Top Pot before going downtown to Pike Place Market to walk around. The produce looked so good, I just don't like the fishy smell from the seafood stands.

We caught the ferry to Bainbridge Island and had lunch at a Thai place by the water. We walked around too and visit Churchmouse Yarn and Tea, where I purchased one skein of Blue Moon Socks that Rock and some tiny buttons.

By the time we made it back across we were so tired. We did manage to stop by Macrina Bakery for a pick-me-up before driving down to Tacoma to have coffee with one of Doug's friends who lives there. Monday morning we got up early and packed, had breakfast in West Seattle and stopped by Alki Beach again before heading to the airport. 

The security line was clogged up so we made it to our gate just in time for boarding. The flight back was kind of bumpy but shorter than the ride there. As always I really enjoyed my time in Seattle, although I think Doug wants to drive there next year...

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Seattle Part I - The Olympic Peninsula

We survived our flights to Seattle with the help of expensive but terrible plane wine, laptop movie watching and some prescription pharmaceuticals. Thursday when we got in neither one of us felt great (it was the wine). We got our rental car and drove to West Seattle for a much-needed lunch of fish and chips at Salty's on Alki Beach. After that we checked into our hotel and later meet up for an early dinner with our Seattle friends. I had a roaring headache the rest of the night so we were in bed early. 

Friday morning I woke up at four in the morning because my body thought it was six. I got ready and patiently waited for Doug to wake up. Once he did we headed to Volunteer Park Cafe for a yummy breakfast and then spent the rest of the driving up the Olympic Peninsula

It is an outrageously beautiful drive, mountains, trees, lakes.
Eventually we made it to the Hoh Rain Forest, which was spectacularly quiet and serene. 

While we were there we saw *two* Bald Eagles in the wild, craziness! We also saw these elk on the side of the road. 
We had wanted to drive to Ruby Beach but by the time we got ready to head that way it was close to sunset and we still had close to twenty miles to drive. Instead, we headed back the way we came and stopped at Rialto Beach to watch the sun set. 

After all that we packed up and headed back to Seattle, stopping in Port Angeles for coffee and a bathroom break. It was so late when we got off the ferry we ate Ivar's for dinner. Ivar's is a Seattle fish and chips chain but it was really good after such a long day. 
The rest to come, Urban Craft Uprising, pie and shopping in West Seattle, dinner at Delancey, Kerry Park, Pike Place Market, Bainbridge Island and Tacoma.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

That time of year again

It's time to catch a plane and head west. I'm leaving for Seattle on Thursday and this time Doug is coming with me. This trip makes the third December I've gone, Doug hasn't been back in sixteen years. Half of me is super excited to go and the other half of me is filled with overwhelming anxiety about flying. I could care less about the potential for scanning/groping by the TSA, I just don't want the plane to crash. Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that my dear, sweet husband is a terrible flier too. Right now our plan is to either a) take Xanax or b) take a quarter Ambien each.  We're leaning towards the Xanax considering once we make it to Seattle we have to pick up our rental car and drive into the city. Ambien has a way of disorienting you - even in small doses. This will be the first direct flight I've taken to Seattle, total flying time is around 4 hours (OMGOMGOMG) and 51 minutes. Deep breaths. I'm downloading some movies to my laptop and bringing plenty of knitting to keep us/me occupied and less concerned about crashing into the mountains.
View from Kerry Park
Hurricane Ridge - Port Angeles, WA
Provided we safely land in the Emerald City, our loose plans include spending time with our friends who live in Edmonds, dining at Delancey, visiting the CakeSpy shop, hiking in the Hoh Rainforest, seeing Ruby Beach, taking the ferry to Bainbridge Island, shopping at Urban Craft Uprising and having a cupcake (or three) at Cupcake Royale.

Fingers crossed for an uneventful flight.