Forgive me, for I am a selfish knitter…

I try to be a good person, but…

I am actually a terrible person. I have all these plans to knit Christmas gifts for other people (e.g. a vintage Mary Maxim reindeer sweater for The Girl, cowls and fingerless mitts for various and sundry friends and/or relatives, a hat and socks for my husband, etc. etc.), but I keep getting distracted by stuff for me. Plus, I’m having trouble using my copious stash for these urgently required items so I keep buying things.  For instance, this Spud & Chloe Fine that I just bought for the husband’s Chili Pepper Hat, which I’m almost finished:

Spud & Chloe Fine in Hippo and Pavement

In fact, I was recently busted by the aforementioned spouse when he asked me “Hey, I once heard you say that you have more yarn than you’ll ever use in your lifetime, so why did you just buy more?” Naturally, I had no answer for this so pretended I hadn’t heard the question. How can I possibly make him understand that, yes, I have a veritable mountain of perfectly good fingering weight yarn stored under every bed and in every closet in the house, but none in the exact colour needed for the hat I’m making you with all the love in my heart.

Um, yeah…. I’m keeping that

An example of an object tricot initially meant for someone else that I have subsequently selfishly appropriated is Jane Richmond‘s Rae, which I made using SweetGeorgia’s Tough Love Sock in a custom colourway from Knit City. I think you’ll agree that the pattern and the yarn were born for each other. Just look how stripey it is without being pool-y:

Rae Scarf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, my idea was that this will be a gift for someone as-yet-undetermined, but the more I look at it and wrap it around my neck, the more I realize that I need to just accept that the only way someone else will have this is if it’s pried from my cold dead hands.

Also, I just finished Veronik Avery’s beautiful Lace Weekend Socks, which I cast on with every intention to gift them, but once finished, I put them on and, Bingo!, suddenly they were mine. Veronik’s (very sadly discontinued) St-Denis Boreale yarn is absolutely divine for socks. So woolly and cozy, it’s impossible to imagine giving them away. In fact, just the thought of parting with them made me a little weepy. (BTW, go to stdenisyarns.com now – all the yarn (Boreale, Nordique and Sommet) plus her lovely patterns are on clearance.)

Lace Weekend Socks

 

More distraction

And now, after digesting Jane’s exquisite new book Island and favouriting every single pattern, I’ve just placed an order from Quince & Co. for two skeins of their Sparrow linen yarn in Juniper to make her Strathcona scarf. (Update: I just received notification that it has shipped. Wheee!!)  And this time, I’m not even bothering to pretend that it’s for anyone but me. I mean seriously, this colour has me written all over it.

Sparrow in “Juniper” (photo from Quince & Co.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The good news as far as my Christmas knitting goes is that the aforementioned Sparrow won’t arrive for a few weeks (shipping from Maine) so I’ll have plenty of time to cast on the reindeer sweater and maybe even get most of it finished before the end of November.  Providing, of course, that my inner magpie can resist becoming distracted by other shiny projects in the meantime. (Yarn gods give me strength!)

Something I plan to focus on after my Christmas work is done is plowing through Pacific Knits, the other book I bought at Knit City. I love every single pattern in it. My niece is expecting again in a few months and I’ll need some wee woolies for him/her and a tiny-sized Antler Cardigan would be a perfect.. Happily, I may have stash yarn for this – which of course pretty much cancels out the cost of the Quince & Co purchase. It’s like getting free yarn! Right? Right? (Just nod in agreement.) That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  🙂

Antler Cardigan (photo by Tin Can Knits)

Happy knitting y’all!

 

The only turkey I smell is jive!

The last few weeks leading up to Christmas, my brain was completely clogged up with work stuff. Every moment of the day devoted to thinking about and doing things that have nothing to do with anything but work. As a result, my Christmas shopping was like a blundering albatross that just couldn’t quite get off the ground. Thankfully, I had a few days off before the holidays to finish up but it was definitely a scramble.

Delightfully, The Girl and her BF came for Christmas so we had a lovely family holiday together the five of us. We could barely see the tree underneath the Mt. Kilimanjaro of presents. As usual, I spent my birthday wedging a giant turkey into the oven and making my own cake (John Bishop’s Gingerbread Cake with Toffee Sauce and homemade vanilla bean ice cream – yummers!) But now that I’m officially on the other side of half a century, I’ve decided that next year I’m going to fold my apron, step away from the stove and let someone else run the show. Although I love the ritual of making a turkey dinner, it’s just so exhausting orchestrating the entire production alone and I’m ready to take a break and let Seabass and the Offspring weave their magic with a Butterball* and birthday cake. (*Please note that the use of a margarine-injected steroid-hopped gobbler goes against everything I believe in but if it means I’ll be able to put my feet up on the Joyous Day, I’m in! All I ask is that no one reports me to the Martha Police.)

Santa was extremely good to me this year. Highlights include the Elsa Peretti open-heart hoop earrings from Tiffanys that I’ve dreamed of wearing since I was a teenager when I first saw them in Vogue magazine, three amazing cookbooks (Dorie Greenspan’s “Around My French Table” from my beloved brother, Susan Mendelson’s “Mama Now Cooks Like This!” from Lolo and Nigella Lawson’s “Kitchen” from my dear Nancy), a Kobo e-reader, grey ruffled gloves (also from Nancy), Italian toothpaste, Spode Christmas Tree teapot and cream & sugar set, lilac suede slippers and the piece de resistance, a British Royal Family pop-up book, circa 1984. Sweet!!!

I’m not due back at work until January 4th so I still have a few days left before I have to once again apply nose to grindstone. Now that things have quieted down, for the rest of my time off I have scheduled long hours of knitting, leisurely walks, sipping tea while cookbook browsing, with naps to be indulged in when deemed necessary.

Lastly, take a listen to this One EskimO song which is my current favourite. I love the sampling of Candi Staton’s version of this great old song.

Happy New Year y’all!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

The Christmas baking machine is slowing powering up. Project number one on Sunday night was a batch of Espresso Mocha Shortbread, a slice-and-bake treat I’ve been making every year for approximately the last 20 years. I think I found the recipe in Chatelaine magazine. It’s super easy and Seabass’ favourite holiday goodie:

Wanna try the finest shortbread in the land yourself? Here goes:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup icing sugar
2 tsp espresso (or strong coffee), at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp cocoa
1 tbsp ground espresso beans
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Cream butter with sugar until fluffy, beat in liquid coffee, vanilla and almond extract. Stir together flour, cocoa, ground coffee and salt. Blend into butter mixture. On waxed paper, shape half the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch square and 10″ long, using a bench scraper to square off the edges. Wrap tightly in waxed paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Repeat for second half of dough. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut into 1/4″ thick slices. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 20-22 minutes or until firm or lightly browned on bottom. Press lightly into granulated sugar. Let cool on racks. Store in airtight containers at room temperature for up to 2 weeks (they never last that long though – just too yummy!). Makes about 32 cookies.

Tonight, I whipped up the dough for another family favourite: gingerbread cookies. This recipe is also at least 20 years old and I think I found it in Canadian Living. I love this recipe because they’re a little spicier than most other gingerbread cookie recipes. Also, I like to roll them out on the thick side – that way they’re more chewy rather than crispy. I like to cut them into star and snowflake shapes and decorate with royal icing and dragees. I’m not baking them tonight but will post pictures when they’re done.

Here’s the recipe if either of my two readers are interested:

3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of ground cloves
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses (best quality)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Measure flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda and cloves in a medium sized bowl, whisk until well combined, set aside.

Cream butter in a mixmaster bowl with sugar until very creamy. Gradually add molasses and beat until well blended, scraping sides frequently. Stir in flour mixture until well blended.

Split dough into 2 halves, form into disks about 1″ thick and refrigerate for 30 minutes (over overnight). Roll out about 1/4″ thick on lightly floured surface. Dip cookie cutters into flour and cut out dough. Using spatula, transfer cutouts to parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, placing about 2″ apart.

Bake in centre of preheated over about 8-10 minutes or just until set. Remove cookies to wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough, re-rolling scraps as often as needed. Cookies keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for months. They also freeze well. Makes approximately 4 dozen 2-inch cookies.