Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year's Eve Party

"Ring out the old, ring in the new/ ring, happy bells, across the snow/ the year is going, let him go/ Ring out the false, ring in the true." - Alfred Lord Tennyson

New Year's Eve and Day are upon us, and my menus for both are simple yet elegant this year.

For New Year's Eve, my family likes to have a spread of appetizers on hand to nibble while waiting for the ball to drop. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Spanakopita wheels
  • Spinach and Artichoke Dip. Serve with little pieces of toast or chips on the side.
  • Cheddar Chives Cayenne Biscuits. Serve these with lemon curd on the side as a spread.
  • Caramelized Ham Spirals
  • Baklava. This has been a New Year's Eve favorite with my family for years. Either make your own, or look for it in the frozen foods section of the super market.
Being part German, my family always makes pork tenderloin with sauerkraut for New Year's Day, and we burn a Bayberry candle or two (burning it down to the nub is supposed to bring good luck for the new year). Because of health concerns among family members this year, we've decided to change the menu a bit.
  • Boiled Lobster Tails. I would only recommend this to people who live in areas where decently fresh lobster is available (and no, it is NOT supposed to smell fishy! if it does smell fishy, don't eat it!), or where frozen lobster can be obtained. Serve with melted butter or cocktail sauce.
  • Hawaiian Meatballs. We've been substituting ground turkey instead of beef in ours lately, and they're really tasty.     
As far as drinks go, I recommend Andre or Korbel for champagne, and Martinelli's for Sparkling Cider.

Happy New Year's!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Knitting and Fleece Blankets

"I could remember she'd take her knitting with her to the movies. She could knit in the dark." - Edith Johnson

On the rare occasions that I go see a movie in the theatre, I take my knitting to work on while the commercials/previews are running. It's more useful than watching what trash is coming to theatres next.
Anyway, my knitting to-do list is humming along as usual. Currently on needles are:
  • Paris mittens. I'm really excited about these, and am making them in two contrasting shades of grey, which give them a distinctly French look. The wrist section is not too difficult, but switching to the mitten section is proving a bit tricky. 
the wrist of the Paris mitten

  • Simple, striped leg-warmers. I'm making these with 100% wool worsted-weight yarn, in earth-tone colors. Leg warmers are basically knitted tubes, and there is a broad range of variations possible.
  • Elijah the Elephant. I've always wanted to knit a stuffed animal, and this looks pretty straight-forward.
  • The second Placemat in a set of eight. This is going to be a looong project, but very pretty.
  • Another knitted tea cozy for myself, except that this one is just plain stripes with no writing, and the colors are Spruce and Kelly greens. I call it my Green Tea cozy
  • My "Wine and Roses" lace shawl. This is my own variation on another pattern, and there are no pictures of it yet, but they will be forthcoming. 

I visited a Jo-Ann's Fabric store today, and was dismayed to see that, two days after Christmas, they already have St. Patrick's Day paraphernalia out. I like gettin' my shamrocks on as much as the next lass, but this seems a bit extravagant, even for Irish folks. However, it didn't keep me from getting materials to make a new fleece-tie blanket:

 Slainte, and have a cozy winter!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

News of Great Joy

"On Christmas night all Christians sing, to hear the news the angels bring/ news of great joy, news of great mirth/ news of our merciful king's birth." - the Sussex Carol

My family's indoor Nativity scene

I rarely go outside the realm of homemaking in my posts, but what with news articles abounding with stories of people (in the States, anyway) getting into physical fights over material goods and even canceling Christmas because they just can't afford it, I think a reflection on the true meaning of the season is in order.
During this Advent season, I've been meditating on the role that darkness and light play in Christmas. Today, lights are put up on trees and houses and turned on at night to bring light to the darkness. This is a remarkably good illustration of what Christmas means - a world in darkness awaiting the light and joy brought by the birth of Christ the Savior. Even if we are not able to spend a certain amount of money on our festivities, Christmas should be a time of gratitude, joy and peace.

Peace, Joy and a Merry Christmas to everyone!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Macaroons, Shortbread and Baby Outfits

"Sugar and spice and everything nice - that's what little girls are made of" - Nursery Rhyme

"Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love" - Hamilton Wright Mabie

This year my family and I made two types of Christmas cookies, both new recipes for us, and they came out beautifully - I heartily recommend them.

The Peppermint Macaroons (see previous post for recipe) came out beautifully, and is sure to be a family favorite year after year.

The Orange Shortbread dipped in Chocolate is very tasty, and also sure to become a family favorite. The recipe we used comes from Fine Cooking magazine. To make the orange shortbread, add a tablespoon of orange zest when you add the vanilla extract.

Now for a knitting update: the vintage 1970's Patons Pram Set is finished, and had been shipped to the family who commissioned it. This was a delightful project to work on - just challenging enough to keep me interested, yet straightforward and simple enough that I didn't get too frazzled while working on it.

the whole set on the blocking board

If anyone is interested, I do knit on commission, and would be delighted to make this to order. Price is US$100, ships only within the U.S.

coat with buttons


Girl's Bonnet (Boy's Helmet has a pom-pom on the back of the head)


Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Recipes and Goodies

"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year." - Charles Dickens

The time has come to post about recipes and other tasty delights which will feature at my home this Christmas. So, let's begin with my list of cookie recipes:
For multiple reasons, we're keeping our baking list small this year, and I've decided not to make Panettone bread, although it is delicious toasted with butter for Christmas breakfast.

This week I will be making Baked Brie for a church event. This is a rich, tasty appetizer that goes well at Christmas parties and events.

 If you are looking for a last-minute gift, Williams-Sonoma has this delightful Cocoa set that is sure to please the chocolate lover in your life.

There's not much to say right now concerning knitting - I am doing my best to finish the baby pram set mentioned in previous posts on time for Christmas delivery. It is competing with another knitted Christmas gift for a family member for my time. Hopefully both will be finished and under their respective Christmas trees by Dec. 25.

Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Of Place Mats and Little Leg Warmers

"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer." - Albert Camus

Today was the first day of Arctic wind here. All around the country, people have already had snow storms and freezing temperatures, and here we've been having balmy, muggy weather up until this week. Winter is not far behind.

To celebrate the arrival of cold weather (hey, if I wanted warm temperatures, I wouldn't be a knitter), I'm going to do a post about two very cheerful and warm knitting projects. 

First, I finally finished the first placemat in the set I am making to go with the china pattern I've been collecting, Pistoulet. I have 8 place settings, so I must make 8 place mats. It's tedious, tiresome work knitting a tightly woven mat, but the result is worth it:

The pattern comes from this book. One down, seven to go...

I also decided that I must make a pair of these baby leg warmers for someone's baby. ANY one's baby, really - the cuteness factor on these is too much to resist. Remember, I do knit for hire, and my prices are reasonable (shipping only within the U.S.).

Stay warm this winter!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner Menu

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." - I Thess. 5:16-18

It's Thanksgiving once again, and once again I will be cooking the feast (with a little help from my family now and then). Picking the menu is always a bit of a chore - everyone in the family has one or two dishes that they absolutely have to have on the table. So, here is the finished menu:
  • Turkey in brine. I recommend the Apple Sage mix.
  • Mom's Grand Marnier Chestnut Stuffing (sorry, top secret)
  • Butternut Squash Soup with Cider Cream
  • Gravy and Bread Sauce (the bread sauce is a British thing, from dad's side of the family)
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Mashed Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes
  • Glazed Onions 
  • Parsnip-Pear Puree (be sure to scroll well down the page to get to the recipe)
  • Brussels Sprouts with Apples
And then there's dessert. Last year I made pies for the first time, including apple pie. They were big hits with my family, and are making reappearances this year. In fact, I'm making a "dry run" of the apple pie for my church's Community Sunday meal this weekend.
  • Rum Raisin Apple Pie. Absolutely seals the deal for a memorable Thanksgiving.
  • Gingersnap Pumpkin Pie. A delicious variation on an Autumnal classic.
Good luck to all of the chefs who are in charge of cooking the feast!

What Would Lizzie Knit...

"If the knitter is weary, the baby will have no new bonnet" - Irish Proverb

Once again, I find myself drowning in yarn, with only my set of interchangeable needles to keep me from going under. Between the baby pram set I'm making on commission (see my last post for more details), a Christmas present or two, and some long-running projects for myself, my list of projects-in-progress is already groaning, and there are lots more waiting in line to be started. And then I went and stumbled upon this little gem:

Yes, indeed they did. A compendium of knitting projects inspired by the Jane Austen novels, as well as the movies based on the novels. The Chawton mittens, Evening Spencer and Northanger Abbey Hood patterns are among my favorites. A must-have for the Austenite knitter - I just picked up my copy today at the bookstore for US$15. Eventually, once I have more room on my knitting to-do list...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Knitting Wish List

"When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true" - Jiminy Cricket

Compulsive knitter that I am, I love Knit Picks knitting supply company. They have beautiful, beautifully priced yarns, interchangeable needle sets, etc. In short, the Nordstrom of knitters. They are currently running a contest where we desperate, impoverished knitters can compile wish lists, share them with multiple people, and thereby be entered to win the contest. So, here is my wish list.

The yarn on my list would be used for these two projects:

These Paris Mittens. They seem rather tricky, but as I love knitting as well as Paris, I'm really looking forward to making them.

This Evenstar Shawl. Beautiful, ethereal, terribly complicated. Just the project the work on during the long winter months...

In other knitting news, I've recently been commissioned by a friend's mother to knit a 4-piece pram set for her new grandchild. The pattern is vintage 1970's by the Patons company, and is written using British measurements. It is Patons pattern #1410, "Sweet Traditions"

Wish me luck with the contest, and happy knitting to all!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Food and Decor

" 'Tis now the very witching time of night/ when churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out/ Contagion to this world." - Shakespeare

I love Halloween - always have, always will. It's not just the prospect of getting candy (although that's a powerful motivator) that makes it fun and exciting - it's the fancy and flights of imagination that make it special. In a world where skepticism of innocent fun seems to reign, the evening of October 31 gives vent to the imaginations of young and old. And if you need evidence of why imagination is something that should be cultivated, especially in children, I recommend "The Abolition of Man" by C.S. Lewis.

But anyway, on with the post. This year, as usual, I made my Halloween Graveyard Pudding, which has become a favorite in my house at this time of year:

Other items on the menu include:

As for the decor, Jack-O-Lantern carving is an art - given the right tools, enough patience, and an indifference for handling slimy pumpkin goop, your Jack-O-Lantern can be a success. Here is a picture of my favorite of the ones I carved. This reminds me of some monster from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip:

We also made cheesecloth ghosts using styrofoam heads, lots (and I mean yards) of cheesecloth, and watered-down tacky glue:

They go well with lots of cobwebs, candle-lit lanterns, floating apple candles, pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns and hay bales:

Who says Halloween is for kids...
Hope your Halloween was appropriately spooky!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cozy Sipping and Reading

"Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it." - P.J. O'Rourke

"I have measured out my life with coffee spoons." - T.S. Eliot

The slew of book cozies I've been knitting over the past two weeks are now all finished, as is a handy little project that promises to be a go-to for gifts, stash-busting projects, etc.

First, the final two book covers are done, and have been named accordingly:



The first is another one that I made for a friend, and the second is for myself. I'm currently on a spy mystery novel reading kick, and can't wait for this cover to finish drying so that I can put it on (what John le Carre would say about such a girly-colored book cover going on "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," I hardly dare imagine...).

Next is a project that I listed in my Knitting and Nibbling post as a great idea for a quick, handmade Christmas gift. I just made one in two hours tops (and it only took that long because of some interruptions) - it's brilliantly simple, uses a piddling amount of yarn, and is a much better coffee cozy than the flimsy cardboard sleeves they give you at coffee shops. I took a regular, variegated sock yarn and paired it with a white sporting weight yarn to give it extra bulk, which helps keep your coffee warm and saves your fingers from burning at the same time.

In short, a highly recommended knitting project:


Monday, October 17, 2011

More Cozy Reading

"The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it." - James Bryce

After finding the book cover knitting pattern in the first Cozy Reading post, I decided to clear out my stash of old sock yarns and made a bunch of book covers for my friends. The variegated sock yarns are always a good choice for this pattern. I don't usually give my knitting projects names, but these seemed appropriate:


I just finished and shipped these to my friends, and am currently working on two more book covers. Pics (and names) will be forthcoming.


I also ended up making a straightforward, improvised Kindle cover for a friend, using a red worsted weight yarn paired with a fuzzy black-and-white variety yarn. Details can be found at my Ravelry account.


I hope that these patterns give inspiration for curling up with a good book on a cold day!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Of Babies and Biscuits

"I love cheese and biscuits; the stronger the better." - Eric Bristow

"Every baby born into the world is a finer one than the last." - Charles Dickens

Originally, this post was just going to be about cheese biscuit recipes, but a little something extra came along that will put a nice finishing touch on the Christening Gown series.

Since posting my signature Cheddar Cayenne Biscuits recipe, I've discovered a few other cheese biscuit recipes that are sure to please.

  • First is a recipe for the famous Red Lobster Biscuits. So simple and so delicious, why go out to eat when you can make them at home? 
  • Second is a scrumptious recipe from the Simply Recipes blog for different kinds of cheese biscuits - parmesan-scallion, blue cheese and chives, feta and black olives, or cheddar and scallions. The great thing about this particular recipe is that you can mix and match cheeses with complementary ingredients (the feta-and-black-olive are absolutely divine). Just go easy when sprinkling the rock salt on top - a little goes a long way!

Both of these recipes would be great for group gatherings, or for around the house with a mug of hot apple cider on a cold day.

Now for a lovely little finishing touch to the christening gown saga. I've already written about how making that gown was a fun journey, a labor of love, and the most difficult and challenging project I've ever made. Here is a picture of the Crain's firstborn, after her christening:

I have to say, for working blind with no idea of how big the baby would be, the fit came out beautifully (and this little lady was born on the large side, too).  The sleeves are somewhat long, but the lace lays over her little hands very charmingly. The Crains were delighted, and look forward to christening future babies in it. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Cozy Reading

"A good book should leave you slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it." - William Styron

Reading a good book for leisure should be a comfortable experience. Whether lounging on the beach under an umbrella in Sunny 70-degree weather, or curled up by the fire with a blizzard going full-blast outside, reading should be enjoyable.

With cold weather quickly approaching, one way to make reading a comfortable experience is to knit a cozy for your reading device, whether paper or electronic.

For traditional book-lovers, here is a beautifully simple pattern for a book cover that is a great way to use up stashed sock yarn. Below is a picture of one that I recently made:

*note: Instead of making the sleeves part only 11 rows, I doubled it to 22 rows. Blocking is best done on a piece of cardboard about the size of a regular paperback book, using pins to stretch out the ribbing. This can also be used on smaller hardcover books.

If you prefer to use an e-Reader, such as Amazon's Kindle, here is a pattern for the "Bear Claw" Kindle cozy (this is originally made to fit the Kindle 2, but the dimensions can be adjusted to other sizes accordingly).

Happy, cozy reading!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Fall knitting and nibbling

"How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days." - J. Burroughs

I've never done a post combining knitting and food before (for obvious reasons, as one usually and hopefully precludes the other), but these are great ideas for Fall that are too good to pass up.
  • Homemade Caramel Apple Spice - Now you don't have to run to Starbucks if you're at home and craving this delicious Autumnal drink. Simply pour some of your favorite Apple Cider into a mug, heat it in the microwave until piping hot, then stir in two teaspoons of this blend of spices
  • Crock Pot Reuben Casserole - terribly simple, quick and delicious dinner for cold days. Spray the inside of the crock pot with nonstick spray, then layer the following ingredients in the following order two times:
    • 2 cups deli-style corned beef, torn into small pieces, divided
    • 15 oz. Sauerkraut, divided
    • 1/2 cup deli-sliced swiss cheese, divided
    • 1/4 cup Thousand Island dressing, divided 
    • 4 cups dry stuffing mix, divided
Once both layers have been arranged, cover and cook on Low for 2-4 hours, until the casserole is cooked through and the cheese is melted.

Now that dinner is cooking in the pot and you have a cozy delicious drink in your hand, time to break out the needles n' yarn and start thinking about this year's Christmas presents.

Seeing as times are tough and money is tight these days, homemade Christmas presents can help reduce costs while giving a gift that is unique and special. Even if your knitting skills are rudimentary, there are many things you can make that only require basic knitting ability. Now is the perfect time to get started on those projects, and give yourself enough time to negotiate potential rough spots in the patterns. 

Here are several ideas:
  • These adorable Penguins and Polar Bears. The pattern does not include an explanation of abbreviations, but they can easily be researched online, and with a bit of tenacity and patience (if you learn one thing from knitting, it is patience), these can be really cute stocking-stuffers. The pattern recommends using a rolled ball of yarn to stuff the body, but I'm planning on making a bean bag using dried beans sewn into a cloth pouch for the stuffing.
  • This Harry Potter Scarf Bookmark. I grew up with Harry, Ron and Hermione, and when the movies came out I adored the Gryffindor House scarves. This pattern calls for double-knitting, which makes the scarf thicker, but it can be done like a regular scarf, too - just cast on 10 to 12 stitches instead of the 16 suggested (adding an extra two or four stitches instead of just casting on half of the original number of stitches gives a little extra at the sides of the "scarf" for rolling under), and knit away. If you don't do the double knitting, be sure to block the scarf so that it lays flat.
  • These Little Women Bookmarks. Ok, yes, I know - I promised simple and easy knitting patterns and these involve lace knitting, but don't worry; lace knitting is not as hard as you think, just a little tricky to figure out. With the internet at your fingertips, and plenty of knitting video tutorials out there, figuring out lace knitting on your own is possible with tenacity, patience (nope, that word is not going away), and prayer. These bookmarks are definitely "spicier" than the previous two patterns and should not be attempted unless you've been doing basic knitting stitches for a while, and are looking to branch into something a little more challenging. 
  • Coffee Cup Cozy. This cozy is ridiculously simple to make, uses up leftover sock yarn, and is more fun than the boring cardboard sleeves you get with your regular latte. 
  • Wine Bottle Cozy. These can be made with fun yarns that have sparkles, fur, etc. Just pop a bottle of wine into one and put a bow on it - instant tidings of comfort and joy!
  • Cell Phone Cozy. This pattern is terribly simple, and there are more complex ones out there, but this is perfect for a small amount of yarn and basic knitting skills. 
Stay warm this fall, and good luck with your knitting!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Of needles n' yarn...

"The only place where housework comes before needlework is in the dictionary." - Mary Kurtz

In the wake of finishing not only the Shipwreck Shawl and the Christening Gown, but also getting 3/4 of the way finished with the Hwaet! Old English socks, I've been experiencing some serious knitting lag (if I look at a knitting pattern that uses more than three knitting stitches, my brain might possibly melt).

Therefore, I've been finishing some smaller, easier projects that have been on the back-burner for several months now.

First is this Herringbone Neck Warmer. It's a little tricky to get the stitch right, but this promises to be a favorite go-to scarf.


Next is a repeat of my favorite sock pattern. These are going to be a Christmas present for someone.

Third is a repeat of my favorite knitted tea cozy, still under construction, which may also turn up as a Christmas present (hooray for relatively cheap, homemade Christmas gifts).

More knitting projects coming soon...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Autumnal Treats

"The leaves fall, the wind blows, and the farm country slowly changes from the summer cottons into its winter wools." - Henry Beston

Now that fall is upon us, the time is ripe for hearty, cold weather recipes.

  • Crab Imperial Pretzels. Planning on making these to nibble on Halloween night in between fending off trick-or-treaters.
  • Grown-up Butter Beer. The best thing to come out of the Harry Potter books. Rebecca Crump outdid herself in figuring out this recipe. It does involve alcohol: there are recipes out there that don't, but this is one just too good to pass up.
  • Crock Pot Mulled Cider: very simple - just put a gallon of regular apple cider into a crock pot with some of these spices, and cook on low for 2 to 4 hours. Or if you can't get those spices, use multiple cinnamon sticks and some ground cloves instead.
  • Broccoli Cheddar Soup. Need I say more? 


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Blueberry Peach Cobbler

"The nectarine and curious peach/ Into my hands themselves do reach; Stumbling on melons, as I pass/ Ensnared with flowers, I fall on grass." - Andrew Marvell

Since it's peach season, a cobbler is a great way to showcase this luscious fruit. Add some blueberries and you're in heaven (almost).

The recipe can be found here.

Instead of three cups of blueberries, use 2 cups peeled, diced peaches and 1 cup blueberries.

Serve hot, with whipped cream on top.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Lord of the Rings Evenstar Shawl

From darkness I understand the night; dreams flow, a star shines, Ah! I desire Evenstar. Look! A star rises out of the darkness, the song of the star enchants my heart" - J.R.R. Tolkien

As if I wasn't crazy enough to have undertaken all the lace projects I already have, then I had to run across this fascinating pattern of lace knitting insanity.

Some day, when I finish what's currently on my "knitting plate," when I acquire yarn, beads, needles and any other materials needed, when I've been locked in a padded cell...

"All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost." - Tolkien

To be continued...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Bacon Avocado Egg Salad

"My salad days, when I was green in judgment." - Antony and Cleopatra, William Shakespeare

Salads can be hit or miss - there's so much room for invention and (sadly) error. This particular salad, however, is just too good to miss, and is going down in my recipe box as one of the best I've ever eaten.

I did make some alterations to the original recipe: I used Hellman's mayonnaise (although I do eventually want to make homemade mayo, right before dinnertime was not convenient; and don't get me started on the strange aberration that is "Miracle Whip"...), and I left out the tomatoes.
A good way to make bacon without burning it or the required bacon grease for the dressing is to lay slices on a microwave safe plate without using paper towels, zap in the microwave for the appropriate time (see the back of the package), lay the crisp bacon on a paper towel to drain and tip the plate into a small mug to reserve the grease.
Best salad you'll ever eat!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Wine and Roses Lace Shawl, pt. 1

"They are not long, the days of wine and roses; out of a misty dream our path emerges for a while, then closes within a dream." - Ernest Dowson

So begins a crazy, insane idea worthy of being locked up in Bedlam. Just revisit this post to see what I'm talking about. I've finally acquired yarn, and am making a few alterations to the original pattern...

First, I'm going for a triangle shape instead of opting for the rectangular "wings." Second, I'm using a dark red, variegated yarn instead of white or off-white.

So, here is my very short progress thus far:

To be continued...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tasty Summer Soup

"There is nothing like soup. It is, by nature, eccentric: no two are ever alike, unless of course you get your soup in a can." - Laurie Colwin

I love summertime soups - when you can go get fresh vegetables in season (which you can only dream about in the dead of winter) and throw them in a pot with broth (creamy soups are best left until colder months, as they cover up the flavors in vegetables), some herbs and spices and other things. A good, broth-based vegetable soup is always a good choice in summer, since it's lighter and sits better on the stomach during hot weather than a heavy meal does.

So when I came across this recipe for soup, I had to try it. Here are pictures of the result:

the soup, before the first round of simmering

The soup before the second round of simmering

The finished product 

Instead of fingerling potatoes or artichokes, I used 1 1/5 regular Idaho potatoes. I choose to puree the soup rather than eat it whole. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup while it's still warm and in the pot, rather than putting it into a blender. Puree the big vegetables first, then add the herbs and puree once more. Add salt and pepper (a little goes a long way) and serve hot or cold.

Enjoy while summer's still with us!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Knitted Christening Gown, pt. 5

"It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end." - Ursula K. LeGuin

I really can't believe this project is finally finished, but it is. The knitting, the assembling, the lace, the buttons - it's all done.
The above quotation captures my attitude towards knitting quite well: the reason I love to embark on harder and harder projects that promise to take a long time to finish is not because I really have to have [enter fashionable knitted item here], but rather because I love to work on my knitting expertise, learn new stitches, and do the best job I can. Also, I love to bless others by making unique, lovely things that you just can't find in stores. So, as long as I don't develop arthritis in my hands, and can always have access to yarn and needles, Lord willing, I hope to keep this up for most of my life. It's one of those hobbies that gets under your skin and never goes away.

So, without more ado, here are pictures of the finished gown (click on the pics to make them larger):

The Gown

The Gown again, with better lighting

close-up of the bodice 

The buttons I sewed on to the shoulders are shaped like little daisies, similar to the yellow daisies I embroidered on to the gown.  

the hem, with lace sewn on

one of the sleeves, with lace on the cuff

... so ends one of the most difficult, most beautiful projects I've ever made. This was a labor of love, since the learning curve for this project was almost vertical. If I were to make another, I'm pretty sure it would take half to one-fourth of the time this one took. And what's more, I'm done well before Baby Crain is due. I'm sure the Crains will get good use out of this, and will definitely be able to pass it down to their children :-)

The End

P.S. If anyone is interested, or knows of someone in the market for an heirloom-quality christening gown, I am accepting orders. Be advised: the absolute minimum price is US$200 (shipping only within the U.S.).

Monday, July 25, 2011

Olde English Socks

"Hwaet! we gar-dena   in gear-dagum, (th)eod-cyninga,   (th)rym gefrunon, hu (th)a ae(th)elingas     ellen fremedon!"
"Listen! we have heard of the glory      of the Spear-Danes, in the old days,     the kings of tribes - how noble princes    showed great courage!" - opening lines of "Beowulf," H.D. Chickering Jr. translation

As regular readers of Peggotty's Corner may or may not have surmised, I was an English major in college, and strive to involve quotations from English Literature (or at the very least, quotations that mesh with the themes) in my posts. During my studies, I had some dealings with reading and translating Old English, and pride myself on having a rudimentary grasp of the pronunciation.

Imagine my delight and excitement when I stumbled upon this pattern. My English major and knitting "street cred" have just gone through the roof, ladies and gentlemen...

Behold, my progress so far on the first sock...

I'm making a pair in the size listed for an old college friend, who is a fan of just about anything geeky (you have to be to wear and truly appreciate these babies. I showed my progress to my younger brother, whose only comment was "you do strange things"). Once I've gotten the basics of the pattern under my belt, I'm hoping to make them in a larger size for myself.

The pattern costs about $5, and you can download it as well as have a hard copy shipped to you. A small price to pay for something so bizarre yet so delightful...


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Quick and Easy Beef Stew

"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world." - J.R.R. Tolkein

While visiting an old college friend this week, we decided to throw a bunch of ingredients into her small crock pot to make stew for dinner. The Crockpot is God's gift to overworked and hungry people who don't have time to spend cooking in a kitchen.

Imitation Beef Burgundy
Makes 3-4 servings

  • about 1 lbs. of stew beef, cut into chunks and rinsed
  • 2/3 - 3/4 cup red wine (cooking wine works well)
  • 2/3 cup Mushrooms, sliced and rinsed
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • 2 medium-sized cans stewed tomatoes (if you can find a brand with spices already added, choose them)
  • 1 cube beef bouillon
Place all of the ingredients into a Crockpot and let sit adjusted to the High setting for 2 hours. After 2 hours, put the setting down on low, and leave until dinner time (about 4 - 6 hours). Serve with bread, if desired.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Summer in the kitchen

"To see the summer sky/is poetry, though never in a book it lie - true poems flee." - Emily Dickinson

When it's hot and sweltering outside, one of the last things I want to do is cook in the kitchen (unless the A/C is on at 60 degrees F to compensate, which gets to be very expensive). So, why cook?

All the pictures on this post are ones I took
when I visited Greece a few years ago. 

Here are some ideas for tasty summer entrees I'm looking forward to trying out soon
  • This Bacon and Avocado Egg Salad. I've always wanted to learn how to make homemade mayonnaise, and this would be a perfect excuse for learning how to do it.
  • This Simple Summer Soup. Ok, so maybe some cooking over a stove is required, but once finished, you can puree it with an immersion blender and eat it cold.

Since the pictures in this post are from Greece, I would be remiss if I didn't add one of my favorite recipes from Greece that's perfect for hot weather dining - Tzatziki (no, I didn't sneeze, thanks for your concern)
This tasty yet pungent sauce is used on authentic Gyros (pronounced "Yros"), and is also pretty good served with french bread or pita chips. In Greece, they recommend eating it as an effective safeguard against mosquitos (yeah, that's because of the smell. I wouldn't recommend eating this before going out with friends or if you have to speak in public...)

makes: about 2 1/2 cups
  • 1 diced cucumber
  • 1/4 red onion, diced (2 tbsp.)
  • 1 chopped clove of Garlic
  • 2 cups Greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. finely chopped dill
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
Put cucumber, onion and garlic in a food processor and pulse until minced. Place yogurt in a medium sized mixing bowl, add cucumber mixture and everything else. Mix with a spatula until combined, store in an airtight container in the fridge. 

And for when stovetop cooking is unavoidable, what better way to keep cool than with one of these summer melon spritzers? (Syrup recipes taken from the July/August '10 issue of Victoria magazine)
  • First, make Melon flavored Simple Syrup: combine 3 cups water with 3 cups sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer, reduce heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely. Add either 3 cups of seeded Watermelon, 3 cups seeded/cubed Honeydew melon, or 3 cups seeded/cubed Cantaloupe. Puree either in a blender or with an immersion blender and strain liquid through a sieve. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
  • Next, mix a small amount of the flavored syrup with soda water in a glass over ice, and add a little bit of mint with the Watermelon, basil leaves with the Honeydew, and orange slice with the Cantaloupe. 
Stay cool, and happy cooking!