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!