last Eye Candy Friday of 2010...

...I have been taking a short vacation from the blog, simply because I was vegging out and not doing much of anything. I did want to share pictures of special Christmas presents I received from my friend, Jane.

Here's the first gift... a cat puzzle box:

Cat Puzzle box

And when I opened it, I found a note and a piece of jade that she had found at Willow Creek (Highway 1, California coast) when she was a kid.

Inside the Cat Puzzle box

I lived on the coast during my high school years and always admired the jade that people found. I never managed to find any myself—having one of Jane's pieces makes it doubly special.

She also gave me a teleidoscope. I've always loved kaleidoscope-type things, so having one of my own is very cool.

Teleidoscope

My challenge to myself is to figure out how to get a decent picture of the teleidoscope image. Here is an early, very low-tech attempt:

Teleidoscope image

Needless to say, I am thrilled with my two gifts. Thanks, Jane! (I hope you like yours!)

During this last week, I packaged and mailed 9 boxes of goodies to family and friends. I started deconstructing Bakery Central (removing the extra folding tables, washing 15 cookie sheets, 10 cooling racks, etc). I'm not done yet, but at least I can move around in my kitchen now.

I spent some time yesterday working on the teal quilt that I have been ignoring for several weeks. I finally decided that one of the fabrics simply wasn't working, so I ripped it out and replaced it with one I liked better. Now I'm rearranging the blocks until I find a layout I like.

I also found a set of Christmas quilt blocks that are ready for layout and the pieces for another Christmas quilt. Guess I better cycle these into the rotation!

I have done absolutely no knitting, weaving, or needlepoint the last two weeks. My hands seriously needed the rest after cookie madness, so I ignored all of my non-sewing WIPs.

Up this weekend: tonight a little bubbly, some munchies, and (I hope) toasting the New Year. Tomorrow, is house cleaning because my Seattle brother is coming for a visit on Sunday. I've already stripped the extra bed and between the Husband and I, the bedding is getting washed and ready for my brother.

I think I'll survey the WIPs and see which one should get the most attention in the next couple of weeks. It would be nice to finish something, anything...

Happy New Year everyone!
 

Merry Christmas!

...and yes I did fall off the planet for a while! Work and baking escalated to the point where I no extra cycles to deal with blogging.

I baked the last cookies on Wednesday and started packaging everything. I finished the packaging at midnight last night. It's been a lot of long days and nights, but so worth it!

Here's a picture of some biscotti waiting for the chocolate to dry:

Biscotti Central, 2010

I made 439 biscotti this year, down about 80 from last year. There are 30 people on the goodie bag list, and they each get biscotti. Here are 12 of the biscotti packages ready to give away, each with a dozen inside:

Biscotti

And a close-up:

Biscotti, up close

Biscotti types:
  • Chocolate-Hazelnut
  • Espresso-Almond
  • Grand Marnier-Almond
  • Coconut-Almond
  • Peppermint-Almond
  • Pistachio-Cranberry
Half are dipped in chocolate and the other half are plain.

I made 10 kinds of cookies this year, a yield of 635 cookies. These also go to the goodie recipients. Here's a look at 22 of the cookie containers just after sorting:

Cookie Central, 2010

and a close-up:

Cookie Sampler, 2010

Cookie types:
  • Frosted Sugar cookies
  • Spumoni Slices
  • Chocolate-Espresso Slices
  • Mexican Wedding Cookies,
  • Cherry Kisses
  • Chocolate Crinkles
  • Pistachio Coins
  • Ginger cookies
  • Spritz
  • Coconut-Cranberry Chews
I delivered 7 of the goodie bags to my co-workers on Tuesday. The rest will be delivered or mailed over the next few days.

I managed to finish baking and most of the packaging in time to clean the house before making Christmas Eve dinner. We had our traditional Cioppino dinner with an Apple-Cranberry Galette for dessert. It was a wonderful meal and we enjoyed the time we spent with The Husband's parents.

After they left, I packaged all of the pumpkin bread, fruitcakes and gingerbread loaves/cakes that I defrosted earlier in the day—I made 50 total, 7 had already been given to co-workers. I also packaged the chocolate bark for the local goodie bags—12 in all.

I put all of the gift bags by the tree, which made it look like we had lots of gifts:

Christmas 2010

We had a very quiet Christmas. The highlight of the day was a call from The Daughter, who is visiting her boyfriend in Hungary. We had a pleasant lunch with the Husband's parents and have just been vegging since then. Dinner will be left-over cioppino! LOL!

Tomorrow, I plan to do almost nothing, except reacquaint myself with my poor, languishing craft projects. I feel the urge to quilt...and weave...and spin...  HA! I'll have to pick one and just go for it!

I hope you enjoy the rest of your holidays!
 

Eye Candy Friday, Christmas edition...

...not much else is happening around home except a little decorating. I've been too tired after work to get any more baking done, so it will be another long weekend in the kitchen. Since there are no cookies or projects to show that you haven't already seen, here are some Christmas ornament pictures.

Christmas has always been Big Deal to me and, contrary to what you might think, I do enjoy decorating the house for Christmas. When I moved away for college in 1968, I knew I wanted to have a Christmas tree in my dorm room even though I'd have to take it down when we left on break. Since I didn't have any of my own ornaments yet, I bought the standard colored glass ball ornaments and a string of lights from the drug store. In one of the shops near San Jose State (read: head shop), I found 4 clay ornaments that I loved. They look Indian in origin and are decorated with beads and pieces of mirror. I've put them on every Christmas tree since.

Here's the round one:

Round clay and bead ornament

and the disk-shaped one:

Clay and bead disk ornament

The others are a ring and cube, but they are too high up on the tree right now for me to get a good picture.

As many children do, The Daughter made a few ornaments for our tree when she was elementary school age. These two ornaments, plus the traditional clothespin reindeer ornament also go on our tree every year:

Angel:

Angel ornament

Reindeer:

Reindeer ornament

I'm still trying to finish decorating the tree, but it may take a while. I reorganized some of the decoration storage last year and haven't located some of the small ornaments I like to put towards the top of the tree. I know they'll surface at some point, it might just take a while!

Up this weekend: I have designated Saturday as Biscotti Day, that is, after I bake the sugar cookies. Sunday will be mostly decorating the sugar cookies, making candy (chocolate bark and truffles), and putting chocolate on the biscotti. In between, more tree decorating and some chores. The goal is to get as much done as I can this weekend because the goodie bags for work must be delivered on Tuesday. I'm on vacation starting Wednesday.

It's going to be a long weekend!
   

WIP-It Wednesday, Christmas style...

...because I'm sure not working on anything crafty right now. Here's our partially-decorated tree:


Sorry, the picture is not better. I forgot to change the camera from Program to Auto. I have Program set up for close-up shots. Oops! The tree is about 9 feet tall and has an oddly angled trunk. But it's pretty full, so that's good.

I think I finally have all of the components for baking and packaging the goodies I'm making. I made a last run to Cost Plus yesterday to buy red and green cellophane. I've done very little online shopping because most everything will be handmade this year.

And, of course, because I'm taking vacation from the 22nd through the end of the year, work has escalated! Oh, yay...busy at work and busy at home! Needless to say, there are some days where I just want to play hooky from work and from home...LOL!

OK, that's a little better...

...I have two days of baking under my belt. Finishing my Christmas baking doesn't seem quite as impossible a task as it did on Friday.

So what did I make?
  • Almond fruitcakes
  • Pumpkin bread
  • Gingerbread loaves(more on that in a minute)
  • Spumoni cookies
  • Chocolate-Coffee Ribbon cookies
  • Mexican Wedding Cookies
  • Cherry Kisses cookies
  • Chocolate Crinkles
  • Spritz cookies
  • Coconut-Cranberry coookie
  • 12 cups of Grand Marnier pecans
I have a double batch of sugar cookie dough chilling in the refrigerator. I need to bake these next.

About the gingerbread: While I liked the recipe I made last year, I'm still looking for the ultimate gingerbread recipe. I found two candidates online: one from Food Network and one from Better Homes and Gardens. The  Food Network recipe really appealed to me and I made that one first. I doubled the recipe when I saw that it only took 1 cup of flour...I should have tripled it. It did not make very much gingerbread, only 8 mini-loaves.That's not enough.

Then I tried the BH&G recipe. I did not double this recipe as it seems like it would make a good amount. It was a little lighter colored than the Food Network recipe, but it still looks pretty good:

Gingerbread


The flavor is good, but it's just a little dry...a nice lemon frosting would set it off perfectly.

I didn't get as much baked as I wanted, but it's still really good progress.  I need to do an all-day biscotti session next weekend to really be in control of baking for the season.

We did manage to get our Christmas tree in its second stand and it is no longer wobbly. We now have the lights on it and I'm slowly starting to decorate it. Every time I walk by, I hang another ornament! The Husband hung the outside lights and put a very non-traditional Patio-Umbrella tree in the back yard. (Read: 1 patio umbrella without the cover + white icicle lights = tree.) I love it, but I kind of miss the tomato cage tree he put up last year!. LOL!

It's going to be a busy week at work, so I hope I have enough energy to decorate the house during the week.
   

Eye can't-believe-that-I-haven't-baked-anything-yet-Candy Friday...

...this is the latest start I have ever had in the last 24 years! Wow...it's a good thing I'm a lot more efficient now!

So today's Eye Candy is this morning's sky. You know, the sun has risen on yest another day of No Baking! LOL!

Another December morning

And we have a few flowers that think it's spring, like this one:

Blooming in December

There's also a very confused rose bush that refused to have its picture taken this morning.

Up this weekend: Need I say it? Baking!! Up first are the fruitcakes and pumpkin breads. Per batch, they take the longest to bake. While they are baking, I can make some of the cookie dough that needs to be chilled.  Then I'll swing over to the drop cookies.  I'll probably devote an entire day to biscotti, whether that's this weekend or next is anybody's guess at this point.

Oh yeah, somewhere in there I need to decorate! Tonight we will get the tree into its final stand (short story: it doesn't fit well in the current stand and is wobbly). If all goes well, I might be able to start decorating it tonight.

Crafts? who knows when I'll be able to get to that again...after Christmas, maybe?

WIP-it Wednesday...

...still no baking done! Man, I'm going to be busy this weekend!

Here's a WIP you haven't seen in a while:

Mochaberry Bramble socks, as of 12/8

I'm still working on the gusset decreases for these Mochaberry Bramble socks. It seems like it's taking forever, but given how little time I've actually been able to devote to these socks, I'm not doing too badly. I worked on these at Craft Night last night. We met at the new Panera in Sunnyvale and I decided that knitting was the best project for the location. I managed to finish 4 rows, so there was some progress.

I think I've finally finished the first round of ingredient shopping. Maybe I'll be able to bake one of the breads tonight. That's assuming that the Christmas tree goes up without any problems! That's the primary goal for tonight, The poor thing has been sitting outside since Sunday!

One last thing for today. I received my final installment of the Rockin' Sock Club from Blue Moon Fiber Arts. Picture behind the spoiler:


This is my truly last sock club installment for the Rockin' Sock Club. While I think the club is well worth the money, the truth is we can't afford it right now. I was in it for 5 years, so that's a lot of sock patterns and a lot of cool yarn. I can live with that. :-)

could I restart December now...

...because I am seriously behind in everything! 

Word of warning to those who receive my cookie packages: they might be late this year! It's the 6th and i have not started baking yet. Heck, I haven't even finished buying all my supplies yet. ACK! By now, I should have a freezer full of fruitcakes, pumpkin breads and gingerbread loaves!

Instead, I have a basketful of some baking supplies and a box of cookie containers. I also have Christmas tree that is sitting in a bucket of water in the side yard and a living room that is nowhere ready to have the tree in it.

In the continuing saga of "what now?" (you know, the one that included the flat tire...), our washer was in a head-on collision with the laundry cabinet that used be above it. "Used to" being the operative phrase. Last weekend, when I was helping the Daughter rearrange stuff, we discovered that the cabinet had fallen off the wall and onto the washer and dryer. It's a really heavy cabinet and it took all 3 of us to get it off of the washer and dryer. The dryer is dented, but functional. The washer, not so much. The Daughter did a little research and determined that it might be an inexpensive part that needed replacing. Since the part was not available locally, we had to wait for it to be shipped to us.

The part arrived on Friday and the Husband installed it. Voila! The washer was working...it cranked out 3 loads and croaked on the 4th (the one with all of my clothes, of course). We figured that some of the switches may have been damaged in the collision because pretty much all of the controllers are on the top panel and it took the brunt of the crash. The washer was cheap and old...we decided it was time to replace it. On Sunday, we bought a new HE washer (uses less water, yay!), which was delivered today.

Ahem! To the rest of my appliances, now hear this: There will be no more of this breaking-down stuff during the holidays. Last year, it was the refrigerator; this year the washer. That's quite enough now!

Anyway, the family party on Saturday was fun and it was good spending time with people we don't get to see very often. We kept the food low-key, which meant that no one was stuck in the kitchen cooking. People could just enjoy themselves.

Sunday in addition to washer shopping, we bought our Christmas tree. I made a Smart & Final run for some baking supplies. And then I spent the rest of the afternoon rearranging my sewing room to make room for the "extra" bookcase and its contents.  And I thought it was crowded in there before...  I have a couple of things I still need to get in there, but at least they're fiber-y and can be squished!

That's it for now...sorry there are no pictures. Maybe Wednesday...

Eye Candy + Finished Object Friday...

...first up, a Sky Candy picture:

December Morning

Aside from the cool clouds, this sunrise was interesting because there was very little color. Usually, I see some orange or red tints at the bottoms of the clouds.

As I mentioned in the last post, I did finish a yarn on the last day of November.

Healdsburg Hyacinths handspun

and the close-up:

Healdsburg Hyacinths handspun. close up

Specs:
Started 11/13/10;
Finished 11/30/10;
Healdsburg Hyacinths Merinp-Tencel top from Royale Hare;
Spun and Navajo-plied on Lendrum DT wheel;
186.1 yards; 13 WPI

Meh... it's OK. I'm not really fond of the way the colors fell on this one. It looks a little too much like 4th of July to me. I was hoping that the teal would even out the colors, but no such luck. I have to say, though, that the fiber was a pleasure to spin. I'll buy this blend again from Royale Hare, but I'll be a little more careful with the color choice next time.

Up this weekend: The Husband's sister and her husband are visiting from New Orleans, and we're having a family party tomorrow. We only see them once a year, so it will be nice to catch up. I need to rearrange my sewing room to make room fro the bookcase that we took out of the Daughter's bedroom. I need to do this before we can rearrange the living room to make room for the Christmas tree. If things go well, we'll get the tree on Sunday.

I did manage to hang the Advent calendar, stockings, and front door wreath for a little Christmas decoration at home. I really need to start baking ASAP!!

November 2010 recap...

Finished:
  • 11/13 Swamp Merino-Bamboo top (4oz) from Fiber Fiend
    Spun and Navajo-plied on Lendrum DT Folding Wheel
    171.2 yards, 12 WPI
  • 11/30 Healdsburg Hyacinths yarn (spinning) [Ravelry]
    Healdsburg Hyacinths Merino-Tencel top from Royale Hare;
    186.1 yards, Navajo-ply; 13 WPI
  • Books:
    Breaking the Rules, Barbara Taylor Bradford
    Drink of Me, Jacquelyn Frank
    Indulgence in Death, JD Robb
    Knit the Season, Kate Jacobs
    Skein of the Crime, Maggie Sefton

Started:
  • 11/7 Swamp Merino-Bamboo top (4oz) from Fiber Fiend [Ravelry]
  • 171.2 yards, 12 WPI11/13 Healdsburg Hyacinths yarn (spinning) [Ravelry]
  • 11/20 Red Marine Silk Wrap (weaving) [Ravelry]

Worked on:
  • Mochaberry Brambles (knitting) [Ravelry]
  • Turquoise Trail by Laura J Perin (needlepoint)

Works In Progress, did not work on:
  • Happy Pumpkin Scissor Fob by Shepherd's Bush (cross stitch)
  • Hexagon socks (knitting) [Ravelry
  • Jungle Songs quilt, pieced backing
  • Natural Dyes batts from Yarn Wench (spinning)  [Ravelry]
  • Tealing Groovy quilt
  • The Beets Go On (renamed, was My Heart Beets 4U) socks (knitting) [Ravelry]
  • Sea Foam Wrap (knitting) [Ravelry]

UFOs:
  1. Chasing Rainbows Heather--one Merino-Bombyx (2 oz) and one Merino wool (2 oz) (spinning)
  2. Dogosaurus Rex sweater (knitting) [Ravelry}
  3. Hopi by Susan Portra (needlepoint)
  4. Peacock Majesty by Just Nan (cross stitch)
  5. Stranded Hearts socks (knitting) [Ravelry]
  6. Violet Needle Roll (cross stitch)
  7. Wisteria Angora-Merino top from Tactile (spinning) [Ravelry]

WIP-It Wednesday...

...it's December and I am not ready for it! It's the first and I am already behind for the month!

I worked on the Mochaberry Bramble socks over the Thanksgiving holiday. Turquoise Trails also got a little action is November, too.

Turquoise Trail, as of 12/1/10

It's getting there, but probably won't get worked on again until the end of the month, at the soonest.

The November recap will get posted when I get a chance. I actually managed to finish a yarn yesterday, but too much else for the month.
 

Eye Candy Friday...

...and a Tour de Fleece update. First, the eye candy. The sweet pea bush in our front yard is continuing to bloom: The tomatoes in th...