last day of 2012...

..it's hard to believe! And only two more days of vacation...sigh.

This morning's sunrise was clear, with just a few wispy clouds:

Sunrise 12/31/12

I've been working in my studio the last few days and finally finished the Jungle Songs quilt. Here it is:

Jungle Songs Quilt
Specs:
Started May 2010
Finished 12/29/12
Laurel Burch fabric
Quilt kit contained the fabrics and the pattern; origin of the kit is unknown.
  • Things I like about this quilt: The fabrics are bright and cheery. It's Laurel Burch. It's done!
  • Things I don't like: The pattern was too fussy (don't like one-inch squares). The fabric pieces limited how I could use them in the quilt--some were cut slightly crooked so I couldn't get straight lines in the border pieces. Machine quilting around the animals was a PITA.
I'm not sure where I'll use this quilt. For now, it will stay in the studio.

I also finished assembling the top of the Going Snow Global Christmas quilt. I can't get a decent picture of the top because the green fabrics tend to turn yellow in certain light. I'm trying to decide whether to finish this quilt or put it away until next Christmas. 

A little knitting...a little weaving...I've been enjoying my craft time!

The Husband and I are planning a low-key New Year's Eve...we'll toast the new year with a bottle of Prosecco.

Wishing you all a very happy and prosperous 2013!
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Last Eye Candy Friday of the year...

...a little late posting today, but at least I'm posting!

First, the eye candy: this morning's sunrise:

Sunrise 12/28/12

I've spent the last couple of days wrapping cookies and biscotti for mailing. I mailed 10 boxes of goodies today to various family members and friends.  As for the rest of the goodie bags, there are only 3 left to deliver. I've assembled 32 goodie bags and boxes this year...I think that's 3 more than last year.

When I wasn't packing cookies, I was playing with one of my Christmas presents: an Ashford Inkle loom.

Ashford Inkle Loom

I have warped it a couple of times. The first time I didn't get it taut enough so I undid it and warped it again. I figured I needed the practice, so I didn't mind. I'm weaving a simple strap using black, blue, and copper colored crochet cotton.

First inkle weaving project

For now, I am just trying to get into the rhythm of weaving with this loom. Once I feel comfortable with it, I want to weave a strap to use as a yoga mat carrier.

Up this weekend: Finish the Jungle Songs quilt. I have finished burying all the threads in the back. I've pinned on the binding and will sew that tomorrow. I am determined to finish this quilt in 2012! I also want to work on one of my spinning WIPs. 

My vacation is going far too quickly! I'd hoped to do much more craft-wise, but the goodie packing took far longer that I expected. I better make the best of the last few vacation days that I have!
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Merry Christmas!

...while we are waiting for Christmas to start (read: waiting for the Daughter to arrive), I'm taking the opportunity to post.

Christmas Eve dinner went very well...the cioppino was delicious, the dessert worked, and the company was wonderful.

For dessert, I made the Pomegranate and Cocount Panna Cotta I found on Pinterest. I garnished it with toasted coconut and pomegranate seeds. It looked festive!

Pomegranate and Coconut Panna Cotta #2

I'd like a little more coconut flavor in the panna cotta itself, so I might add some shredded coconut to it the next time.

After every one left, the Husband and I watched a little TV before going to bed.

Watching the Yule Log and waiting for Santa

This morning there is a threat of rain, so there are a lot of clouds.

Christmas morning 2012

We have the unexpected gift of staying home on Christmas Day, so things are moving at a slow pace. It's nice to be able to relax and not have to rush around to leave by 11am!  I'm making a Chile Relleno casserole with fresh guacamole and my grandma's chocolate atole (more like a champurrado).  I actually get to make a Christmas dinner, too! There's tri tip for that with smashed sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts. Yummy!

Christmas tree 2012

From my house to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!
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Eye Candy Friday, rolling into headlong into Christmas...

...Happy Solstice! It's my last day of work for the year and I'm looking forward to my vacation.

First, look at this morning's sunset:

Sunrise 12/21/12

The clouds were amazing!

Up this weekend: Pack all the goodie bags, finish decorating my house for Christmas, wrap gifts, clean my house, and go grocery shopping. We host Christmas Eve dinner, so I'd like to get most everything done this weekend. If something has to wait until Monday, it will be wrapping the gifts.  It won't be the first Christmas Eve that I'm up late wrapping gifts, and probably not the last!

My plan for tonight, however, is to relax and get reacquainted with The Husband. The poor guy gets ignored while I'm in baking mode!

The end is in sight!
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WIP-it Wednesday...

...in which most of my WIPs are from the kitchen.

Yeah, I missed Monday and Tuesday...not a lot of time to post right now.  Between trying to wrap things up for the year at work and the Christmas madness in the kitchen, I've been going non-stop.

Christmas WIPs:
  1. Finish the Chile-Chocolate Truffles. They need to be formed into balls and rolled in cocoa powder
  2. Finish the snowflake cookies. They need luster dust and edible glitter (tonight's task)
  3. Wrap and assemble the goodie bags for the people at work (6) and deliver on Friday, 12/21
  4. Bake one more cookie if there's time using a new recipe. Maybe a revamp (or new recipe) of the Green Tea cookie or the Churro cookie recipe I saw in Pinterest.
  5. Bake one more batch of biscotti, probably Grand Marnier orange
  6. Wrap and assemble the goodie bags for Christmas delivery (15)
  7. Package and mail the goodie boxes for mailing after Christmas (9) (These never get out until later because I never have time to go to the post office before Christmas.)
  8. Finish decorating. My Star Trek Tree isn't up and I haven't put up the lighted garlands yet. My daughter's annual Christmas bells need to be set up, too.
  9. Finish getting stocking stuffers. Running way behind on these...
  10. Wrap Christmas presents.
  11. Disassemble the Christmas baking set up in the kitchen (2 extra tables, all my cookie sheets and racks are out).
  12. Clean the house and get ready for Christmas Eve cioppino with the Husband's parents and the Daughter!
It's a bunch, I know, but I've finished a lot. So, who's up for a tally?
  • Cookies, 10 varieties including the failed green tea cookies: 753
  • Biscotti, 7 varieties: 540
  • Sugared nuts, 2 varieties: 5.7 pounds (about 26 cups)
  • Fruitcakes: 24 mini-bundt
  • Pumpkin bread: 19 mini-loaves
  • Lemon bread: 8 mini-loaves
  • Chocolate bark, 3 varieties: 9.6 pounds
  • Macadamia Lime fudge: 1 pound
Here's a sample of a new cookie I tried, a dark chocolate sugar cookie:

Cactus cookie


I love the way this turned out. I wish I'd cut out more cactus ones. Next year!

I'm beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel...
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Eye-can't-believe-Christmas-is-in-11-days Candy Friday...

...and I only have 6 more days of work for the year!  I'm behind on decorating and baking. And the Husband and Daughter haven't given me their wish lists yet either, so I'm behind on shopping, too!  ACK!!!!

OK...got that out of my system now. 

Today's Eye Candy is brought to you by the color orange:

This morning's sunrise:

Sunrise 12/14/2012

And because there are no flowers to photograph and I've already shown you most of the cookies, how about a persimmon?

Persimmon

My friend Linda brought over some persimmons to share. I'm not sure what to make with them yet, but they need to get used soon. Maybe some cookies since I'm already in cookie mode? Hmmm...

Speaking of which, I baked 118 Mexican Wedding Cookies Wednesday night. This was the last chilled dough I had in the refrigerator, so it was pretty easy to get them going.  That upped the total cookie output to 618. I also made 12 cups of the Grand Marnier Pecans. I need to make a lot more sugared nuts, but they are a stove-top item so I can make a batch at the same time as cookies are baking. Yes, I can multitask in the kitchen!

Up this weekend: For baking, I need to make the spritz cookies and the biscotti. I need to decorate the sugar cookies and put chocolate on the biscotti. I need to make the Amaretto-Cinnamon Nuts, the chocolate bark, and the fudge.  In between, I'll keep trying to finish the decorating.

Somewhere in there, I'll need some sleep. Crafting? Probably not going to happen this weekend. :( It will have to wait until after Christmas.
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WIP-it Wednesday, holiday style...

...short and sweet.

My main WIP right now is Christmas: baking and decorating.

The Husband helped me bring down the 14-or-so boxes of Christmas decorations last night. We got the lights on the tree and he went off to the other room to watch TV while I started unpacking the boxes. He claims that I have OCD (Obsessive Christmas Disorder), which is probably true. And he's probably safer out of the room when I'm decorating. :)

Unpacking and decorating takes several days as I'm usually burned out after work and I'm busy baking all weekend. But it starting to look a little like Christmas with the lights on the tree. The Husband put up the outside lights on Saturday and the house looks cheery all lit up.

Edited to add a picture:

Christmas tree in progress

Nothing crafty has happened since Spin-In on Saturday, so nothing new to report there.

Tonight, I hope to bake the last batch of chilled cookie dough so I can cross that off my To Do List.

Need.More.Time!
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Top-of-the-waves Tuesday...

...I know blogging has been a little sparse lately. Chalk it up to being busy and trying to wind things up so I can go on Christmas vacation on the 22nd.

I've been taking vacation between Christmas and New Year's since at least 1980. I've had different employers along the way and there were a couple of years where it wasn't possible, but I need this time to recover recharge after the Christmas baking madness.

Anyway, here's the weekend recap.

Saturday:
  • Got our Christmas tree from Summerwinds Nursery. It is an 8-foot Nordman Fir. The nursery is very good about trimming the trunk and any extra branches at the bottom of the tree, and they are very close to home. We got it into water as soon as we got home. The plan was to move it into the house when we had a chance....that was not going to be during the weekend because of baking, though.
  • Baked a double batch of the Faux-bucks Lemon bread. After taste-testing the first batch, we decided it needed more lemon flavor. I added more microplaned lemon zest to the batter.
    Yield: 6 mini-loaves
  • Baked a batch of Faux-bucks Gingerbread. This recipe uses applesauce instead of oil and contains no molasses. I added chopped crystallized ginger to the batter before baking. This was a very thick batter and did not make as many mini-loaves as I wanted. I might go back to my previous recipe...I haven't decided yet.
    Yield: 6 mini-loaves
  • Went to Spin-In, taking one mini-loaf each of the Lemon bread, Gingerbread, and a Pumpkin bread that I defrosted that morning. Everyone seemed to like the bread, especially the lemon.

    I did some spindle-spinning, which was a nice change.  Two of the spinners put together fiber bags for those who attended. The bags contain white wool samples from 6 breeds of sheep plus a little kit for taking notes so we can explore and document how these fibers spin. Very cool idea and gift! Thanks, Mary and Margot!
  • After Spin-In, I started prepping the kitchen for two people to work in there. I invited Linda, a family friend, to come over and bake with me on Sunday and I needed to make enough work space for both of us. Also made sure the house was somewhat orderly and clean. :)
  • Made a batch of Cherry Kisses cookies.
    Yield: 48

    Cherry Kisses
Sunday:
  • Did the final clean-up and vacuumed.
  • Did my weekly grocery store run. After putting the groceries away, I put some chicken in a marinade for Sunday's dinner and cleared the decks in the kitchen. Linda was due at 1pm.
  • Made a batch of Coconut-Cranberry Chews.
    Yield: 77

    Coconut-Cranberry Chews
     
  • Started a batch of a new cookie: Matcha Green Tea Christmas Trees. I'd read all of the comments about the recipe and was aware that some people had problems. I made sure to mold the trees the right height and to chill them before baking...shaping these trees was a very time-intensive process. As for the trees themselves (collapsed and sad-looking), let's just say it was a Fail and move on. 
  • In the middle of molding the tree cookies, Linda arrived. I put her to work on slicing Pistachio Pinwheels while I fussed with the trees. Linda ended up slicing all 3 cookie doughs that needed slicing--the pinwheels, Spumoni Slices, Chocolate-Espresso Slices.
  • I hadn't used all the green tea dough for the trees, so I rolled out the rest and cut them into diamonds. After baking, we tasted them. They were OK, just not a Win.
    Yield: 17
  • Pistachio Pinwheels, yield: 69

    Pistachio Pinwheels
     
  • Spumoni Slices, yield: 77

    Spumoni Slices
     
  • Chocolate-Espresso Slices, yield: 77

    Chocolate-Espresso Slices

  • We tasted the failed Christmas trees and agreed that they just didn't taste that much like green tea and were not worth the trouble. Linda took home the failed trees to her husband as a consolation prize.
  • I started the sugar cut-out cookies while Linda was there and finished them after she left.
    Yield: 89
  • Cut-out and baked the chocolate sugar cookies. This was the first time for this dough and I love it. It is dark chocolate and very easy to work with. I haven't tasted it yet as none of the cookies broke during the process (this is a good thing).
    Yield: 50
  • Dinner and clean up pretty much used up the rest of the evening.  There are still the Mexican Wedding Cookies and Spritz to make. Guess I'll do that during the week.
Monday night:
We moved the living room furniture around in preparation for bringing in the Christmas tree. I cleaned the floor and then pretty much vegged for the rest of the night.

This morning:
We moved the Christmas tree into the house, got it in its stand, and released it from the netting. I gave it a good dose of water before I left for work. Tonight, we'll check the stand for leaks and see how the tree has expanded during the day. If all looks good, we can start decorating it!

Progress!
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Eye Candy Friday, blog and run...

...too many things going on today. More later if I have a chance.

This morning's sunrise:

Sunrise 12/7/12

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November 2013 recap...

...such as it is.

Finished:
  • 11/23 Midnight Botanical Cowl [Ravelry]
  • 11/24 Heather handspun (spinning) [Ravelry]
    Chasing Rainbows top: 2 oz. Merino-Bombyx and 2 oz. Merino
    Skein #1: 320.1 yards, 2-ply, 15 WPI
    Skein #2: 46 yds singles, about 13 WPI
  • Books:
    1. Rosemary and Rue, Seanan McGuire
    2. Blue-Blooded Vamp, Jaye Wells
    3. Silver-Tongued Devil, Jaye Wells
    4. Green-Eyed Demon, Jaye Wells
    5. The Mage in Black, Jaye Wells
    6. Red-Headed Step-Child, Jaye Wells
    7. Fury's Kiss, Karen Chance
Started:
  • 11/3 Midnight Botanical Cowl [Ravelry]
    Pattern by Megan Goodacre
    Yarn: Midnight Derby Smooshy by Dream In Color

Worked on:
  1. Jungle Songs quilt
  2. Recipe for Summer by Pine Mountain Designs (cross stitch)
  3. Going Snow Global quilt

Works In Progress, did not work on:
  1. Anasazi by Susan Portra (needlepoint)
  2. Celaeno Shawl (knitting) [Ravelry]
  3. Happy Pumpkin Scissor Fob by Shepherd's Bush (cross stitch)
  4. Halloween Phat Fiber samples (spinning) [Ravelry]
  5. Mediterranean Mermaid by Mirabilia (cross stitch)
  6. Natural Dyes batts from Yarn Wench (spinning) [Ravelry]
  7. Oriental Dragonfly, Dimensions kit (embroidery) 
  8. Pilgrim top, 2 oz (Merino-Tussah Silk) top from A Verb for Keeping Warm (spinning) [Ravelry]
  9. Royale top, 2 oz (Merino-Yak-Silk) top from A Verb for Keeping Warm (spinning) [Ravelry
  10. Sea Foam Wrap (knitting) [Ravelry]

UFOs/Hibernation:
  1. Peacock Pomatomus socks (knitting) [Ravelry]
  2. Peacock Majesty by Just Nan (cross stitch)
  3. Seaweed Cardigan (knitting)  [Ravelry]
  4. Violet Needle Roll (cross stitch)

random Thursday...

...it's been one of those weeks where I rapidly run out of "day" and there's very little to show for it.

One thing that's taking time is our company's annual card signing party, which it tomorrow. I'm responsible for the food. I researched options for party trays and placed the order for what we need.

Rather than spend an enormous amount of money for a spinach dip tray, I'm just making it myself.  I made the dip last night and plan on assembling the tray right before the party.  I'm also doing the cheese and cracker tray for the same reason.

At Tuesday's Craft Night, I cast-on a pair of fingerless gloves. I had a lot of yarn leftover for the cowl and decided a pair of fingerless gloves to match might be nice. No pix yet because it doesn't look like much yet!

Other than that, I've been a slug. :) I figure that's OK for work nights because I'm going to work my @$$ off over the weekend.

It's all about the Cookie this weekend!
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weekend report...

...I baked. :) What, you want more details?

On Saturday, I did my Smart and Final run to buy flour, sugar, chocolate chips, butter, and other baking supplies that I need in large quantities.  Then I did my Safeway run to buy most everything else. I say most, because I didn't realize that we were perilously close to running out of canola oil.

Now what I consider being close to "out" is probably not your "close." I only had  1.5 cups of oil left. I needed a whole, large bottle.

Yup.

When I make double batches of Almond Fruitcake and Pumpkin Bread, and one batch of Lemon Bread, I need lots of oil. I made 24 mini-bundt fruitcakes, 19 mini-loaves of pumpkin bread, and 6 mini-loaves of lemon bread. I still need to make another batch of Lemon Bread and some Gingerbread loaves. The Husband went to the store for me and brought home 2 large bottles of canola oil. (Thanks, J!)

That was Saturday. On Sunday, I started making the cookie dough that must be chilled before it can be baked.  Now chilling in the refrigerator:
  1. Mexican Wedding Cookies (double-batch)
  2. Sugar Cookies (double-batch). I will use the snowflake and other cookie cutters for this one.
  3. Chocolate Cookies. I will use the cookie cutters on this batch, too.
  4. Spumoni Slices
  5. Pistachio Pinwheels
  6. Chocolate-Coffee Ribbons
I'd forgotten what a pain the Chocolate-Coffee Ribbons are to assemble. The six layers are thin and not easy to peel off of the wax paper. Next time, I'll use the Spumoni Slices basic dough as a starting point. It is still a soft dough, but not nearly as difficult to work with.

While I was making cookie dough, our Beef Stew dinner was cooking in the crock pot. Let me say it again: I love the crock pot! Dinner was hot and filling; the clean up was pretty easy.

I didn't have much time to work on my crafts. I'm still burying threads for the Jungle Songs quilt, but I'm about 80% there. Maybe I can finish that task this week if I work on it a little every night. (In my dreams, maybe!)
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WIP-it Wednesday...

...and a photo of my new toy. A year or so ago, my Mom mentioned that she had an old Singer sewing machine. She said it wasn't very bi...