Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year's Eve...

...I'm spending part of the day doing a little of this and little of that. I'm playing Sys Admin for the Daughter, making sure she has a complete backup of her computer. I'll do a mini backup of my own after that. I've paid some bills and picked up the living room.

Yesterday, I got a chance to do a little spinning, finishing bobbin 1 of Mourning Dove's Cousin and starting the second. Here's bobbin 1:

Mourning Dove's Cousin 1, bobbin 1

This is merino-silk top from Yarn Wench (who else?!). I love working with this fiber.

Last night, I decided to make enchiladas for dinner. I only make these once or twice a year since I can't (read: shouldn't) eat the tortillas and rice. I made a dozen cheese ones for the Daughter and Husband and a few meat ones for me. As a special treat, I cooked the tamales that my mom sent to me...OMG, they are wonderful!!

I tried to make some Mexican Chocolate brownies for dessert, but my oven decided to act up on me again. Even though I had it set to 350, it decided I really wanted 275. I kicked up the temp setting to 400 and finally got the oven to 350. However, the brownies did not turn out, being very hard on the edges and soft in the center. They are tasty, but not exactly what I'd call brownies.

Tonight will be low-key, just the Husband, me, and the cats (he Daughter is going out with her friends). I have a bottle of champagne to toast the New Year.

Here's wishing all of us a very Happy New Year!!

Monday, December 29, 2008

lazy...I wanna be lazy...

...and I am! I'm just hanging around the house, knitting and reading. Sombra is keeping me company by sitting close by:


I've been working on the February Lady sweater. I've started the lace section and put the sleeve sections on waste yarn. It's slow going with 296 stitches on the circular, so having a second project is essential.

I frogged the Mystery socks that I had started for Socktoberfest. I was not happy with the way they were turning out and decided that they were never going to happen. So instead I decided to try making Jaywalker socks [Ravelry] again. I have worked the ribbing and started the pattern:

Jaywalker socks, take 2

I loved the pattern the first time I tried it. The only problem I had was that the sock would not fit over my heel. I have cast on for a larger size and will adjust the size of the needle when I get to the heel, if necessary.

If I get totally bored with knitting, I'll pull out my wheel and finish up one of the yarns I have in progress. For now, though, knitting has my attention. Mainly, I just want to enjoy being on vacation!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Eye Candy Friday, day after Christmas...

...I'm a little tired and looking forward to day of doing whatever I want, including absolutely nothing!!

This is what our tree looked like before the carnage in the morning:

Christmas Tree 2008

Santa was very good to me...I got a set of KnitPicks Harmony straight needles in the 10-inch length, four Harmony buttons for my February Lady sweater, a new yoga mat, a yoga outfit, a six-volume set of the Sookie Stackhouse books, and some other books and CDs. From Jane, I scored the newest Yarn Harlot book and calendar, a really cool purple (!) bookmark among other things. I am a very happy girl!

After a call to my Mom, we spent a low-key day at the Husband's parents. We met the newest member of the family (great-niece, five months cute...). The goodie bags were well appreciated. We ate lots of yummy goodies and enjoyed the good company. We got home around 5pm and just chilled.

Sunset on Christmas day:

Christmas Sunset

Now that the secret project has been opened, I can share the pictures! Remember the Siamese Kitty I knitted last month? Well, it was part of the secret project for Jane. I also knit a smaller one for her granddaughter. Here's the front view of them both:

Two Siamese kitties

...and the back view:

A tail of two kitties

Specs for the small kitty:
Started: 12/1/08
Finished: 12/8/08
Pattern: Siamese Kitty by Barbara Prime
Yarn: Bernat Alpaca Natural Blends
Needles: 5US

In October at Pacific International Quilt Festival, I found this cute bib pattern that came with a sippy cup and pacifier. I knew I had to get it for Jane's new granddaughter. It took all of about an hour to cut it out and sew it together. I used a new velcro-type fastener that is not supposed to snag anything else. The backing is Minkee, so soft!!

Pink bib with Minky backing

I had also found some Christmas stocking fabric panels that I knew were "Jane." The bonus was that there were just enough different stockings for her whole family. I lined them with a cute yellow fabric that has Christmas sayings printed all over and backed them with a matching Christmas plaid. I lightly quilted them and used the same plaid fabric as the binding. I finally finished them last Sunday night. I'm very pleased with the way they turned out and Jane seems to like them.

Stocking medley

All in all, another wonderful Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Almost Christmas...

...thanks to the US Postal Service, the secret project arrived today. Yay! I actually got something to Jane before Christmas Day!

Of course, with the good comes the bad. One of the presents I ordered for the Husband was shipped Priority Mail on the 14th and has yet to arrive. [Sigh] I have to give him an IOU for that. It's not like I ordered it at the last minute or that they delayed it in's coming from the East Coast, so who knows what's holding it up.

We had a lovely Christmas Eve dinner with the Husband's parents. The Cioppino turned out great—the crab was fresh and the clams all opened. We kept it simple and just had a green salad and lots of crusty sour dough bread. For dessert, I made a Grand Marnier Chocolate Mousse and served it with a homemade biscotti.

We're going to watch some of the Christmas Story Marathon on TV and then call it a night. It's been a long day, but well worth it.

Here's wishing a Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it and Happy Holidays to all!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

secret project completed and deployed...

...I packed it up and shipped it this morning. Yay!! Once it's been opened by its recipient, I'll post pictures.

I also finished the baking. I have another batch of Amaretto Nuts to make and I need to roll the Chile Chocolate Truffles. Then I can pack everything up!

Today, I plan on finishing the decorating and I have some serious wrapping to do! Oh yeah, I need to clean the house for Christmas Eve...OK, I'll rest after Christmas!

It's supposed to rain for the next five days...this is what the sky looks like right now:

December Sky

Not a lot of rain clouds yet. Maybe later...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas goodies for Eye Candy Friday...

...the first 7 goodie bags have been delivered. Only 20 to go!(Yes, twenty).

Here are a few pictures of this year's goodies. I'm not repeating the pictures I posted last year (see here, here, here, and here).

Rocky Road and chocolate bark:

Chocolate Bark

Coconut Cranberry Cookies:

Coconut-Cranberry cookies

Chocolate Spritz with white chocolate drizzles:

Chocolate Spritz

Chocolate Crinkles:

Chocolate Crinkles

The Chocolate Crinkles are totally new this year. I've made the other cookies before and I've made chocolate bark every year since 1996. There are two other new cookies, but they are at the bottom of the containers right now and I can't get to them. I'll take pictures of those before I pack them up for giving.

I only have two or three things more I want to make, but they are not essential at this point. I'd like to make one more batch of biscotti so I can mail a few extras out to people. And I want to try an Almond Roca recipe I found in an old (1982) cookbook.

However, my highest priority now is finishing the secret project and getting it in the mail. I'm close, but I need to put some concentrated effort into getting it done!

While I'm on vacation, I'll blog when the mood strikes and time permits. I'm really looking forward to this time off!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

it's a "too" day...

...too cold; too many things left to make; far too little time left to make them; too much Christmas shopping to do! I could go on, but you get the idea. No pictures today. (Almost-done cookies just aren't that interesting to look at.)

Free Smileys & Emoticons at Clip Art

I have had lots of late nights getting the goodies ready to go. The above-mentioned cookies were frosted Monday night and had to dry before I could pipe on the outlines, which I did last night. Tonight they will get their final decoration of luster dust and edible glitter.

Also last night, I prepped and refrigerated the Chile-Chocolate Truffle mix and the Pistachio-Macadamia Truffle mix. I have to roll out some of the truffles for the gifts I'm giving on Friday, but the rest can wait until the weekend. I put chocolate on three of the biscotti batches; I'll do the other two batches tonight.

I still have to make the Peppermint bark, the Pistachio-Cranberry bark, and the Cran-Marnier truffles. However, I'm not planning on including these in Friday's gifts, so I don't feel the need to rush those items. Since I'm on vacation after Friday, I have plenty of time to make those for the larger gift bags.

And, of course, I've been busy at work. There are several projects that need drafts done before I go on vacation, so that's kept me hopping. Having work is good, even if it is a little crazy-making right now!

The Daughter comes home on Saturday and she's already agreed to help me finish the decorating. We work well together, so we should be able to get the decorating done quickly. It will be so good to have her in hugging distance!

Monday, December 15, 2008

all about the baking...

...that's this weekend in a nutshell. Both days were devoted to baking, with a little decorating and crafting thrown in for good measure.

Saturday was cookie day...I didn't leave the house at all. I had already baked 225 cookies by Saturday morning, so I had a head start. I started off by baking the rest of the already-made dough. Then I made the spritz cookies and some lime zingers. By the end of Saturday, I had baked 9 different kinds of cookies; add that to the 3 kinds I had already made, and you have 12 kinds of cookies!

Stormy sunrise

Sunday was biscotti day, after my normal grocery store run. I put dinner in the crockpot and got started on the biscotti. Biscotti are not hard to make, but they are time-consuming. And with my oven being its flaky self (I set the temperature to 325F...the actual temperature varies between 275-385F without me touching the dial!), I have to watch them carefully. I ended up having some extra butter, so I made another cookie recipe while I waited for the biscotti. By last night, I had baked 5 kinds of biscotti and 1 extra cookie batch.

By the end of the weekend, I had baked all of the cookies I needed and most of the biscotti. The totals? about 950 cookies and 329 biscotti (plus about 20 cups of Amaretto and Grand Marnier nuts):

A weekend's work...

I know, it doesn't look like that much! I still have to frost the sugar cookies and put chocolate on the biscotti, so I'm not quite done with them yet. But I'm close! I still need to make the truffles and the bark, but I can do that during the week.

What I haven't done yet is send out any Christmas cards (or even write my Christmas letter). I'm just going to resign myself to sending them out late this year. The most important thing is to finish the baking so I can give my co-workers their goodies on Friday. I'm on vacation after that, so I can worry about cards then.

Oh, and I did work on the secret project a little. I'm getting closer to done, but not there yet!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Eye Candy Friday, ornament edition...

...from our tree. I bought this one in Santa Fe, New Mexico at a tinsmith's shop:

Tin ornament

This ornament is one of two ceramic mermaids on our tree:

Gold Mermaid ornament

New this year, a sheep ornament. I love the way the wrinkles were used to represent the fleece.

Paper maché sheep

So far, I've baked about 120 cookies. Considering that I baked 725 cookies last year (not counting the biscotti), I have a few more to make! Guess what I'm doing this weekend...

In addition to baking, I should be able to finish up the majority of my secret project. Even if I finish all of it, I can't mail it until I make enough cookies and biscotti to include in the package. (Somehow I don't think Jane would appreciate being left out of the biscotti loop! )

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

here a WIP...there a WIP...everywhere a WIP WIP...

....that is, everywhere but here! Still working on my secret project, so I can't show you anything! I've been concentrating on the secret project so much that I haven't done any baking since Sunday. Hopefully, that will change tonight.

Our plan is to move the Christmas tree inside when I get home from work. Once we get the lights on it, I'll get some cookies baking and decorate the tree between batches.

Today's picture is of the Christmas wreath on our door:

Christmas wreath

(Of course it's not real... an artificial one works much better in our weather and doesn't leave dead pine needles in its wake!)

Monday, December 08, 2008

just another busy weekend...

...but I feel like I have a handle on the baking now.

I spent all day Saturday in the kitchen. My goal was to get the fruitcakes and pumpkin bread done and in the freezer. For years, I've baked thee in mini-bundt pans—the pans are a pain to clean, but for the most part, cakes and breads unmold without any problems. This year, nothing but problems! I managed to get 15 of the 18 fruitcakes unmolded, but the pumpkin bread was a disaster...I only got 6 of the 12 unmolded! Now, I do know to let them cool in the pans for at least 10 minutes (if not longer), so that wasn't the problem. The %&@#! pans wouldn't release them for anything. The only thing that was different this year was the brand of cooking oil spray I used on the pans. Hmmmm, does PAM really make that much of a difference?

After that fiasco, I decided my day would be best spent making cookie dough and not baking anything else. One of my other goals was to make the cookie dough for the cookies that require chilling before baking. On Saturday, I made:
  1. Sugar cookie dough for the cut-out cookies
  2. Spumoni slices (cherry, pistachio, and vanilla layers)
  3. Cherry Kisses
  4. Chocolate Coffee ribbons (chocolate, espresso, and vanilla layers)
  5. Chocolate Cherry Pistachio Pinwheels
  6. Mexican Wedding Cakes
  7. Mexican Chocolate Wedding Cake
On Sunday, we went to the Christmas tree farm to cut down our tree. This time we got a 9-foot's sitting in a bucket of water waiting to be brought into the house. We figured that if we'd bought a precut tree, it would have cost $20-30 more. Here are a couple of pictures I took of the tree farm:

Skyline Tree Ranch, 2008

Pine tree close-up

After we got the tree, I ran a couple of errands and got back in to the kitchen. After starting a crockpot of beef stew, I baked another batch of pumpkin bread using foil mini-loaf—no unmolding necessary! I made a couple more cookie doughs and then made two batches of sugared nuts.
  1. Cherry Pistachio Mexican Wedding Cakes
  2. Chocolate Crinkles
  3. Amaretto-Cinnamon Walnuts
  4. Grand Marnier Pecans
When I got tired of standing, I'd take a break and work on my secret project. It's coming along and I'm pleased with how it's turning out.

Despite the bundt pan problems, it was a good weekend!

Friday, December 05, 2008

OMG, it's December 5th!

...and I have absolutely nothing baked yet! Ack!! On the other hand, I do have some Christmas shopping done. Thank goodness for online shopping and free shipping deals!

For today's Eye Candy, here's a peek at our tangerine tree:


Both our tangerine and grapefruit trees have set a lot of fruit this time (I guess to make up for the pomegranate that only had 6 fruit). None of the tangerines are ripe yet, but should be ready around Christmas.

Up this weekend: Playing catch-up in the kitchen, of course. And any spare cycles will be spent on my secret project, and decorating, and... Weekends are never long enough in December; if only I didn't have to sleep!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I have WIPs...

...but I can't show them to you! And I can't show you any baking, because I haven't started that yet. It's the 3rd and I'm already behind!

This always happens when Thanksgiving is at the end of November. December comes to quickly and I'm not quite ready to move on to Christmas. I've spent the last two evenings shopping for baking supplies, so now I think I have most everything I need.

It's always a trip to watch other shoppers faces when I start loading up my cart at Trader Joe's or Safeway! I buy the nuts, dried fruit, and butter from Trader Joe's—that's about 25 pounds of nuts and fruit, and 6 pounds of butter. I buy the flour, sugar, and eggs from Safeway—I start with 20 pounds of sugar, 20 pounds of flour, and 3 dozen eggs. I usually end up buying more sugar, eggs, and butter later in the month. While the other shoppers give me strange looks, the checkers are always happy to volunteer to taste the goodies!

Since I have no pictures of WIPs, here are a couple of sky pictures. First, yesterday's sky as seen from the parking lot at work. The clouds were rolling in over the foothills...

Clouds rolling in

For the last few days, it's been very foggy in the morning. By the time I get to the gym in the morning, the bike and I are totally soaked. I have to keep wiping my glasses several times because they get completely misted over. Here's what it looks like (taken at 8:30 this morning):

Foggy weather

The fog has burned away, so we have blue sky now.

Back on Friday with some sort of eye candy...

Monday, December 01, 2008

November 2008 Recap

The Recap
Finished:Worked on:
  • Black leg warmers in Caron Simply Soft yarn (knitting)
  • February Lady Sweater (knitting) [Ravelry]
  • TTL Mystery Sock for Socktoberfest knitting [Ravelry]
  • Secret project
Frogged/On Hiatus:
  • Sea Foam Wrap (knitting) [Ravelry]
  • Dogosaurus Rex sweater (knitting) [Ravelry}
  • Morning Surf Scarf (knitting) [Ravelry]
Works In Progress (did not work on):
  1. Spinning 4 oz of Angora Cottage 70% Merino and 30% Silk roving in purple [Ravelry]
  2. Montego Bay wrap in Walking on the Wild Tide yarn, using Montego Bay scarf pattern from Interweave Knits Summer issue (knitting)
  3. Spinning 2 Chasing Rainbows rovings together in the Heather colorway: one Merino-Bombyx (2 oz) and one Merino wool (2 oz)
  4. Violet Needle Roll (cross stitch)

  1. Cascade Fixation anklets (knitting)
  2. Central Air socks (knitting)
  3. Hopi by Susan Portra (needlepoint)
  4. Peacock Majesty by Just Nan (cross stitch)
  5. Paint it Black quilt
  6. Flower Power quilt; top finished, need to sandwich and quilt (quilting)
  7. Jungle Songs quilt; top finished, need to sandwich and quilt (quilting)
  8. Queen Mermaid by Mirabilia (cross stitch; still languishing in its stretcher bars)
  9. Sangria shawl (knitting)
  10. Twinkletoes slippers; just need to make one (knitting)

weekend report... a word: wonderful! While long weekends are never really long enough, I managed to get something finished and worked on other things that needed attention.

  • Knitting: I've already posted pictures of the completed Siamese Kitty. I also worked on my sweater a little.
    (November Recap to follow in a separate posting.)
  • Secret project: I've made excellent progress on my secret project, which is kind of amazing since I had to clean up my sewing room before I could work on it. My sewing room tends to be the destination for everything that we take out of the living room when we have company!
  • House: Even after the madness called Thanksgiving, it's still in pretty good shape. The Thanksgiving dishes are all taken care of and now I'm ready to start decorating for Christmas.
Now that the kitchen has been freshened, we started looking at the dining area. One thing that's been bugging us for a while is our wall unit—it's old (I think the ex and I bought it within a year of moving into the house...1972, maybe?) and the shelves are breaking away from the brackets. We've wanted to replace them for quite a while. With all of the Thanksgiving weekend sales, we found a set of bookcases that were 25% off and we decided to get ourselves an early Christmas present.

They are mission-style and match the coffee table that the Husband bought me last year at Christmas.

New bookcases

And, the store delivered them on the same day that we bought cool is that?! I haven't moved anything into them yet as we wanted to give them a layer of Liquid Gold first. We are very pleased with the way they look!

I need to start getting serious about baking. So fair warning: this blog will show craft content and more baking content as the month progresses. In December, it's all about the cookie around here!

Eye Candy Friday...

...and I'm looking forward to the weekend! This week we harvested plums from one of our trees: Corncockles have sprouted up all o...