Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve, 2014...

...and I'm hoping to stay awake until midnight. I'm not holding my breath, though.

Today's sunrise:

Sunrise 12/31/14

The Husband has been sick since before Christmas. I've managed to fight off the worst of it, but my stomach has been upset for several days. And my energy level is way down.

Needless to say, I have not accomplished as much as I wanted to since Christmas. I did get the cookie packages mailed on Monday. However, very little crafting has occurred and very little reading. I've been a slug for the last few days.

Right now, Sombra and I are snuggled under several blankets on the couch, watching mindless Hallmark movies like we have been for a couple of days. I'm trying to finish knitting the Loopy Academy mittens, but I'm not holding our much hope that I can finish them by midnight. Oh, well...

Sombra, chilling out with me

At least the Christmas tree is ready for the new year:

New Year's Eve Tree

See you all on the other side!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!'s been busy around here for the last week.  As we wait for the Daughter to join us, I'll do a quick post.

All the chocolate was finished last weekend and I did all of the packaging over the next couple of days.  Some photos:

Chocolate sugar cookies:

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies:

Sugar cookies

Chocolate bark:

Chocolate bark

We had a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner last night with the Husband's parents, his sister and her husband, and the Daughter. The cioppino was yummy and we all enjoyed ourselves.

We'll spend part of the day with his parents today and just keep things low key.

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it. Happy Holidays!


Friday, December 19, 2014

Eye Candy Friday...

...and my last workday of the year! I don't go back to work until January 5th. Yay!

Today's picture is from 2007. I think this was taken the last time we went to a Christmas Tree farm to get a tree. (We buy them at the nursery now.)

Close-up: pine tree

It was a perfect day in the Santa Cruz mountains, blue sky and not too cold.

Up this weekend: I'm in the home stretch. Tomorrow is chocolate day. My friend Linda is coming over in the afternoon to help with the chocolate bark and fudge. I have 5 kinds of bark to make and the macadamia lime fudge. Making bark is fun, but messy!

I'm toying with the idea of making one more cookie, but we'll see how much time I have left!

Once I have finished the chocolate, it's time to start packaging things. I've talked about the packing process before. It's pretty time-consuming. But it's fun to watch all of those goodie bags filling up!

After that, it's time to clean up the house and find the kitchen so we can make Christmas Eve dinner.

Oh, and then there's that thing called Christmas shopping...the I'm done with the Husband, but the Daughter still hasn't given me a list. Make it kind of hard to shop...

And somewhere in there I need to finish the stealth gift. Ack!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Top-of-the-waves Tuesday...

...running at full speed to get everything set up at work as well as get Christmas done!
  • Hardly any crafting has happened. I'm very behind on the stealth project that is supposed to be a Christmas gift. Arg!
  • I've checked my spreadsheet and I'm officially 147 cookies behind last year. I need to bake another cookie to make up for this.
  • I baked 747 biscotti on Saturday. That's 86 biscotti more than last year. I thought I had made less than last year, like I did with the cookies. Score!
  • On Sunday, I frosted all of the sugar cookies and put chocolate on half of the biscotti. I could seriously use another 3 or 4 racks for this process. I used every rack I own and it was not enough!
  • Last night, I did round 2 for the snowflakes. I piped all the details.
  • I realized that I was almost our of the edible glitter for the snowflakes. I went out at lunchtime today and bought two vials of it so I can finish the snowflakes tonight.
  • I'm behind on the sugared nuts, but I'm not too worried. I can knock out another batch tonight while I finish up the snowflakes.
  • In the midst of all of this, one of my brothers has to be in our area tomorrow and he's spending the night with us. I've already warned him that the house is Baking Central and he has to ignore the layer of flour, sugar, and chocolate on everything. There is no way I can clean up and try to keep on track! 
Here's a photo of the cookies and biscotti drying...

The results of Icing Day

...and this isn't all of them. There was another table in the kitchen with 4 more types of biscotti. And 50% of the biscotti didn't get chocolate and were already packed in my storage containers.

Yeah, it's a bunch...

Friday, December 12, 2014

Eye Candy Friday...

...we survived the massive rain storm that hit our area yesterday without any roof leaks or flooding in the courtyard (although the Husband was [thisclose] to pumping out excess water).

Here is what the sunrise looked like on Monday 12/8:

Sunrise 12/8/14

Up this weekend: Tomorrow is biscotti day. I need to seriously get in gear and get those baked. I'm missing Spin-In, which makes me sad. There's just no way I can manage that and stay on track (sigh).

On Sunday, it's chocolate and frosting day. I'm going to try a new method for the frosting that I hope will make things go faster. The snowflakes, of course, are always the biggest time-sink.

I figure that I'm about 200 cookies behind from where I was last year. One reason is that I got half as many Pistachio Pinwheels as last year.  The other is that there are 2 cookies I ran out of time to make. I need to figure out how I can squeeze those in this weekend!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

WIP-it Wednesday, holiday style...

...and by that I mean that I'm not working on crafts for any extended period of time. A little here...a little there...that's it! The biggest WIPs are the Christmas decorations and the baking.

I spent some time this morning trimming some loose branches at the bottom of the Christmas tree so I could look underneath to see where the stand is leaking. I didn't see any visible leaks, so I decided to mop up any remaining water and carefully dry the stand. Then I puttied all of the fastener holes to make them more water-tight. I carefully added more water to the stand and so far, it seems to be holding. I'll check it tonight to see if it held through the day. If it did, we're ready to hang ornaments.

Over the years, I've discovered I can do most of the baking during the weekends so I don't have to try and bake after work. That gives me a little time to rest and do other things.

Doing all the baking in 5 or 6 days means that I have to be very organized in the kitchen. I've developed mise en place that works for me and assembly-line techniques to make things go quicker. And having multiple mixing bowls, mixing paddles, spatulas, measuring spoons and cups, cookie sheets, and cookie storage containers keeps me from having to wash things after every batch.

After last weekend, my feet and legs were really hurting from all that standing. In past years, this has been a small issue, but never as bad as this year. Part of the problem is that I hate shoes, so I run around barefoot at home. In the winter, I wear socks. I've tried wearing my walking shoes (and other shoes) while I bake, but my back bugs me more that way. So, the Husband went to Home Dept and bought me an anti-fatigue mat that I'm going to try this weekend. I hope that will help, otherwise he'll have to get me  a foot massage for Christmas!

WIP Roll Call

WIPs in Rotation:

  • Be My Baby for My Baby (knitting) [Ravelry]
    Working on the thumb hole for the first sleeve
  • Stealth project
    Slow progress
WIPs, no play this week:
  1. Ghouls, ghosts, and witches...oh, my! (cross stitch)
  2. Halloween Phat Fiber samples (spinning) [Ravelry
  3. I'm Just Mad About Citron Quilt (quilting)
  4. Loopy Mittens (was Raspberry Mittens) [Ravelry]
  5. Mermaid of the Pearls (cross stitch)
  6. Tucson Twilight (needlepoint)
  1. Beyond Antares, aka Equatorial Nights (knitting) [Ravelry]
  2. Celaeno Shawl (knitting) [Ravelry]
  3. Going Snow Global quilt (quilting)
  4. Peacock Pomatomus socks (knitting) [Ravelry]
  5. Peacock Majesty by Just Nan (cross stitch)
WIPs To Be:
  • A peacock or mermaid quilt for me.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Weekend report and a finished object...

...I finally got a couple of pictures of the handspun.

This is Sweetwater Spring [Ravelry]:

Sweetwater Spring handspun

and a close up...

Sweetwater Spring handspun, close up

Started 11/1/14;
Finished 11/29/14;
Merino-Tencel top (4 oz) from Royale Hare;
160.1 yds, 13 WPI

I probably won't be able to spin again until after Christmas. I'm skipping Spin In this month so I can finish the baking.

So, the weekend report: I spent both days working on the non-biscotti portion of the baking.  I made:
  • 7 kinds of cookies, a total of 668 cookies
    180 of them need to be frosted (that's will happen on Sunday)
  • Grand Marnier Pecans, about 3 pounds
In addition, we bought our Christmas tree and set it up in the living room. Set-up includes rearranging the furniture and rugs to make room for it. I hung the lights on Sunday, but we're holding off on the ornaments for a bit. We have a leak in the tree stand and need to plug that before I hang anything. Not a big's happened before. It always leaks around a fastener opening...just don't know which one it is this time. I think it might be time for a new stand!

Friday, December 05, 2014

November 2014 recap...



  • 11/1 Wurm Hat (knitting) [Ravelry]
  • 1/29 Sweetwater Spring handspun (spinning) [Ravelry
    Merino-Tencel (4 oz) from Royale Hare;
    160.1 yd chain-ply, WPI TBD
  • Books:
    1. Wounded, Shannon Mayer
    2. Archangel's Shadow, Nalini Singh
    3. Heartsong, Debbie Macomber
    4. Yes, Chef, Marcus Sameulsson
    5. The Winter Sea, Susana Kearsley
    6. A Shift in Water, Patricia Eddy
    7. Shiv Crew, Laken Cane
    8. Blood and Bite, Laken Cane
    9. Escaped, Lizzy Ford
    10. Strange Trouble, Laken Cane
  • 11/3 Loopy Mittens (knitting)  [Ravelry]
  • 11/24 Be My Baby for My Baby (knitting) [Ravelry]
Worked on:
  • Stealth project
  • Halloween Phat Fiber samples (spinning) [Ravelry]
Works In Progress, did not work on:
  • Ghouls, ghosts, and witches...oh, my! (cross stitch)
  • I'm Just Mad About Citron Quilt (quilting)
  • Mermaid of the Pearls (cross stitch)
  • Tuscon Twilight (needlepoint)
IDJ (It's Dead, Jim):
  • Stormy Affection (knitting) [Ravelry]
  1. Beyond Antares, aka Equatorial Nights (knitting) [Ravelry
  2. Celaeno Shawl (knitting) [Ravelry]
  3. Going Snow Global quilt (quilting)
  4. Peacock Pomatomus socks (knitting) [Ravelry]
  5. Peacock Majesty by Just Nan (cross stitch)
WIPs To Be:
  • A peacock or mermaid quilt for me.

Eye Candy Friday...

...I had big plans of photographing the latest handspun and doing a F.O. Friday post. And that's as far as we got...big plans, little action.

As the days count down to my end of the year vacation, the number of  things I have to finish by the 19th increases. Most of the increases are work things, as the Christmas tasks are pretty much the same every year. This means that by the time I get home, my mind is exhausted and I don't feel like doing anything except eat dinner and sleep. So today, you get a small eye candy installment.

We have a jade plant in our courtyard that is several years old (read: more than 15, maybe more than 20). The Husband cuts it back periodically so it doesn't outgrow the area it's in.  Sometimes it flowers and looks like this:

Jade plant flowers

This was taken after a recent rain storm.  As was this photo of the Lucky Lantern Red Abutilon that is also in our courtyard:

Lucky Lantern Red Abutilon

Up this weekend: It's Cookie Time!  All baking, all the time!  I will take a small break to go with the Husband to pick out our Christmas tree. Depending on the weather, we might set up the tree right away. The last thing I want to do is bring a soaking wet tree into the house.

When I'm done with the baking for the day, I'll swap over and work on the stealth project. About the only chores I'll do are the laundry and grocery shopping.

My number one task is baking. I'm still feeling way behind. I usually have at least some of the cookie dough made by this time. I do manage to get it all done, but it looks like I'm gong to be sprinting for the next two weekends!

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Well, hello December...

...November went by way too quickly!

Thanksgiving dinner went very well. I managed to get everything except the vegetables, salad, and turkey done ahead of time. That made things much easier on T-day.  Here's a peek at the stuffing/dressing:

Thanksgiving stuffing

and the table:

Thanksgiving table, 2014

All the food tasted great and we  had lots of leftovers, enough to send home two care packages.  I asked my mom to bring one pie and she brought two, plus a jello dish. I had made pumpkin pies and a cranberry cake, so we  had an overabundance of desserts!  My mom made my favorite coconut cream pie plus a mixed berry pie. They were both yummy!

On Friday, it was off to the Christmas tree farm with the Daughter's BFF and her family. It was a clear day and there were lots of people out. We enjoyed a hot meal of lasagne and tons of munchies.  The traffic was a nightmare going home, so it was a very long day.

On Saturday, The Husband and I decided to lay low and recover from the previous 3 days. I managed to finish plying Sweetwater Spring. Pictures coming soon...

On Sunday, It was time to do my shopping runs for baking supplies. Of course, it rained like crazy! I didn't mind too much for the Trader Joe's run as I was buying nuts, chocolate, and butter--rain wasn't going to affect those ingredients too much. Nor would it be an issue for the cookie tins I bought at Rite Aid. However, I was not looking forward to trying to keep flour and sugar dry in a downpour.  Thankfully, there was a break in the rain and the Husband came with me to Smart and Final to help get things into the car quickly.

With that done, it was time to start baking. I made all of the fruitcakes (~16), lemon bread (8), and the pumpkin bread (~24). I'm not sure of the exact numbers for the fruitcake and pumpkin breads as it was pretty late by the time I got them into freezer bags and into the freezer.

I did have to send the Husband out on a grocery store run as I had forgotten how many eggs I needed to make double batches of the 3 breads. The double batch of pumpkin bread uses 8 eggs!

The next two weekends will be all baking-all-the-time. I'm going to need a lot of coffee!

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...