Wednesday, December 20, 2006


lagniappe :: (Creole) an unexpected gift

Sweet Sarah knocked my socks off with this unexpected and thoroughly yummy gift - Malabrigo!!! 2 skeins, in Marron Oscuro. I don't yet know what I'll make with it, but that has been part of the fun - thinking through all the possibilities. I have never received non-planned-for yarn before (i.e., every other yarn gift to this point has been something My Old Man got me for a pattern I already had in mind, and I directed him to the exact yarn, exact color, exact number of skeins, exact shop)**, so this is quite a treat!

I was utterly disappointed with an early Christmas present from a family member who clearly knows me not (hint: when in doubt, see Sarah's gift, above). I wasted no time in returning the gift (yes, I'm one of those people) and getting something I really wanted instead. A Bea Ellis Hat Kit (traditional). Ordered on Friday, it arrived on Monday. I couldn't be happier. This will be my first fair isle project.

Though my knitting lately has been mostly unappreciated , fraught with mistakes , or completely behind deadline, I have done one little Christmas project that I am super-proud of - and that has been truly appreciated. The uber-precious soft trees from little birds handmade. I just love them, and - unbelievably - so do my boys (especially Little Buddha, who sometimes takes two or three to bed with him). The three solid color ones are done in felt and the other three were made with cotton fat quarters. I see more of these in my future, though perhaps not this year.

The final bit of lagniappe this week was cooking-related. We had some good friends over for dinner on Monday, something we almost never do anymore (i.e., since the boys were born). I somehow managed to pull the whole thing off, including a rather gourmet meal, but the real coup was the salad, which I came up with myself (and, though I love to cook and bake, I am not known for experimentation in the kitchen; just as I like a pattern for knitting and sewing, I like a recipe for cooking and baking).

Anyway, I was thoroughly pleased with myself for this little number, which was a big hit. In addition to being light and tasty, it had a very Christmas-y look to it. And since I've received so much lagniappe this week, I'm passing some lagniappe on to you.

earthchick's Christmas Candy Salad*
3 T blood orange vinegar (I use Cuisine Perel)
2 t honey
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
- mix the vinegar and honey, whisk in the olive oil, add salt and pepper

7 oz. mesclun mix (with plenty of red greens)
1/2 cup-ish of blue cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup-ish of walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup-ish pomegranate seeds**
optional: 1 bosc pear, peeled and sliced (I didn't have a pear, but as I ate the salad, I thought it would've been a great addition)
- put all ingredients in a large bowl, add dressing, and toss.

*I call this "Candy" Salad because my sons believe that pomegranate seeds are candy. They are soooo good just for snacking, that I sort of feel like they're candy, too!
** to get the seeds, submerge a pomegranate in a large bowl of water. While the pomegranate is under the water, use a sharp knife to cut the fruit into 6 or 8 pieces. Use a spoon (I still keep the fruit underwater for this) to dig out the seeds. Remove whatever pulp and fruit you can with your hands, then pour the rest of the bowl through a strainer. You may need to pick some more pulp off the seeds.

The salad make a lovely Christmas presentation, with its red, green, and white colors, and is super-simple to make. Happy lagniappe to you! (if you make it, I'd love to know what you think of it, esp. if you make any changes or additions that you find tasty)

*Gah! I totally forgot about the AWESOME yarn gift My Old Man's Son C gave me for Christmas when he visited earlier this month. I had been waiting to post about it till I got a good pic - it's a sweet Shetland yarn, undyed, in yummy natural colors, from a farm in England near where C lives. Pics to come....

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Making a List. Checking it Twice.

  • Anywhere near done with the boys' Christmas stockings? No.
  • Paying attention so that I don't screw up the very simple heel and frog back four times in a row? No.
  • Going to finish My Old Man's Zippered Raglan in time for Christmas? Not likely.
  • Going to finish the other two Christmas gift knits on my list? Maybe.
  • Going to become a sewing convert because of how quickly a machine can crank out FOs? Possibly.
  • Going to stay up late on Christmas Eve sewing sock monkeys and wrapping gifts? Definitely.
  • Going to have the house clean in time for MIL's visit on Thursday? No.
  • Laughing inside, while trying to act stern, every time Little Buddha asks Tiny Dancer, "Do you want a time-out?" Yes.
  • Crying inside, while trying to act merry, every time I have to go out and shop in an actual brick-and-mortar store? Yes.
  • Developing a painful knot in my shoulder from too much online Christmas shopping? Yes.
  • Ordered my gift yarn from My Old Man for Tubey? Yes!
  • Ordered my Bea Ellis Hat Kit (the traditional one) as a replacement gift for something a family member gave me that I've already returned? Yes.
  • Obsessed with every little child's Christmas craft idea, even though the craftiest my boys have gotten so far is to scribble on the windowsills, walls, stove, and wood floor? Yes.
  • Going to knock myself out with four night-time commitments in the next week, including one I'm hosting, and including two while company is here? Yes.
  • Going to try to bake, cook, play hostess, and get ready to leave town at one of my busiest work times of year? Yes.
  • Going to have everything packed and loaded in time to hit the road after lunch on Christmas day? Not likely.
  • Going to enjoy many, many hours of road time happily knitting? Definitely.
  • Loving watching my kids enjoy the holidays, even though for me it seems to mean an awful lot of work? Yes, yes, yes.
  • Enjoying wearing my Simply Lovely Lace Socks with my new $9 Christmas jammies? Oh yes.....

Saturday, December 09, 2006

FO: The One-Day Hat and other wasted knitting

So. With at least three things on my Christmas gift to-knit list to go, I have spent the entire week making no forward progress.

Remember this beanie? (basic stockinette hemmed hat, no pattern, just done based on gauge calculations)
Despite the fact that it was both too big (loose around the ears) and too small (not long enough to even cover the ears), Little Buddha did enjoy wearing it around the house for a few days.

Then he suddenly and thoroughly abandoned it for this:

Isn't that totally adorable? And not remotely mama-made. In fact, I'm not even sure it's handmade. This was a baby gift when the boys were born (there's another one, red with black and white stripes, with basketball, baseball, football, and soccer ball buttons sewn on it, equally cute). Last year, Tiny Dancer wore this one a little bit but mostly the boys refused to keep anything on their heads. Now Little Buddha has fallen completely in love with this one. Wears it around the house. Takes it to bed with him. Demands to know where his hat is if someone dares to put it away. It looks so cute on him. And it fits. And I have to admit I'm a smidgeon jealous.

Still, I pressed on, in the vain hope that I could create a hat that was both stylish and warm, that the boys would love, and that would fit. Enter the London beanie. It has a ribbed brim instead of hemmed, which is easier and quicker than hemmed but not quite the look I had originally had in mind. I did it any way. The good news: it only took a day to knit. Oh, and it fits. The bad news: no one will wear it. Both boys completely and utterly refuse.

A rare moment - Tiny Dancer agrees to wear the thing for one minute while I snap an out-of-focus shot. See the hand creeping up the neck? He's on the verge of ripping it off.

I'm done with making hats this season. At least for the boys. Tiny Dancer doesn't love hats the way Little Buddha does; he prefers the hood of his coat. And I don't think anything I could make could merit Little Buddha's affections as much as the cute little traffic hat. So. Done.

Next up in the parade of useless knitting: toddler socks. Not just any ol' socks, either. Lorna's Laces. This was the chocolate semi-solid left over from the two pairs of adult socks I recently made. There looked like just enough for a small pair of child's socks, and Tiny Dancer had asked for some. So, here's the first sock.

Pretty cute, eh? Will either of my boys deign to even try it on? Absolutely not. No idea why. It is soft, warm, and it fits. I LOVE it. But not them. *sniff* There's plenty of yarn left for the mate, but I won't bother, at least till after Christmas.

So, that's two beanies and a sock that will join the two pairs of felted clogs they also won't wear, and the mateless ugly orange sock (which I have a sneaking suspicion Little Buddha would wear, even without a mate, if I would rip out the toe and knit it long enough for his foot). Bah.

You'd think that would be enough wasted knitting for one week, but no. Nevermind that I have actual Christmas gifts to finish knitting. Nevermind I could buy the boys stockings at the store, or even quite quickly whip some up with the sewing machine. I decided I really must knit them.

The yarn came last week (KP Shamrock for the body, KP Twirl for the cuff), and I downloaded the free Twirl Top Stocking pattern from KnitPicks. Only when I got ready to cast on a couple of nights ago, my size 9 dpns were nowhere to be found. So did I move on to my Christmas gift WIPs? Of course not. I decided to learn Magic Loop. I like it, and it seems pretty intuitive, but I still miss the dpns. I know some people hate dpns, but I dig 'em.

At any rate, I learned Magic Loop (I bought the little Magic Loop booklet a couple of years ago, long before I had a true knitting obsession, when there was much I still didn't "get" about the craft; one look at the book and I was thoroughly daunted). Things have gone smoothly, except I've made three major mistakes that may cause me to rip the whole thing back:
1) I thought I dropped a stitch, tried to pick it up where I thought it dropped, and eight rounds later realized how completely wonky the pick-up looked; I kept going, but the wonky area still looks awful to me [and I don't know if I had actually dropped a stitch anywhere; perhaps I merely miscounted when I cast on]
2) when it came time for the heel flap, I was completely absorbed in a Sopranos DVD and I misread the directions; round 3 I did sl1, K1 again (just like round 1), instead of K1, sl1; I didn't rip back but did correct myself for the next 5 repeats of those 4 rounds; to me the mistake is glaring and awful, and enough in itself to make me want to frog
3) I failed to place any markers for the instep gusset rounds and am now completely disoriented about where to do what (since I'm not really following a pattern at this point, but rather trying to adapt Magic Loop principles to my general sock-making knowledge).

So here's the stocking. On the one hand, it seems ridiculous to frog and restart when a) I have another one to do after this one's done, and b) I have three Christmas knits still ahead of me (on top of all other Christmas preparations, including hand-sewing two sock monkeys and getting ready for a visit from my MIL). On the other hand, if I do this right the first time, it could be something the boys enjoy for many years to come. Plus, I hate to give one child the good stocking and the other the wonky one. Of course, I could just wonk up the other one. And knowing me, I probably will.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

FO revisited: My First Adult Hat

For the last several days, My Old Man's older son, C, has been visiting us from England, where he is working on a PhD at Exeter in Social Psychology. We have all had a great time with him.

This time last year, I made my very first adult hat, a simple roll brim stockinette cap (from LMKG), as a Christmas present for C. Last year, I failed to get a pic of him in it. So, here it is:

(I made him do that J. Crew pose).

The boys have especially enjoyed having C here.
It is great fun to watch the three of them play together.
Plus, he thoroughly wears them out.