Monday, December 31, 2012

Finished – Advent Stockings

Pretty socks all in a row.

Detail swatches.

Finished just as 2012 closes.

Happy New Year everyone!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Kiffles or something like them...

This year part of Christmas gifting included baking an assortment of cookies.  Most of them were prepared in anticipation of various holiday festivities: dinners, work parties, family gatherings, etc.  One batch though was the gift intended for my dad.  He always requests that we buy him nothing, and we never comply.  But I'm on a three or four year run of gifting him books and/or a good bottle of spirits and decided this year we'd mix it up.


We have a family friend, who is a contemporary of my grandmother.  Her name is Cecilia.  She worked at my elementary school when I was a student there and has since retired and still lives in my hometown.  She and my grandparents were/are friends, and my dad would go over to help her prepare her house for winter just prior to Christmas.  In exchange she would always give him a box of home-made cookies, kiffles.  These cookies never went out onto the trays that we put out for guests.  In fact, they were mostly forgotten by everyone except dad, who tucked them away in the deep freeze.  He would ration them out slowly, and usually to himself, and they would last well past the holidays.  

Ready for rolling...

Well Cecilia had some improvements made to her home and she no longer needs help winterizing the place.  So dad's been in a bit of a kiffle drought.  But I remedied that this year.  He received (nearly) an entire batch for himself as a gift.  

Raspberry filling

I'm going to share the recipe here with you, as Cecilia shared it with me.  It does deviate from most online recipes that I've found, in some significant ways (like the absence of cream cheese or active ingredients in the dough), but I assure you that they are delicious and worth the effort.

Headed for the oven.

(Makes 10 dozen)

4 cups flour
1 lb. firm butter
10 egg yolks
4 tbsp heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
Granulated sugar
Filling of your choice*
Powdered sugar

Combine the flour and butter until thoroughly blended as you would for pie dough.
In a separate bowl, mix together the egg yolks, lightly beaten with the whipping cream and vanilla. Add this egg mixture to the flour mixture and blend well until the dough is smooth.
Divide the dough into four balls and wrap each in waxed paper. Refrigerate at least 6 hours.
Next slice the dough and form into large marbles. The total dough should yield about 120 balls. Cover and refrigerate the dough again in "marble" form for another six hours.
Take out about ten balls at a time and roll each gently in granulated sugar. (Be conservative with the sugar, if you mix in too much the kiffles will rupture when you bake them.) Place a small amount of filling in the rolled out circle of dough and roll the dough closed, and form into a crescent shape. Work in a cool kitchen or dough will stick to the board.
Bake at 250°F fist and gradually increase to 300°, and bake until golden brown. (I found it worked to bake at 250° for 20 minutes and then increase to 300° for an additional 15 minutes or so.) Remove immediately – place on a cooling rack and sprinkle powdered sugar on top when completely cool.

* Fillings:  I made one filling from scratch, the other I cheated and used a can of Solo Raspberry pastry filling.  Both turned out really well.  I think nut fillings or poppyseed would work well too.

The home-made filling was apricot.  I used one package of dried apricots and added just enough water to cover them and brought them to a boil.  Cook them until they are tender.  Drain the water and mash them (or put into a food processor), add a bit of sugar and lemon juice to taste.  Refrigerate until you are ready to use.

Happy eating.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Boxing Day 2012

There were cookies made...

and there are fewer now than there were originally.

My favorite Christmas star...

An end to a great day with tea... and of course,
 an Advent stocking in work (number seventeen).

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

Here's to hoping that your homes are full of light and love.  Merry Christmas friends.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Retrospective - Christmas Stockings

These were the first socks that I ever knit.

First three socks ever.
I modeled them after some beautiful fine gauge Christmas stockings that were in the Garnet Hill catalog years ago.  I think I knit them the first year that we were in our house.  They are knit out of cotton yarn, which is funny now, because I definitely wouldn't choose that fiber type today.  But I like the reminder of my novice-knitter self and remember my focus at the time on color choice, not fiber type.  It's been a slow evolution to the fiber snob that I am today.  You can find them on ravelry here... although not in much detail, they also predate my ravelry-ing, so the finer points (and ball bands) had escaped me by the time I added them to my projects.

...hung by the chimney with care.

Soon they'll be filled with goodies.  I hope your stockings will be laden too.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Advent Stockings

Sometimes I launch off into projects with an understanding that the ideal completion schedule is completely unreasonable.  This is one of those cases. And although I'm already behind the curve, I did make some fair progress.

Fourteen tiny stockings.

I decided that it would be a great idea to knit a twenty-four stocking advent calendar for the small fry (on ravelry here).  (This isn't actually an epiphany of 2012.  I thought it was a good idea last year and managed to knit one stocking.  heh.)  So this year, I was determined to make a bigger impact... and so far I have, but I'm already behind. I have managed to knit a total of fourteen socks; today is December 18... ahem.  We are now re-purposing stockings from the beginning of the order and I'm the only one that has noticed, as far as I can tell.

Leftover baby cashmerino, I think.

Some of the details of this project are: I'm using only waste yarn from prior projects... so it's a random selection of bits and bobs. It feels good to make something out of this little odd lot but it does make for a somewhat wonky color scheme. I'm knitting these tiny guys all from the top down and usually somewhere between 32 to 48 stitches cast on.  All of them employ a short row heel and the classic paired decrease toe.  Most of these were knit on size two needles as most of the  yarn was fingering weight.

So far, I think this one is my favorite.

Number fourteen and my fave so far.

And the most fun part is giving our girl a tiny present each night after dinner:  a bit of candy, or miniature something for her doll house or some bit of creative fodder for her "school box".  It's been fun, and a great way to get her to clean her plate.  (I'm starting to wonder what I'll do on December 26th about that... but oh well.)

Happy Knitting.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Fish, friends and family

This weekend we took a breather from the normally scheduled work and holiday prep to spend the day at the farm.  It wasn't a holiday event, or one that helped in any way prepare for the holiday plans in the coming weeks and so I was a little worried that I had committed an entire day that I couldn't afford to spend doing "nothing."

And it turned out to be just the thing that we all needed.  My better half got to spend some quality time with some of his friends in the great outdoor spaces that we aren't afforded in the city.  And our girl was the only kiddo in residence so she got to enjoy a little time in the limelight. And we all got a little breather on the cusp of the holiday craze.

We were collectively a motley "family" of neighbors, colleagues, college friends and family. We fried fish that the neighbor caught over the summer, told stories of our weeks work, ate brownies, discussed the coming holiday plans, drank strong coffee to ward off the chilly weather, retold some old family stories, told a few new ones and basically enjoyed a relaxed afternoon in good company.

"Here, fishy, fishy."

I have a lovely friend who wrote recently about how important it is to spend time with people who satisfy that basic, human need for companionship, camaraderie and love.  What was so compelling was her reminder that how you are bound to people isn't the important part - be it family or colleague, old college room mate or neighbor. It's recognizing who those people are and making time to spend with them. Saturday served as a good reminder of how fortunate we are to have each other.

So my lessons for the weekend were (1) take time out from the insane holiday prep schedule to enjoy something or better yet, nothing at all, (2) time spent with good people is never wasted and (3) filet the  fish super thin... it makes the best fried fish in the world.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Holiday in the making...

Holiday preparation is going on full swing here.  We've pulled out all our exterior decor and adorned the house in the usual garlands and lights. Christmas cards are ordered and my hand is already cramping thinking about all the addressing (thank goodness there is no stamp licking any more... yuck!)

And the making of Christmas gifts is being squeezed into all the spare moments.  Here are the first couple completed projects...

A happy, tiny elephant stocking stuffer for my happy, tiny nephew.
One miniature handsome Pachyderm – Check.

Two dozen bean bags and a pair of steel pails for our girl and her bestie cousin...

Bean bag toss.

Fun way to use up bits of remnant material...
It's back to the grind stone for me tomorrow, just two weeks until the holiday and although I'm not "ready", I can't wait for it to get here.  Stay warm friends.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Finished – Cuff au Lait

Love these mitts.
These fingerless mitts turned out really well.  And the cuff on these is what makes them special. I'm also really enamored of this neutral smoky grey yarn.  It's not as blue as it appears in these photos.

The pattern was easy to follow, the only part that was a little vague was the placement of the second thumb.  I think you could follow the pattern literally, twice without error; but I think your thumb might end up being a little off kilter from the cuff join on one hand.  I wanted them to be a bit more symmetrical and so I fudged the placement of the second thumb so that the second mitt would be the mirror image of the first.

Hard to take a photo of both mitts when it's a self portrait.

The chart was very clear and easy to follow and if you aren't a great lover of charts, there were written instructions also included.  The only other modification that I made was to switch to the smaller needles shortly after I joined the mitt in the round.  I wanted the glove part to fit more snugly. I didn't add any additional stitches, just followed the pattern as written (small) and it turned out to be a really nice fit.

Matchy-matchy fingernails.

I thought initially about giving these away as a Christmas gift, but I like them so much and have worn them often enough now that they are mine to keep. If I plan on gifting these for the holidays, I'll just have to knit some more. (And now I must paint the nails on my other hand... ha.)