Thursday, December 31, 2009

Preemptive Strike

Dear Mom,

In an effort to thwart the grey gloomy winter feeling that I feel encroaching upon me, I spent a meager $1.49 on a pure pick-me-up, guaranteed to beat the winter blahs.




A Delft Blue Hyacinth bulb. Pre-chilled and ready to go. Plopped into a bulb vase with water to entice its roots to grow and then set upon the kitchen windowsill.

For 25 cents each, I bought 2 more bulbs that were not pre-chilled. They are now taking a 6 week nap in a brown paper sack in the back of the fridge. My plan is that they will be ready to wake up about the time this bulb has worn itself out. The colors of the 25 cent bulbs are a mystery- definitely hyacinths, but separated and rearranged when an unsupervised child played with the hyacinth bulbs at the garden shop last fall.

With all the grey days our winters usually bring, I will have a hopeful little reminder of Spring to pull me through.

Love,
Kim

Monday, December 28, 2009

Proof that you are never too old to get a doll for Christmas

Dear Mom,
I bet you thought you were done giving me dolls for Christmas. This one doesn't have a head. Or arms. Or legs. She doesn't talk or eat or wet. But I can dress her up and that is exactly why I asked for her. She is my resident fashion model, and she will make it easier for me to photograph my knitting designs.
Because she is my exclusive model, I have named her Elle. Much to the dismay of the rest of my family, who needed tv's or batteries to play with their gifts, I was able to play with my new toy right away! I took a few photos of her modeling the knitted skirt and scarf I gave to you. It was a complete shift in reality- the Mom playing while the rest of the family waited, but I wanted to take a good photo of the gift I gave to you.

This is the Simple Yet Effective Shawl and the skirt is my design, and I am still trying to think of a name for it. Any ideas?

Today Elle had her first official photo shoot, with wardrobe changes. She was most cooperative.
Here are some of the pictures....


"Merry Poppins"


Lace Duster

With my Christmas knitting, baking, wrapping and cleaning behind me, I was able to finish my sister-in-law's socks,

Generic sock pattern, Claudia's Handpainted Yarn "Teal Party"


and start and finish a baby gift.



This is Elizabeth Zimmermann's February Baby Sweater from her book Knitter's Almanac, and my North Porch Hat, Jr. pattern. The yarn for both is Knitterly Things Vesper Sock yarn. The sweater uses her semi-solid "Magenta" and the hat used leftover "In The Wildwood" from another project. The photo makes the stripes look more red, but they are magenta like the sweater. I covered the buttons with the same shade of green, using gingham fabric to coordinate the set.


I have one more baby gift to complete and then I hope to cast on something for me..... although the Young Lady has been raiding my supply of hand knit socks and I should probably knit a few pairs of socks to keep us both warm.
And with snow on the ground and BRRRRR it is cold outside, we need all the warm we can get our toes into.
Love,
Kim

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Santa's Little Helper

Dear Mom,
Benny holds down the wrapping paper for me while I cut...

and he guards the packages to be sure there is no peeking before Christmas morning!

Love, Bonnie Jo

Cranberry Cordial

Dear Mom,
The cranberry cordial takes about 6 weeks to work its magic...but it is well worth the wait, don't you think?! I have been savoring it drizzled over a scoop of vanilla ice cream with a spoonful of those special cranberries and some mini chocolate chips sprinkled on top.  Mmmmmmmm......



Cranberry Cordial

2 lbs (8 cups) fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
6 cups sugar
1 liter light rum

In a gallon jar, combine cranberries, sugar and rum.  Close tightly and shake gently to blend.  Store in a cool, dark place for 4-6 weeks, shaking the jar gently every day.  Strain to remove the berries.  Strain the cordial several times through cheesecloth to remove the seeds.  Pour into decorative bottles and seal with corks. 

I would suggest using a food processor to chop the cranberries, and be sure to use a jar with a wide mouth.  The "bottling" process can be quite messy, so be sure to munch on the cranberries while straining the seeds, as it seems to make the experience a whole lot more fun!!  The cranberries keep well in the refrigerator. 

While the cranberry cordial is good over ice cream, I still prefer it as it is intended...

Cheers!!



Merry Christmas!
Love, Bonnie Jo

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How things are.

Dear Mom,


Love,
Kim

Monday, December 21, 2009

Baking is now checked off the list.


Dear Mom,
During yesterday's baking frenzy, in which I tried a few new recipes, and after talking with you, have come to the conclusion  that: ThereIsNothingLikeAGoodOldFashionedSugarCookie and WhyDoWeKeepTrying?, Bonnie delivered her Cranberry Cordial. OR, as I will be calling it, Mommy's Little Christmas Helper.
Bonnie also kindly shared a jar of the intoxicated cranberries that have been steeping in alcohol for months until the cranberry cordial was Just Right.
Remember that scene in Mary Poppins when she gives the kids the spoonful of medicine and each spoonful is a different color and flavor, and then when Mary takes hers she just glows and says, "RUM PUNCH"? Well that is how Bonnie Jo's Cranberry Cordial makes you feel. Like you should trill your R's and say "CRRRRRANBERRRRRRY CORRRRRRDIAL" just because it is that good.
Having been raised Not to be Wasteful and having been told by a reliable source (Bonnie Jo), these cranberry bits will be excellent on vanilla ice cream with a few chocolate chips and a bit of the cordial, I'll be making a trip to the grocery store for some ice cream later today. I will say that the cranberries are good all by themselves, but have nothing on the actual cranberry cordial, which I will NOT be sharing.

I'll leave it to Bonnie Jo to share the recipe. I understand that the process of chopping a billion cranberries was....colorful. But I've also heard Bonnie Jo talking about how to improve the process, which makes me think that she will make some more next year. hint hint


So yesterday, I tried a recipe for Sweet Spiced Almonds, which are pretty good, and a fudge that is rich but broke into eleventy-two pieces when I tried cutting it into squares. Is there a secret to cutting fudge and keeping it intact? I managed to get enough good squares to make a decent gift, but there are alot of fudge shards in a plastic container in my kitchen now.
I also made Laura's Eggnog Pound Cake, which is easy, delicious and I will be making again. In fact, I am adding it to my very limited Holiday Baking Recipe Arsenal. Laura tells me she got the recipe from a Southern Living magazine, but I don't know which one.
Here is the recipe:

Eggnog Pound Cake

1 (16 oz) package pound cake mix ( you just gotta love a recipe that starts with a mix)
1 1/4 cups eggnog
2 large eggs
1/2 t. grated nutmeg
1/2 t. vanilla extract

 Beat all ingredients with an electric mixer at low speed until blended. Increase speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes. Pour into a lightly greased 9X5 loaf pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour to 1 hour and 5 minutes, or until a long wooden pick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and allow loaf to cool completely.

This does taste better when completely cooled. I made mine in mini loaf pans for the neighbors and they cooked about 40 minutes, but you will want to start checking them at 30 minutes if  you do it this way. I over-filled my pans and the cake mix glopped over the pans onto the bottom of the oven during baking time.Next time I will use 4 mini pans instead of 3. Less dough in the pan should equal less cooking time, so that is why you should start checking at 30 minutes. Or just make it easy on yourself and make a big loaf and follow the recipe. This tastes so good you will want the big loaf anyway!

Love,
Kim


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Checking things off my list (even the ones that were never on the list)

Dear Mom,

DebbieWhoLivesinaPrettyFarmhouse gave me some roving she had stashed to spin. Here is some evidence that my spinning skills, while still not nearly perfect, are improving. Doesn't hurt that the roving itself was beautiful! The hand dyed roving came from Inish Knits. The results remind me of Peppermint Ice Cream.



In a flurry of activity yesterday , I was able to finish the wrapping and hiding and clean up after myself. I know I inherited my love of vacuuming from you, and yesterday was a stellar one for the vacuum cleaner.






I finished a knitting project and was able to return to the socks I started for my Soul-Sister-in-law back in October. I was beginning to feel guilty about how long it is taking me to finish and send them to her.

Next on the list- Baking. I have several new recipes to try out, including a recipe for Eggnog Pound Cake which I begged from one of my long time, dearest friends after receiving the baked goods she sent this past week. The cookies, candies and pound cake disappeared within 24 hours of their arrival. Laura is a good cook. If I had known ahead of time how good that pound cake was I would have hidden it from the rest of my family.

I'll share the recipes and my successes here next time.

Love,
Kim



Thursday, December 17, 2009

This is not on the list

Dear Mom,

Do you ever find yourself doing the last thing that you should be doing? Especially when the "To Do" list is reaaaaaallllllllyyyyy loooooooooooong?



I do.

Love,
Kim

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's Beginning to Look alot Like Christmas

Dear Mom,

I found the bagels in the veggie crisper this morning.

And believe me when I tell you that while I was searching for them, I wondered how and when the Young Man ate half a bag of bagels without my noticing.

I don't want to tell you how long I spent looking for them. Or how many other weird places I searched. I only found them after I gave up.

I know that I did it, because no one else in this house opens the veggie drawer in the fridge.

Which now that I say that, I am thinking that might just be the perfect hiding place..... along with the dirty clothes hamper. No one looks there either.

On a more positive note, a knitting project came off the needles last night. Looks like you will be getting something more than a promissory note for Christmas after all!!

Love,
Kim

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Triage





Dear Mom,

With the countdown to Christmas approaching single digits, an excited Young Lady reminding me of the countdown, and less than a handful of school days available to me, I find myself in the triage approach to Handling the Holidays.

My brain scrambles over the overwhelming list of What Needs to Be Done and lands on the most urgent needs:
Who will I see today and is that gift wrapped?
Only 4 more days before THEY ARE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS BREAK!- WRAP AND HIDE! ( alarm bells are sounding in my head- think some kind of nuclear submarine crisis alarm in the movies.)
Does everyone have clean underpants?
Don't clean/iron/knit that now! You can clean it/iron it/knit it after 3:00 in front of the kids.

God Help Us if someone gets sick and misses a school day. There isn't time for that!

Baking cookies for the neighbors and serious house cleaning will wait til next week, when the kids are home on break and  not too much   nothing will happen in secret. 
For now, I am dealing with PRIORITY HANDLING only, trying to keep a clear head. Home cooked dinner every night, clean clothes, and basic home keeping.....

Every time I dare to think that the shopping is done, one more item pops onto the list. I have reached the point that after today, if it hasn't been purchased, then it isn't happening. I won't give up on the knitted gifts yet. Even if I have to wrap the yarn and knitting needles with a promissory note.

I caught myself daydreaming about What I will Knit after Christmas and then realized that I have a couple of baby gifts and a promised pair of socks to finish before I can indulge in some selfish knitting. Also, (and I think I do this every year) I have begun promising myself that this year I will start my Christmas Knitting in January and have gifts stockpiled, something hand knit for everyone on the list. Yeah. RIGHT. At the same time I think about Sweaters  I   Would Like to Have.  That probably fits in with that "buy 2 gifts and  gosh!, I think I will get ________ for me" phenomenon.

I also had to snap myself out of the crazy idea that I could drive up to Tabby Tree Weaver and buy some roving to spin. NO! No, KIM! No time for the drive. No time for the spinning. Remember the bag o'wool!

By the possibly frantic nature of this post, it is clear that I could use some super glue and duct tape to keep it together, but I will manage. In 10 days it will all be over.

Love,
Kim

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Best is Yet to Come

Dear Mom,
I suppose it is the combination of little things-  the year winding down, receiving Christmas cards with photos of friends and their growing kids, decorating the Christmas tree with ornaments made when my kids were in preschool, and memories of Christmases past- but I have found myself pondering.

None of us likes the thought of getting old. Or looking old. Or feeling old. Who wouldn't want their 19 year old body back? But instead of fighting Mother Nature, I think it is a wiser use of our energies to be as healthy as we can, and to look and feel the best we can at every age. We have all had our turn at being teens or young 20's or Thirty-Somethings. Let the current teens and 20's and Thirty-somethings have their turn. I couldn't begin to compete with them. I won't ignore the wisdom of my years for the folly of youth. Honestly, I hope to have the opportunity to get really old, and do it well. I choose to believe The Best is Yet to Come.  And really, who would want to be in 8th grade again?



A Gentleman at a get-together we attended was relating the story of his new Sports Car. He calls his new car The Time Machine. Recently, when running an errand with his wife to the post office, in an area of town that is known for its night life, he drove past a youthful group. "Hey, I like your car!", one of them shouted.
The Gentleman stopped, rolled down his window and hollered back, "This isn't a car! It is a Time Machine. Every time I get in it I am 29 years old!" We chuckled, commenting that "those kids" probably thought he was some goofy OLD guy. And then he smiled widely and with the suggestion of pride,said, "Well, I am."

I have many cherished memories, but I also have plans for the future and interests in the here and now that keep me busy and building more cherished memories.
Getting Older has it's insults, but so did being a teenager. Getting Older is the price I have to pay to experience the Best that IS Yet to Come, and I gladly pay it. After all, I can feel young on the inside, and still act my age.

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Love,
Kim


Friday, December 11, 2009

Pioneer Dinner

Dear Mom,
I made venison stew for dinner on Wednesday night.  The Young Hunter was proud that he helped provide for us.


A slice of homemade bread and a glass of milk completed the meal. 



As my neighbor's young son would say, it was "Yummm-O"!!

Love, Bonnie Jo

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Progress!

Dear Mom,

From this:

bag o'wool

To this:


small amount of washed wool, drying

And a couple of spinning classes and a new spinning wheel later.....


yarn!

Isn't it pretty?! This is about 100 yards of hand spun yarn, and only represents a very small dent in the bag o'wool. Not enough to make even a hat. YET. But I will get there!
I am finding that a little spinning is a nice break from a marathon of knitting. Still LOVE knitting best, though. Lots of knitting swirling around in my brain begging to be let loose. The nice thing about spinning (so far, until I get carried away, which is a definite possibility) is there is no urgent need for it to all be spun at once. NO deadline. Just relax and spin away and continue to add up the yardage. I am kinda excited to knit with it, though!

This is where you tell me to Settle Down, Kim. Remember the Christmas knitting?

My personal wool suppliers (GaryandCarol) have been updated on the status of the gifted bag o'wool and more has been promised.  I see myself headed down a slippery slope. Will I be brewing vats of dye in the back yard next summer?
OHHHH, THE POSSIBILITIES!

Settling Down, now.

Love,
Kim


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Motivation

Dear Mom,
I have a new favorite mug for my morning tea. There isn't anything fancy or pretty about it. The sentiment on the mug is what works for me. Words to live by....



For me, these three words speak volumes: No excuses, be inspired, life is short- don't waste it, you can do it Duffy Moon. All of that.

Make it happen.

Love,
Kim

Monday, December 7, 2009

Warmth


Dear Mom,
It was a weekend of all-day fires in the fireplace, and hot cocoa.
We watched Holiday Inn- I can never watch too much of that stylish and graceful Fred Astaire.
My Hero and the Young Lady decorated the front porch with Christmas lights.
And I did some fireside knitting and spinning.

Yes, spinning.

Meet Daphne Joy.


I met Daphne Joy at Open Spin on Sunday afternoon and couldn't go home without her. Daphne is an Ashford Joy spinning wheel. She is quite compact, folds up to stay out of the way if I need her to, and she will transport easily (because I realistically admit that I will need advice and instructions from the experienced spinners at Tabby Tree Weavers). I have loads to learn, and it just seemed to make sense to learn it on my own spinning wheel. I've managed to fill up almost two spools already! I am washing  small batches of the raw fleece, and then carding and spinning it as I go along.

So, Mom, if you are handed a Christmas gift that is not....um..... er....... well......finished.....I am thinking you can probably guess what got in the way.

Love,
Kim

Sunday, December 6, 2009

I Gotta Dance

Dear Mom,
I love to dance.  I dance at home while doing chores (oh, okay, I don't do chores.  I just dance!), I dance at the bus stop with the kids.  I dance while I am running.  I dance at work--my BFF Brooke and I have an entire routine going on.  I don't claim to be a great dancer.  I am probably even a klutzy dancer.  But it makes me happy when I can dance.  Gleeful!
I hurt my knee a few weeks ago and the Diva said to me, "Oh no!  You can't dance!"  Everyone knows--I gotta dance.  I wasn't able to walk or run for awhile, let alone dance.
Guess what?!?!  I could finally run today . . . . . that is cause for a celebratory dance. . . .



Mmmm Bop anyone?!?!
Love,
Wendy

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Good old Garter Stitch

Dear Mom,
I managed to stay awake long enough the other night to finish my magazine project.

I am extremely pleased with the results. This design is a departure from my usual aesthetic and construction- the garment is a bit more trendy and is worked side to side. We will have to wait for the September issue of Creative Knitting magazine to see this one in print, and I am curious to see how it will be styled and photographed.

No rest for the weary, though, and Christmas is coming,which means a gift knit was cast on yesterday. I met with my usual bunch and as we had not seen each other for a few weeks, there was a tremendous amount of catching up to do. Words flew as fast as our fingers and at times the revelations required us to set our knitting down and ponder, commiserate, and provide emotional support. And laugh.

My plan was to begin a scarf with a stitch pattern. (The giftee does not read the blog, so I feel it is safe to reveal some details.) Within minutes of starting on the scarf, I could see that the conversation and stitch pattern were not compatible and decided there was nothing to do but garter stitch. In other words, I knit on every row. Nothing but knit. Knit knit knit knit knit. All good.

The knitting every stitch of every row thing should work out fine if I go into sleep knitting mode, too.

Love,
Kim

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Suspicion Confirmed


Dear Mom,
A contented evening by the fire, wool socks on my feet, knitting in my hands and a book in my ears.
And a suspicion confirmed.

Knitting does an abundance of things for me. I can be excited about what I am knitting and find that I cannot knit fast enough. It occupies me in waiting rooms and carpool lines. It is my quiet companion during television shows, and is a constructive outlet for nervous energy when I watch the Young Man's sporting events. I depend on my knitting (probably more than I know) to relax and put me in that happy place called Contentment.

There have been occasions, though, when I get a bit too relaxed and find myself starting to doze off with my knitting at hand. When I rouse myself I wonder if, while I was nodding off, did I stop knitting? Because sometimes it doesn't feel like it.

Last night, with my feet toasty warm and another 2 inches of a rather dull 5 inches of knit 2 purl 2 ribbing ahead of me, I got, let's say, really relaxed. Twice. And both times after nudging myself into a more conscious state, I looked down at my knitting and...yes, there it was. Evidence that I do in fact continue to knit in that semi-conscious Land of Nod. What I found was not knit 2 purl 2 ribbing, but several dozen purl stitches. Apparently I zoned out on a purl and just kept going. Before I had to correct a third round of errors, I took the hint and went to bed.

Where I read a few pages of my book until I fell asleep, and tonight I will have to reread the parts I don't remember reading last night. It's a wonder I get anything done.

Love,
Kim