Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Happy Holidays!

over here we are still saying "happy christmas" though, despite political correctness etc. when you go outside today the country seems to be asleep. apart from the occasional car far away and the rain on the roof there are hardly any sounds outside. in germany we celebrate mainly on christmas eve, but over here everybody celebrates on christmas day! it's a family day, no visiting neighbours or trips to the pub! 
luckily the weather was alright today - last week we had one day of snow in the morning, which came as a surprise - just a day after I said that I had to upload a snow photo from last year:) it looked ominously grey and threatening, but it calmed down in the afternoon and we went back to rain and wind over night! we seem to be stuck in that pattern - there's another hefty storm in the forecast for tomorrow night - and more heavy rain, too:( is this our punishment for a fairly dry autumn now?

I am not sure that all the presents made it to their intended recipients in time, but I think I can safely show these pix, as most of my family members either don't own a computer or they don't look at blogs...
a little while back I ordered some charms and added a few bookmarks to my order - those oddly shaped hooks. I also found some funny little pewter bits at our september group meeting - a hippo in two parts and a frog. the middle can be a large bead, a felt ball - or little crochet tummies in green and pink. my mother collects hippos and she likes to read - I hope she likes the pot-bellied pink hippo girl:) the frog is for my MIL. the owl bookmarks were a bit easier to work - the beads are easy to put on wire, whereas I nearly broke my fingers, when I crocheted and filled the hollow crochet beads. but of course owls are a bit more sedate than frogs:) not sure about hippos....

the background behind the bookmarks is this:
I spun some of the donegal tweed pencil roving and chainplied it to knit three round covers for kitchen stools for my parents. I chose three slightly different "patterns", just different ways of increasing really. the back is made from two layers of dark green fleece, which is nice and soft - and easily washable. as an edge I knitted attached i-cords all around. they are between 33 and 35 cm in diameter...

...and all have different colours. this is still drying after blocking.
the first two gave no problems, but with the third one I ran into trouble. this only has 5 points of regular increases, but can be blocked to a circle. the problem was that the middle bobbled upwards! I had to block it really hard, which shows in more open knitting at the outer edges. eventually I managed to steam the middle down - and the rest out, but the other two turned out nicer. lesson learned: more increase points apparently make smoother circles?!

a few days ago I received a small needle book as a present - and I liked the idea so much that I "stole" it:) mine is a bit bigger though and I added two layers of felt for needles. the hexagons measure 4 cm on each side - so that I can put quite a few needles inside, but it's not as big as my normal one, which is old, rectangular and quite ugly by now:) this one is going to be a present though - but I plan to make one for myself - eventually.
it's big enough even for my largest pins, which I use all the time. I cut the inner felt a bit smaller than the outer one, so that it's easier to see, which needles are where.

it's closed with a button and a small loop, which I crocheted out of stranded cotton. a small gift and easy to make - perfect for leftover patchwork fabrics and the odd single button?
 the last 3 days before christmas I did nothing much but baking. a lot of baking:) and I still have one lump of dough in the fridge, but I ran out of time yesterday afternoon or the presents would have been unwrapped after midnight! and I just couldn't bring myself to bake them today - but I guess I have to do the vanilla crescents tomorrow! we finished the plate quite quickly, but in my experience the rate of munching slows down with every day that passes after christmas eve.... still plenty in the tins though! the one covered in chocolate is the odd one out. I saw the "top hats" somewhere on pinterest. they are just bought oreo cookies, a marshmallow glued on top (with melted choc) and covered in dark chocolate and a few sprinkles. I have to admit that they do taste nice - but I only made 14 - that's all there was in the roll of oreos:)
I also started to "make" chocolates - which is a bit of a misnomer. I don't make my own chocolate from scratch, I just melt it, blend several together (dark, medium, milk, white etc.) and add whatever I think might work, I made coconut (with desicated coconut and coconut oil), peppermint, mixed spice - and some "ice praline" (the ice is a bit misleading. it's not kept in the fridge, but the melting point of coconut oil is lower than that of the chocolate - which leads to a cool feeling in the mouth.) - with mocca flavour. I also made pecan-marcipan and marzipan-nougat pralines - the rest is bought - but that plate is also nearly finished:)

I hope everybody had/still has a nice christmas - to be honest I am rather glad that the rush is over for another year. I am going to finish a few projects now that I started quite some time ago, but didn't finish because I had to work on christmassy stuff . the first in line is the christmas kal shawl - where I am doodling about on day 12 - instead of wearing it proudly already:)  and tomorrow I'll do some spinning - which I haven't done in weeks - withdrawal symptoms have set in days ago:) see you soon!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

I lied....

... about the blogging:) I nearly forgot to tell you about a new book I received. unfortunately I didn't have time yet to really read it through, but I usually spend a lot of time reading during the holidays, so I expect to finish it next week! so here it goes:
the book is by Leigh Tate, a fellow blogger I've been following for quite some time now. she (and her husband) bought a smallholding to live the dream of self-sufficiency.
I am not going to go down the same road; we don't own nearly enough land to keep animals other than a few chickens. goats/sheep etc. simply need too much land - and they also need a lot of time and dedication! but even though I don't have exactly the same life goals, I do find her writing very interesting. I live in a very different country with a different climate and surroundings - but basic principles apply here, too. and I like her style of writing, very informative, but not "dry". realistic, not the dreamy "I wish I was" or "if only" reading of others. but not heartless either, you can see how much both of them care for their animals and how sad it is to loose one of them.
there are even a few cooking recipes to try - but I still think that Leigh should publish those and more in a special "smallholding" cook book:)
if you are interested - you can find more information (and even a special offer for a few days) here. I got mine from amazon uk, but it's listed elsewhere, too - or you could order directly from Leigh. happy reading!

Monday, 16 December 2013

this is...

.... a photo from last year. no snow this year, not even the smallest speck! it's grey, windy, sometimes wet, but not really terribly cold either. which I don't really mind, it's just that I've lost my christmassy feeling by now - and the weather isn't helping:)
I suppose it's down to the usual "getting-everything-done-in-time" at this time of the year. I do listen to carols, I light candles, I even eat stollen and cookies - but the feeling is gone. which happens to me every year  - by the time I've done all the jobs I wouldn't mind moving on into spring - or at least to the time right after christmas. I think my head just moves on - after concentrating on all the things I need to do, have to do, should be doing - my mind is ready to try something else (typical gemini really?) - I am just a bit too early to start.
anyway, I have finished nearly all the gifts (just a bit of sewing to do on one batch), now it's down to the rest of the christmas cards, packing everything up, baking more cookies and getting the deco in. not too bad really, considering! I might even manage to frame the x-stitched christmas market and hang it up (of course, it wasn't a present, so it hasn't been finished yet:). sometimes I wonder how it would feel if I didn't do any gifts at all - would I miss it?
this is a hat, knitted from the dewdrop yarn I spun up last year. difficult to see the beads, but they do look a bit like water droplets. they don't dangle much, because I spun them into the yarn instead of plying with a fine yarn with strung beads. I found the pattern on ravelry, but I added one more repeat, because I wanted the hat to cover the ears! 
 the top forms automatically from the decreases - it looks a bit like a chunky snowflake.... I had so much yarn that I actually made two hats, the same apart from the rib. one will travel to germany, the other was a "secret santa" exchange gift.
after making two hats there was still yarn left, so I made a pair of wrist warmers in circular tunisian crochet - just by changing the hole into which to crochet the fabric looks very different!  

these are made in exactly the same way - but with the different yarn (black merino with pink cochineal-dyed silk) and a different stitch (the basic tun. crochet stitch) they look quite different. I added some skeletons and skull and bones for decoration:)  

I also knitted a lace moebius, called chameleon, from a handspun white merino that I plied with handspun, handdyed (alderbuckthorn berries) viscose. the colours are an icy blue and a slightly greener tinge - like a glacier, that's why I call the colour glacialis:) it's soft and warm, but rather difficult to photograph, due to the "bulge" and knot of a moebius. same for blocking, I had to do it in stages to manage....  
this is my latest "haul" - I found a supplier for charms in the uk. I splashed out on harry potter utensils - bolts, owls, books, snakes and
something like the deathly hallows sign. then there are the skulls and skeletons, snowflakes, bees with honeypots - and snowflakes and teacups. I want to use some in hp themed art yarns and some... for the stash for now:) but I am sure I'll find a use for them.  I see a prof. trelawney and her teapots - yarn coming up:)
 this is the gift I received at the secret santa exchange. a mug with a... hm, an "apron" in it? it even has the same shape, just no ties. it's very practical, standing on the table where I usually work at - and keeps all the bits and bobs handy that usually end up under a heap of paper or knitting or stitching etc... I like useful gifts:) and there's even some "purple" in the fabric!
 this is how the fabric part is shaped - it's folded in half and fixed with a velcro strip, when in use.
when I received one of my first christmas cards - from canada - I was rather surprised to the the picture on the stamp - I had the one with the christmas tree on it (I took the photo with all three from the internet). it's actually done in cross stitch! haven't seen any textile themed stamps in ireland - or in germany, come to that! I don't usually collect myself, but I am going to keep this one.
of course it's not all work - it's also food sometimes:) DS has been pestering me for a long time to make donuts again. well, they are not "real" donuts, there's no jam filling in mine. but they were nice and fresh anyway. not really a christmas treat, but because of the deep frying I wouldn't do something like that in summer. they were "inhaled" in one sitting - even worse than christmas cookies:) 
not much to show from the garden - but my lemons are finally ripening. they do take a very long time - haven't been growing in size for months, but not changing colour either. I'll wait with the picking until all 8 (one more than the last crop - and larger:) are yellow - and then I am going to make another batch miniscule amount of jelly with them - I think! they're so much more precious when homegrown!  
this is it for now - I doubt I'll find the time for another entry before christmas. I hope you're all going to have a wonderful christmas with lots of fun, a few fullfilled wishes and surrounded by friends and family - with or without snow:)