this year’s christmas goodie line-up is…

…pavlova (the Australian/New Zealand favorite shown above), “tropical” mince pies, and two types of shortbread buttercream sandwich cookies. I’m exhausted, my kitchen’s in ruins, but my sweet tooth is sated!

My husband hails from Northern Ireland and for most people far from home, the nostalgia looms large during the holidays. I try my best to recreate the Christmases he’d grown accustomed to, and this year I attempted to tackle the mince pie — a British yuletide staple…but with a twist, of course, as the called-for raisins, dates, and prunes for the mincemeat filling aren’t exactly foods that make my mouth water. I, instead, used sultanas, pineapple, mango, cranberries and substituted macadamias for almonds. The result was rather good, I must say.

And finally, a duo of shortbread sandwich cookies: one filled with lemon buttercream and another a chocolate and mint buttercream combo. I altered Nigella Lawson’s Custard Cream hearts recipe (on the fly!) for both of these. As they actually turned out quite well, I’m upset with myself for not having written down my recipe alterations while I made them and I can’t quite remember the exact proportions. Ah well. Guess I’ll just have to make another batch of both. 🙂

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ornament today, afghan tomorrow

I’m in the early stages of my first granny square afghan (my first because I’d never before had the patience for the undertaking!) and wanted to be able to display these delightfully colorful crochet flower motifs right away. It being the holidays, the answer was staring me in the face — deck the tree with them, of course!

I’m sure they’d make a beautiful garland if sewn together at the corners, but I’ve just hung them up as is. The crocheted snowflakes are from this pattern and the mini sweaters are from various free patterns I Googled a while back. Happy Holidays. 🙂

feelin’ “grande”

Whew. It’s been one crazy year. I won’t go into the why’s, but simply say I’m breathing a sigh of relief to see it come to a close. The good news is that my time has freed up the last month, allowing me to grind away at holiday gift-making. I’m nearly through (hurrah!) so thought that I’d knit myself something as a reward for being ahead of schedule.

I’m currently a fan of ’20s and ’30s fashions, in no small part to HBO’s terrific new series Boardwalk Empire, so pulled out my knitting books to see what retro-esque patterns I had at my disposal. I decided on the Sideways Grande Hat from Laura Irwin’s Boutique Knits. It’s a chic cloche knit side to side on straights embellished with an afterthought twisted cabled. The yarn was donated to me from my sister’s stash and it came with no label, so I don’t even know what it is. Anyway, it was the right color and weight, but I’ll have to do a burn test to figure out what this mystery yarn is comprised of.

Although the book referred to this as an “oversize” hat, it didn’t look quite that big in the photo…but oversized it truly is. Next time I make this lovely pattern, I intend to take it down a notch by using lighter weight yarn and smaller needles — or by simply decreasing the number of stitches. Nevertheless, it was an overall success! Now back to finishing off the rest of my gift list.

you too can make butter!

I made butter for the first time last week, and a few friends have jestingly accused me of being closeted Amish. Puh-leeze. I’m all about my kitchen appliances! I used a Kitchen-Aid electric stand mixer and this beautiful golden chunk of creamy heaven took about 7 minutes to make, start to finish. So easy. Just Google it, and you’ll find dozens of instructions how, either by using a stand mixer, a hand mixer, or simply shaking cream in a jar for roughly 2 years. Just kidding. Still, you’re not going to see me using that jar technique any time soon! Baked some bread to go along with it (bread machine of course) and pondered with delight on how easy it is for a modern gal to feel like a domestic goddess.

vintage pattern: simplicity 7522

Like most DIY addicts, my fabric stash needs some thinning out. So I dug deep and found that I still had a couple yards of that delightful, navy blue floral print jersey knit that I used for my bubble top. Since it has excellent drape, I picked a dress pattern from my (mostly untouched) vintage collection — a simple number with a unique criss-cross front wrap which ties in the back, creating a perfect fit regardless of weight fluctuations!  The resulting dress is a little bit country and a bit 90s grunge and it took about 4 hours total to make. I must say that I’m very pleased with it! Perfect for a  picnic or lunch date — and it also looks great paired with a long sleeve shirt beneath and some tights for cooler weather.



my cables n’ lace kimono wrap

I’ve been working on this little woolen “friend” of mine off and on for about two years, so imagine my delight when I finally cast off my last stitch. I used the Cables and Lace Kimono Wrap Cardigan pattern from Sweaterbabe.com (isn’t her stuff great?), but chose to leave the neckline unfinished rather than to pick up and knit the 3×3 ribbing the pattern calls for. I really love that raw, rolled over look — and it’ll show a little bit more of whatever I’ll be wearing underneath.

Shortly after beginning, I thought I’d made a horrible mistake with my choice of yarn (Knit Picks Wool of the Andes) as it created a springy fabric with chunkier cables and very ripply lace panels — as well as a stiffer drape overall. Nevertheless, I plugged away, and though it turned out quite different-looking than Sweaterbabe’s example, I do like it! It was extremely fun to knit as well, and now that I’ve cracked the code of this pattern, I’m eager to make another one with a drapier yarn, which would be more fitting for spring/summer.


hubby’s brown cardi

After a couple years of hinting that he wanted one — and after I finally gathered the courage to make one — my husband finally has his hand-knitted cardigan! It’s my first attempt at menswear, and, as I’d never used this yarn before (Red Heart Eco Ways in Bark) and I wasn’t using a pattern, (I followed Elizabeth Zimmerman’s raglan sweater formula in Knitting Without Tears) there was a good amount of guesswork involved.

I can’t even begin to express how relieved I was that the finished product turned out to his liking. Though he thanked me profusely (as he darn well should!) he still managed to get a smart remark in: ” Lovely! Just in time for the summer!”  Men.