Hoppy Easter

What's cookin' at your house this weekend?  For us it's family visits, golf, dining in, dining out, church, choir, and a deluxe grown-up Easter egg hunt where the eggs are filled not with candy, but with money and gas cards.  Knowing that I'm sure you'll have no problem believing it's a pretty cut-throat hunt ;) 

The flowers:  I had only one calla lily this year!  Wahh.  The peonies are nearing the end of their short two week bloom.  Loved them while they lasted, but I won't miss them too much because it looks like a banner year for our wisteria. When it's in full bloom I'll get some pictures.  The roses won't be far behind.  We've started to plant the summer veggie garden--just not certain as yet how large or small it will be because we are unsure of our water ration.

The little wooden hand-painted critters are from Wendt and Kuhn from Germany.  I'm sure glad I collected them when I did, I can't afford them now.   I particularly like my lady bug band and my napkin rings.

I'm on a cooking frenzy today. The menu this weekend is pretty much the same as for every Easter weekend:  Honey-Baked Ham, Mom's California Potato Salad, William Hill's Chicken Salad, Berry Salad, Hot Crab Dip, Roasted Spring Vegetables, Stupid Good Bacon, Cowboy Cookies, Sugar Cookies, chocolate chickies, and gallons of freshly squeezed orange juice from our orange tree.  All proven family winners.

Must go--off to bake more cookies!

Happy Happy Hoppy Hoppy Easter!
I'd love to hear from you--to make a comment, click here.
xo, Kristen

pink tutu peonies

My pink peonies.  These photos were taken today in late morning when the sun was bright and enormous clouds were rolling by--covering up the sun, then not--letting the sun either sear the petals with sunshine or moments later shading them.  At once hot pink, then translucent, then pale pink an instant later.  No trick photography here.  No photoshop.  Just the sun and the clouds doing their magic on one big beautiful tree peony.  They are as big as dinner plates and always look like ballerina's tutus to me.

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blend 1, batch 1

Ysolda has introduced a yarn, Blend #1 under her own label.  As soon as I heard it was for sale, I plunged in.  Often enough, breed specific, small batch designer yarns are only available for a short time. When I've given myself time to think about whether or not I actually need it (as if) and then go back later to buy it, poof, it's gone, sold out.  I've missed out on every one of Clara Parke's offerings by dilly-dallying.  I was determined not to miss out on this so I'm glad I splurged without thinking!

The squishy soft skein holds the promise of being sublimely silky against the skin.  Knitting my swatch was bliss--this is a yarn that glides over the needles with ease; very lady-like and well-behaved.  The stitches laid flat even before blocking. From Ysolda:  An undyed blend of Merino (50%), Polwarth(40%) & Zwartbles (10%). Worsted spun with 3 plies, Blend no.1 has a smooth, rounded structure that creates squishy, 3-dimensional cables and textured stitches. The subtle tonal variation and halo make minimalist garments equally beautiful.  After knitting and fondling my lovely swatch, I decided to take Ysolda's latter advice and knit something minimalist to showcase the simple beauty of the fabric of this absolutely gorgeous yarn.  However, then I started thinking cables: tiny, dainty cables.  I'm toying with making Amalia by Pam Allen below, (I'll be adding sleeves), or Friday Anew (the long-sleeved pullover below) by Ankestrick.  I'll make either one of them no matter, just deciding what yarn to use.  Both would be pretty in Kidsilk Haze too. I will pattern shop a bit longer and hope to find a pullover with some smallish cables.  Oh, the possibilities!  The color is a pale silver gray.  You can see in the pictures below that the subtle color variations gives a hint of color movement to each stitch.

With US 4 needles my gauge was 25 sts. to 4 in.  With US 5 my gauge was 22 st. to 4 in.

I've met Ysolda a few times at knitting shows.  She is completely and utterly adorable.
More from Ysolda:  White Merino and Polwarth are organically farmed in the Falkland Islands where mulesing is not an issue. Zwartbles is a Dutch breed with unusually dark fibre, long legs and a distinctive white blaze, ours is grown close to the John Arbon mill in Exmoor.  Blend no.1 blooms when wet into a cohesive fabric with a slight halo. The white and dark fibres blend into a subtly uneven grey with an appearance that's closer to a marled sweatshirt fabric than a traditional heathered yarn.

Purchase Blend No. 1 here.  (Edited 3/21: Sorry, sold out already!)

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dinner on the thames and the le boat cruise

On Sunday night my husband and I had a group of friends over--travel companions who traveled together to England and Germany last October to cruise the Thames and visit friends in Wiesbaden.   On our boats the guys kept a few bottles of single malt on hand for happy hour tasting.  That was the reason for this party:  a single malt tasting/cruising reunion.  I've been so busy lately I kept everything simple and chose an Englishy menu comprised of easy-to-make do-ahead dishes that had minimum last minute prep to give me maximum time with my guests. 


Deli Tidbits
Green Salad

Party Tricks

If your table is small like mine and space is relatively limited, I have a few party tricks that give the illusion of more space: it's as simple as keeping the decorations simple.  I never have enough room on my dining table for a grand floral display--not if I want to fit on my dishes too.  I lined up six green pears down the center of the table, popped a few sprigs of fresh herbs on the buffet, a single stem of green heleborus on the bar, and a tiny potted orchid on the hors d'oeuvres table.  To extend the simplified look, I used a maximum of white and limited my colors to only one, green; this gave the impression of more space.  Candle light can also seem to add space: small, nondescript glass votives added romantic dots of light without taking over.  No one element "steals the stage" but instead, the simple elements combined to create an elegant backdrop for our guests to shine!

Single Malt Tasting

This is a subject of which I know absolutely nothing about.  But just because most distilled liquors taste like poison to me doesn't mean that the guys and a few of the girls didn't have a good old time tasting the whiskies.  If this sounds like fun to you too, I found this Beginner's Guide to Single Malt Tasting. 

The Thames Cruise

I loved this trip.  For our group of nine, we rented two boats from Le Boat, one with 3beds/3baths and one with 2beds/2 baths.  Both had tiny galley kitchens and living room/dining room spaces inside with an open deck with seating up top. We traveled for 7 days from Benson to Chertsey, about 150 miles total.  We piloted and crewed our own boats and went through about 30 locks.  Most locks had a lock keeper to guide us through, but often enough they were unmanned so we had to get through some locks on our own.   I have to laugh at the memories but we did manage to get through each lock while locals cheered the clueless Americans on.  Each night we picked a cozy spot on  the riverside to moor and walked to the nearby village for pub visits and dinner.  The next morning, off we went--and a top speed of 6 mph meant a leisurely, pleasant float to view some of the prettiest scenery on the planet.  During the day we would make several stops to sight-see and grab a bite.  We met so many nice people, ate lots of good food, and enjoyed the loveliest fall weather England has to offer--the sun was shining every day and not one drop of rain--we felt like we hadn't left California except everything was bright green!  Boating on the Thames on a Le Boat with good friends was a great way to visit England.  See the photos below.

The girls.

We are all dog lovers, so we were all fond of this little guy who kept a careful eye on us during one lock passage.

Manning the boats through a lock.

The locks were very pretty and each had their own personality.

The boats had bikes which was nice.

I loved being at the front of the boat.

Another pretty lock.

Happy hour wearing our matching floral leggings.  The week before we left, one of the girls found these at TJ Max and bought one pair for each.  We were quite dazzling, don't you think?  They are quite comfy and now I use them as jammies.

We moored our boats next to each other so we could visit back and forth.  Here is a wine transfer taking place.

Two nights we cooked dinner on the boat. Very brave.
We all had a good time.  It was a great trip.
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