my favorite Christmas present

Happy day after Christmas!  We had such a lovely day and hope you did too, but as we were driving home last night, my husband asked, "When do we get to stop all the eating?"  Another week hon, and then we'll get back to normal, I promise. We have been suffering the ultimate holiday cliche by eating to bursting almost every day.  Sigh.  But I do have a victory of sorts to report:  I went downtown this morning to check out the day-after sales and came home with nothing. Whatever tempted me, only tempted me slightly, so it was easy to walk away. My husband cheered when I told him how I held my purse strings tight and came home empty handed.  Yay for self-restraint!

So here it is, the day after Christmas, and perhaps your house looks like mine, the bottom of a parrot cage? Maybe today you are attempting to clear out the clutter?  Tossing out the crumpled paper and tattered ribbon? I did that, but somehow the place still looks like a mess, and getting things straight just seems too overwhelming. I can't even bear to look inside the refrigerator.  I think the rest of the day will be a stay-home-and-knit day; a resting day so I can gather up energy to clean with a vengeance tomorrow.  But I must give my guy a shout out, he woke up early and cleaned the kitchen before I got up.  Big kisses to my man.

What was your favorite gift?  My favorite Christmas present was, no surprise, a big box of YARN! I have the opened box in my hallway so I can admire it whenever I walk by.  Sometimes I'll stop and pick up a skein and give it a squeeze--so much in love I am with my new yarn.  Of course I have ideas for this yarn.  Starting on the left, the 5 skeins of Rowan Creative Linen in white and beige will most likely be made into Splash by Kim Hargreaves again. I wear my pink one so much, I think a white Splash with a beige stripe or two will be perfect for next summer. On the top I have 4 skeins of Softyak DK in red and beige.  With that I will make another Candy Cane Scarf because I gave my first one away and I miss it.  Below that I have 8 skeins of a steel blue/charcoal gray Softyak DK.  It's mostly cotton with a bit of yak fiber and it's one of my new favorite yarns to knit and wear; beautifully soft and lovely drape plus it's machine washable.  To the right of that I have 4 skeins of white Rowan Super Fine Merino 4-ply, also unbelievably soft and machine washable and is destined to be a baby sweater, design undecided.  Above that is the same yarn in a soft gray, 18 skeins total for a sweater for me and extra skeins for baby sweaters.  I've added these 3 yarns to my very large "favorites list".

One more gift I love was a 23 And Me genetics testing kit.  I spit into the container and mailed it off this morning.  In a few weeks I'll know if it's true if this Scandinavian gal has some Cherokee Indian in her.  For a hundred years, now deceased members of the Tennessee part of my family, insisted we had Cherokee in our ancestry, and now I'll find out for certain. My mother's family has been in this country for hundreds of years, and while we have written family records going way back thanks to some diligent cousins, the American Indian heritage stories are only verbal, not written. Terribly exciting!

Another terribly exciting Christmas tidbit is this: my knitted gifts were all hits, no misses!  I could not be more thrilled with that.  Have a good day, and I'll see you soon.  xoxo Kristen

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Santa's littlest helper

I know what Santa's littlest helper will be wearing next year!

Hi! I'm back again today to share my last knitted Christmas gift of the year, a little elf outfit for a baby that will be 6 months old next Christmas, but I'll give it to the excited new parents this Christmas. This set is from the darling baby knitting book, The Rowan Baby 4-ply Collection, which has the dearest, sweetest baby clothes ever.  Most of the patterns are sized 3 mos. to 2 years.  I knit this set using very soft machine washable wool in cream Rowan Super Fine Merino 4-ply and red Dragonfly Fibers Dragon Sock.  I absolutely loved knitting with both yarns, loved the patterns and cannot wait to give the gift.  I know I'll be knitting this again as it makes a darling baby gift, and I love giving baby gifts.

Today is a lovely rainy day, so dark and wet, so very cherished in California, and perfect for staying indoors.  We ran our last Christmas errands yesterday, a chilly, sunny day, and saved out indoor chores for today--we were watching the weather report! Today my husband is going to help me clean the house, wrap the last of the presents, set the table and prep a bit for Christmas Eve's dinner of lobster bisque and salad for the 5 of us. On Christmas Day we will be at friends who are expecting 35 for a sit down dinner!  It's quite a production but my friends pull it off like it was nothing. I'm bringing a smoked salmon appetizer, a potato dish, and the whipped cream for the 6 pies she is making.  At least she lets her guests bring some dishes!

Dear readers, thank you so much for stopping by my little spot and for your kind comments, I treasure them all.  I hope you have a peaceful and joyful Christmas, a happy Hanukkah, and a very happy New Year.  

Here's the links:

See the entire pattern collection on Rav:
The Rowan Baby 4-ply Collection
and purchase the book here.

The fibers:
Rowan Super Fine Merino 4-ply
Dragonfly Fibers Dragon Sock

My Ravelry project pages:
Elf Hat, Joey Hat by Andrea McHugh
Elf Pants, Porcupette by Elinor Sykes

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if snow came down in colors

If snow came down in colors
How splendid it would be,
To make bright, jolly snowmen
For everyone to see.

My Button Snowman tutorial from two years ago has been my most popular post this December. I never know why a post will suddenly take off, especially a years old one.  I heard from one reader that she was going to make some colorful snowmen, so I decided to lift that idea and snuck into my sewing room last night to make these cuties. If you have some restless kids to keep busy for an hour or two, plus a few buttons, tiny seed beads, and felt, I think you'll have some fun making these.  The original tutorial is here.  Merry Christmas dear readers!  (I'm sorry, I don't know the source of the children's poem.)

You can see that the glue on the backs are not completely dry yet, but it will dry clear.
How to make Button Snowmen.
I'll be back tomorrow with my last knitted gift--for a baby and it's darling.

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merry merry

Every year I make a new ornament for my tree, and then make a few more to give away, and then write up the pattern for my readers.  I didn't get around to that activity this year, but if you still have a bit of time, here's some of my ornaments from past years.  All the patterns include detailed instructions with tutorial pictures when needed; all include complete supplies list, and all are FREE!  Enjoy!  The pattern links are embedded in each caption.

Woodland Elves are made with supplies you may already have on hand: vintage wood spools for the body, nuts for the head and snippets of yarn for the hat. You don’t need much more than that to make a little village of these quick and easy to make elves. Directions include knitting pattern for the 3 hat sizes, supplies list and assembly directions. 

I love making clothespin dolls and confess I’ve never made one I haven't adored! Christmas Dollies.  Knitted gowns are made extra special with the addition of pearls and other embellishments.  All my patterns have a complete supplies list.

Winter Trio, similar to the clothespin dolls above, this trio is made with pipe cleaner bodies. 

Do you have a button collection?  These Button Snowman could not be easier!

Christmas Pixies and Whosical Trees are perhaps the ornaments I love the most!  The elves are fun and easy to make and would make a good project for young children (but might need just a little help from mom or an older sibling).  The trees are sewn and ended up looking like they belonged in a Dr. Seuss book which made me love them even more.

Peg Angels are gorgeous with their eyelash yarn "fur" scarves and vintageChristmas sheet music wings.
While not a Christmas ornament, the Candy Cane Scarf is certainly Christmasy!  Knit this scarf in candy cane colors for a burst of holiday cheer any time of year! Knit entirely in garter stitch, you’ll have it finished in no time.


Christmas room to room

On this rainy Saturday I took some pictures of my Christmas decorations, room to room. 

In the entry way are my husband's vintage 50's Santas,
rescued from the trash bin when his parents sold their home. 
They are wind-up bell-ringers, and they still work! 

Off the entry, the hallway hosts the little lady in glass, decked out with battery operated lights.

 In the living room I replaced my big tree with this 6.5' tree from Ikea.
It fits on top of the round and is nice for a change.

The little Wendt and Kuhn collection.

The darling angel orchestra!

I've collected glass ornaments for years.

 In the dining room:

The mantle in the family room:

The Santa on the right is from my family.  Mother says she bought it in the 60s, 
and it's always been one of my favorite Santas.

 In my knitting lounge, my tree with handmade ornaments,
and all made by me over the last 40 years: 

In our guest bathroom: 

 And finally, our bedroom got a little something too.

We've had two wonderful parties this month, one for our monthly Friday party group, and another for my knitting group and their guys.  There were about 20 people at each party.  For one party I made a Hungarian Goulash and for the other I made Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon.  For the latter, if you have Julia's book, The Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1, use the recipe in there, but if you don't have that book (and you should!), this recipe is pretty close to her original.  As for the goulash, it relies on paprika for it's flavor, so buy the very best one you can find.  We loved this one from Sur La Table; it absolutely made the dish! Both the goulash and beef stew take the best part of a day, but the good thing is, it's easy to quadruple the recipe, it's best if made a day or two ahead, and it's easy for guests to eat when space is tight.  I served both dinners buffet style with potatoes and a simple green salad.

My husband and I love to host gatherings, and my friends compliment me by telling me I make entertaining look easy, but I do have a few tricks up my sleeve: 

Always keep it simple.  Always.  I learned that the hard way.

We offer wine, beer and water at a serve yourself bar, but to get things rolling, we'll pour the first drink. My husband likes to put out a few scotches, maybe gin and vodka and a few mixers too.  But it's a very simple and casual bar set up. For larger groups, when our guests are eating in different rooms around the house, I'll pop over to each table and put down a bottle of white and red wine and make sure they all have wine glasses.  I know some hosts are famous for making one special drink to serve.  I love that idea, and think it's so fun, but I can't seem to manage that.  The one time I did offer chocolate martinis, oh geesh, what a mess.  I have my limits, even for my lovely guests.

As for decorations, I go easy there too. Christmas is Christmas, so there's no need to add a thing to the December house. But for parties the other eleven months of the year, I rely on a sparkling clean house, fresh seasonal flowers, candlelight, and a smile at the door.

I don't want more than two appetizers, and maybe one more for a large group.  If someone offers to bring one, I rarely say no!  Below is one of my Christmas appetizers this year, copied from the Pioneer Woman. The skewers are rosemary!

With my knitting group, I asked them to each bring 2-3 dozen cookies for an old-fashioned cookie exchange.  I cleared off a counter in our family room and as they arrived, I placed the cookies on glass platters.  After dinner, I announced that the cookie buffet was open and to come and help yourself to dessert.  All the men made a bee-line to the cookies and filled their dessert plates full. Another half hour later I announced that the cookie shop was open.  That's when the women got up, retrieved the empty containers they had brought their cookies in, and filled them with a variety of cookies to take home.  One of that gals was having her large family over the next day and another girl was hosting her book club, so they were very serious about getting the best selection!  It was very fun and reminded me of my old PTA days!  I would totally recommend this for any party, any time of year.  Very fun.

It wouldn't be right for me to show you all these cookies and not give you some recipes right?  There were two break-out treats, or so my husband tells me--caramel popcorn and Congo Bars.  Both are treasured family recipes with wonderful stories behind them.  Both travel well and can easily be mailed cross-country or to our boys in the service.  

Charlotte's Congo Bars are here.