Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Today is Christmas Eve and I hope everyone is home or safely traveling home to be with family.  Dave and I will be home together for the week.  I am working all through the holiday but we will get to be together in the mornings before I leave in the afternoon.  We will go home to Iowa for my family Christmas in mid January.  I can't wait!  This is a wonderful vintage tray I picked up at the Angels Attic Sale this year that was so fitting for the day!
I wanted to post a picture of my secret Christmas gift for my sister.  She bought me a candle pyramid carousel and I knit her these.  I am so thrilled with how they turned out.  This is a pattern I purchased off Etsy and knit from Cascade 220.  I have another pattern from the same designer that is a blue colorway.  You can never have too many mittens!

Saturday, December 01, 2012

 Here is a lovely footed macaron shell that I baked yesterday.  Macarons are a classic flourless French cookie and I have wanted to master them ever since I first tasted them.  They consist of eggs whites stiffly beaten with sugar and then combined with powdered sugar and ground almonds.  They are then piped, baked and the shells sandwiched together with fillings.  I colored these with lavender powdered food coloring and filled them with black cherry jam.  I was so pleased because they released from the parchment and developed the lacy "foot" as they baked. 
Bob's Red Mill makes a very good almond meal for almost $15/pound.  It is always worth the price of good ingredients and I was quite pleased with these.  I am getting very comfortable with the technique for these so next I want to start exploring different fillings instead of just jam.  Chocolate ganache, buttercream and salted caramel are the 3 I am interested in right now.  I used Martha's recipe but I baked them for 8-10 minutes at 310 degrees.  This tutorial was very helpful too.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Baby Mittens

 I worked on Thanksgiving and Dave went to his sister's house for dinner.  When he came home, he said his niece had requested a pair of thumb-less baby mittens.  I started work that night and finished them on Saturday.  I used this pattern and some left over worsted thick and thin 100% wool from Joann's.  They were quick work but I have yet to find out if they fit.
And of course I had to post a picture of our tree.  This is a $12 Walmart tree that I got quite a few years ago.  It is pretty spartan and see through in places but I counteract that by COVERING it with ornaments!  It is so nice to have the holiday decorations up!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

New Ornaments

 I put our tree up yesterday (FINALLY!) and had to share pictures of the new ornaments acquired this year.  Most new ones this year are from London.  This one commemorates the Queen's Jubilee celebration.  Over the years I have gotten quite a few of these couched gold work ornaments while in London.  They were kind of spendy as far as ornaments go, but they are beautiful and I admire them and reminisce every year when I hang them up.
 This is another couched/gold work ornament of a Christmas pudding!  This one might be my favorite!  I have tried my hand at making steamed puddings a time or two.  A Christmas pud is a truly British symbol of the holidays.

 Here is another plush ornament--this one from Westminster Abbey in one of my favorite shades of blue.
 This is a small metal palace guard ornament.  He kind of reminds me of the story of The Steadfast Tin Soldier.
Here is a small metal double decker bus ornament.  No explanation needed here.

 This is a small terra cotta house blessing medallion that I will use as an ornament.  I got it at Baltic Imports which is a beautiful gift shop specializing in Eastern European/Baltic pieces which happens to be right next door to the fabulous Ukrainian deli Kramarczuk's in Minneapolis.
My other favorite ornament is this holly one given to me by my sister Lisa.  She found this pewter piece which is absolutely beautiful and had our names and wedding date stamped into it.  Lovely.

Hat Trick

 I knit 2 hats this month and none too soon because winter showed up this week.  We'd had a few previews of winter already this month.  Dave and I went fishing the first week in November.  Actually Dave went fishing and I went knitting.  We didn't catch a thing the entire time we were out there.
 Here is Dave's finished Minnesota Gophers hat.  I used this pattern but I made it quite a few rows longer because the first one I'd knit just barely covered his ears.  Can you see our new dusting of snow on the ground behind me?
I knit one more Le Slouch hat from the same variegated worsted I bought in Finland.  I knit Dave a winter hat out of the same yarn so now we match.  We might have to take a dorky picture together in our hats.  I looked and this pattern has since been removed but there is a similar one by the same author over on Knit and Tonic.


I got my first taste of jitrnice (say eether-neetza) which is a traditional Czech sausage.  At first glance I thought this was a word that could use a few more vowels.  Dave's parents described a dish that sounded like haggis because it is a casing stuffed with ground meat, spices and barley.  It is basically a hash that you eat with potatoes and I have to say it was delicious.  Dave's brother procured this for us.  I'm not sure if it came from a locker or maybe an ethnic deli of some sort or maybe he just knows a guy.

This is what it looks like frozen and unwrapped.  You bake it at 350 for about an hour or until the casing starts to burst.  A lot of fat comes out as it bakes.  Dave's dad was telling us about how his dad worked at a meat packing plant and would on occasion bring home pig heads that he was given or that would normally have been discarded.  He described how they'd trim the cheeks and the snout etc. and make large batches of jitrnice and store it out in the shed in the winter months.  Today we would call it waste meat but of course in by-gone days, nothing went to waste.

Here it is baked and bursting.  You don't eat the casing but it was so good that I scraped mine clean.  We have one more in our freezer.  This is a new Czech tradition that I happily embrace!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

 We  have our Jack-O-Lantern lit, our festive balcony lights on, Ghostbusters on the tube and our trick or treat notice hung on the door.  It is officially Halloween.  It is also 2238 at night and we've only had 4 kids stop by but we were happy to see each and every one of them.  I am just thrilled to be home after working 7 out of 9 evenings/nights.  We are having a quiet and relaxing evening together at home.

Since we had so few trick or treaters, it means we now have THIS to contend with.  It beckons me.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Baby Soma Sweater

This is the sweater I knit for Britt's soon to be arriving baby girl.  The pattern is Sprinkle from the book Juju's Loops purchased at the yarn shop Loop in London this summer.  It is knit from variegated Koigu yarn and some kettle dyed Madelinetosh.  Britt said she wanted baby items that were peach vs. pink and this was the best I could find.  And of course when I was halfway through the sweater, it occurred to me that I could knit this out of Kroy sock yarn which would be machine washable.  Note to self for next Sprinkle sweater.  We saw this little thing hanging up in the store when we were in Loop and I just had to have the pattern.  I'm so glad I got the book because it is absolutely FULL of gorgeous patterns.  This chevron pattern was easily memorized and I worked on much of it when I was watching Dave bowl. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Various and Sundry

 My cousin Michael's wife Britt is having a baby next month and I won't be able to go to the baby shower.  In the meantime, I've been working on some little baby things to send to her.  I have had this pattern for some time but never attempted it.  We went to that charity garage sale last weekend and I picked up some awesome vintage trims and this one coordinated perfectly with some felt I already had.  Britt has said that for their new baby girl, she wanted peach colored things and not PINK.  I was glad to hear that because I've never cared for the color pink.  This is the smaller size from the pattern.

 Here is the rest of the trim I purchased.  I was kind of disappointed in the sale this year but it IS a different group of organizers than in the past.  I was very pleased with the items I did find.

 I also got an aebleskiver pan at the sale.  These are sometimes called a munk pan or munkejern.  My mother made these when I was a kid and we called them munk and Alitza's mom made these but she called them aebleskivers.  You brush the pan with melted butter and fill each dimple with 1 tablespoon of batter and turn them with a wooden skewer.  You can fill them with apples, applesauce, sliced apples, bacon or sausage, etc.  They are almost like pancake doughnut holes. 

I filled these with apple butter and snacked on them throughout the day.

I'd forgotten about this SD card and found a few pictures of the kransekake construction.  Here are the rings I shaped with the pans and baked on a silpat.

The rings are then stacked and cemented with royal icing.  Royal icing is powdered sugar and water but made stronger with egg white.  I used meringue powder in place of real egg white since little kids and older adults would be eating it.

Incidentally, the bowl pictured is one of my Pyrex rooster pattern bowls.  I didn't take a picture of them, but I got a set of 3 lipped rooster Pyrex bowls in the same color and pattern at the sale!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

My family met us here in town to go to the Angel's Attic sale today.  I'd been knitting like crazy to get these pumpkin hats done to send home with my sister for her kids.  Now they can both be "punkins" which is what my mother used to call us when we were little.  I used Cascade 220 superwash yarn and this pattern.

I'd also finished 2 blankies to send with her.  I'd bought this John Deere fabric panel for my 2 1/2 year old nephew because he is crazy about tractors.  Lisa asked for a twin size blanket so I pieced it with fabric she'd gotten at the Rochester Mill End Textiles.  I had never made anything with a fabric panel before so I guess I learned the hard way that panels are seldom square.  I washed and dried the piece, pressed it and discovered it was almost a bias cut/shape.  To square it up, I had to shave a little of the border off on each side but I think it will be OK.  I can't wait to see him with it.  I picked up a farm implement book at Joann Fabrics for $1 to go with it.

Lisa's dear friend Hazel is a wonderful girl and I wasn't able to attend her wedding years ago and I never sent her a gift.  She couldn't make it to our wedding but she still sent us a gift card with her apologies.  I have been so pleased with the queen size blankets I've been making that I wanted to make one for her.  Lisa told me Hazel loves fleur de lis and helped me pick out fabric when we were at Mill End Textiles together.  I sent this blanket home with Lisa and just in time too because Hazel will be coming to stay with them in a week or two.
I have show you my new favorite sewing tool.  I don't use a pattern for my blankets but I do mark/chalk quilting lines the length of the blanket at 6 inch intervals.  If using a dark fabric, I'd use up entire chalk pencils marking them, and pictured on the left is the PILE of fabric markers I've recently exhausted.  The purple item on the right is my new Dritz chalk wheel and it is wonderful!  It effortlessly rolls and marks fine white lines on my fabric and lasts forever.  This wheel came as it is and also has 2 refill cartridges but I have yet to make a dent in the current cartridge.  I love how it is even shaped like tailor's chalk. 

All this cool weather crafting put me in the mood to put up my fall decorations!  It feels so cozy lighting candles in the evening and curling up with a blankie on the couch!

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

We Did It!

 We survived our wedding almost 2 weeks ago and I have to say it went pretty well.  It is so true what they say that the day passes in a blur!  Unfortunately, these are the only pictures I have from the day so far because I'm waiting for photos.  My cousin Stephanie did our wedding photography and did a fabulous job!  My dear friend Brenda was my roving casual photographer and she also got some great shots.  I greatly appreciated both of their efforts!

 I made a kransekake for our cake table because it is a Norwegian tradition and I chose a lot of Norwegian details for the day.  This is the only photo I took of it and I used my cell phone.  I was so rushed that it didn't occur to me to take a picture of it.  I bought the almond paste at Ingebretsen's a few weeks before for $10/lbs and made a practice one earlier in the month.  I have non-stick pans that our relatives in Norway sent us years ago but they are at least 15 years old and the non-stick does eventually wear out.  I piped the dough using a cookie press and baked them...but then couldn't get them out of the pan!  I was practically in tears and unsure of what I was going to do.  For the real cake, I piped the dough into the pans, and then flipped the rings onto a silpat-lined cookie sheet.  I used the pans really only as a pattern and it worked just fine.  Whew!  Then you cement the rings together with icing and decorate it with flowers, flags (I used Norwegian, Czech and German flags for mine and his heritage), candies and crackers.  Traditionally you hide a bottle of wine under the rings of the cake but this cake was only 12 rings high.  The rings are separated and broken into pieces when served and eaten like a cookie.  It is soft and chewy like a macaroon.  This cake is also gluten free as it is made of almond paste, egg whites and sugar.  Maybe for Christmas I'll make another one and share a little more about it.

We served cupcakes for our cake because I didn't want anyone to be lumbered by having to slice and serve it.  I found this cupcake serving tier on Amazon and purchased it with a gift card I had from my insurance and got it for a $23.  I hot glued navy blue ribbon to the edges and we placed flowers all over it between the cakes for decoration.

Here is one of the other few pictures I have from the day.  This is my mother assembling the cupcake stand and filling it with our red velvet cupcakes.  You can kind of see how it is assembled.  The different tiers are simply stacked onto the stand.  I also baked a 6 inch red velvet 2 layer cake for the top tier that we sliced for our pictures.  Our cutting cake isn't shown in this picture, nor are the THOUSANDS of cream cheese mints that my mother, sister and nieces made for the event.  My niece Ava was in charge of stocking the mint plate and she did a great job keeping an eye on it!

This is how the stand disassembles and packs away!  I was very pleased with this item.  It holds 120 cakes and can be re-used.  I read that people use these at craft fairs to display items.  My hairdresser already offered to purchase it for her daughter's upcoming graduation.

These are the favors for each place setting.  My poor sister folded and assembled all these boxes and tied the ribbons.  These were Wilton favors purchased at Joann Fabrics with 40% off coupons from their flier.  We also used Wilton invitations purchased the same way.

The boxes were filled with butter cookies baked with my RyCraft cookie stamper.  I've had these forever and thought they'd keep with the wedding crown theme.  These stampers can be found in all manner of gift shops and kitchen shops.  My mother has made these as Christmas cookies as long as I can remember.  The cookies are made from margarine (butter spread out too much), sugar, flour, salt and flavoring.  They hold the design because they have no leavening agent.

Here are the cookies after they are baked and you can see they aren't as sharp as the stamped dough but I was prepared to live with it.  I baked some 360 of these and the kransekake the Wednesday night before the wedding. 

I thought the day went off without a hitch but I have to admit I'm glad it is all over!  It is true that weddings are one of the most stressful times of your life and I can attest to that!  Now I just feel like I have all kinds of free time, but I have to first tackle the Thank You notes!  My sister was the true hero of the day but my Mother, Dave's sister Theresa and my cousin Stephanie with all her wedding knowledge and experience were invaluable!  Thank you to everyone who helped!

Friday, September 14, 2012

 Here are a few pictures I took recently.

We went on our hike near our home and the milkweed pods are beginning to burst and dry and the last of the years flowers are fading.  I finally remembered to bring my camera and snapped a picture of these blooming thistles.  I just love these flowers.  We've seen quite a few deer but I'm not quick enough to get a picture of them.
Dave's family threw a bridal shower for me this last weekend.  We played games, had a wonderful luncheon and I received many beautiful gifts.  One of my favorite things was also the simplest!  Dave's sister has chickens and she gave us a dozen beautiful brown and white eggs.  We had eggs benedict for supper that night.

Little Tokens

I read somewhere that 100 years ago, Norwegian brides would knit a pair of mittens for each guest at her wedding.  Well I haven't got time for that!  So instead, here are two pairs of wrist warmers for two very special ladies.  Freya is my mother's best friend and has graciously agreed to play the piano at our wedding and reception.  Steph is my cousin and generously took on the task of photography on our day.  These were knit from the suri alpaca yarn I got at the fair this year.  The weather has cooled down a little and will soon be ideal for these.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Wedding Details

 We are at less than 2 weeks and counting!  I can't believe it!
I've been finishing up little things here and there and making phone calls and this and that.  I "made" our guest book last week.  This is a plain Michael's guest book that was $3.99 on clearance which is exactly what I wanted!  I used stitch witchery to secure some Czech ribbon around the front cover.  I also dug out my stereoscope card of a Hardanger wedding.  I will display this on a little stand near the guest book.  I am also borrowing my Grandma Helen's bride's knife.  We are serving cupcakes for our reception but I baked a 6 inch red velvet cake for us to cut in our picture.

I wrapped a cardboard box in rosemaled wrapping paper that my mother got for me at Vanberia's in Decorah.  This will be for the cards we receive.

And of course you have to have a garter to wear and be removed at the reception and one to throw so I've been fussing and working on these. 

My sister asked me to make some binky bling for my little niece.  I was very pleased with the way this turned out and it was all stuff I already had in my findings box.  I used dental floss to string it so she couldn't pull it apart and put it in her mouth.

For the most part I think I have things under control and this wedding is going to happen.  I am doing some test baking this weekend for favors and the kransekake.  But otherwise, I think things are squared away.  Wish us luck!

State Fair 2012

Summer has finally culminated in the Great Minnesota Get Together which is the Minnesota State Fair.  Dave and I went twice this year and had a great time.  There is never enough time to do everything you want to do in a single day.

Of course the food was great and we certainly indulged.  One of my favorite things was this mozzarella and pepperoni on a stick which is dipped in garlic bread batter and deep fried.  Delish.

My other favorite food was eggplant fries served with a cool and creamy dipping sauce.

We enjoyed going through the different exhibit buildings.  I was surprised by the ethnic baking category because we saw 4 kransekakes!

The agriculture/horticulture building had all kinds of exhibits related to honey, bees, and bee keeping.  We watched a honey harvesting demonstration which was fascinating.  I love all things honey and beeswax and I've always thought how fun that would be to keep bees...except that I've never ever been stung by one and I'm terrified of them!

These are some of the honey entrants sorted by color.  The source of the nectar used to make the honey affects the color of the finished product.  Buckwheat produces a deep amber color and clover produces the lighter shades.  I learned something new that day.  They had all kinds of varieties of honey for sale as well as honey still in the comb and soaps, lotions and beeswax candles.  We will definitely be coming here next year!

And of course we had to go and visit the Creative Activities building to visit all the fabulous knitting!
I recognized quite a few patterns!

I thought this cabled cardigan was beautiful!

 This is one of Alice Starmore's patterns from the book Tudor Roses.  Stunning.
 Here is my purse in the beaded bag category.  I changed it from the knitting category on the advice of the entry clerk.  It won 3rd place and I won a one year membership to the Upper Midwest Bead Society.
 I used to exhibit rabbits as a 4-H kid and Dave used to own a house rabbit so of course we had to go to the rabbit building.  I always feel so sorry for them sweltering in their cages.  Luckily they didn't have to remain at the fair all 12 days.  This is a New Zealand breed which is what we raised as a family.

 Outside the livestock buildings were these Alpacas and More vendors!  They were there last year too and I bought more fabulous handspun and dyed yarn from them!

There is another large yarn stand inside the dairy building and I picked up 3 skeins of yarn from Blackberry Hills.  It is a lovely hand dyed yarn of smokey blues and navy.

We were looking forward to the St. Paul Police K-9 unit presentation and they did not disappoint.  I recommend anyone to watch them next year because it is such an interesting demonstration.

We rested near the K-FAN booth a few times and caught Monty's Traveling Reptile Show appearance.  He brought out a blue tongued skink, 2 snakes, a tortoise and for the finale...and alligator.  If you can believe it, he was a tame alligator.  Do you see how close he is to those children seated on the ground?  I was still nervous!

And where else but the State Fair can you see butter sculpture?  Here are the sculptures of the Princess Kay of the Milky Way contestants.  Each one weighs 90 lbs. and the contestant gets to take it home after the fair.  What is the street value of 90 lbs. of butter I wonder?