Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas 2007

Not much knitting content here, but some pictures of our Christmas celebration. (I don't want to turn this into a family album or anything, but if you want to see more, you can click on any of the photos to go to the Flickr set)

Curious George book for my little monkeys
I love Christmas morning. There's something magical about gathering around the tree, anticipating each person's reaction to a special gift, opening up surprises, watching my children's faces.

Grace with gifts
Grace rolled out of bed just in time to open gifts. Here she is, wearing the scarf and gloves I knit for her (the hat is in her lap). It all fits her perfectly, and she loves them! What a relief. (I'll get posed, Finished Object pictures, later.)

She's holding a book that my Aunt Terry got me called Hardware: Jewelry From A Toolbox, and it's rather cool. I don't usually wear jewelry at the moment because it tends to be impractical with maintaining the little people, but this book makes me want to hit the hardwear store and make turn it all into wearables.

An outfit from Jomby and her first Russian Doll
I've decided that Daisy is starting a Russian Doll collection. I've always been fascinated with them, and I've found a shop here that stocks them at a great price.

Some of the books I wanted!
I love these books!

Mr. Fiberflash surprised the boys with a set of drums.

Little Drummer Girl
The Tiny Beautiful, playing drums.

Making dinner
And of course there was cooking. Grace and I managed to pull together a dinner that was not too time consuming, yet very special. The menu:
Romaine Salad with Pears and Cheese
Bread Pudding with Wild Mushrooms (made with Brioche)
Oven Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Tomato Sherry Confit
Broiled Flank Steak with Soy Citrus Mayonaisse

The Mr. bought a delicious, round red Reisling which complemented the meal well.

For the past few days we've been baking cookies and cupcakes, so instead of a big, rich dessert, we decided to eat cookies, and have a post-dinner appetizer course of interesting cheeses, crackers, and shrimp cocktail. After the children were in bed, we mixed up some Mojitos and watched the movie "Waiting". Fun times.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas as well, and that you celebrate you ring in the New Year in style.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Gingerbread Village

At the beginning of the week, the boys and I finally made our gingerbread houses. Actually, we ended up doing graham cracker houses, using the tutorial at Martha Stewart's site. I created a whole little village! (Click for gallery if you care to.)
Gingerbread Village
Next year I might play a little more with miniature realism, but I really like the way these came out.

Setting up to decorate:
All set to decorate
A pallet of candy.
Color palette of candy
My tiny elves, working away at their houses. This kept them busy for over an hour.
Cute little Christmas Elves, decorating houses
I found that by giving their houses a thick spackle of royal icing, that then they could just decorate by themselves -- whatever they pushed into the icing stuck right there.
First gingerbread houses
So much fun! (Sparky's is on left, Max's on right.)

Grace's gloves are almost done! I've got 1/2 a ring finger, a pinkie and a thumb left to go, then all of the Christmas knitting is complete. That should be finished tonight before bed, and then tomorrow is baking. I've already got dough in the fridge for 2 different kinds of cookies all set to go.

I hope that you all have a merry Christmas!!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Spicy Curry Noodle Soup with Potatoes and Chicken

Here's the soup recipe I promised! Brilliantly orange-yellow and pungent with spices, this soup is warming and invigorating all in one.

Asian Noodle Soup

The recipe called for sweet potatoes, but I used white potatoes instead, and it was quite good. My husband is not overly fond of sweet potatoes, but I think that the spice quotient is high enough that it might balance the flavors out, so I might try that next time. I used my own chicken broth instead of the low-sodium canned stuff. There is also supposed to be a teaspoon of hot chili paste in the soup, but I think that I might have singed my nosehairs off if I'd done that. Recipe is adapted from Jan '08 Bon Appetit (my changes are reflected below).


2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons chopped shallots
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons minced lemongrass (from bottom 4 inches of about 3 stalks, tough outer leaves discarded)
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 tablespoons Thai yellow curry paste
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 13.5- to 14-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk, divided
5 cups chicken broth
2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
3 cups snow peas, cut into 1/4's
2 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled white potatoes (about 2 smallish ones)
1 pound dried rice vermicelli noodles or rice stick noodles
3/4 pound skinless boneless chicken thighs, thinly sliced
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 red Thai bird chiles or 2 red jalapeƱo chiles, thinly sliced with seeds
1 lime, cut into 6 wedges

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add next 4 ingredients; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in curry paste, curry powder, and chili paste. Add 1/2 cup coconut milk (scooped from thick liquid at top of can). Stir until thick and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add remaining coconut milk, broth, fish sauce, and sugar; bring broth to boil. Keep warm. IF YOU WANT TO DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Refrigerate until cold, then cover and keep chilled.

Cook snow peas in large pot of boiling salted water until bright green, about 20 seconds. Using strainer, remove peas from pot; rinse under cold water to cool. Place peas in medium bowl. Bring water in same pot back to boil. Add sweet potato and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Using strainer, remove sweet potato from pot and rinse under cold water to cool. Place in small bowl. Bring water in same pot back to boil and cook noodles until just tender but still firm to bite, about 6 minutes. Drain; rinse under cold water to cool. Transfer to microwave-safe bowl. IF YOU WANT TO DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 hour ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Bring broth to simmer. Add chicken; simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add sweet potato; stir to heat through, about 1 minute. Heat noodles in microwave in 30-second intervals to rewarm. Cut noodles with scissors if too long. Divide noodles among bowls. Divide snow peas and hot soup among bowls. Scatter red onion, green onions, cilantro, and chiles over soup. Garnish with lime wedges and serve.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The last of the Christmas gifts

Over the weekend, I finished a hat for my sister Grace (she's coming here for Christmas, so I don't have to have anything done for her until the 25th). I already have a scarf to match actually belongs to me, but she wants it, so...another instant Christmas gift. What can I say? Longtime readers might know which scarf I'm talking about already, just by looking at the colorway of that hat -- Noro Kureyon 170. Any guesses?
Current works in progress
On the left, you can see the pair of Computer Generated Handknit Gloves (gotta love those patterns! Plug in your gauge, size, and you've got a personalized pattern, just like that!) Once I'm done with those, all of my Christmas knitting is complete.

It's been months since I spun last. When I was home, I didn't bring my wheel with me, and then once I got back to Germany, I began my Christmas knitting, so there was no time. I still have to finish up the gloves for Grace, but I know that I can get that done in time, so yesterday I indulged in a little spinning:
Goblin Eyes handspun singles
Goblin Eyes, Romney wool, Spunky Club October fiber. I spun this as a bulky/worsted singles; 8 oz, approx 280 yards.

It felt so good to be back at the wheel again! Once I'm done with these gloves, I'm really going to start spinning again...although I still need to knit mittens for all three children, hats for the boys, do the finishing on a hat for Daisy...~sigh~ I'll squeeze it in somehow.

Next post, I'm going to give you a fantastic Asian Noodle Soup recipe. I made it for dinner two nights ago, and already I'm thinking about making it again!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Garlic Polenta Breadsticks

Today is brisk and cold, but we can actually see the blue sky peeking through the clouds. A perfect day to curl up together with some gingerbread tea and read books like "The Gingerbread Baby" (by Jan Brett).

Bread is baking in my bread machine, making the house smell like my mom is here. It's a good day.
Reading The Gingerbread Baby and drinking Gingebread Tea
Besides opening a door of an Advent calendar each day in December and coloring Christmas themed pages (great ones on the Jan Brett site!), I've also started reading Christmas books to them, and next week we're going to make a gingerbread house together.

Crisp, slightly chewy, salty and well seasoned. Who doesn't like a good breadstick? I got the original recipe from the blog Baking Bites, and adjusted it just a bit. I don't like to separate eggs if I don't have to, especially if the recipe doesn't use the other part of the egg, so instead of using two egg whites, I used one whole egg. Also, I didn't have garlic powder, so I omitted that and the salt, and substituted two teaspoons of garlic salt instead. They turned out wonderfully! And you've gotta love a recipe that can succeed even with extensive help from a toddler.

Painting on the egg wash
Max, executing a very thorough egg wash

These are quick to whip up -- no yeast and waiting for things to rise -- and they taste great. I could easily see these with chili, soup, or a huge dinner salad. This recipe can be easily adjusted by changing the seasonings to suit whatever you'll be serving them with (i.e. chili powder and finely chopped pickled jalapeno peppers for Mexican food, finely chopped rosemary for beef barley stew, basil and oregano for Italian inspired bean soup, etc.)
Max making breadsticks

Garlic Polenta Breadsticks

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup cornmeal

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp sugar

2 tsp garlic salt

1 tsp dried dill

1/4 tsp ground pepper, to taste

4 tbsp butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

1/2 cup milk

1 egg

1 egg, lightly beaten, for brushing

garlic salt or coarse salt, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, garlic powder, dill, salt and pepper. Add butter and rub in with your fingertips until mixture resembles sand and no large chunks of butter remain.
Combine milk and egg whites in a small bowl, then add to flour mixture, stirring until a dough is formed. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface until it is a 10×12 inch rectangle and approximately 1/4-1/2 inch thick (about 1 cm). Trim rough edges. Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut into 16 even strips.
Transfer strips to baking sheets, leaving room between them. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle generously with garlic salt (or regular coarse salt).
Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.
Allow to cool before serving. Leftovers can be wrapped and re-crisped in the oven for 5 minutes at 400F.
Makes 16 sticks.

(Full credit to Baking Bites blog)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ski-cap beanies

Blogger is still being infuriating and the link feature won't work. I, once again, don't have time to write code, but you all know how to Google if need be, right?

You might not remember, but a while back I knit a pair of socks for the Mr. I don't think that I ever blogged about what happened, but as it turns out, Mr FiberFlash is highly sensitive to wool. He couldn't even keep the socks on long enough for me to take a picture.

On top of the fact that they made him itch like mad (even though they were made of soft wool!), they also had a rippled top. I knit them toe-up so that I could get them as long as possible before binding off. I researched the best way to execute a bind-off, and found a sewn one, as well as a tubular. I did one of each, and both looked similarly ripply, which made me unhappy. Since my husband wasn't going to wear them anyway, I just put them away, deep in the stash and out of view.

Husband Socks...almost done
Last night, as we were wrapping gifts to send back to the States today, I realized that I had forgotten to get anything for my one brother, Caleb. Suddenly these socks came to mind -- he's the same size as my husband. I dug the socks out, wove in the ends, and BAM! A finished object, just like that! The easiest Christmas knit ever.

I knit Caleb a pair of socks a few years ago (King Kong Cabled Footies), and he loved them and wore them all the time. Those were knit out of Sockotta, a cotton/wool blend, and these are entirely superwash wool, so I just hope that he is not also sensitive to wool. I'll make him send them back if he is, and I'll think of something else to do with them.

Needles: Knitpicks classic circulars, size 1 (knit them 2-at-a-time on two-circs, toe-up)
Pattern: basically a toe-up, man sized (72 stich) version of Ann Budd's Diagonal Rib Socks (free pattern on Interweave Knits). I used a backwards heel flap and short-row toe.
Yarn: Briar Rose Fibers Sweet Freedom in a blue/green colorway

The hats for my brothers are finished. (My apologies ahead of time for the pictures -- they were taken at midnight last night, just after I'd cast off. They were sent out this morning, so there won't be any other opportunity.)

Hat for Christopher
I used Wooly Wormhead's Ribbed Beanie pattern ( ) for both, modifying the first one to a 2x2 rib instead of the 6x2 in the pattern so that the hats don't match each other at all (important when giving gifts to 12 and 14-year-old brothers -- matching isn't cute anymore).

The pattern says to knit six inches, than do decreases for the crown. Six inches is way too short for me (I suppose it's more of a true "beanie" that way, but I want something that will actually keep the ears warm), so I knit the blue one for 7 inches, and the grey one 7-1/2 inches.
Hat for Joel

I especially like the first. It's Lang Tosca Maxi, which is a wool/acrylic blend. The colors stripe in a seemingly random sequence, and always has a "surprise" color (this particular colorway had a red/pink stripe that I cut out for obvious reasons). I really like the end project though. These colors will look good on Christopher. I made it to fit my head, because I think that we're about the same size.

The second hat I'm not quite as fond of. The color is marled dark grey, which is boring as heck, but that's what Joel indicated. I suppose it's a "manly" color, but it's certainly not interesting. Lank York is a three-ply wool/acrylic/microfiber. One of the plies is a thread with bubbles of microfiber along it, making the knitted fabric extra squishy with a nice soft feel to it. So that part is good. I guess the color is just not doing it for me, but otherwise it's fine. I think that Joel's head is a little bigger than mine, so I knit the main part of the hat just a tiny bit longer than Christopher's before the decreases.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Christmas knitting I said I wouldn't do

The race for getting Christmas gifts done is in full force! I don't even have time to be blogging, but I wanted to share my progress. Here's the socks that I knit for my mom.

Windowpane Socks for my mom
Yarn: Spunky Eclectic Supernova in the almost solid colorway, "Cranberry"
Needles: Knitpicks classic circulars size 2
Pattern: "Windowpane" (my own)

The pattern is my own. If you want a pair too, here's the "recipe":
CO 50 sts in sportweight yarn (my gauge was 6 sts per inch). Knit about an inch of 3 x 2 rib. Start patterned rows (K 3, P 2 around. Every 8th row, purl all the way around.) Short row heel, short row toe (according to Priscilla's Dream Socks - Google it for free pattern).

The only thing that bothers me about these is that the two sides of the heel don't match:
Windowpane short-row heel detail
I'm not sure what I'm doing, and it's hard to tell in the picture. I mean, they're perfectly functional and look fine. They'll be inside shoes. But they're not exactly the same, and that bugs me just a little.
Windowpane pattern detail

Moving on.

My brother Joel requested this Husky from a knitted toy book we were looking at together. Very unfortunately, it's turning out to look exactly like a rat.
Husky in progress
Husky face
I really don't like the felt eyes. I wish so badly that I'd thought ahead and ordered some safety eyes, but it's too late now. Ah well.

Along with the Husky (and a bear for my brother Christopher), I'm also knitting Joel and Christopher hats out of these:
Yarn for hats (Christmas gifts)
All of this supposedly by tonight. Right.

Well, I hope all of your Christmas knitting is going well! (Or that perhaps you are smart enough to not do it at all?) Cheers!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Some knitted things!

Ok, since it's almost Christmas, I have to say: if you are my family, please just don't read this blog until after the holidays. Thanks.

Moving right along. I've been busy. Really busy. And distracted. However, I have been getting a fair bit of knitting in. Some of it's photographed, some not. I'm not going to bore you with stories of the bad winter light and such, blah blah blah, yes, we all know. I have photographed what I can, and I will post more photographic evidence as light and time allow.

I've just finished this scarf/hat set for my sister Hannah.
Scarf/hat set
The hat is a Zeebee (sorry, the link feature in Blogger isn't working and I don't feel like writing code at the moment, so here's the link spelled out: ""), which I am hopelessly in love with. The pattern, I mean, not the colors. The color mix contains orange which made it almost physically painful for me to knit, but the design -- oh! The design. I love that I can plug numbers into the website and have it spit out a pattern perfect for my gauge and head size. I love the way that it's knit side to side. I love the angles of the short rows. I love the way that I could knit mindlessly while watching a movie, yet stay interested enough to knit at other times as well. I love that the two edges are grafted together at the end instead of seaming, making this a perfectly seamless. There's something to be said for smartly written, carefully crafted patterns.
Zeebee hat
I modified the intent of the pattern by adding an extra 4-1/2 inches in length to make a thick, warm folded up edge.
Cabled scarf
This pattern is a cabled scarf that I found somewhere. I really can't remember where, at the moment and I don't have the pattern handy....too tired to look, but I'll edit later to add the name.

Yarn: Merino Bulky
Needles: size 13 for scarf, size 9 for hat. Options Harmony from Knitpicks.
Pattern(s): unknown cabled scarf, Zeebee hat
Cast-on to cast-off: about a week, total (hurrah for bulky yarn!)
Notes: While I wouldn't go for these colors personally, and am usually more about the thinner, more delicate knits, this is supposed to be all about my sister. So I'm trying. I really hope that she actually likes them.

I finished knitting the Button Me Up sweater, but am still looking for buttons. (Haven't looked to hard yet -- I've been too busy, but I will begin to look in earnest soon.)

On my needles right now are a pair of socks for my mom. I started them on Friday, and I'm past the heel. I'm knitting them two-at-a-time, magic-loop, with some Spunky Eclectic Super Nova Sport, so it's a little faster than ordinary sock knitting. Perfect for this time of year!

Some new books I got this week that I will be reviewing in upcoming podcast episodes:
New books

I've also decided to add a new Christmas tradition in my little family: Christmas books. What better way to start, than with some by Jan Brett?
Christmas books
I love Christmas.


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