a million and one things

anne wrote this in the wee hours:

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i’ve been posting plenty but haven’t said much about what’s going on around the house over the last week, what with all the holiday preparations.

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just a week ago in fact, i spent a good deal of time in the kitchen making a big pot of soup from the little army of butternut squashes that stood on my kitchen countertop throughout the fall.

i thought this would be a good main dish to serve at our monday afternoon knitting class christmas party, held in our home this year. the squash went into the oven and were well cooked within an hour or so.

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then i scooped out the flesh and puréed it well, although there were some bits of skin that stuck to the soft parts; scooping didn’t go as smoothly as one would hope.

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so i dug out my faithful foley mill and sieved the purée through that to get those last remnants separated.

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just as i was finishing up the purée, our neighbor connie came up the walk with a couple more pudgy butternut squashes to share, haha. her dad had quite an excess of them in his garden, which is how i came by the ones i used for the soup i had underway.

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and as a treat for the birds, i roasted all the d=seeds from inside the squashes to put in our new feeder. when they were roasted and cooked, i mixed them into our bag of bird seed. the little critters really go for them.

i set the finished purée aside while i sweated a mirepoix of celeriac, carrots, parsley, celery seed, fresh ginger, garlic, and onion in oil with a  bit of butter; to this i added some vegetable broth and potatoes cut up, seasoned with salt and pepper, and cooked all of that together until the vegetables were very soft. then i pureed that mixture too and blended in the squash.

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the potato mixture made the soup creamy without adding a lot of fat or dairy. at this point, i seasoned it further with a bit of nutmeg, cardamom, coriander, cumin, ginger, more salt, and pepper. it tasted yummy. at this point you can store it away in the fridge for later or even freeze it.

when it’s time to serve, you can add unflavored soy creamer, a dollop of real cream, or sour cream if you like, or just eat it as is (it’s plenty creamy without any of those).

our party was just lovely; we so enjoy this annual celebration. i was so relaxed and in the moment that i forgot to take even one single photo!

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while i was cooking, david passed through the kitchen sporting his newly completed squish me cap, knit in breakfast blend DK in the morning smoke shade. it fits him perfectly and looks great—isn’t he a good knitter?

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speaking of david, the other night he let us all know that he plans to participate in our blanket statement club by knitting a large sampler blanket in kent DK

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while he worked on the original sampler blanket, knit last winter for our friend kim, he commented several times that this would be an excellent way to learn more about different stitch patterns and to get some good knitting experience. i say, go for it david.

you won’t catch me saying no to another blanket . . . although who knows, maybe he’ll decide to gift it to his mom.

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after monday’s party, i spent most of tuesday evening and wednesday preparing for christmas eve; beckie and i invited several friends to share the evening over a traditional feast of fishes. i cooked a large pot of calamari in red sauce along with pan-fried smelts.

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we also had everyone’s favorites salad of sliced oranges with anchovy, garlic, and olive oil dressing, black olives, and pepper. it’s an unusual combination that doesn’t sound good until you taste it and then WOW, it’s amazing.

that evening is quite a production actually, with four courses and guests to share them. it’s no wonder that once again, i did not take photos. too bad too; the table looked so pretty with candles and large pine cones at the center.

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somewhere between last saturday and christmas day, i managed to get davids’ gift hat finished and blocked, but i can’t remember exactly when. i just love the way it turned out. the color on top is just what i had in mind, though any one of the shades in the brim would be equally successful, i think.

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i dried it inside out and right side out, turning it frequently to prevent creasing.

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once dry, the fabric was just lovely—so even and soft to the touch, with beautiful stitch definition.

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the lining fabric bloomed really well in the wash and all those loose, uneven stitches were now fluffy and  straight, supported by escaped fibers.

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and herein is the success of the hat—a cozy padding of pure cashmere against the skin; what could be more decadent?

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it seems to be the hat of choice for the time being . . .

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he wears it almost every day.

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you probably are wondering whatever happened to the christmas socks i was knitting david as well.

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well, ever since i finished the hat, i’ve been dragging those around everywhere i go to finish them up and i did manage to get one done in time.

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i want to get the other one done for new year’s day and so far, i’m on track to accomplish that

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as of the is morning i had turned the heel, picked up my gusset stitches and started the decreases for the foot. i also redesigned it a bit

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i wasn’t happy with the proportion of the basketweave top to the windowpane patterned leg on sock one (back), so i changed it on sock two (front).

these will also look WAY better once they’ve had a trip through a soapy, hot water bath. for now, though, they are scrumptious even as is, with a dense cushy hand, perfect for the coldest weather.

somewhere in there, i did manage to block and graft my snow tire scarf knit in ghillie sport/DK.

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for this one, i put a half twist on the scarf before stitching the graft to make a mobius

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it hangs so beautifully and drapes so well when doubled up.

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in between all of that, i started and finished another work-related project—remember when i said that i should knit a pair of fat tire mittens to match my cream colored snow tire scarf? (or maybe i said that only in the rav threads, i can’t remember now).

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anyway, i did it. mittens go so fast and take a surprisingly small amount of yarn—if you bought a snow tire kit in the ghillie option, you would have plenty for both mittens and a scarf (plus, we would put some of that money in the scholarship fund—that’s a win, win, WIN).

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(isn’t it cool how much the fabric changes after it’s washed—i love this).

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we even got the photo shoot done yesterday—which means that we should be ready to release the mitten pattern by monday night or tuesday.

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i want to add sales from this pattern for the last couple days of the year to our scholarship fund. i’m hoping we can sell enough to get us to our goal; sales have been flagging this week while everyone celebrates christmas and we are still quite a bit short of where i’d hoped to be.

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wouldn’t this be an adorable valentine’s gift? what would make mid-february more fun than a sweetheart set of mix and match mittens and scarves?

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in fact, yesterday we did several back to back photo shoots to take advantage of the warm weather and good light. afterward, we all gathered for a little dinner and knit night.

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the enthusiasm actually began that morning when we held the first beginning knitting class in our shop, attended by several local students and taught by laura lazarites.

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emily’s friend robert is a carpenter who has been wanting to learn to knit, so she signed him up. he had a great day and as you can see, cannot seem to put his knitting down.

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such an intent group all around—david had to prod everyone to put down their work in order to eat the yummy indian food that emily and erica brought.

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in addition to being an artist and modeling for us, sheyanne is a talented baker and brought along some gluten free cupcakes.

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i had something to share as well, which i’d been keeping for a special treat.

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a pyramid of chocolate that i picked up at a food festival in portland OR last fall (chocolate will keep very well if you take care of it).

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ever since i brought this home i had been waiting for an opportunity to have a chocolate tasting, so when dinner was done i set up 10 little plates along the island, each with chocolate from a different country of origin.

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david made a nice pot of espresso coffee to go with it.

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laura assured me that i should not worry about my drug habit—wine, alcohol, and coffee are all easy enough to explain away . . .

i don’t feel defensive about it at all, in fact—do you see how little i had done on sock #2 at this point and how much i got  done by the morning? (see above).

speaking of sharing and imbibing . . .

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sample skeins of the new the mussel shell shade of kent DK arrived this past week—a beautiful true gray, how pretty is that? we didn’t really have a good idea of what this shade would be like, but we’re happy that it’s a blue gray; a new tone for the kent lines.

and, as i mentioned the other day in the ravelry threads, we also have several other new yarns in the works. all of our mohair yarns are now going to be spun at our ohio mill; this will be a great change, because they have more flexibility and a great interest in spinning one yarns for us.

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with this wonderful opportunity, we are going to make our cabécou in lace weight at 1000 yards per four ounces. for future production, we changed the wool content from romney to coopworth, to take advantage of a source for soft, bright white coopworth fiber in our region.

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we are also trying this blend with tussah (wild) silk, which has a golden sheen rather than white, giving it a burnished quality that i rathe like. sample skeins arrived the other day and we couldn’t be happier. the yarn is fine but with a nice firm twist to give it body and great stitch definition. and still with that knockout sheen, maybe even more so.

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most of the samples were unwashed (right), but one skein was washed (left). the washed skein made the mill owner nervous because in the course of fluffing up, the escaping fibers make it appear a bit uneven; it’s hard to tell if this is a spinning issue or not. the unwashed yarn looks silkier and more even because it’s oiled; personally, i prefer it that way because it behaves better during the knitting process. so we are testing the washed against the unwashed to make sure they’ll each have identical qualities after drying. if pre washing doesn’t change the final result, we can sell the unwashed yarn with good conscience.

if we do see some undesirable result—such as biasing or crimping in the fabric, we’ll have to go back to the drawing board and fix something in the spinning. my preliminary guess would be that we’d have to relax the twist a little. but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

the good news is that we should be able to resolve this quickly and have the yarn available by late winter or early spring, just in time for lace knitting season.

now, you might want to get a drool rag under your chin for the next item.

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this is our chebris blend in a two-ply worsted weight, using gray mohair and gray merino top. omg, it’s as light as air and SOOOooo squishy soft. we are falling allover ourselves to touch it as often as possible.

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doncha just want to reach into the computer and pinch its chubby lil cheeks?? and yes, that is the lace weight i was just talking about to its right; a change of background makes it look completely different in color, doesn’t it?

it’s the most uncanny thing, how color is so relative—look at the chebris worsted on the other background.

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in this photo all the gold is highlighted and on the wood table, all the blue-gray is featured. same exact ball of yarn, i swear!

alright now, another day is done and it’s time for me to go knit. take care and see you back here with  mittens on tomorrow!

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it’s a good thing

anne wrote this in the wee hours:

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a little night glo

anne wrote this mid-afternoon:

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i’ve been spying on my neighbor bret for weeks, ever since i noticed that we were a good ten days into december and not much was happening over on his porch or lawn. a couple tinselly wreaths, a bit of red ribbon, and well, that was about it. he’s usually out there the very day after thanksgiving to start the holiday express—what was up with this??

of course, it was awfully cold and windy those weeks and none of us on the corner of harvard avenue are getting any younger.

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but just as i thought all that, things started picking up momentum.

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in just a few days we had more ribbons, baubles, and .  . . SANTA! now we were making progress.

the other night while we ate dinner (rather late as we do), connie followed bret in circles all around the japanese maple  with armfuls of lights and abby the dog at her heels, as he placed them higher and higher in the tree with a long pole. it was such a beautiful family moment to watch.

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even last night bret was still putting the final touches on his display. david took photos a couple of nights ago actually, so not everything got into them, but this one shows the final daytime tableau.

but all discussion of how the house looks in daytime is kind of meaningless—the real impact comes after dark when he finally throws the switch on it all to light up the night.

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i love how david captured this sweet angel, which is a fairly anomalous component among the hoards of snowmen, elves, and reindeer

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cavorting about the lawn under an ocean of starry lights.

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here, a snowman is sweeps his domicile inside a grove of pine trees

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here, another little snow guy waves at passersby from amid a candy cane forest.

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a baby reindeer and its mom graze on the outskirts of the scene

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and what a scene it is!

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naturally, the center of attraction is santa, sitting upon his throne at the north pole, surveying his kingdom.

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being straight across the street, we get the full on view from any one of our front windows

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and like i said; WHAT a view it is!
(is it just me or are these the most lights we’ve ever had?)

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merry christmas eve everyone!
be sure to to stop back tomorrow for a holiday treat . . .

in the red

anne wrote this in the wee hours:

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best photo shoot ever.
there we were on a bitter cold friday in december 2013, several inches of fresh snow on the ground, with three kids who just got freed from school for the weekend and a whole pinewoods to let loose in.

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how much running do you think we had to do to keep up?

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uh—a lot.

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and how much fun do you think we had??

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even more!

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it was the first time nicole and sarah had worked with the kids and i think they were a little stunned—all their carefully planned winter outfits and activities pretty much stayed in that box, once we got the kids into sweaters, hats, scarves, and mittens. you really don’t need to do anything with kids to get great pictures except let them loose, haha.

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i would even go so far as to say that the red seemed to charge them up a notch or two.

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well after all, that was the point, wasn’t it?

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and we weren’t without our moments at rest—these were captured masterfully by david and provide the most wonderful pauses in our raucous fun.

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i love these kids because they LOVE our hand knits, haha. they want all of it, even the ones they’re not very familiar with (like “cowls”; what’s that? i don’t care, i love it).

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when he first put it on, lincoln thought this rené sweater would get him laughed right out of school, but by the end of the hour, he was figuring how to ask grandma debby to knit him one.

and speaking of grandma debby, lincoln, jude, and roxy kept this WHOLE thing a secret for a couple of weeks so that she could be surprised when the club chapter came out.

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but back to the red pieces—these were offered in the december 2013 FIFC club shipment, a trio of multi-sized hat, scarf, and mittens in easy, quick to knit motifs perfect for last minute gifting. and that’s still try—you can knit at least one of these pieces by december 25th if christmas is your target date.

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the cowl and hat for instance are just a snap—i promise. i knit one of these hats myself last christmas eve, all in one day. and then i knit another on christmas day as well. plus i cooked two big meals on those days; they are that easy.

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and if you are are now shaking your head because you are in desperate need to produce a gift in the next three hours, do not despair—make it a cheery headband; the instructions are included.

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the mittens are a fast knit as well—a small pair goes lightening fast in an evening; you might need two evenings for a large pair. but so worth it! choose a yarn that blooms generously to make a dense, impenetrable fabric (like our confection or kent worsted weights) and these will become the household favorite.

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the reversible scarf takes a bit more time but is a soothing and very portable treat—the knitting you can cling to in these last few frenzied days of the season. and on size 10US (6.0 mm) needles, it just flies along, you’ll see.

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shown above are the chimney sweep scarf and the matching cowl in size small with all boxed up hats in sizes (left to right) medium, extra small, and small. with so many sizes and a cool, bold motif, these will please just about anyone on your list.

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springerle mittens in size large youth/adult small (with six other sizes to choose from!). all pieces were knit up in our festivus worsted, which was spun exclusively for the FIFC 2013 club. we unfortunately have too few remaining skeins to list in the shop (i think just two eight ounce ones and handful of two ounce ones; email david if you’re feeling lucky and want to score one!).

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if it’s the single pattern you’re after, click to view more information about all boxed up, springerle or chimney sweep. you may also view or purchase them in my ravelry pattern shop.

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any of these accessories would be cushy and delicious in our breakfast blend DK, confection worsted, kent worsted,  or classic ghillie sock.

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these patterns are also included in the 2013 fall in full color eBook, which compiles seventeen total accessory patterns from the 2013 fall color collection—that’s a lotta patterns! anyone looking for a knitalong around these designs need not look further than the ravelry clubhouse where our color clubs meet—all are welcome and appreciated.

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and now it’s time for me to get myself to my knitting chair—i have several christmas gifts to complete myself.

be back in a couple of days; i hope to have that new mitten pattern delivered by christmas (well, i’m shooting for that, anyway). stay warm and keep knitting!