Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Musical Christmas

Each year we struggle with what to get the kids for Christmas. They never really need anything but this year we decided it was time to get them a piano. They both have enjoyed playing for two years, and are good about practicing so we thought it would be the perfect gift.

However, getting the piano into our house was no easy task. On the day we arranged to move it, the weather was nasty with below freezing temps and ice pellets. We rented an enclosed trailer which protected the piano from the freezing rain, and we had help from a strong and willing friend. It still was not easy because the driveways and sidewalks were covered in ice. Luckily everyone and even the piano survived the move and made it safely home.

We waited until 2 days before Christmas to pick it up so that we could keep it from the kids as long as possible. Once we got it home, I disguised it by putting a garbage can and boxes on top and then covering it with a sheet and blanket. We duct taped the sheet and blanket and told the kids it was very fragile and that they shouldn't touch it because it might break. It worked and the kids were completely surprised when they took the sheets off, and our house has been filled with music ever since.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Mixed Ecosystems Cake

I made this igloo ice cream cake for Christmas. The recipe is from my December 2006 Martha Stewart Living Magazine. The cake is very time consuming because it involves ice cream, and has to be made in steps over several days time -- a true labor of love. I found the cake and butter cream recipes to be very good and easy to work with. The chocolate cake was moist, and easily molded to line the glass bowl that I used for the igloo shape. The center of the cake is chocolate and vanilla ice creams. And the icing was a delicious white-chocolate butter cream that I'll definitely use again. I molded the penguins out of fondant but you could also use marzipan.

My husband, a biologist, gave me flack when making it because I was mixing ecosystems. Penguins live in Antarctica and since humans don't dwell there, igloos would be nonexistent. I explained the cake was fictional, but he suggested that I make Inuit people or polar bears instead of penguins. I argued that penguins were easier to make, and well, cuter. Our friend even suggested making puffins. So maybe next time, if I ever feel ambitious enough to make this cake again, I'll make a true Arctic igloo cake with puffins.

Felted Teacups

Some of my friends (the ones who sew) received these adorable teacup pin cushions for Christmas this year. The idea came from Betz White who appeared on The Martha Stewart Show, and gave a tutorial on making the pin cushions. I fell in love with them because they encompassed two of my favorite things, tea and sewing. Of course they could always be interpreted to be coffee cup pin cushions, depending on your beverage preference.

The cushions are made from wool sweaters that have been felted. Making these involves both hand sewing and machine sewing. I also used fabric glue for gluing the handle and the saucer to the cup. The zigzag stitch works well for sewing the I-cord together to form the handle, and also sewing it to the saucer.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Fan and Feather Scarf

Hand knitted scarfs make great gifts if you have the time. I've made several this season. The kids' teachers each got one, a couple of friends, and two family members all received scarfs for Christmas.

This fan and feather pattern is by far one of my favorites. There are quite a few fan and feather patterns out there but this one produces the prettiest and most feminine results. One of the reasons it's called fan and feather is because one end looks like a fan and the other a feather.

The pattern I used is posted below. I will warn you that this scarf is very time consuming, expect to spend about 12 - 15 hours knitting it. This particular scarf is about 80 inches long because I like to be able to wrap it around the neck at least once. You could shorten the length and save yourself a few hours.

I used size US 11 needles.

Cast on 28 sts.
1. k28
2. p28
3. k2, (p2tog) 4 times, (yo k1) 8 times, (p2tog ) 4 times, k2
4. p28

Repeat the 4 rows until desired length, bind off.

Coffee Cup Cozies

My sister asked me to make these for her. She wanted to give them to her coffee drinking friends for Christmas......apparently they drink a lot of coffee. These were fun to make and it also gave me an opportunity to use up some of my remnant pieces of yarn. I used only cotton and wool yarns as I thought they would make a better insulator for the coffee.

The pattern is simple.

Cast On 12 sts using 6 US needles
1. K12
2. K3 P6 K3
3. K12
4. K3 P6 K3

Repeat rows until about 9 inches in length, sew the ends together with a darning needle.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Getting my "Girl" Fix

It's probably a good thing that I don't have a daughter of my own because it would be hard for me to refrain from buying all the pretty "girly" fabrics. I am, however, very blessed with many little girls in my life -- one who will be receiving this skirt and purse ensemble for Christmas.

I take pleasure in sewing for little girls and this season has given me my "girl fix" for sure. I always welcome the opportunity to create something feminine because it doesn't happen very often in my wild and crazy boy-filled house.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Beanbag Frogs

I've made a dozen (and counting) of these bean bag frogs as Christmas gifts this year. It started out as a gift idea for one of my nephews. I decided I would make all my gifts this year and was puzzled about what I could make for the boys. Girls are always easy to make things for, boys are a little trickier. When I found this pattern on a website called The Purl Bee, I absolutely fell in love with it!

After I made the first frog, I was hooked and decided I knew several people who would be getting one of these charming little frogs from me. I even made a couple of these for my nieces, that are beyond the toy and doll age, and added lavender in with the beans so that it could be used a drawer sachet.

My favorite thing about making these is that I can use up all my scrap pieces of fabric that I've been accumulating over the years.

Gingerbread Reindeer

Every year I find a reason to make these gingerbread reindeers. Usually it's for the kids' holiday parties. I think I've made them for Ethan's class for the last 3 years now. I found the recipe several years ago in a magazine called Martha Stewart "Kids." That magazine is no longer published but you can find the recipe here.

The reindeer is an upside-down gingerbread man. I use melted bittersweet chocolate for the face and antlers, a red hot for the nose, and white chocolate chips for the eyes. The antlers are also sprinkled with sugar just before the chocolate starts to set. The combination of the chocolate and gingerbread is delicious!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Santa Claus is Coming to Tea!

I put these boxes together for the first-grade teachers that I work with. Inside the box are Madeleine cookies frosted to look like Santa along with some loose-leaf teas. I thought up this cookie project in collaboration with my friend and fellow baker, Eileen. They took a lot of patience and time but were a lot of fun to make. I tied the box together with honey sticks and a card that says, "Santa Claus is coming to tea."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Santa Baby

Being the proud auntie that I am, I couldn't resist posting this adorable picture of my niece, Madelyn. She just turned 10 months and is almost walking. My mom said shes walks along the cupboards and has figured out how to open the cupboard doors but doesn't take anything out -- just looks to see what's inside.

I'm looking forward to kissing those sweet little cheeks in a couple of weeks when we meet up with my sister and her family in Wisconsin for New Years.