Monday, November 26, 2012

Shaping the Season

"A lovely thing about Christmas is that it's compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together."                       

                                                             -Garrison Keillor


A week ago I went to the 45th annual Southern Christmas Show.  I hadn’t planned on attending, as a visit years ago to this enormous event held in a huge local convention center fulfilled any need in me to indulge in an excess of Christmas decorations, quirky scarves, and gimmicky kitchen gadgets.  However, one of my closest friends, Lauren, was going out of town and generously gave me two free tickets she'd received and couldn't use. 
 
 

Even though I visited the show after a two decades’ absence, oddly enough, my return there didn't impact me with a sense of the passage of years.  This happening is the sort of entity that seems impervious to time.   The displays, food samples, and shops, with a few additions of novelty items, seemed essentially the same as they did years ago.  Also, when I spent time strolling through the show with its Christmas village and holiday shops, I realized that perhaps I was a little too cynical in my anticipatory thoughts about venturing there.  The part of me that actually owns two doll houses (stowed away in my attic and sometimes dragged out at Christmastime) enjoyed the large display of miniatures, and my inner foodie appreciated sampling gourmet items.  This foodie also impelled me to purchase goodies such as maple butter and locally made poppy seed dressing.  The knitting blogger in me, as well, had a grand time getting a look at the handmade and mass-produced knitwear featured at the show. 
 
The socks and hats are machine made but provide some inspiration for
 cute projects.  The dog sweaters are hand knitted.
 

From my perusal of various stands and boutique shops, I surmised that animal-themed ear flap hats are all the rage as are scarves, ranging from those made from recycled sweaters to silk ones featuring a Velcro fastener for creative-scarf-wrapping challenged individuals.  I was also able to visit a booth sponsored by Baskets of Yarn, a local shop, although most of the items on display there were yarns and needles designed to make quick knits (types of garments I’ll probably need to do soon if I don’t speed up my Christmas knitting projects).
 
The animals are crocheted and then sewn onto the tie-dyed T-shirts.  This yarn
was sold at the booth of Baskets of Yarn booth. 

Finally, at the show I also learned that stores or booths with the term “diva” in their name should be avoided by anyone who harbors no desire to own pink polka-dotted hostess aprons, hand towels and pillows with “Wine a Little” or “Born to Shop” embroidered on them, handbags adorned with lots of rhinestone “bling,” or cute flip flops for wine glasses to wear. 

After the sensory overload of the show, the following long Thanksgiving weekend afforded me a change to unwind and afforded me some much-needed respite from my daily routine.  On Thanksgiving morning, I cooked a Pavlova, a recipe I saw featured on Judith Hamid’s blog, I Read, I Sewed, I Crocheted.  In the past I have not been a big fan of meringue (I sometimes scrape it off the tops of pies I'm served), but I am now a convert (at least to the crunchy variety of this food item) and my taste buds are still savoring the memories of this wonderful dessert.  The meringue base is made with egg whites and caster sugar, an ultra-fine substance which makes for a dainty, light, super-sweet, and  crispy foundation which I filled with homemade whipped cream and fresh raspberries and frozen blueberries (from last summer’s crop).  I also made a pumpkin pie, a crab meat-and-artichoke dip, and a wonderful torta made with goat cheese, mascarpone cheese, and smoked salmon.  I used some leftovers from this last dish to make a quiche, which I’ve frozen for a later time (as I don’t think my arteries can handle another high-fat infusion at the moment).
 
I increased Judith's recipe, using five egg whites instead of two and adjusting
 the other quantities accordingly (through guestimating).
The recipe for this torta can be found at Williams-Sonoma.  I toasted some baguettes
as the recipe suggested, and they went well with this appetizer.  I also sliced some
German pumpernickel bread I'd purchased to serve with it.
Since this is a knitting blog, however, I should perhaps refrain from talking about food and get back to discussing the progress on my latest projects.  Last week, I finished knitting a hat for my niece’s baby, Lucas.  The pattern is from the winter 2012 issue of Debbie Bliss magazine, and the yarn is her Rialto Aran.  I also made progress on a sock monkey (another gift for Lucas) as well as a simple triangular garter stitch shawl.   This shawl is made with Tahki Crystal yarn that I’d bought last spring for a project, and then realized I’d purchased the wrong weight for the pattern.  Using this sequined yarn stranded with lace weight alpaca is creating a beautiful, sparkly, light shawl.  I ran out of the sequined yarn, however, on Thanksgiving Day but was able to find another skein at Rainy Day Creations on Friday.  I’m not certain to whom I will give this item, as I am so enamored of it that I want to give it to someone who will appreciate the time and materials involved.  Of course, I might just wear this shawl over the holidays. . . .

The garter stitch is simple but the rich yarns give this piece complexity. 
 
The hat is cute, although I made a size the seven-week-old
baby's head isn't quite bit enough for yet.  Creating this hat
 reminded  my why I love Debbie' Bliss's yarns so much.
I also cast on a pair of socks, with a cute heart pattern on them.  I haven’t made socks in over a year and felt that it was time to practice my skills.  Socks are wonderfully portable projects, but I always have a tough time counting when increasing for the gusset (or is it when I'm decreasing afterwards?).  I purchased some very tiny size one circular needles which might make sock knitting a little easier than using circulars or the magic loop method. 

At present I'm uncertain about these tiny circulars, but I'm beginning to
see how they do prevent the constant switching sides and pulling
cords of the magic loop method and the sometimes unwieldy nature of
knitting with double-pointed needles.

 
Paton's Yarn has an entire booklet devoted to knit and
crochet sock monkey projects, including stuffed animals
as well as hats, mittens, and scarves.

I worry that these knitting projects along with so many others either already started or occupying a "cast-on-soon" queue in my brain may become a burden as I try to complete them for holiday gifts.  I think that I am going to scale back my seasonal knitting aspirations rather than add to the mayhem that comes with wrapping up the end of the school semester and preparing for the holidays for my family.  I've already been busy making some felted eyeglass cases that aren't as time consuming to create as knitted gifts.  I hope to show them in a future blog post. 


 

 

7 comments:

  1. You have so many great knitting projects going on right now! I think that you can handle them no problem! Also poppy seed dressing sounds amazing!! And I for one want to hear more about food, the recipes you've shared look super yummy!

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    1. I love to cook but have tried to focus the blog on knitting. It's hard to refrain from sharing food items sometimes, though. I should maybe include knitted items and recipes to accompany them once in a while or something.

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  2. You are a very gifted knitter - all of your work looks so neat and professionally finished and I'm amazed at how quickly you get things done. Anytime you have time (which I know isn't often) I would love you to post a pumpkin pie recipe - it's not a very British thing but my husband grew lots of edible pumpkins this summer. I found that Lucy hat pattern on Ravelry so I might have a go soon. Glad you liked the pavlova - always looks impressive but oh so easy! Judy.

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    1. I love pumpkin pie and will post a recipe soon. Thanks for your nice comments.

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  3. Lovely post, as usual :) All of your knits and food pics look wonderful.

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  4. What lovely projects Liz and delicious cooking interspersed with them too! All this creativity makes me hungry, I must say! Enjoy E x
    PS Thought of you the other day coming across "The Snow Child" by Eowyn Ivey - set in Alaska again although not about teaching but there was something about it reminiscent of "Tisha" and possibly this other book you referred to. I had to get a copy of The Snow Child' and found it un-put-downable, Check it out - I think you might like it!

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  5. Cute baby hat! I am also knitting for a newborn, but making things that are in the 6 month range since he's a big baby and I think he will get more use out of them after the Holidays when he is a little bigger. Nice pictures of your Thanksgiving cooking too.

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