Getting ready for the holidays

I may not be posting, but I am doing stuff! I've been hibernating a bit since the election happened. I realised the other day that it's kind of funny that everyone is worried that he is going to send the U.S. back to the pre-civil-rights 1950s, and I am responding by retreating into the kitchen like 1950s Mom. Ah well.

I've been working (slowly) on this turtleneck:

Afraid the turtle is too small for my big head though. Because it's on dpns, I can't really stretch it to see. But I found my 2mm circ, so I can transfer it over to see. Meanwhile, it's getting cold for running, so I made this earwarmer headband:

Surprisingly quick knit, for 2x2 rib on 2mm needles! Will test it tomorrow morning. Also made this cowl in an hour:

So satisfying to start and finish something after putting the kid to bed, and wear it the next day! Unlike this scarf, which I'm still sort of slowly plugging away at:

Meh. And I've cast on these for the kid's teacher's xmas present:

Yes, mittens again. Can't fail. If I have time, I might make a hat too, since I have enough yarn.

In other holiday news, it hit me this week that November is half over, and I ought to be doing party prep! So yesterday I made candied peel:

and shortbread dough, and Imperial Cheddar biscuit dough, and today I am doing hamantaschen dough and puff pastry. I also made a "test loaf" of this pain aux figues, which I think will be a new staple! Yum.

And raisin bread, because it makes the best toast.

Most importantly, fruitcake today! Because it needs time to soak up some whiskey. Yum.


Hallowe'en cookies!

Made some more Hallowe'en cookies, and thought I'd do a quick tutorial on the decorations.

I love the classic sugar cookie recipe from the Cake & Cooky Cookbook, brushed with milk and sprinkled with sugar or sprinkles. Generally, this means sugar or sprinkles all over the cookie sheet, cooked on, keeping me from lifting off the cookies without breaking them. So this time, I made stencils out of heavy paper, by tracing the cookie cutters and then cutting inside the lines (the idea being, if the stencil is slightly smaller than the cookie, there will be less spillover). After I had done a few, I realised at one point that folding up the edges of the stencil would result in even less spilling.

Then I made separate stencils for the Jack O'Lantern face and ghost eyes.

A slightly tedious process, but much less time than icing, and after the first sheet I had a pretty good assembly line going, doing the white sugar first, then the orange, then all the black (eyes, faces, cats) at once.

They look like more work than they are!


The Flash!

This is a lifetime first for me: I finished a Hallowe'en costume one full week before Hallowe'en!

I am frankly astounded, and at loose ends. But miracle of miracles, it is true. Despite having to re-do the leggings from scratch because they were too small (curse you Burda and the randomness of your seam allowances). The costume is basically a hoodie and leggings (Burda 9482), with a bit of felt decoration, appliquéd using the old classic zigzag wheel on the Supermatic. Before I started, I asked the kid if he'd possibly wear it to school or elsewhere after Hallowe'en was over (in which case, I'd use something that would hold up in the laundry better than felt). He said, "No." I guess he's too old for that kind of thing.

When I asked him to try it on for size, he said, "Hmm, I could wear this to school!" Sigh.

The boots are yellow felt, cut to fit over the kid's rainboots. There's an elastic strap that goes under the heel to hold them on (I hope).

The tricky part was making the wing/lightning thingies sticking out of his helmet and boots. I ended up using multiple layers of felt fused together with Wonder Web for stability, and zigzagged around the edges.

There was a lot of zigzagging with this costume. But it's done done done! A week in advance! I guess I can always kill time making more sugar cookies.



Luckily I got my pyjamas finished - buttons and all - just in time, and knitting and movies to while away the hours.

Speaking of, I was delighted to discover this blog post about the two starlets I've been most entranced with of late - Barbara Stanwyck and Ginger Rogers. Apparently both were avid knitters when not lighting up the screen!

In my most recent binge, I've watched Barbara in The Lady Eve and Ginger in Roberta and Flying Down to Rio and The Gay Divorcee.

I have to say, I never cared for the line about Ginger doing everything Fred did, except "backwards and in high heels" - Fred's greatest performances were solos after all! But Ginger is far the better actor; she has a great sense for comic timing, and shone in roles with no dancing at all (e.g. The Major and the Minor, or Monkey Business). I don't think any director cast Fred in a non-dancing role, and unlike Ginger, he never won an Oscar for his acting.

Both played smart, funny heroines - no shrinking violets they! Barbara I think will always be my number one for her performances in Double Indemnity and Ball of Fire, but my whole life I've wished I could dance like Ginger.

And now, I think I'll take some cough syrup and fall asleep to Fred's soft-shoe sandman routine in Top Hat.


Pyjama party

So excited to say I already have one Xmas present done!

As usual, I am making pyjamas for my son for Xmas eve. This year, I am making us a matched set. How dorky is that! I got his done, and mine started, and then ran out of thread.

The rainbow of buttons down the front match the mini-buttons I used to decorate one of the trees on the pocket:

I am making myself some summer pyjamas too, but again, ran out of thread! I need to get buttons, too.


Whole Wheat Bread

Have I finally done it? I think I have finally done it!

Perfect crumb, perfect rise, great texture and taste. I think I am finally ready to stop with the endless tweaking of the bread recipe, and just stick with this one.

Whole Wheat Bread

3 cups whole wheat bread flour (hard)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup powdered milk
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 TBS yeast
2 1/2 cups water
1 egg, beaten
sesame seeds to sprinkle on top

Combine all dry ingredients, including yeast.

Make a well in the centre, and add water and egg. Stir to combine.

Dump out onto counter and knead 15 minutes. Do not add any additional flour, even if it's really sticky.

Return to bowl, cover (I use a butter paper), and let rise one hour.

Preheat oven to 500 F. Butter a 4" x 4" x 16" bread pan.

Dump dough onto counter. Knead lightly and roll out into a large oval about 1/2" thick.

Fold in ends so it is the same length as bread pan, then roll up jelly-roll style. it will be a bit thicker at the ends but that is just fine.

Lift the dough into the pan. Let rise 45 minutes-1 hour. Brush the top with a little milk or beaten egg, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

As soon as you put it into the oven, drop the temperature to 350 F. Bake 25 minutes, turning once.

Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then unmold and let cool on rack.


Sewing day!

Finally getting a chance to do some sewing! It's a good thing too, as I have far too much fabric, and not enough money. This is like getting new clothing for free!

First off, a dress. This fabric had been sitting around for two or perhaps three years. It's just cotton with some machine embroidery - sort of eyelet without the holes - and I love how the slight dressiness of the fabric takes a pretty plain pattern and makes it look much smarter.

This skirt is from fabric I think I got two years ago. It's a woven polka dot, again in all cotton. This was mostly done last summer, but I needed to do hand finishing and then I decided I needed to tweak the fit. You can tell I'm really keen on pencil skirts at the moment! I think I overdid and/or outgrew the fuller 1950s skirts I was enjoying for so long.

This one is actually recent fabric, purchased this spring. I took my favourite shirt pattern, switched a few things around, and voila! A shirt with a very different sort of look, still work-appropriate for summer.

Three down, nine zillion to go. I have so many things cut and pinned already...