Christmas wrap-up

It snowed yesterday right when our guests arrived for the big Christmas celebration, and that’s really something around here, because anyone who’s paid their dues in the Pacific Northwest will tell you how many times they’ve heard as a kid that it might snow on Christmas Day, only to be greatly let down by a soggy downpour of the fattest raindrops you’ve ever seen. So, it was beautiful: huge 1″ to 2″-wide fluffy snowflakes, and we even had an accumulation of about an inch. I’d have taken a picture, but I was hard at work in the kitchen…

Christmas dinner proved to be quite the challenge for me, the I-don’t-like-to-cook stay-at-home wife and mother, this time. I’d made this meal before and I seem to recall it went so much more smoothly, but I think last time I made it was for half the number of people, plus our son was less active (i.e., he could barely walk) so there was less to deal with during the prep, cook, serve and eat phases. We had a 4-lb. beef tenderloin that had been lovingly prepared and tied, presented to me with pride by the butcher at the local PCC Natural Market, and for which I made bearnaise sauce. Along with it I served red Swiss chard sauteed in garlic and Potatoes Anna, salad, a couple of dishes brought other guests, and an assortment of kimchi from the local Korean market. Doesn’t sound too complex, does it? Except that everything other than the kimchi had to be served either warm or freshly cooked right up to serving, and the bearnaise and Swiss chard had to be the last cooked. I was doing okay, though, until….

It was the dramatic arrival of my poor diabetic mother-in-law that kind of changed the pace of the whole meal, for when she took her shoes off in our house, she was found to be bleeding profusely from one foot. Luckily, the bleeding was quickly stopped with pressure applied by my father-in-law in the front entry, as everyone else ran frantically in different directions trying to do this and that. Abandoning my post at the stove, I jumped over my mother-in-law and ran down to the laundry room to dig-up a supply of old, dark towels, and then ran upstairs to dig-up a package of bandages. Someone else grabbed paper towels to clean-up the puddles of blood, and another person poured water on the trail of blood leading up to the front door. Of course, my son thought all this was great fun, and ran around the house like a maniac, hyped-up from all the excitement.

Returning to the kitchen, I dumped the now-burned and bitter smelling sliced garlic cloves that were supposed to be “fragrant” and set-about slicing more garlic for the patiently waiting 3-lbs. of chopped Swiss chard. Then my mom arrived bearing a quiche lacking backbone (i.e., a firm crust, since it was made using puff pastry) and in need of surgery, because when she took it out of the pan (take my word for it, it needed to come out of the pan), it flopped with a wet “plop” all over the counter, some of it spilling onto the floor. After cleaning that mess, I pulled out the Potatoes Anna warming in the oven, looking inedible due to the fact that I had tried to make it ahead, or rather the night before, but during which was distracted by my son, to whom I responded to his pleas to play with him, after I’d sliced the potatoes. For the record, cut potatoes don’t wait for anyone, and if you cut ’em you’d better cook ’em, or at least soak them in water, or they’ll turn gray; I did neither. Sigh. Finally, the bearnaise sauce took longer than the 20-minutes projected in the recipe (which also claimed that it shouldn’t be made in advance; next time I’ll make it the day before) even though I’d prepped all of the ingredients ahead, because we were originally shooting for a 1:00 dinner start, but had to change it to 3:00 because one family member was convinced that the invitation read 2:00, even though it said 1:00, so we rolled it back to 2:00, but by the time everyone arrived and all the pre-dinner action subsided, it was 3:00. Where was I? Oh, the bearnaise turned-out great. So now we were at 3:00, and we all sat down to dinner; after everyone else was served, I loaded my plate, took 3 bites and looked across at my son to see his eyelids drooping, so I took him to his room and kept him company so that he’d fall asleep easier despite the party going on in the dining room beneath his room. Dessert went well, and I made a dense chocolate cake with a chocolate glaze, and my sister brought a layered cake that had toffee brittle incorporated in the frosting. All in all, even with all the antics, it was a good dinner and my husband and I decided that we must be doing something right, because we’ve noticed that our families have started to stick around longer after the meal is over with each event, whereas they used to disperse faster than a speeding ticket after dessert.

Now, onto some of gifts I received. On her lengthy trip to Japan in October my mom picked-up 4 skeins of this pretty yarn for me:

Armed with my handy list of translations of yarn materials from ABCs of Knitting, I was sufficiently able to translate the fiber content from Japanese: 27% mohair, 39% acrylic, 17% rayon, 13% nylon, and 4% polyester.

On top of that, she also gave me a 1-day class in making Japanese confectioneries and a tin of a type of Japanese confection that is vaguely similar to SweetTarts, but so much better and not so sweet.

From my dear friend, myself, I was given a copy of Knitting New Scarves, by Lynne Barr, a book that contains very interesting knitting techniques (sorry for the poor pictures, but I’m short on time).

We’re not talking about your ordinary scarves in Barr’s book.

This picture of the rippled orange scarf would’ve been best placed on the cover to exemplify the more interesting techniques found in this book.

No, not your ordinary scarves.

The techniques used to make so many of the scarves look so fun, that when I saw it in the bookstore, my toes curled just at the thought of trying them out.

Finally, my sister gave me a special gift: my husband, our son and I may make a trip to Italy next year, which would be kind of an answered prayer for me; we don’t know where yet, but my sister has invited all of us to go with her if her plans come together. I miss being someplace different and have wanted to go back to Italy since my first and only trip in 2004 as a chaperon (one of a handful) to a small group of high school kids; it only whet my appetite for the homeland of my father’s family. My trip there was somewhat like a fish back in the water; for as foreign as it was, it struck a familiar chord deep inside of me, and I found that I quickly began to blend in somewhat. With what few Italian lessons I’d taken, combined with hearing my grandparents speak it during my annual summer visits to their home in Massachusetts, I was able to communicate a bit better than the average tourist. Up until my grandfather died in 1984, he always used to promise, “I will take all you grandkids to Italy someday to see where our family comes from up in the mountains.” I hope I can do that this trip, but that’s if the whole trip happens.


Cabled Coat

My newest project is Norah Gaughan’s Cabled Coat from Vogue Knitting’s Fall 2007 issue.

With the lack of decent daylight these days, this picture is the best I can give you to show the 25″ or so of moss stitch I’ve completed so far using Knit Picks Wool of the Andes yarn in Winter Night. The pattern caught my interest because the coat is unusual in that it lacks the usual squares and rectangles found in most sweaters; intriguing to knit, intriguing to wear.

Meanwhile, I’m waiting for spring.

Normally, by September I would be bemoaning the loss of summer and the arrival of the holidays, specifically Thanksgiving and Christmas, but since we moved into this house, the winter/holiday blues haven’t really been all that big of a deal. It’s such a nice home, with lots of windows and lots of nature on hand, and lots of really nice neighbors, and when we go away for a night or two (that’s the most we’ve been away, so far), I come home not just feeling like, “Okay, so we’re home. Whew! It’s nice to be home.” Rather, what I feel now is, “Oh, it’s so very nice to be home. Do we really live in this place? What a treat!” I know not everyone can say that, but I hope that you can, at the very least, make your home a place that gives you that feeling.

About the holidays: I think Thanksgiving and Christmas are wonderful holidays, really, but they just get a bit overdone and their significance is a bit lost. Then there’re the holiday dinners we host because it works best for other family members, except me, who doesn’t enjoy cooking (I just like eating well) and for whom hosting is out of my comfort zone. But it’s all getting better. I’m learning to accept the fact that everyone wants to come here, and that it’s best that I do most of the cooking because otherwise, it means coordinating the meal to meet everyone else’s expectations to make specific parts of the meals. You know, like…we don’t need three appetizers, two dozen rolls of bread, two green bean side dishes and three desserts for eight adults and one child; besides, no one wants to take the leftovers home, so we three would end-up trying to eat it all over the following days to keep it from spoiling and we don’t have a big freezer to put it in.

So on that note, I have to say looking forward to January! Because for me, post New Year’s Day means spring is practically here. Afterall, at this very moment the camelia are in bloom and the winter blooming cyclamen in my garden are in bloom right now (even though they’re “winter blooming”, I think of them as spring-is-practically-here blooming cyclamen). So, instead of a picture of my winter blooming outside, I give you slightly fuzzy (sorry!) pictures of orchids.

Merry Christmas!

Done: Twist & Lace

Twist & Lace is finally done. It became a bit tedious to make; all those short rows….all those short rows! It took so long to make this scarf, for within every set of 10 rows are 4 short rows, and out of every set of 10 rows, only two rows added to the overall 45″ length, whereas the short rows only add to the frilly part of it. It looks a bit funky when worn, and is best worn under a coat, with the part that wraps around the neck allowed to sit un-tucked and on top of the coat collar, while the ends or tails of the scarf tucked in the coat.

Pattern: Twist & Lace by Brenda Patipa

Yarn: Koigu KPPPM, 4 skeins

Needles: US 3/3.25 mm

First snowfall.

When the forecast says snow it’s usually a safe bet that it won’t snow, and if it does snow, that it won’t be around long enough to enjoy, but we were treated to a beautiful light snowfall this morning and I couldn’t resist taking some pictures.

Thinking that that was all we were going to see in snowfall, we were off to cut our own Christmas tree at a farm in Carnation. Although it was bitterly cold at the farm, I had just selected our tree when the wind picked-up and with it came snow. Lots of snow. So much snow that I had a hard time seeing through my glasses to cut the tree trunk with the saw. Notice that I was the one cutting the tree, because our son fell asleep during the short drive to the farm, so my husband stayed in the car with him. I never before thought I would be out cutting an 8 foot Christmas tree by myself, but there I was. One of the owners of the farm was shocked when she realized that not only had I cut the tree on my own, but hauled it, the measuring pole, the saw and the cardboard (to kneel on next to the tree trunk) on my own down the field to the cashier, so she took pity on me helped me carry to the car. That’s me, Super Housewife.

A few hours later, well, the tree is not yet decorated or even lit. Putting lights on the tree has to be my least favorite part of decorating. I’ll get it done eventually.