Above is a mosaic of the 16 finished items from 2009. It seems a fitting post to write on the 31st of December 2009. The year seemed to fly by and I’m happy to have all of this work to show. I think it’s definitely a record for me – I’ve never finished so much knitting in one year before. I credit this prolific work to three things: 1. my knitting friends are so creative and inspiring that I feel constantly energized and encouraged by them; 2. Ravelry has opened my eyes to knitting possibilities I never would have thought of, and has created a world-wide community of knitting friends to draw inspiration and information from; and last but not least, 3. DB, who not only puts up with my obsession but actually encourages me to stretch the boundaries of my hobby and craft. THANK you to all the knitters and non-knitting encouragers in my life.
Finally I can show you my Christmas FOs! Above is Ishbel the Third, this one for Mom. It was mailed off today after the photo shoot in the back yard yesterday. You can see that we are still getting snow around here! I love how this little shawl came out. The yarn is so light and it just floats on your arm. It blocked really really nicely.
It was kind of hard to pack up and send away, but I know Mom will like it so that makes it all ok.
I also made this scarf for John, but DB is modeling it here before we mailed it off.
This is a perfect example of great yarn taking center stage in a project. The knitting couldn’t be simpler – cast on 220 stitches, knit 24 rows, bind off. I made it with Noro Iro which is silk and wool. The colors are great and just manly enough. It was really fun to knit up and get such good results.
Above is a not very good photo of Plaited Tam from Twist Collective. I’m nagging Mandy to send me photos of HER wearing it as I’m sure it will be very cute on HER. This hat was really fun to make and looks great. I made it, and the Clapotis below, with sport weight yearn from Pigeonroof Studios. I LOVE her yarns!
I only intended to make the Clapotis with the yarn that I had (2 skeins) but I had enough left over to make the hat too. Lucky for Mandy! 🙂 I made the Clapotis narrower than the original pattern so it is more scarf-like and less shawl-like. Again, I’m begging for some good photos of Mandy wearing these items so I can really show them off.
And that was my Christmas knitting! Not so much this year, but it was enough and I managed to get it all done (almost) in time. The oh-so-late scarf for DB is still WIP but it’s really coming along! I think he will definitely get it for his birthday in March, which makes it only 15 months late.
This afternoon we went to the Teylers Museum in Haarlem. Neither of us had been there before, which is a damn shame since we live here in this town. It’s one of those things. When you live somewhere you never go to the places you should. This trip was organized by the librarian twitterers around here. DB is one of them. I’m just a hanger on. We had a special library tour.
We were surprised to show up at 12:45 and find a LINE of people waiting to get in, and this was 45 minutes after they opened. I think part of it was that there’s not much else to do on a Sunday afternoon after Christmas.
The first part of the museum consists of fossils of large and small animals. The second section is a collection of very early scientific instruments. These two rooms alone could take up a LOT of my time. We didn’t look around there long as we were staying together as a group and waiting for our tour guide. I managed to get some photos though.
A lot of the stuff in this room was dedicated to power generation. That grouping of large cans in the second photo above is actually a battery. A battery. Can you imagine? It must have been so exciting to have been a scientist 200 years ago. Everything was possible. Turning lead into gold was possible. Finding God in a spark or a mathematical formula was possible. I guess our expectations have changed quite a bit. We expect to now find the God Particle at CERN in the most tiny particle imaginable. Most everything else we think we’ve figured out. Ha!
In the third room ahead were more instruments along the side, and a collection of minerals and stones in the center.
Upstairs from here is where we had our library tour. It was a tour just for our little group. The inner library holds books from the 1600’s to mid-1900’s. The library is specialized in Natural History. I so wanted to look at one of the oldest English books they had, just to see how those old scientists wrote. Would I understand it? Maybe one day I’ll ask. They are very busy digitalizing their entire collection so maybe one day I can at least read online what is there. It was a very beautiful little library.
Even the floor grating was beautiful.
Here’s a photo of the Tweet Meet group. In the Queen’s Christmas speech she said that people should depend less on online social networks and more on real face to face meetings. Well, Madam, here’s one group that met online and now meets in person. You can’t get much better than that for expanding your social contacts!
On Christmas Eve we went to P&K’s house, along with 11 others, for dinner. I took a chocolate fruitcake. Below is the recipe, which comes directly from this book: Wicked Sweet Indulgences (“Australian Women’s Weekly” Home Library). I actually bought the book from Waterstone’s in Amsterdam several years ago. It’s FULL of amazing desserts, not all of them containing chocolate. I highly recommend the book for those with a serious sweet tooth.
Chocolate Fruit Cake
125g (1/4 lb) butter, chopped
3/4 cup (150g) firmly packed brown sugar
50g dark chocolate (I recommend some good Swiss chocolate at least 72%), chopped coarsely
1/2 cup (125ml) water
1/4 cup (60ml) dark rum (I didn’t have any so I used whiskey instead)
1/4 cup (30g) coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup (75g) dried currants
1 cup (160g) sultanas
1 cup (170g) coarsely chopped raisins
1/4 cup (40g) mixed peel
3/4 cup (110g) plain flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons self rising flour (or plain flour plus 1 teaspoon baking powder)
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice (I threw in some cinnamon, all spice and ginger, about 1 t in total)
2 eggs, beaten lightly
For the frosting:
160g dark chocolate bar (in addition to the above)
1/2 cup (120g) sour cream
(Actually, the recipe calls for HALF this much frosting, but I thought it wasn’t nearly enough 🙂 )
1. Preheat oven to slow (150 C, 325 F). Grease 20cm-ring pan; line the base with baking paper. (I used a ring mould rubber baking dish – no spraying or lining required.)
2. Combine butter, sugar, chocolate and the water in medium saucepan; stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat; stir in rum, nuts and fruit. Add sifted dry ingredients and eggs; stir until combined.
3. Spoon mixture into prepared pan; bake in slow oven about 1 hour. Cool cake in pan. Turn top side up onto a plate.
4. Just before serving, melt the frosting chocolate and cool it slightly. Add the sour cream and stir until smooth. Spread chocolate mixture over top of cake.
If you don’t have the right amounts of specified fruits and peel, add up all of the measures and combine what you have into the right weight/volume in total.
Use whiskey or run for the alcohol – both are good. During the cooking all of the actual alcohol cooks off.
If you are using a hot air oven, lower the heat further and cook for less time. Do not over bake! If you use solid pans (without a hole in the middle) add 10-15 minutes baking time.
Watch the frosting closely! It hardens quickly so spread it fast! If it gets too hard too quick, don’t try to heat it in the microwave to soften. I did this and it did indeed soften up, but the fats separated and I was left with a mess. I had to make it over again. If it does get hard, try instead heating it very slowly and gently au bain marie instead.
This morning we all woke up to see snow covering the ground. White Christmas? When was the last time there was a white Christmas in the Netherlands? I don’t know, but quite a few years anyway. Above you see the little bear in the window, welcoming the snow and any visitors who might come by (not likely). You also see a newly wound cake of yarn. Now, how did THAT happen?
With this! My Christmas present!
I also got a ball winder to go with it. I kind of knew it was coming since I had given DB the link to the web site where he could order it. That web site is HERE. We opened presents first thing this morning. When I say “opened” I mean we each opened the shipping containers that our respective presents came it. Nothing was wrapped in Christmas paper. I guess we are getting less and less romantic about such things. I got DB what he wanted, a hair cutting machine (a tondeuse) so he/I can cut his hair at home.
As soon as our presents were unpacked, I went upstairs, set up the swift and ball winder on the table in the attic and proceeded to wind up a skein of lace weight yarn. All 1300 yards of it! I figured, let’s give this thing a run for its money and see how far I get with it. You see, lace weight yarn usually comes in 50 gram cakes, which is around 500 yards or so. This was going to be a MEGA cake. I wanted to find out if the ball winder AND the lace would wind nicely at such a large amount. You know me, never satisfied to start small and work up to something. Nooooo. I always jump right in and test something to the limit. (For example, my first lace shawl was a very complicated thing that most people make after trying simpler patterns first. I’m too impatient for that!) The winder got off track 4 times during the winding, but it was easy enough to stop and sort it out and continue from there. I managed to get the whole thing wound into one cake.
You can see that the inside is a little bit collapsed and the outside is a little loose. I think I will knit this starting from the outside and work in. That seems the safest thing to do to not make a total mess of it.
Isn’t this yarn lovely? It’s from Pigeonroof Studios, 1300 yards of Alpaca/Silk/Cashmere in Pumpkin color. I have a project all lined up for this yarn. I’m going to test knit a new brioche lace shawl that Nancy has designed. I can’t wait!
Last night, Christmas Eve, we went to friends’ house in Amsterdam for dinner. They just finished renovating and moving in to the house. It is really beautiful. They don’t have a real kitchen yet, so everyone who came brought a dish. This is not a very common thing to do in the Netherlands, although to me it seemed quite normal. I brought a chocolate fruit cake which I thought was a nice combination of traditional Christmas fruitcake and the irrational love of chocolate that many of us share. Yumm. I’ll post the recipe tomorrow.
We had really delicious main dishes, then a cheese course, then dessert. The only lighting in the house was candlelight and tree lights so it was hard to get good photos. Below are the two best photos from the evening.
We made up the yearly “Who’s Going to Go Next Year” list. It’s not a morbid activity, but rather an interesting look at famous people around the world and who’s likely to not be around for another year. There are rules to this game. There can only be 25 names on the list for one thing and everyone has to agree that the name belongs on the list. We make an effort to have a good representation of both sexes and some international names. We try to include not only famous people from entertainment, but also politics and sports and just whoever comes to mind. On a couple of occasions DB had to get out the laptop and Google a name to find out if the person really is still alive (Mohammed Ali). B. is going to email the list to everyone and I’ll post it here when I get it. As I remember, it includes names such as Nancy Reagan, B.B. King, Margaret Thatcher, Keith Richards, Bernard Madoff, Ron Brandsteder, Hella Haasse and quite a few other famous Dutch people.
Well, that’s about all for my Christmas story (so far, it’s still the morning after all). We’ve got a kitchen stocked with food, movies to watch, laptops to play with, and new toys too. I can hear the neighbor girls already screaming and crying over their Christmas toys. While I’ve been sitting here writing, the snow has turned to rain and the white is already melting. It WAS a White Christmas, even if for only a few hours. Merry Christmas to you all and let’s have some Peace on Earth.
We woke up this morning to SNOW! Well, to be honest, I was downstairs staring at my computer screen and DB had to come down and ask me “Have you looked outside?”. It was only then that I saw all this white stuff everywhere. We couldn’t let that go by without doing something about it. So we went to the beach.
I’ve never seen snow on a beach. It’s probably not a big deal to most people, but it was different weather that I’d never seen so of course it was what I wanted to do. We drove. I’m used to driving in snow so I had no problem with that. Most Dutch people, however, are not so certain behind the wheel in these conditions. Luckily, few people ventured out.
It was just beautiful at the beach! We parked at Bloemendaal and walked along the beach to Parnasia, then walked back in the dunes. Here are some photos:
It might look like that is white sand, but it’s white snow. When we got to Parnasia we went inside the beach restaurant to have some hot chocolate. They had a nativity scene set up outside with real animals too.
Do you see the baby Jesus? He’s drowning in the snow. One of the workers came out later and dug him out. We named the guy Gabriel.
When we were walking back to the car, almost to the parking lot, it started to snow/hail. What fell from the sky was just like little styrofoam balls that you fill beanbag chairs with. It hurt! We waited it out for a while under a parking control building.
The roads were more clear when we drove back home, but the side roads were still pretty mushy. Do you see the people on the far left of the photo with their bikes? Yes, people were out biking and jogging.
When we got home DB decided to clear off the walkway to the house. He had big ideas of shoveling off the sidewalk, but without a snow shovel, and with hard packed snow, he gave up on that idea. It will probably warm up and all melt in a few days anyway. A shame for sure. I’d love to have a real white Christmas.
The above is a photo of Ishbel III in progress. This is a closeup of the lace section. The stitch pattern gets a bit lost in all the colors, but probably blocking will help that a little bit. And if not, oh well! It’s still really pretty. I’m about half way finished with the lace section. Since it grows in size with every row, it gets slower and slower to knit. When you start Ishbel you think “Man I’ll be finished with this in no time!” but by the time you get to the last lace chart you think it will never end. That’s kind of how lace usually happens. Here’s the whole thing, at this point:
I hope you like it Mom!
Here’s an updated photo of DB’s scarf in progress. See how the colors are moving back and forth across the width? Interesting. You never know how multi colored yarn is going to present itself until you just get on and knit with it and see what happens. It doesn’t look anything like the first version anymore, but this is still nice and it’s working up much faster too.
These are my only two projects at the moment. It’s enough. I will be very happy to give them to their rightful owners.