Fleece and football

Dear N,

Aren't hats the best to knit? They're so fast, there's no seaming, and most of them only require one skein. Plus they keep your head warm of course.

The family and I are watching the big Patriots and Giants game. Well, more like, the family is watching the football game. I am blogging because I have tried to like football and have failed. I'll watch a baseball game or even Aussie rules football any day but American football is just not my thing. My mum-in-law is curled up on the sofa with the little fleece travel blanket that I sewed up for them. It comes in this little pouch:It can be used as a pillow or unzip and inside is:I love the cuddly chocolate brown fleece with the baby blue satin trim. It's a super easy project to whip up for any occasion, really (new baby gift?). I was actually still working on it when the in-laws arrived so I was on the floor in my bedroom attaching the zipper to the pouch but it got done and wrapped and gifted on time for Christmas.

Hope you're enjoying your weekend before you go back to work next week.


With a little help from your friends . . .

Hey T!

I am so excited about your first sock! I don't know a thing about 'magic loop', but I do know that all sock patterns follow some basic guidelines, and the heel is easy-peasy. The heel is usually half of your stitches knit back and forth like you would on straights for a number of rows or inches. Sometimes it's just stockinette, and others are kind of ribbed for durability. Looks like yours might be stockinette - you can slip the first stitch of each row for easy pick up later. So just knit half of your stitches, and turn around and purl! You can do it!

I finished my toddler-sized socks, and I whipped up a Maple Seed hat. Isn't it pretty? I just happened to have the yarn the pattern called for in my stash under the bed. It was a score at Needles & Pins at half-price at least a year ago. I only picked up one ball, and now I am kicking myself in the butt that I didn't pick up two or three more. This was a quick knit - maybe a couple of hours. I was surprised at how easy the pattern was to memorize - only four rows.

Can you believe that we've been blogging for nearly one whole year? Ah, time flies when one is having fun.

I have a confession to make - I have the hugest crush on Phil Spencer from Location, Location, Location and Relocation, Relocation, and I have been staying up ridiculously late to watch episode after episode on HGTV. He's so dreamy with his British accent and coolio wardrobe. Maybe we could pretend we're looking for a house in Great Britain and a potential studio for our yarny crafts? Sigh.


Pepto Sock

Wow! You guys got some great prezzies this year. I think the best one would have to be J's lovely pin with your mug on it. Truly chic glasses. I didn't know that you wore glasses. If it makes you feel any better I also had similar ones except with wire rims.

I have attempted to knit a sock using the pattern from Knit Cafe. I am at the heal and have stopped dead in my tracks. I think I may have to find a sock pattern in Magic Loop as this is my very first attempt and the pattern is written for dpns.The yarn is Patons sock yarn that you gave to me as part of a very spectacular going away gift when I moved. It's rather pink. Reminds me of that pink stuff that I needed to guzzle after all of that Christmas eating.

Another snow storm is supposed to blow through here again. Hope you guys are staying warm and have fully recovered from the aftermath of the holidays!

Saving the Best for Last

My 3-year old niece, Olivy Bean, made this out-of-this-world cute bear for B. I can't properly describe how much I LOVE this bear. Check out the dress!! The button earrings. The iron-on transfer face! I nearly fell out of my seat when I saw this gem. I was incredulous. Was this really B's bear? Olivy Bean made her? Holy Trap!! When I pushed my sister about where she made the bear, she was extremely vague, but trust me when I say, I will grill her more when I corner her at the next family gathering. "I want one now!", I shriek in a shrill Veruca Salt re-enactment.

I forgot I made these pillowcases for El's stocking. They match perfectly in her room of bright colours. The fabric was bought at IKEA in the summer. I finally got around to getting the sewing machine out for a small project. No pyjama pants yet though. Maybe during the holidays.

Time for more coffee. Cheers!


Handmade Holidays

I wasn't the only one who was crafting gifts around here. Check out B's painting of a Christmas Tree in the dark with blue snowflakes twirling and swirling around the tree. I just happened to get a Michael's gift card for Christmas, so perhaps I can get it framed soon and hung up on the wall.

My mum made all the grandkids necklaces. They were much happier than they were posing for me. I don't think they're called necklaces when they're for boys, are they? Is there a better word? It's escaping me at the moment.

I haven't just been sitting around either. I am warming up for the Year of the Sock. Look, it's a toddler-sized sock. Cuteness!

My mum found some of my sister's and my button collection, and we were outed.

Doesn't everyone have buttons of themselves? Well, they should. I particularly like the way my eyeglasses framed my cheeks! Everyone had a good chuckle at my expense. Ha ha ha.

Consider it my gift to you. Go ahead and laugh. Cheers!


Peace and Love

Happy Christmas from our house to your house!

T'was the Night Before

Just waiting for the girls to go to sleep, so that I can wrap the 'Santa' gifts and fill the stockings. The magic reindeer food has been sprinkled up and down the driveway, and treats and apple cider have been placed out on the table for Santa. Our Santa is a bit intolerant of milk. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas Eve, and an even better Christmas morning! Here's to catching a few winks!


Groceries and Matt Damon

How hard do you think it would be to buy The Bourne Ultimatum a week before Christmas? This is exactly the reason I wanted to go all handmade. I have been driving around aimlessly, in and out of my mother-flippin' car, and waiting in huge line-ups just to be told every mother and brother is SOLD OUT. What?? Did I miss something? Was this the biggest blockbuster this year? I know I need to get out more, but this is unnerving. What am I to do? I have two short shopping days left, and I am so sick and tired of being out and about. Plus it's time to do groceries! I think I will hit Remark for all our nutrition needs for the next week, but I will have to battle the lines at the Superstore to get B her maple and brown sugar instant oatmeal and white cheddar macaroni and cheese. Ugh.

UPDATE: Groceries were bought and packed away. B is down for a nap, and I am sending J out to continue the quest for The Bourne Ultimatum and hot chocolate. I forgot the hot chocolate.
I hope you're having fun with the Augusts. That is what a mountain of white cheddar macaroni and cheese looks like. I would have bought more, but I was starting to get 'bad mum' looks. The kid has to eat, you know.

Dear N,

Thanks for the great links. I will definitely print out some of those tags since I had a look at the tags that I have left and only see three.

In some ways I think that we both did well in terms of not actually "buying" Christmas gifts and making them ourselves. Perhaps next year we can buy even less.

I have to make this a quick post as T needs the laptop back. His essay is due at 9pm tonight and there is still much editing to be done.This is a felt table top Christmas tree that I made this morning. This is the third tree that I have in the house but I really could not resist. Find the tutorial here.
Cookies for Santa and for the in-laws arriving in town Saturday.

Enjoy your last day at work before the holiday break!

Cold Coffee and Sour Oranges

Old sour grapes, tell me a story of two naked lovers! How death defying! And then it’s supposed to a bloody orange, but mine is just sour. Blah, blah, blah . . .

Have you lost that holiday feeling? I am uncomfortably full of chocolate bonbons well-meaningly strewn all about the staff room, and Tig Tig has been chuffing the curling ribbon she has chewed off all the presents under the tree. What a wonderful sound by which to awaken! I forgot about the latter issue when wrapping gifts last weekend. I carelessly thought I was steps ahead of the game. Anyone in need of a charming chubby tabby?

So I am trying to mix up the sweets with plenty ‘o’ citrus to counteract all the cocoa and shortbread and the bloatedness that follows. A couple of oranges and clemmys a day is what I have self-prescribed for the next few weeks. I will definitely not catch a case of the scurvy before I can enjoy my Christmas presents. I put wool on my Santa list, so I am hoping that I get at least a mother-flippin’ hank or two. My dad did mention that there was a Mary Maxim’s in Port Huron. I don’t really know what that means – maybe fancy acrylic or novelty yarn? Now that I think about it, perhaps I should have asked for a set of circs. What the heck was I thinking???

I found the PERFECT gift tags here. Go ahead, I will wait while you print off a few sheets.

My gazelle-like cousin who is not only absolutely gorgeous and brilliant is out to save the world, and she always forwards me the latest environmental and political news. Check out this site she sent me today! I LOVE it; albeit it’s a tad late. I need to set some time aside to review this list of alternatives for Christmas presents. I would use most of these gift ideas year-round.

The majority of my holiday knitting is completed – the important pieces anyway. I queued a few easy quick projects if I finished ahead of schedule, and I have started on those immediately. I sent J out to pick up last minute gift cards for the items I could not handcraft myself, and some video games for the nephews. I am feeling very good about everything. I still need to wrap up the girls’ gifts from Saint Nicholas, and tie a bow on the super-duper snow shovel I bought for J. I know it seems a bit un-intimate, but I think it will be a welcome surprise from the current snow shovel that we purchased just last year. The handle keeps coming off the shaft of the shovel meaning every time I push the snow and I start to retreat with the shovel, the shovel falls to the driveway, and I am left standing with the handle remaining in my gloved hand. This gets annoying about the hundredth time. And I can only imagine what the neighbours are thinking peeking out from behind their living room curtains, because I would certainly be getting quite the chuckle out of watching someone else shovel snow with this shovel.

As for holiday parties and dinners, I have two to attend and one to host. I got off quite nicely. I do need to clarify with my sister very soon if I am supposed to be bringing a cheese tray or buns Christmas Day. Nicole, if you’re reading this, send me a quick email ASAP! I wish this week would finish, so I can begin to really gorge. Mmmm . . . turkey!

I am looking forward to having two weeks off this year while the girls are on their break from school. I haven’t a thing planned past Boxing Day, but I have no doubt that it will be jammed full of stuff including lots of lounging about in our pyjamas. I should also check to see if everyone has ice skates that fit. I didn’t realize how much I miss skating when I went ice skating with some friends last year. It really is exhilarating! All this last year talk has gotten me to thinking that Balkan Style is nearly a year old! What do you say we do?


Notice of Local Improvement

Handmade goodness is also being wrapped up here in southwestern Ontari-ari-ari-o. These are gifts for B's daycare teachers.

Here's the gigantic tree. It looks sparse, but it's not for lack of ornaments. People think I am kidding when I say our five strings of white lights wrap once around the tree.
The mantle with my new ornament - a bird's nest. It's just too heavy for the barely-there tree. Why do they make heavy ornaments???
And just so you know that I read the blog - I have for you a golden tin of shortbread snowballs. You are very correct in saying no one can resist 'the snowball'. I have had to hide them from my dear ones. It's like that story where the mother hen makes cornbread and everyone was too busy to help her, but they're suddenly freed up once the yummy treats come out of the oven. Yeah, I don't think so. They're mine. All mine.

I think it's funny that we posted at practically the same time. And holy moley pile of pajama pants!!!! I am blown away! Good job, my friend.


What Brown Did For Me

Today is December 15, 2007 and this:

From the top: pajama bottoms for the family, big button hat, knitted star ornaments, baby cardigan and hat set, apple sweater, washable fleece "Swiffer" pads, cotton market bag, chocolate truffles, felted slippers and Peekaboo mittens

Has turned into this:

This is only half of the stuff that I had to send off.

Have I mentioned that I love my UPS Store? The people there are so efficient, it's actually cheaper than the US Postal Service, and they stay open late for procrastinators like me. Thanks UPS!

Now to start knitting for me!

Happy Festivus

Shhhh. Here's a little skirt I whipped up for B's best bear bud, Erica. It will be wrapped and placed under the tree for Erica with love from Santa. B in her stripes and flowers decorating Gramma and Grampa's Martha Stewart revolving tree from The Bay. The kids never get tired of the revolving tree. I do. Try taking pictures of a moving target!
Here are two of my favourite tree ornaments that my mum must have made nearly twenty years ago. I haven't even attempted mastering the skill of embroidery. I gush over this set annually, so I hope she gets the idea - I like 'em and would treasure them forever if she would let me.
And here's a little buy handmade + a little make handmade. I bought several bars of handmade soap, and I knit up some simple garter stitch double yarn washclothes. Together I think they look very 'Debbie Bliss'. I have four sets all together, and they will be perfect for a couple teachers and the girls' crossing guard. I love the crossing guard! And so do the girls.

I haven't a picture of our tree all decked out, but I can assure you that pictures will indeed follow. Did I mention how BIG this tree is? Let's just say we have to walk by it sideways to get to the door. Oh dear. Must remember next year, that house cleaning can wait until after I accompany the family on their tree purchasing. The three of them insist that this was the Charlie Brown tree, and I and the front room beg to differ.

This morning I am stuck at home with a streppy B. Yes - it was another late night/early morning visit to the emergency room followed by a quick ice cream and popsicle run. Just in time for the weekend. Woo-hoo! J has promised that he will wake up shortly before noon to relieve me so that I can put in at least a few hours at work. Unfortunately I doubt that kind of dedication will pay off one iota, but it's worth the attempt.


We're Cute!

Dear N,

My December 15th goal is fast approaching and I am still not done Christmas gift making/buying. I know that I did "Pledge Handmade" and I have no excuse for it, what with being unemployed, however, what do you make a three year old and a one year old? If anyone has any suggestions I am open to them. I just have to be able to make them in 24 hours.

Anyway, to make myself feel better I'm posting a recipe for snowballs. These cookies are easy, delicious, and cute. I have converted quite a few shortbread dislikers (not a word, I know) with these cookies. Make them! They're cute!

From JoyofBaking.com

1 1/2 cups (210 grams) all purpose flour

cup (60 grams) cornstarch (corn flour)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (30 grams) powdered (confectioners or icing) sugar
1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup (110 grams) powdered (confectioners) sugar, sifted

In a medium sized bowl whisk together the flour, cornstarch and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat until incorporated. Cover and refrigerate the dough for at least one hour or until firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

When dough is firm, form into 1 inch (2.54 cm) balls and place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets spacing about 1 inch apart. Bake for about 12 - 14 minutes or until the edges of the cookies start to brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, line another baking pan or tray with parchment or wax paper. Sprinkle about half of the confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar onto the bottom of the pan and then place the slightly cooled cookies on top of the sugar. Put the remaining sugar in a fine strainer or sieve and then sprinkle the tops of the cookies (or you can just roll the cookies in the sugar).

These cookies store very well. Place in an airtight container between sheets of wax paper and they will keep a couple of weeks.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Tag! You're It

It is cold here. Really cold. I am so ready for our trip to Miami but that's not until January. So until then I will just stay inside of my house and not come out unless I absolutely have to. I guess you could call me a hermit.

I wanted to make some tags for my homemade gifts this year and came up with these key ring tags. I wanted something that I could write on one side and with a pretty design on the other. This is what I did.

1. I bought some split ring key tags at the office supply store and a bunch of pretty scrap booking papers to stick on the back of the labels.

That's my Xyron Sticker Maker in the left corner. You could easily use a glue stick to adhere your paper if you don't have a fancy sticker maker.

2. Remove the metal rings from the labels and using one of the labels, make a template by tracing it onto cardboard.

3. Then, using your template, trace and cutout circles from your pretty papers.

4. I turned each circle of paper into a sticker(again, you could easily use a glue stick for this part) and then stuck them to one side of the paper label.

5. Use a hole punch to create a hole like the one that is already in the label and voila, pretty on one side, writable on the other side.

I decided not to use the metal split rings that the labels came with and instead threaded ribbon through the hole and used little safety pins to pin them onto my creations.

Stay warm, wherever you are!



I am on top of the world!!! I made off with the most loveliest hauls this morning. And I had a venti latte amongst good friends. It was the most perfect morning. J would like to note that this is defined as bragging, and I could not convince him otherwise that it is simply sharing my good luck. He's not having any of it. Oh well, here's a few snaps of my steals . . .

From the top: 2 balls of St. Ives sock yarn, 10 balls of pink Patons Kroy sock yarn (enough for another clapotis and lots of socks), 3 skeins of Koigu, and 2 skeins of red Manos del Uruguay (I know, it looks rather pink, but trust me, it's not).

And time for an obligatory smiley B face! Awww.

I must get back to working on a ribbed alpaca beanie for my dad. Cheers!