Saturday, December 31, 2011

Look what I made, 2011 edition

Various crafty peeps have been adding "what I made" roundups to their blogs. 

[Jumps onto bandwagon]

Ta da! Look what I made in 2011! In retrospect, Gabi was the recipient of the majority of my crafty efforts. Two and a half dresses, two sweaters, and a tote bag. I guess everyone needs a toddler to make things for! The only crafted items still in our house are the two cowls (a third, same as the one in the 2nd row on the right) has been gifted to a choir friend whose daughter has appropriated it as a baby-sling just like mommy's for her doll. Might give her the other one, two, so mommy can actually wear it as a cowl!

Any suggestions for a mosaic-creator would be appreciated - this was bodged into Pages, then exported as pdf, then screen-shot so I could upload the jpg to blogger. Workaround, much? Or, HEY blogger! Can we please upload pdfs to our blogs? Thanks!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Under the influence of Julia

Ahem. Pardon the epic rant in the last post. I was, apparently, feeling more homesick than I thought. And it came out as anger towards People Who Mean Well And Are Trying To Be Nice. Sorry, People.

"You are SO not under the influence of Julia right now." - Julie & Julia

I've made no secret. I LOVE that movie. And then Vivren made the famous Boeuf Bourguignon, and blogged about it. Which made me hungry.

I decided after reading Viv's post that I had to make my own B.B. And after her warning that it takes forever (and is better the next day), I straw-polled the fam and got approval to cook it for Christmas lunch.

As you can see, Christmas Eve was spent, chopping, browning, sauteeing, simmering, and otherwise cooking. The house (and the beef) smelled amazing.

Mmm...bacon. And, in a circular "I'm in the movie" moment, I had Julia's recipe printed out and held up by the wedding gift given to us by the actress who played Julia's idol in the movie.

[Space-time continuum collapses.]

Oh, you're all still there? Well, that's good. Since we have BACON!

And browned beef-y goodness!

And onions and carrots ("Oh, hi, Le Creuset from the John Lewis vouchers! Yes, we love you, too.")

And all mixed together, ready for the oven:

Julia's non-crowded butter-doused Mushrooms. These aren't mushrooms, they're MUSHROOMS. If you make nothing else from this page (but you should make the boeuf bourguignon), make these. 

Seriously. Can you resist? And yes, they tasted as good as they looked

Now the onions:

And all mixed together after three hours in the oven.

A few things.

1. This was not as intimidating hard as I thought it would be. (It's still intimidating.)
2. I've had this before - my grandma used to make it. I remembered as soon as I smelled it.
3. The "serves 6" actually gave us 4 servings on Christmas day, 3 supper leftovers on Boxing Day, and 3 lunches the following day (with pasta). The beef dried out slightly over the 4 days but the flavours just got better.
4. My excellent husband suggested that we watch Julie & Julia a few days before I made this. I was rockin' the J & J mojo when I made this (and had mini J & J sitting on my shoulders, yelling "Dry the beef!" "Don't crowd the mushrooms!").

LOVE. Go make it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Latkes

I was feeling a bit homesick last week.

We interrupt this blog post for a Public Service Announcement.

If you know an expat and it's a big holiday that is traditionally associated with family or their home nation, don't ask them if they miss it. They miss it. And you asking them is not helpful. Yes, they left. Yes, they left on purpose. But no, they did not completely finish their life wherever they were before, and yes, they miss it.

Thank you. This post will now resume.

Right. So, homesick. And it was not-quite-Christmas. But Hannukah had started, as had the Facebook posts from my Jewish friends. And I really wanted some latkes.

There was a recipe posted last week in the New York Times for Apple-Potato Latkes, which we followed. I didn't bother with the cinnamon sour-cream - we ate them with creme fraiche and homemade applesauce (also known as 3 peeled apples, cooked while the latkes were being assembled).

John was an expert potato-, onion- and apple-grater.


The complete mixture, ready for frying:

WOOHOO! They look like latkes!

They were delicious - crispy, moist, slightly appley, and tasting resoundingly of New Yawk. Thanks, NYTimes!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Peace on the earth

I had never really listened to the words of "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" until our carol concert last weekend, when for some reason they really resounded.

It came upon a midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,
From heaven's all-gracious King."
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.
Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O'er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o'er its Babel sounds
The bless├Ęd angels sing.
Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.
And ye, beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!
For lo!, the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendours fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

                         -Edmund Sears

Long Melford church, December 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Rangers Heritage Jersey Quilt: Finished!

You may remember that my brother asked for a quilt, several months ago. He asked for one inspired by the New York Rangers Heritage Jersey, so with some help from Google Image Search and my Leuchtturm dots notebook (thanks, Liz!) I created the design. 

The red fabric is from Spoonflower, the rest are Etsuko Furuya Echino and Kokka prints that I bought at the Purl Bee in an epic crafty afternoon back in September. It's a good thing that I don't live on the same continent as that store...I wouldn't have any money left to eat or pay the mortgage.

You had a quick update when I was working on the applique (which I really enjoyed, by the way), following the letter applique tutorials on Oh, Fransson! and using a New York Rangers font that I downloaded and printed out.

Here it is, before quilting and binding, with the picture of the inspiration on my iPad in the middle:

Yes, the selvedge is showing. I wanted to make it as wide as possible, but I also didn't want to lose any length. There were NO scraps left!

I quilted it with my usual meandering quilting, in dark blue on the blue stripes and in cream on the white and red stripes. The binding is a red polka dot. The bottom right hand corner has our initials embroidered, along with the year.

The back has more cars fabric, along with the meandering bicycles that I bought in Cambridge last winter.

I'd classify the size as a twin extra-extra-extra-long. But then again, the recipient is 6'4" and I want him to be able to curl up under it and take a nap (or watch the Rangers WIN) and not have his feet get cold.

I love you, Little Brother. Enjoy the quilt!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Holland: Part 1

We certainly ate well in Holland. Our B&B and nearly all of our meals were guided either by the New York Times or by TripAdvisor, and it was definitely a success.

For our first lunch (after a somewhat choppy but otherwise uneventful Stena Line crossing - thank you, Tesco Clubcard vouchers!) we went back to the Blauwe Pan, where John had a Dutch stew (vast quantities of meat and sausages, on top of a carrot and spud mash), and I had a brie, walnut and honey sandwich. Not a combo I'd ever tried before but it definitely worked.

We explored the Jordaan for a while, and I loved this vintage shopping list. A wall-mounted shopping list (in Dutch) doesn't really fit with my schedule, unfortunately. Cute, though!

And then, beer. Lots of delicious Dutch beer.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bach Choir Christmas!

[shameless plug for what will be an excellent concert]

This Saturday (17th December) at 4:30pm, the Bury Bach Choir will be performing our Christmas concert in Long Melford.

Included will be Britten's Ceremony of Carols (imho, the coolest Christmas piece ever), assorted Rutter-arranged carols, and a world premiere of a very excellent setting of the Coventry Carol.

AND your ticket includes a free mince pie and a glass of mulled wine.

[/shameless plug for what will be an excellent concert]

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pardon the radio silence

We went on an adventure to Holland (mostly Amsterdam and Utrecht).

More pictures (and customary roundup) to follow.

But first: THIS IS THE BEST BIKE EVER. I think I might need to Dutch-ify my bike. Or at least put flowers on the handlebars.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Wintry Cowl, finished.

All finished! I was cheeky and tried to squeeze just one more round in, and ended up having to finish casting off with a little bit of stashed grey yarn (not quite the same colour or gauge, but not terribly noticeable). Must not be greedy.

I think I might wear it tomorrow to work.

Ravelled, here.

Kate Davies of Needled has mentioned in her latest blog post that she's working on a design with lots of sheep on it, similar to those in her Sheep Heid hat (which is amazing, btw). I'm really really hoping that it's going to be the love child of the Owls sweater and the Sheep Heid hat. If it's not, I may just have to mash-up the patterns and do it myself.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Today is officially the Saddest Day To Be An Expat. Fellow Americans are having an epic four-day weekend, feasting on turkey, and generally making merry. We expats, though, are working (as celebration of the survival of the rebels is frowned upon), having a normal dinner (since making a complete turkey dinner takes ALL day), and generally feeling slightly homesick.

We are, however, having a mini-Thanksgiving (with roast chicken, since I forgot to pre-order my turkey this year) on Saturday.

Regardless of country and turkey-consuming status, I'm still very thankful.

For my family, and friends, on both sides of the Atlantic.
For the fact that my to-read, to-quilt, and to-knit lists are always full.
For the fact that it's now officially After Thanksgiving so I can start in on the Christmas music.

(The W from the Rangers quilt, mid-applique.)

Happy Thanksgiving to all those celebrating!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Review: Breaking Dawn, Part 1

We went on an adventure to Cambridge today. We rode the park and ride bus in to town, and sat downstairs because the bus was crowded. I think we were ahead of schedule, because when we got to the first stop (in record time), the driver pulled out a paperback and started reading (the bus was parked). Teehee! A fellow "I have 30 seconds spare so I may as well read a page or two" reader.

We window-shopped for a while, and then met up with my previously-of-Buxhall bell buddy Alison, who I hadn't seen in ages. We went to Jinling Noodle Bar again (with a backup plan in case they were "full" again), and had three bowls (one each, obv) of brisket udon. YUMSTERS.

Then we went and watched the Best Sparkly Vampire Movie So Far.

A few things.

1. To the Guardian: please do not send a grumpy-ass middle-aged man who does not like the books to review a teenybopper sparkly vampire movie. He will not enjoy it, and we will not enjoy his review. Thank you.
2. To the parents in the theatre who brought two 9-year-old girls to the 12-A movie: there is blood, sex, nudity (sort of), and lots more blood. It's a movie about vampires, for pete's sake. Please leave the kidlings at home. (We actually commented that we enjoyed it less because we were worrying about the long-term emotional impact on aforementioned 9-year-olds.) 
3. To my husband: you rock. Thanks for coming on a girly day out and letting me knit while you drove all the way to Cambridge, took us out to lunch, and then sat through a 2-hour teenybopper sparkly vampire movie.
4. To those of you who enjoyed the first three movies and the books: GO SEE IT. Fun sparkly vampires gazing soulfully at each other and running through the woods and jumping around in their underwear. AND they make fun of the fact that Renesmee is the most redonculous name ever.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Works in progress

I'm midway through two projects. First is my new grey cowl, ravelled here. The pattern is quite straightforward and good for watching tv, except for when said tv gets suspenseful and you accidentally purl two in a row instead of purl - slip - purl and then you have to unpick two rows. Ahem.

I still love my interchangeable knit-pro needles, so if you're on the fence about buying a set (and are in danger of accumulating too many odd-sized circular needles, go for it.

I have also finished the front and back of Ed's Rangers quilt. I've fused the letters on, and just need to zig-zag around them, then sandwich, quilt and bind. I think I'm going to free-motion around the front but avoid the letters. I even found, downloaded, printed out, and traced a New York Rangers font.

*We interrupt this blog for a public service announcement*

When you are making interfacing templates to cut out letters to iron them onto the front of a quilt, you must reverse the letters. Especially the N. No amount of flipping or turning will help. You're welcome.

*Normal service resumes.*

So, yeah, it's going to be snazzy. It's extra-long twin sized, since my brother is extra-tall and I want to make sure that he can stretch out under it while watching the Rangers games.

Monday, November 14, 2011

More Rusby!

Kate Rusby's new Christmas album is out today. I was going to resist the Christmas creep, but who am I kidding? It's excellent. Tomorrow might be a Rusby day on the iPod. With a little Tori mixed in for good measure. It sure is dark enough outside at 3:45, anyway. Small sadness: her closest tour venues to us are Nottingham (sold out) and London (on a night we can't do). Oh well, we had a good run with Ipswich, Norwich, Peterborough, and Bury St Edmunds. Hmm...I might have a Rusby addiction.

I stumbled across this post from a transatlantic blogger, In the Left Lane, and laughed out loud.

My only amendments would be to change the first dates to 2006 and to add a few.

UK 2006: Why are all these cars so teeny tiny?
US 2011: How are these cars all so gigantic?! How do you people ever park?

UK 2006: Woah. This gas sure is expensive!
US 2011: HOLY CRAP this petrol is cheap!

John didn't find it as funny as I did...then again it's a fairly narrow subset of humanity who would.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Christmas photo shoot: outtake

We were trying to jump. You know, to all be in the air at the same time like floating hipsters. 

Except we got this instead. Apparently the little flashy lights on the camera do not make it clear when the picture is actually going to be taken.

Must try harder. (Teenager looks exceptionally embarrassed. Can't think why.)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Night Circus: A Marvellous Book

As Audrey Niffenegger writes on the front cover, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is marvellous. I picked up a signed copy (missed the author by 2 days, thank you for not providing an author-tour rss feed, Waterstones) when we were in Norwich a few weeks ago. The chap at the checkout was really enthusiastic about it, and there were recommendations by Neil Gaiman & Audrey Niffenegger on the promo posters. Well. That meant I had to buy it.

I was initially irritated by the fact that the edges of the pages are printed in black, but it turned out to add to the atmosphere, especially on the few occasions that I let the integrated red ribbon bookmark trail across the page.

It's set in the 1890s, around a world-travelling circus with real magic. I found it really atmospheric and entertaining, with likeable characters and very well-drawn scenes. The reviewer in the Guardian mentioned that she could smell the circus at certain points, and I agree with her. It was dark without being gloomy, and magical without farce. Highly recommend. [C, I think you might be annoyed by it, but try it anyway!]

I've also started on my brother's Rangers goes!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mini-manu for Gabi

Oh my. I first added this project to my Ravelry in October 2010. And then I cast it on in July. The actual knitting went pretty fast (and I loved the pleats at the top and the icord edging). I'm notorious for finishing a project to 95% and then not weaving in the ends. Evil Rowan sweater, I'm looking at you.

Since I bought the yarn about a year ago, I was aiming for the 2 1/2 year old size. Since, you know, Gabi was 18 months old at the time. Yeah. So by the time I actually got around to knitting, I decided to go with the 4 year old size. For which I had very nearly enough yarn but not quite enough to do the pockets. This is a girl who has stuff to carry, mostly acorns, leaves, and other assorted treasures. Pockets, then. In grey. I also edged the sleeves in the same grey so it would look a little bit more I did it on purpose. I actually quite like the way it turned out.

Ok, full disclosure. The sweater wasn't quite finished in this picture - the second pocket wasn't sewn on, I had a few assorted ends to weave in, and the buttons hadn't been added. Also, I'm not sure what I did differently on the left and the right pocket (I followed the pattern both times, or so I thought), but one is an "innie" right at the bottom where it joins the edging and one is an "outie." Who knows. Something tells me it won't be noticed as the wearer is running around in it.

It's all done now, though, and will be in the mail as soon as I remember to bring it to the post office!

Thanks again to the ever-amazing Kate Davies of needled. Another excellent pattern!