Friday, December 31, 2010

how'd i miss this band?

So make your siren's call
And sing all you want
I will not hear what you have to say

Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it's meant to be

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

traveling woman

All autumn I was working on a lot of projects that I wanted to share but since most were Christmas gifts and most of the recipients (I hope!) read this blog, I could talk about them.  But now that the finished objects are in their new homes, I can share them with you.

Probably my favourite knitting project was made for Lori.  It was the first shawlette I had made and when I asked for pattern recommendations from my knitting friends the overwhelming recommendation was Liz Abinante's Traveling Woman.  I liked the pattern, it was organic and interesting without being too precious.  I also liked the idea that the "Traveling Woman" would be sent 'round the world to our own 'Traveling Woman' in Australia.

The "Traveling Woman" before being blocked.

The pattern choice turned out to be serendipitous: designer Liz Abinante named it after a song by Bat for Lashes, a band I was introduced to by Lori as we drove through the hills of Victoria from Geelong to Wodonga last June.

As I knit up the shawl, the subtly varigated green colourway and the leafy lace pattern reminded me of our amazing afternoon paddling on a secluded mountain lake in the Otway rainforest.  Such amazing memories!
I finished the shawlette back in October in order to get it to Australia well in advance of the holidays.  I could hardly wait for Lori to open it!  Handmade gifts are as much a delight for those who make them as those who give them!
Traveling Woman on our Traveling Woman

Monday, December 27, 2010

plum coulee

I love Christmas music.  Until December 26th.  Then just as I need to detox from all the rich foods, I need to aurally unwind.  Plum Coulee from Amy Seeley is the perfect cure for the holiday music hangover.  It was recorded in the heart of Montana deep in the heart of winter and it's just right for short days and long nights. 

Friday, December 24, 2010

12 films of christmas: it's a wonderful life

"George Bailey, I'll love you 'til the day I die."

It's a Wonderful Life is more than a great Christmas movie; it's a great movie period.  In fact, I think it's status as an oft-played Christmas classic distracts from what a masterpiece of film-making it really is.   We're so familiar with the broad brush strokes that we forget just how rich and textured the story is.

George Bailey is a thoroughly modern hero; a man with great potential and great ambition who has, he believes, been thwarted by fate at every turn.  Blind to all the good he's done and all the lives he's touched, he's in the throes of a very dark night of the soul.  This was Jimmy Stewart's favourite role and it's hard to imagine anyone else in it.  Loyal, earnest and humble, George is perfectly imperfect.  There is a great post on The Art of Manliness on "Lessons on Manliness from It's a Wonderful Life" - well worth a read.

Donna Reed is luminous as Mary Hatch Bailey.  Legend has it that Ginger Rogers turned down the role as "too bland."  Hardly.  The girl has gumption.  Would that I could be the type of woman to turn a run-down house into a vacation paradise after my new husband spent our honeymoon money keeping the family savings and loan afloat.  And don't forget that while Clarence may have engineered George's spiritual recovery, Mary was the one who rallied the neighbours 'round to save the old Building and Loan.

I've always loved the telephone scene between Mary and George - it's tense, complex and passionate.  According to iMDb, "Jimmy Stewart was nervous about the phone scene kiss because it was his first screen kiss since his return to Hollywood after the war. Under Capra's watchful eye, Stewart filmed the scene in only one unrehearsed take, and it worked so well that part of the embrace was cut because it was too passionate to pass the censors."

You've got to keep the tissues handy for this one. After countless viewings, I usually start sobbing during the scene with young George and the pharmacist and stop somewhere around the credits.

My Christmas to-do list is done and I am looking forward to curling up with cider, knitting, a box of Kleenex and George Bailey.

Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

12 films of christmas: a christmas story

When I was growing up I remember seeing a lot of ads for A Christmas Story on CBC or TBS and I was totally unmoved.  Who'd give up time with Bing or Jimmy Stewart to watch some kid who wanted a bb gun?  Oh the folly of youth!  I was well into adulthood when a friend insisted that I had to watch this movie.  It immediately moved to the top of the "Christmas-isn't-Christmas-without-it" list. (and was so close to being the top of this list...)

From Flick and the flagpole to the battle with Scut Farkus to the old man's 'Major Award' and Ralphie's pink bunny suit, it's hard to pick a favourite moment.

Ostensibly the plot revolves around Ralphie's quest for a Red Ryder BB Gun with a compass in the stock, and a sundial.  But mostly it's just a series of memories and vignettes around one particular Christmas for one particular family. Based on a series of semi-autobiographical anecdotes from author Jean Shephard (who shows up as the narrator and the bearded man behind Ralphie in the line-up for Santa.), it feels sort of like snooping in old home movies or photo albums.

Just try to find a more true depiction of what it's like to be a kid at Christmas or a more authentic portrayal of "kid-dom" period.  I double-dog dare you.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

12 films of christmas: white christmas

It's the first day of winter and half the province seems to be underwater.  I think most people are dreaming of a dry Christmas more than anything at the moment.  But I think many of us secretly hope for at least a dusting of snow...snow... snow.

White Christmas is definitely a sentimental choice for me.  I watched this so many times growing up and still can recite the dialogue right along with Bing and Rosemary.  Sure, it's as sappy as Vermont maple syrup but that's why I love it.  It's an explosion of music, colourful costumes and holiday cheer.

 As a bonus check out Holiday Inn, the original film that introduced the song White Christmas.  It has Bing, Berlin songs and Fred Astaire.  (But you'll want to take a pass on the unfortunate blackface number for Lincoln's birthday.)

Fun fact: The Vermont inn from White Christmas is the remodeled Connecticut inn set from  Holiday Inn.

Monday, December 20, 2010

caroling caroling

 Caroling, caroling, now we go
Christmas bells are ringing
Caroling, caroling thru the snow
Christmas bells are ringing

 Joyous voices sweet and clear
Sing the sad of heart to cheer
Ding dong, ding dong
Christmas bells are ringing

Went caroling in our neighbourhood tonight followed by cocoa and cookies at the Moore's.

 Brendon recovering nicely after his tumble off a neighbour's porch.  Amazingly both he and the ukelele came out in one piece.

Lucy the Terrier being uncharacteristically sedate.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

12 films of christmas: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Welcome to our home - what's left of it.

We're nearing the end of the list and you could not possibly think I'd forget National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.   Clark Griswold's old-fashioned Christmas gone horribly awry is a modern Christmas classic.  (and a cautionary tale that the road to holiday hell is paved with good intentions)

There's never a dull moment in the movie and just too many classic scenes and lines to list.  It's a great movie to watch when it feels like your own Christmas prep is out of control - be thankful you don't have a giant Christmas tree, a deranged squirrel and a SWAT team to deal with.

Fun fact: Frank Capra III, the grandson of It's a Wonderful Life director, Frank Capra, was the Assistant Director of Christmas Vacation. (iMDb)

Friday, December 17, 2010

visiting cousin

Last night was a big night with the opening of Christmas @ the Playhouse, the big community Christmas extravaganza here in Fredericton.  My mom and dad came to visit with my grandparents and my cousin Heilynn.    She's the first kid to spend a night in the new guest room and I had fun putting in a little Christmas tree to surprise her.

The decorations are all from my childhood including lots of pipecleaner candy canes, crocheted lace and Disney characters.

A quick shot of us outside the green room after the show.  She met me with a beautiful bouquet of roses.  We're a little blurry here which is how I think we were both feeling after a long but very fun day!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

12 films of Christmas: a christmas carol

I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.
I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future.
The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.

The first film adaptation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol appeared in 1910 and the latest last year with countless retellings in between that range from the ridiculous (Susan Lucci?!)  to the sublime Alastair Sim.

Sim starred in the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol (released in England as Scrooge) and it comes as close as any adaptation to capturing the Dickens' original story.  While it is one of the most famous stories of redemption, A Christmas Carol, it is also littered with terrors both worldly (greed, inequality, ignorance and want) and otherworldly.  This supernatural tale needs an anchor in a very real, very human protagonist.  Sim's performance is richly textured and he delivers an emotional master class.

I far prefer the black and white version over the colourized but really wanted to include this particular scene

Monday, December 13, 2010

12 films of christmas: christmas in connecticut

It's 1945 and the standard for American homes is being set by Elizabeth Lane, Smart Housekeeping's resident domestic diva. Except she's not.  She can't boil water, she lives in a one bedroom apartment in New York and she's just spent her next six month's salary on a mink coat.   Ignorant to the truth about America's domestic sweetheart, her publisher decides to invite a war hero - and then himself - to Elizabeth's storied (and fictional) Connecticut farm for the holidays.

Barbara Stanwyck's plucky heroine, a handsome sailor,  a cast of hilarious supporting characters and a Connecticut farm are a recipe for a great holiday screwball comedy.

Fun fact: Dick Elliott, who plays Judge Crothers, also appears as the man on the porch who urges James Stewart to kiss Donna Reed in It’s a Wonderful Life.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

12 films of christmas: elf

 I just like to smile! Smiling's my favorite.

I'm halfway through the last and this is the first and only film from the last decade.  Elf is as much for grown-ups who look back with nostalgia on the old Rankin Bass Christmas specials as it is for the kids.   The film throws just about every Christmas movie convention together with gleeful abandon but all the great sight gags, slapstick and one-liners are held together by a tremendous amount of heart.  Jim Carrey was originally attached to this film  but I don't think Carrey's self-conscious mugging for the audience would have worked as well. Will Ferrell never veers from Buddy's wide-eyed innocence and joy.  Even at his most manic you never doubt his sincerity.

It's 97 minutes that never fail to put a smile on my face.

Bonus smiles for the use of Louis Prima's recording of 'Pennies From Heaven'; a song I highly recommend if you need a pick-me-up.

Fun fact: Ming-Ming the elf who appears early on in the film is played by Peter Billingsley.  You may know him as Ralphie in A Christmas Story.

christmas don't be late

hurry christmas from Miss Allaby on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

christmas albums: to wish you a merry christmas - harry belafonte

Kids' minds work in mysterious ways and growing up hearing Harry Belafonte sing always reminded me of my grandfather Perry.  Now, I should explain that except for the occasional hymn when he was leading a Sunday service, I rarely heard my grandfather sing.  But in my mind at least Harry's elegant, understated and smooth singing was similar in tone and cadence to my softspoken grandfather.  So to me, there was always something extra-comforting about To Wish You a Merry Christmas.

The 1958 album mixed standards and introduced several new classics to the Christmas song book.  Notably it marked the first appearance of "Mary's Boy Child" and with all due respect to the deservedly well-loved Boney M version, I'd argue that Harry Belafonte's is the definitive recording.   And the closing track on the album is quite possibly my favourite recording of I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.  

The spare instrumentation make this the perfect soundtrack for late Christmas Eve; perfect in combination with falling snow, candlelight and reflection.

In this playlist I've also included Goin' Down Jordan which was one of five new tracks added to the 2001 re-issue.  It's got quite a different sound from the original album but it's so joyful I had to share it - just try to keep from smiling around 1:30.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

12 films of christmas: the bishop's wife

 The main trouble is there are too many people who don't know where they're going and they want to get there too fast!

Bishop Henry Brougham believes God wants him to raise funds to build a cathedral and in his single-mindedness, he has been neglecting his young wife and daughter.  Enter Cary Grant who is literally heaven-sent as the angel Dudley.

This 1947 film is not for everyone: it's sweet, sentimental and old-fashioned.  It also features one of the most unlikely love triangles: an angel, a bishop and the titular bishop's wife.    Perfect people are dull and I love watching Loretta Young as Julia grapple with her growing affection for Dudley.  And, of course, Cary Grant is dashing as an angel who may be enjoying his assignment a little too much.  It may be subtle by our standards but there's no denying the attraction between Dudley and Julia.  It's David Niven who holds the film together.  He is so sincere in his belief that he's answering a higher calling, you can't help but feel sympathetic even as he's messing things up.  And much as you love Dudley, you find yourself rooting for Henry to pull it together.

This film was remade in the 1990s as The Preacher's Wife.  It's not a bad film but it sacrifices a lot of the subtle sweetness of the original in pursuit of the bigger laughs and broader moments.

The Bishop's Wife is perfect when you need a quiet evening away from the Christmas chaos.

Fun fact: Hard to imagine now but filming began with Cary Grant as the bishop and David Niven the angel.  When the original director left the film his replacement viewed what had been shot and realized they two would be better if they switched roles. (IMDb)

Monday, December 6, 2010

the stocking is hung

I had so much fun playing Secret Santa and making this stocking for Anna.  The pattern is over at Purl Bee including the lettering for the embroidery.  (I love that it's a crisp Futura-inspired font but it would look good even in your own hand-writing.) It takes only half a yard each of a solid colour and natural cotton and about half an hour to sew one... a little longer to finish the embroidery.  

Whip one up, stuff it and enjoy playing Santa!

whipped shortbread with eggnog icing

Our knitting group had a Secret Santa swap last night and my recipient, Anna, had specifically mentioned that shortbreads were her favourite.  Not that I needed an excuse to make a batch of whipped shortbread.  A good buttery Scottish shortbread is delicious to enjoy unadorned year round but Christmas it must be whipped short bread, rich with creamy icing and topped with red and green candied cherries.

The icing I did for this batch is really just the Quick White Icing I recipe from Joy of Cooking. The egg nog was a last minute idea to make it more festive. Combined with pure vanilla extract the egg nog flavour really comes through - it would be great on a sugar and spice cookie with nutmeg!

Whipped Shortbread
(40 cookies)

Preat over to 350 F. 

Cream together:
1 pound butter

1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt

Gradually add:
1/2 cup cornstarch
3 cups flour

Whip with an electric mixer until fluffy. If you have a cookie press, this is a great time to dig it out.  I just rolled mine in small balls. 

Bake 12-15 minutes. Like all cookies, take them out just before they look done (cookies keep cooking a little bit even on the counter).

Let cool for 2 minutes on baking sheet, then remove to wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Egg-Nog Icing

In a medium bowl, beat together on medium speed:
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted if lumpy (it makes a difference!)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened

Add and beat until smooth:
3-4 tablespoons egg nog
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt

Correct consistency by adding powdered sugar or more liquid as necessary.

Ice cooled cookies.  Top the cookies with a slice of candied cherry (not maraschino - they're different.  I learned the hard way years ago.) 


Sunday, December 5, 2010

12 films of christmas: home alone

In popular culture, Christmas is full of misfits and outcasts (Rudolph, Charlie Brown, the Grinch).  Twenty years ago (!), Home Alone brought us Kevin McAllister: eight years old, a little bratty and lost in the shuffle of his family's chaotic holiday plans.

When the movie came out my own little brother was not much older than Kevin and the film was in pretty steady rotation in our house.  We watched, of course, to laugh at the bumbling burglars falling prey to Kevin's booby traps. 

Today I still catch myself chucklying over the absurdity but I also see the poignancy in the film.  Like all John Hughes films, it has staying power because amid the pratfalls it has heart: Catherine O'Hara's desperate attempts to reunite with her little boy, old man Marley next door who's also dealing with being home alone and Kevin's mix of exhilaration and terror as he comes to terms with being all alone.  (A feeling that doesn't go away when you are a grown-up.)

It's a fun holiday movie but it's the emotional pull that earns it a spot on my list.  As well as John Williams score:  the minute I hear it, I can picture settling with my little brother under afghans for our umpteenth viewing of the movie.

(If it seems the soundtrack is foreshadowing another boy going it alone, JW also composed the soundtrack to Harry Potter)

Friday, December 3, 2010

a night at the jesus museum

The year my little brother Peter was four (or possibly five) he went to my mother late one fall and asked as earnestly as only a four-year-old can, "When can we put up the Jesus museum?"

My mother was, understandably, somewhat perplexed.  And my brother frustrated that she couldn't seem to fathom what he was asking about.  Eventually they sorted it out... he wanted to put out the nativity scene.

Growing up the Christmas season was marked by countless little rituals.  One of my favourite was that starting December 1 (and not a moment sooner) we were allowed to put up one decoration per day until the Christmas tree went in the weekend before Christmas.  Our nativity scene was usually one of the first boxes to be brought down from the attic.  We got it the year I turned five.  I'm not sure but I think it was purchased at the Grand Isle Drugstore (which was the kind of place where you could pick up your prescription, a pair of rubber boots and a new Bible.)  I know that cousins Richelle and Michael had a similar one although I think the wise men wore different colour robes...

Anyway, putitng up the Nativity scene was one of my favourite rituals.  I was meticulous about the placement of the figures, i.e. it had to look exactly like the photo on the box.  

After his Jesus museum remark, Pete naturally took over the duties for arranging our nativity scene (and others: my grandmother Betty wouldn't put out her nativity scene - with real ceramic figures and moss on the stable roof - unless Peter was there to help).  But he was just as particular as I was about how the scene should look.

Year in and year out it sat in the same place - on the shelf over our stockings, the wise men lined up with their gifts, the shepherd in the doorway and the cow and the donkey just so. Flipping through old Christmas photos, you'd see Pete and I grow taller, hairstyles would change, gifts would change but that little nativity scene was always the same.  A reminder of the reason for the season in the middle of all the Christmas chaos.

Pete has his own home now and Mom and Dad have moved as well.  But they still put out the nativity scene.

Dad sent me a photo to prove it today.  I had to email him back:

"You realize, of course, the shepherd is in the wrong place."

Thursday, December 2, 2010

season's greetings from our cove

Image: From our Cove

I was somewhat relieved last night while reading the latest issue of Martha Stewart to learn that according to 'Martha's Calendar', she'll be posting her Christmas cards on December 14.   With all the gift-making, show-rehearsing and Yuletide-socializing, Christmas cards have fallen down the to-do list. 

But I did pick out the cards I want to send  months ago. 

When I was helping my dad set up his Etsy shop From Our Cove, I thought his painting of the lighthouse at West Quoddy Head, the easternmost point in the United States, would make a beautiful Christmas card.  The candy cane colours of the lighthouse as it welcomes a returning ship seem so seasonal. The cards are now available in packs of 20 at the shop along with the print and several of his other seascapes.

Each week dad adds a new piece to the shop and gives a bit of history as well as some art tips over at the From Our Cove blog - for coastal livers and lovers and aspiring painters - it's a great resource!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

12 films of christmas: meet me in st. louis

Like Little Women this is not solely a Christmas film.  In fact it opens during a heat wave in summer 1903.  But it deserves it's place in the Christmas film rotation for the Christmas Eve scene and for contributing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" to the Christmas canon.

With Meet Me in St. Louis, director Vincente Minnelli offers up a Valentine to the 'good old days': it's romantic, nostalgic and rich with period detail (Katie's Hallowe'en cake alone is reason enough to hit the pause button.)  When it premiered in November 1944, it was a feel-good film for a war-weary audience desperately in need of one.  It still is.

There's no question that the film is a Judy Garland vehicle - the star said she married Minnelli shortly afterwards because she had felt so beautiful in the film - but there's also no question that eight-year-old Margaret O'Brien walks away with pretty much every scene she is in... including the famous Christmas scene.

A little trivia:  The film was based on a series of New Yorker stories (and subsequent novel) by Sally Benson entitled 5135 Kensington Ave (the address of her own family home in St. Louis).  Benson  gave explicit instructions on the decor of the home in the film down to the last detail. 

counting down

December is here and the real countdown for the holidays can begin!  I'll be counting down with this very cute Advent Calendar from Maree Streeter at inkymoose.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

christmas albums: christmas with nana mouskouri

Christmas with Nana Mouskouri immediately transports me back to my earliest Christmas memories.  I'd be hard pressed to find an album that's more representative of Christmas in the 1970s than this 1972 gem.  Behold, if you will the album cover alone:  candlelight,  ornate frame and wine goblets, fake holly - it's all there.   The minute I hear Nana's voice I remember Christmas trees we chopped ourselves dripping with metallic icicles, red plastic bells hanging in the kitchen windows, the nativity figures that used to be printed on the Karnes bread bags that you could stick on the window and the big red Noel sign that Dad built to hang on the sliding barn doors.   By the end of the holiday season you can bet my parents were pretty happy not to hear "Old Toy Trains" for another year...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

12 films of christmas: little women

Little Women is not, strictly speaking, a Christmas film.  The story of the March sisters unfolds over several years and through several seasons.  But it is Christmas when the film opens and the spirit of coziness, family, hope in the face of war and joy in the face of poverty carry on throughout the film. 

There are a few versions of the film (1933 with Kate Hepburn is dated but fun, 1949 with every starlet of the day is best avoided) but my favourite by far is Gillian Armstrong's 1994 version for capturing the warmth and domestic details of Louisa May Alcott's own Orchard House.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

i love a parade... sort of.

Every second year, the parade route for the annual Santa Claus parade passes half a block from my house. So I decided to invite folks over.  We had every intention of going to the parade but late in the afternoon the snow started falling...

Faced with the prospect of trudging in a blizzard, staying in a cozy house with warm cider, hot chocolate and cookies won out even for Little A, age 5.

 My uncle John was able to come by.

There's a really good chance that Julie and Jennifer are swapping photos of their dogs here.
Little A starts to feel the effects of many, many sugar cookies...

It was a lovely night and a great way to kick off the holiday season.

christmas albums: charlie brown christmas

Vince Guaraldi's score for Charlie Brown's Christmas is always an album I haul out early during the holidays.  The simple arrangements for jazz trio are both whimsical and sophisticated.  And unlike some of the jollier albums, you're less likely to tire of it by December 25th. "Christmas Time is Here" may be one of my favourite Christmas songs of all with it's happy-sad wistfulness.

Charlie Brown Christmas by Heather Allaby on Grooveshark

Thursday, November 25, 2010

12 films of christmas: miracle on 34th street

Someday you're going to find that your way of facing this realistic world just doesn't work.
And when you do, don't overlook those lovely intangibles.
You'll discover those are the only things that are worthwhile.

I was 11 years old when we got cable television.  In addition to much cooler (in my opinion) ads and more scandalous news, the addition of American television to my life meant a greater awareness of American Thanksgiving as the kick-off of the holiday season.  And that meant the annual broadcast of Miracle on 34th Street.  

It's a holiday movie that holds up well.
In lesser hands, the story of a department store Santa who convinces the world he's the real deal and transforms a family in the process, could melt into a gooey mess.  (And I think the 1994 version veers towards this)  But the 1947 film benefits from nuanced performances from it's three stars:  Maureen O'Hara is guarded and world-wise without being brittle, Edmund Gwynn delivers a Santa who's more gentle than jolly and Natalie Wood is precocious while never being cloying. 

And let's face it, in 2010 we still need to believe that in the fact of cynicism and commercialism,  faith, kindness and friendship will win out.

Fun fact:  In the untranslated dialogue with the Dutch girl, Santa Claus asks the child what she wants for Christmas the girl says she wants nothing, telling Santa she got her gift by being adopted by her new mother.

Monday, November 22, 2010

warm hands with hot cheese

image: hotcheese

So last night I clued in that Sarah, one of our Sunday evening knitting stalwarts, also designs really, really cute knits which are available at her blog hot cheese or on ravelry

Just picked up her pattern for these envy-checked mitts. Checks, stripes and a pretty braided cuff make for a stylish and warm mitt that makes me want to throw snowballs. They look sharp in black and white - our knitting pal Ann just finished a pair. I like the high contrast but you could also go with more muted, less contrasting combinations.  I could picture them in a cool pale blue and white too...

Also loving these classic red and white houndstooth mitts:

image: hotcheese

Sunday, November 21, 2010

a well-dressed hottie

Living in a 110-year-old house, I tend to keep the thermostat turned down to 'brisk.'  And there are so many better ways to keep warm - cozy sweaters and handknit socks, wool throws and hot water bottles (or hotties as some call them).  I hate sleeping in a too-warm room but I also want to have toasty feet.  So I went old school and plunked down five bucks for a good old-fashioned red rubber hot water bottle.  It's quickly become one of my favourite things.   Of course like most things, hotties look more attractive in knitwear.  More and more hot water cozies are showing up around our knitting circle lately.  This pattern has become particularly popular (scroll down for the cable instructions).  I just finished mine tonight.  The cable and icy blue are so wint'ry and pretty... I can't wait to settle down for a long winter's nap.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

cuddle up

Ever since I saw this DIY post over at Design*Sponge a few weeks ago, I've been wanting to make a wool throw. This may be the easiest project I've ever done but I love it. There are so many gorgeous wool patterns available. I'm still tempted to go back and get the red and white houndstooth - a chic way to add a little seasonal cheer to a room.  But I've been on a bit of a plaid kick lately so this forest green and grey plaid won out.   And the little felt 'snowballs' are perfect for our first true snowy day of the season...

Can't wait to cozy up under it and knit up some presents for other people...

(Henry was a good model once he learned that those were not small white kibbles)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

cranberry - orange caramel corn

Three reasons I love making caramel corn:
* It's an excuse to make popcorn the old school way: pot, oil, corn. You're drenching it in caramel; leave the air popper in the cupboard.
*The moment I add the vanilla and soda to the hot sugar syrup and it foams up kind of makes me feel like I'm performing magic.
*It is delicious.

This is a great fall caramel corn recipe that adds dried cranberries (so delicious), almonds and orange flavour to the caramel.  I can't take the credit.  The recipe is from this month's Better Homes & Gardens (for simple straightforward recipes, I can't recommend BHG highly enough) and more specifically from reader Ann Donnay.

12 cups popped popcorn (about 1/2 cup kernels)
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup whole almonds
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup light-colored corn syrup
2 Tbsp. orange juice
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. In a very large bowl combine the popped popcorn, cranberries, and almonds; set aside.

In a 2-quart saucepan cook and stir the butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup over medium heat until butter is melted. Stir in orange juice. Bring to boiling over medium heat. Boil at a moderate, steady rate for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and baking soda (mixture will foam up).

Pour the syrup mixture over the popcorn mixture in bowl; stir to coat well. Transfer to a 15x10x1-inch baking pan or a shallow roasting pan. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring twice. Transfer caramel corn to a large sheet of greased heavy foil; cool. Makes 20 (1/2 cup) servings.