Thursday, December 31, 2009

Giftmas and other Holiday stuff

The weekend before Christmas we got a bunch of snow! I was not expecting this at all, but it was a nice surprise. It stuck around through the weekend, and snowed a bit more on the 21st, but by Christmas Eve it had rained and most of it was gone. I'm just happy we had a few days of it though!

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We have snow!

The Saturday before Christmas the weather during the day was a bit dodgy, and we were not sure of the condition of the roads, but I wanted to fit in one more Christmas Market and get out of the house for a bit.
I had seen pictures and heard good things about Rudesheim, which is a cute little town right on the Rhine river. It was bitter cold, but we walked around through the narrow streets and crowds of shoppers for about an hour that evening, listening to carolers and stopping for some much-needed Rudesheim Coffee!
They make a local brandy in Rudesheim called Asbach Uralt, which they light on fire then add to coffee with sugar and LOTS of whipped cream, and serve it in these interesting cups. Very warming!
Rudesheim Coffee
We were a bit too cold to do any shopping, but we definitely need to go back and explore more of Rudesheim's shops and restaurants in warmer weather!
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On the morning of the 21st it was clear with fresh snow, and Joe and I walked out to the edge of the base to watch the Solstice Sunrise over the fields.
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And then 15 or so members of both knitting groups I belong to came over for a Solstice Knitting Brunch! Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures, except of the Pineapple Upside-Down cakes I made!
Solstice Pineapple Cake!

I also made AMAZING Cranberry Eggnog scones, via this King Arthur Flour recipe (added cinnamon and cranberries instead of chips), and my Chocolate Mint Crackle cookies too.

The rest of the week was very low-key. I made some fingerless gloves for Joe for Giftmas (I'll post the pattern later), finished plying some more Gale's Art Merino, and we had a quiet and romantic dinner on Christmas Eve, so that on Christmas we could be lazy and not have to cook. I made apricot-glazed ham, roasted acorn squash, green bean casserole and stuffing. We had apple pie for dessert.
Mitts for Joe
Gale's Art Merino, Iris, Handspun

Giftmas highlights include a FANCY KITTY DRUM CARDER from my wonderful husband, and the new Judith MacKenzie McCuin spinning book, a cute dress and little tea pots from my sister, a cool modern tea pot from my Mom, and a Schacht drop spindle, along with the usual assortment of games and candy and clothes.

And here's a picture of our "Fishy-Jew-Llama-Tree" Now with more Alpacas!

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday week!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Twisted Tweed, Toe Up, Two at a Time, Magic Loop, with contrasting heels/toes!

So, a friend in my knitting group is learning to knit socks, and wanted to make socks like the Twisted Tweed socks, but Two-at-a-Time Toe-Up using magic loop. "Not a problem!" I said, as it's an easy stitch pattern to adapt.

Also had to adjust for gauge since she's using DeKAY Duets Sock Yarn from A Swell Yarn Shop which is a squishy DK weight yarn with a contrasting heel and toe skein.

So this should fit an 8-9inch circumference foot, knit on size 3 needles with a gauge of 6 stitches per inch. This pattern assumes you already know how to knit using the Magic Loop.
Afterthought heel in a contrasting color, so you can use ALL your main color yarn!

Email me if you have questions!


Cast on 6 stitches in the Contrasting Color (CC) using the backwards loop method. Slide them down the needle.
Using the outside end of the ball, cast on another 6 stitches.

Knit both sets of stitches with their respective working yarn (outside of ball/inside of ball)
Turn your work and slide both sets to stitches to the other end of your circular needle.

Pick up 6 stitches from the CO row of each set, using their respective working yarns.
Knit two rounds.
(Good diagrams of this process in this free KnitPicks Pattern)

Toe Increases:

Row 1: K1, kfb, knit to last 2 stitches on the needle, kfb, k1. Turn work and repeat for back needle.
Row 2: knit

Repeat these two rows for each sock until there are 48 stitches per sock (24 stitches on each side).

Begin Twisted Tweed pattern with Main Color yarn:

Break off CC yarn and switch to Main Color (MC). Knit one round on each sock.
Attach a safety pin to the front side of each sock as a reminder that the tweed pattern will only be worked on this side, while
knitting the foot.

Row 1: *Sl3 with yarn in front, k3* repeat to end
Row 2, and every even row: knit
Row 3: *k1, sl3 with yarn in front, k2* repeat to end
Row 5: *k2, sl3 with yarn in front, k1* repeat to end
Row 7: *k3, sl3 with yarn in front* repeat to end
Row 9: sl1 with yarn in front *k3, sl3 with yarn in front* repeat to end (you will end with 2 slipped stitches)
Row 11: sl2 with yarn in front *k3, sl3 with yarn in front* repeat to end (you will end with 1 slipped stitch)

Repeat these rounds until the sock (when worn) just reaches your ankle bone.

Heel marker

Knit across the front of each sock.
With waste yarn, knit across the back of each sock, letting the waste yarn trail between the two socks. turn the work and purl back
across these same stitches, again letting the yarn trail between the socks.

Switch back to MC and begin the legs.

Knit 1 round.
Follow Twisted Tweed pattern until almost out of yarn, knitting the pattern all the way around the leg this time.

Knit 1-1.5 inches of 1x1 ribbing at the top of each leg.
Bind off using the sewn bind off method.

Afterthought Heel
Using pointed scissors, carefully cut out the waste yarn and remove from the heel stitches. Place the live stitches half on one

needle and half on the other (top and bottom).
Knit one round with CC, picking up one extra stitch at the beginning and end of each needle to fill in any gaps.

Heel Decreases.

Round 1: k1, k2tog, knit to last 3 stitches on needle, ssk, k1. Repeat for back needle.
Round 2: knit

Repeat these two rounds 10 or 11 times, until you have 12 or 8 stitches remaining, depending on the depth of your heel.
Use kitchner stitch to graft the heel together.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

French Onion Soup, and German Christmas Markets

All of Germany is getting ready for Christmas, and many towns have Christmas Markets: richly decorated stalls setup in town squares and pedestrian zones, strung with lights and selling gifts, ornaments, and hot mulled wine (Gluhwein).

Last weekend we joined some friends from Frankfurt and drove out to Ronneberg, a 13th century castle that is famous for it's medieval events. They have a medieval market this time of year unlike other Christmas markets. It's really more like a small Renaissance Festival, complete with patrons dressed in wool and fur garb, and minstrels playing carols. It was colder than expected, so I was a bit envious of the long wool cloaks with fur collars!
(click any picture to go to Flickr and see the whole set!
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We drank gluhwein, ate meat on a stick, and had lovely fried apples for lunch, and bought a bottle of blueberry wine in a funny bottle.
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The inside of the castle was also full of vendors, and you could climb up the tower, and also have coffee and cake in one of the main halls.
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Old St. Nick!
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We also visited the Christmas Markets here in Wiesbaden and in Mainz. The one here in Wiesbaden is large and beautiful, but I think the Mainz one had more interesting vendors, including one that sold spices, and one that sold only marzipan!
Wiesbaden Shooting Star Market
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Mainz Christmas Market. I wish they'd had the lights on!
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Last night was Joe's company Holiday Party, held in the ballroom of a very fancy local casino.
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It was fun to get dressed up, and dinner was wonderful, but it made me miss the Agora Holiday party at the Engineer's Club, and all my amazing Agora
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I did win a bottle of local sparkling Riesling in the raffle though!
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We got all the Giftmas presents sent off yesterday, and today I'm cleaning the house and made French Onion Soup! It was delicious! Here's the recipe, tweaked from a few online:

Sarah's French Onion Soup

5 medium onions, sliced thin
3 TBSP Butter
3 TBSP flour
1 TBSP sugar
1 1/2 cups ale or other medium-dark beer
3 cans beef broth
2 TBSP brandy (optional)
1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce (optional)
1 TBSP fresh thyme, or 1/2 dried
1 Tsp Herb de Provence (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

1 slice rye or pumpernickel bread per bowl,
grated swiss cheese

Melt the butter in a soup pot or dutch oven. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 45 minutes, stirring often, until onions are beginning to brown and are very broken down. Add the sugar halfway through to aid the caramelization process.

Add the flour and stir. Cook one minute.
Add all the liquid ingredients, and the herbs. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper as needed.

Preheat the broiler. Ladle the soup into oven-safe crocks or bowls, top with a slice of bread and lots of grated cheese. Place under the broiler until the cheese is bubbly. ENJOY!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

November is Over

Fall is disappearing faster than the leaves from the trees, it seems.
I'm already assembling things to give for giftmas, and thinking about Solstice parties and possible Ski/Snowboarding vacations we can take around the holiday.

I've been domestically busy lately, even though we haven't gotten out of the house much because of the dismal, rainy weather. I hope December is dryer.

I started substitute teaching the day before Thanksgiving, which was not as bad as it could have been, but still a bit stressful. I need to start trying to be up and showered by 7:30 in case I get a call to come in. I am not a morning person, and I need a lot of sleep so I am not really looking forward to this.
Usually they try to give you a few days notice, but that's not possible if someone is sick.
I'm thinking I should look into getting a sun-light, to help me get up on dark days and to brighten my mood throughout the winter. Unfortunately the good ones are fairly expensive, and it's kindof a low priority.

I've been doing a lot of cooking and baking lately, in honor of the changing seasons and Thanksgiving. The weekend before Thanksgiving we had our big feast, and Meghan and Stefan were able to come up from Munich to spend it with us! We also had our friend Chris from Frankfurt here (who I know from DC), so it was really great to be able to share our first holiday away from Baltimore with friends we knew from back home.
I spend Friday baking, so the oven would be free for the Turkey on Saturday. Here's the spread!

Herb Butter Roast Turkey with Brandy Gravy
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The sides: Green Bean Casserole, Corn Pudding, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Mashed Kabocha squash with cranberries and pecans, Apple and sausage stuffing, and homemade cranberry orange sauce.
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And last but not least, Dessert!
Apple pie, Pumpkin Pie, and Peanut Butter Kiss cookies, which were a big hit!
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Our Guests!
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Here's Meghan playing Rockband
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On Thanksgiving itself we went to Joe's squadron's potluck. We had been to one the previous week as well.

I've been doing a lot of knitting as well as spinning lately, this fall I have finished two pairs of socks, a clapotis I started years ago, some fingerless mitts, a Nimbus sweater, and I'm on the home stretch of a second sweater, Amused, from!
Here's the socks (a gift for my Mom's B-day) and the sweater for me. I'll post about the Amused sweater later.

Nimbus, a free pattern from Berroco


The pattern calls for a bulky yarn on size 11 needles. I wanted to use some DK 100% alpaca I had, so I doubled it and used size 10 needles, which gave me a gauge of 16 st and 19 rows in 4". I used the stitch counts for the 48" size to adjust the gauge, and the measurements of the 36 inch size. I wet blocked all pieces to size before seaming.
I also tacked down the collar to keep it from rolling up.
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I'm very happy with it, it fits well and it very comfy! Only drawback is the 100% alpaca makes it a VERY HEAVY sweater, both in weight and in warmth. The short sleeves and length though make it more versatile.

Here's the Shadow Rib Two-at-a-time toe-up socks with Afterthought heels I made for my Mom! Using Blue Ridge Yarns Kaleidoscope Superwash Sock Yarn, in Wild Cherry. Loved the yarn, hated the color, but she picked it out.
When I do toe-up socks again, if I’m not making the heels and toes in a different yarn I will use a short row heel, as I had to take a guess when to stop for the leg because I needed to leave enough yarn to do the toes.
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Here's what I'm spinning! More Gale's Art Merino. 2-ply, light worsted weight

And here's what's on the wheel, Gale's Art Merino in Orchid
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This week I hope to drag Joe out of the house to go to the annual Wiesbaden "Shining Star Market", a Christmas market, and tonight I'm going out to dinner with a friend and to see "The Full Monty" at the English theater in Frankfurt!