merry merry

Merry Christmas!

christmas 2012

I didn’t decorate as much as I wanted, but there are some pretty corners here and there.

joy

I treated myself to some peppermint macarons from Trader Joe’s.

macarons

I hope you treat yourself to a little something special too!

Oh, and if you need any last minute inspiration I have two pinterest boards that might help you feel festive and wrap your gifts beautifully.

holiday pity party

I've been meaning to post some pictures or something, but I came down with an annoying cold the day before Thanksgiving and so I've just been feeling sorry for myself. I like to keep things nice and happy here, so I've been at a loss. I love the holidays, but due to many circumstances, I'm having a bit of a hard time this year. I'm not sure if I will be able to visit my family, my cold is still lingering, and Thanksgiving was kind of a failure all around. These are all minor problems, so I am irritated with myself for the ridiculous pity party I've been having the last few weeks. I am trying really hard to generate some Christmas cheer. 

image from www.flickr.comIn an effort to start feeling more Christmas-y, I thought I'd try and do a little something for the holidays every day. I've started playing Christmas music, I'm putting the finishing touches on a couple handmade gifts, I think I'll set up the tree this weekend, and I hung my big wreath up on the front of the house the other day. And then I noticed that some of the lights were out. It seems to be exemplifying my attitude right now: trying to let my (Christmas) light shine, but not quite succeeding. Blergh.

At least I have this fuzzy face to keep me company while I pull out the decorations:

image from www.flickr.com

I'll try to get over myself soon. 

Autumn to-do list

What are you planning to do this Autumn? Here's what I want to accomplish by the end of the year:

  • Finish Christmas shopping/making by the first week of December
  • Find the perfect  cream of mushroom soup recipe (I think I'll start with this one, Ina never lets me down!)
  • Bake a Ginger Pear Upside-down Cake
  • Bake a pear tart
  • Bake an apple cake
  • Make lots of pickles for gifts
  • Finish a quilt
  • Finish current knitting projects before starting a new one
  • Go on a hike
  • Clean up the garden
  • Plant some cold-weather vegatables (Kale, spinach, etc)
  • Plant pansies and flowering kale in pot on the porch
  • Make a desk for the guest room, so I can work there on my laptop instead of sitting in bed or on the couch
  • Chop wood for the stove and start building fires (I need to learn how to split wood, I think that will be a good skill to develop)
  • Move the mulch to the garden
  • Build another planting box

Pearcake

I can't wait to eat this cake again! 

more making

Things are hopping in my little house studio. Today I made this:

 Necklace 

I followed this tutorial at Creature Comforts, so easy and so cute, I think! I used a bit of silk and raided my mother-of-pearl buttons to dress it up a little. It's light and comfortable to wear. I might have to make some more for gifts. 

 Necklace2 

I have lots more to share all week. Who else is making gifts this weekend?

 
 

pie in a jar

 Pie1

So this pie in a jar thing has been making the rounds on a few blogs. I first saw it here, but also here and here.

I wanted to do pumpkin pie, which I didn't see anywhere else. I was taking a chance, because I wasn't sure it would work, but they came out beautifully. They came out of the oven all puffed up, but flattened out as they cooled, so the lids went on with no problem.

For the crust I used the shortbread crust recipe in The Joy of Cooking, which is a crumbly crust, perfect for patting into the jar as it doesn't roll out well. It's supposed to be a pre-baked crust, but I didn't bother and it cooked through just perfectly along with the pumpkin filling. 

For the filling I used the recipe from Eagle Brand, which is my favorite pumpkin pie filling. It's so easy, just requires a few ingredients (pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt), and comes out perfect every time. I really like its custard-y texture.

Two crust recipes and one pumpkin recipe was enough for a dozen pies. I used the tiny, four ounce Bell jars. Just pat the crust into the jar, keeping it even with the top of the jar, don't go over! Fill them with about a third of a cup of the filling, just a little under half an inch from the top. Bake at 400 degrees for 35-38 minutes. 

I think I always want to eat my pie from a jar now. 

 Pie2
 
 

persistance

I've wanted to make fleur de sel caramels since I first read about them, but I'm more of a cookie baker, not a candy maker. It seemed simple enough, though; cook up some sugar, add some cream, sprinkle with salt. So, armed with a candy thermometer and some fancy salt, I decided to give it a try. 

 Caramels

 The first batch, well, it seemed quite delicious. I poured it into a buttered dish to set for a couple hours, but when I went to pop it out it was rock solid. Mr. Heylucy enthusiastically smashed it to bits so we can use it to sprinkle on ice cream or maybe use it cookies. Batch number two was going well, and then my mother-in-law called. While I was busy trying to convince her that she wasn't going to be thrown in jail for running a red light equipped with one of those cameras, my caramel once again cooked just a touch too long. I refused to give up, so I tried one more time. This time I took it off the heat just after it reached the soft ball stage, and it worked out just perfectly. I used this recipe, substituting the corn syrup with honey. I had some of this fancy sea salt, so that's what I used, so they've got a nice honey flavor, perfect with the caramel and salt. 

I'm baking the rest of this rainy afternoon, so there will be more pictures later. First up are these quick and easy lemon cornmeal cookies: 

 Lemoncookies1 

 Lemoncookies2 

Also on the list: marshmallows, pumpkin-pie-in-a-jar, and my usual cranberry-oatmeal-butterscotch cookies. I think that will be a nice selection of treats for the gift boxes I've got. I'll be sharing them with some co-workers tomorrow. More pictures to come! 

christmas shopping & making

Do you have this problem? I'm making and shopping for Christmas, and trying to stick to a tight budget, and then I find super cute things that I want, like this pincushion/spool, from this etsy shop:

 Catbobbin 

Or this hat, for which I have a single skein of yarn that might just be perfect:

 Ripley 

I don't have time for this nonsense! 
 
 

music and meaning

Frosty

It's a Christmas Miracle! Well, maybe that's a little dramatic, but still, it looks like I'll actually manage to send out Christmas cards this year. This is quite an accomplishment for me. I always start December with the best intentions and plans for handmade, spectacular cards with long, personalized letters for each recipient. And then reality sets in, and not only do no cards get made or letters written, I can't even manage to send out boxed cards with just a signature. So this time I decided to try something a little different. I've been enjoying Christmas music so much this year that I made a nifty mix CD, and that's what I'm sending. Of course I had to make special, festive envelopes, but there won't be any long letters, just a signed CD that I hope will be enjoyed by those who receive them, as much as I have enjoyed listening to lots of great Christmas music while making them.

I want to share the music with all you lovely blog visitors too! I've got a dozen or so extra CDs to share, so the first twelve comments will get one. If there are more people interested, I'll probably be able to draw a few names from the additional commenters to receive CDs too. There some traditional Christmas songs, some original songs, some Winter songs, and maybe some irreverent songs, the common thread is that they are all songs I just love, and they are Christmas-y.

This is one of my favorite hymns from my favorite Christmas album right now:

Excuse the slightly cheesy video. And I know it's not really a Christmas song, but the message still fits the season.

But wait! There's more! Not a lot more, just a little thing. I made a Pandora Christmas radio station, based on some of my current favorites included on the CD, so if you'd like a little taste, click the Christmas link under HeyLucy radio to the left, and listen right now on your computer! Nifty, isn't it?

Here's a new game we've been playing at our house lately. It's called 'Where's Lucy?' If we make it until January without the tree falling over it will be another Christmas Miracle!

Santalucy

warm and cozy

I'm back to normal! I was so disappointed to get a cold last week, it's been about two and a half years since I've had a bad cold or flu. I was going for a new record and instead I got sick twice in a month. That's just dumb.

I feel terribly behind, but I'm not going to worry about it too much. I have e-mail and comments to respond to, and I will get to it soon, promise! I'm not ignoring anyone, just trying to get all caught up. Meanwhile I promised to share quilt tops, so here is a little glimpse:

Quiltpile

It was dark and gloomy this weekend, so this is the best I can do for now, but I think you can see that I've got quite the bonanza here. I think my New Year's resolutions for 2009 will involve finishing a couple quilts, starting with the Double Wedding ring quilt.

Weddingring

I need to do a little research first. I'm somewhat concerned about the stitching. It's all done by hand, and I'm not sure just how sturdy it is. There are a few places where pieces need to be restitched. I think the fabric itself is still in good shape. Also, the rings are actually the edges of the quilt, it's not square, so I think I have to turn the edges under and sew it by hand? Or can I bind it normally? It would be a pain, but it's doable with a bias binding. I'm just not sure if that's how it's traditionally done. Any expert quilters out there? Mom, what do you think? Either way, it's going to be so cute when it's done.

The four-pointed star is fun too. I haven't looked too carefully, but I don't think there are many fabrics repeated. I think it might have been made from the family's old clothes. These quilts have been in the family for a long time, my mother-in-law doesn't sew or do any kind of handicrafts, and she doesn't really know who made what or when it was made. I think the fabrics look like they are mostly from the 1930s and 1940s.

Patchwork

I feel like I hit the lottery with these quilts. There will be periodic updates, I'm sure. I'd really like to finish and use them. That seems like the best tribute I can give their makers.

Despite the gloominess outside, it was warm and cozy inside our little house, and I put up the Christmas tree last night while the fire was roaring in the stove (thanks to Mr. HeyLucy, fire-builder extraordinaire). Between the tree and the fire the cats were in heaven. At one point I found Lucy sitting in the middle of the tree, precariously balanced across several branches. Oi. They especially like it when the lights are on. I still have all my glass ball ornaments to hang, but that should be done sometime over the next couple days. I wire them to the branches with florist wire, so the cats can't easily bat them off, although they will try.

DSC_2583

I also made the most delicious hot chocolate ever, to sip under the Christmas tree lights. Here's the recipe, if you want to try it yourself:

For each serving mix together in a saucepan: a generous teaspoonful of good cocoa powder, an equal (or slightly more if you want it sweeter) amount of sugar, a tiny capful of good vanilla and some finely grated Belgian chocolate (about one square inch). If you're feeling adventurous, add a pinch of cayenne pepper. You won't taste the pepper, but you'll feel the heat when you drink it. It's quite nice. Add a little milk, and stir until all the powdery bits are well incorporated into the milk. Add more milk to make a big mugful. Heat gently, until piping hot, but don't let it boil over! I speak from experience when I say that you will have a big mess that is not fun to clean up if it boils over. And here's my top secret weapon to make it truly the most delicious hot chocolate ever: get yourself one of these little gadgets, and whip up each cup for a minute or so before serving. I found mine at a local Ace Hardware store for $10 or $15 I think, which is a little extravagant for a tool I use for only one thing, but it doesn't take up hardly any space and it really makes all the difference, so I don't regret purchasing it at all. Serving it in a pink café au lait bowl, and sitting down with some knitting and a feline companion will make it just perfect.

DSC_2593

There will be more Christmas-y stuff here this week, and a special Christmas gift for my lovely blog readers, so be sure to come back soon, I don't want you to miss out!