Saturday, December 20, 2008

Night Cap Anyone?

For Christmas I've knit a night cap for my Dad. He feels the cold at night so what could be more useful than a night cap? It's not as if you can find these readily at your local mall. At least not here in Southern California anyway.

For the modeled photo I specifically told Mr Puffy to look jolly and whimsical. However, he disagreed and went for something solemn and more dignified. I told him he looked like Captain Hook from Peter Pan. But, what can I do? He's his own man, Mr Puffy, and he would model it his own way.

Particulars: Basic Hat Pattern; Ann Budd's The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns; 1 skein Hand painted Cashmere DK weight (Tess' Designer yarns); US 6 needles. The edging is a simple 2" turned hem without the picot edging. My dad just isn't the picot type. The hat is stockinette as I didn't want anything to detract from softness of the fabric. I added the tassel because all night caps seem to have them. Check out Twas The Before Christmas if you don't believe me.

I haven't talked much about my dad, but he's a pretty special person. He grew up on a farm in rural Minnesota during the great depression. Not an easy life. He describes getting up while it was still dark out to milk the cows before school and hunting with his brothers to put food on the table. But his mother made life as nice as she could and they ate well on the farm. Stacks of hotcakes in the morning, plenty of fresh baked bread and pies.

The follow picture is one of the few that were taken of the boys on the farm. My dad is the one standing farthest from the camera.

After high school my dad fought in the Korean war and was awarded the Bronze Medal for his bravery in combat. His unit was responsible for laying communication lines on the front with only fox holes for protection, which was a very dangerous assignment.

After the war, he was able to afford college with the assistance of the G.I. Bill. This resulted in a long and successful career as a civil engineer. He's retired now and he and my mother enjoy good health and a happy marriage in beautiful Santa Barbara, California. At age 79 he's still golfing, fishing, camping and enjoying life to the fullest. And he deserves it all because you'll never find a more honest, decent and hard working person than my dad.

Since I'm on the subject, I thought this would be a good time to share the recipe for his favorite Christmas cookies. They are a buttery walnut cookie and I make them every year, just because.

Festive Walnut Christmas Cookies:
A modified version of a Betty Crocker recipe.

2/3 cup unsalted butter room temperature (150g)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp water
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts (it's best to chop the nuts by hand as the irregular pieces are nice)

Garnish ~ candied cherries (cut into quarters). You can find these at the grocery store over the holidays typically sold in plastic tubs.

Note:  This is a rustic cookie and is best made using old fashioned stirring with a wooden spoon.  So put aside your electric mixer for this one.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and cover baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat.
2. Using wooden spoon cream butter with sugars and then stir in egg, vanilla and water.
3. Sift together dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, and salt). Add to butter mixture with a wooden spoon and stir just until incorporated. Add walnuts.
4. Decorate cookie dough with cherry pieces; and
5. Bake 8-10 minutes or until cookie is set and slightly brown at the edges.

I hope everyone has a wonderful, meaningful, and happy Christmas. And if you happen to have a night cap, say a toast to my Dad and those like him.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Time to Cocoon

I would like to thank everyone for the nice comments on Steve's scarf ~ he was thrilled to read all of them! But. Well. A little disappointed that there were no requests for nude photos.

It has finally turned Wintry here in Southern California. It always seems that Winter will never arrive and then all of a sudden you know it's Winter because it's freezing cold outside. I find myself wondering, when I venture out into the brisk morning air, why it is that I wished for it to be Winter. I certainly don't enjoy freezing on my morning jog. Ah, yes. Now I remember. It is because I can wear my knitwear! Enjoy cozy days inside! Warm my tummy after dinner with a glass of liqueur! And, in general, enjoy cocooning at home!

This is Haven a Kim Hargreaves design knit with Rowan's cocoon yarn. I have always loved the cozy hat and scarf sets that appear in magazines around this time of year so decided that this year I would make one for myself.

When I first felt the cocoon yarn in the skein I wasn't that impressed. However, it was surprisingly soft to knit and the final washed and blocked product couldn't be more warm and cozy.

Please don't examine the hat too closely. It will pass with non-knitters, I believe. It seemed so simple a concept. I would just knit a panel of the Haven scarf design in the round to make a matching hat. This would have worked perfectly but for my failing to take into account the increases and decreases which effectively shifted the design 1 stitch over each round. I decided I would rather have the hat fit than concern myself with an exact pattern match so I merrily knit on worrying not about the lack of perfection ~ which is an attitude I try to bring to life in general.

Particulars: Haven from Heartfelt the Dark House Collection; US 11 needles; 3 skeins Rowan Cocoon (including hat); colorway Polar. Modified by simply doing 1 lace panel instead of 2 and only 18 of the 28 pattern repeats with the goal of having an opulent but more traditionally sized scarf (wash/blocked 62"x9"). My hat is a wonky version of Haven in the round.

I will warn that if you wash this yarn you must be extremely careful how you do so. I just tossed the scarf and hat into a warm bath and came back 20 minutes later to find that the yarn had relaxed and grown at least 12 inches. I went into shock and required ER procedure, um, actually it was the yarn that required ER procedure and somehow I managed to coax the hat and scarf back to their original shapes. Now that it's dry, I love how springy and lively the yarn is and maybe that always happens when it's washed. I would just be careful that you don't allow it to stretch too much when washing.

You may recall that my neighbor Chris (Mom to Mr Puffy's best friend, Ralph, who Mr Puffy was referring to in his award speach) and I knit this project together. We had lots of fun sharing laughter and mistakes, not necessarily in that order! Chris chose to knit hers exactly as designed and it really came out fabulous. But she was a little shy about having her picture taken so it was fortuante that Mrs. Santa Claus agreed to stand in. Both the picture above and below are of her lovely Haven taken amongst her Christmas decorations.

Lastly, if you are not yet feeling the Christmas spirit, take a look at this link and prepare yourself to feel Christmasy! Christmasy link (you will need to click "download original attachment" to watch the video) .

Have a great week everyone ~ and try having a small glass of liqueur after dinner to warm you inside :) My favorite is Grand Marnier of Crepes Suzette fame and I would love to know yours!