Monday, December 28, 2015

2015...a lovely year of finishes

As another year comes to a close. It's fun to look back at the year and review all the things that made it special. Family wise...we were glad that as each month came to a close, our son, Michael, got a little closer to a full recover from the fall he took as a fire fighter in September 2014. I am happy to say that as of this writing he will be returning to work in the full capacity as a fire fighter/paramedic in a few weeks.
Paul and I traveled to Canada and Italy and I was able to go to The GlampStitchalot Retreat in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in November and Sewtopia Chicago in April.
We also gained a teenager this year. I can't believe our eldest granddaughter is 13. Next year we will have two teens in the family, when Jack celebrates his thirteenth birthday. We also felt officially "old" when our eldest son turned 40 in July. How did that happen?
The rest of the family is healthy and happy. We were not able to get together as often as I would like, but we did get together in October to celebrate my mom's 90th birthday. It was great fun to not only have all our sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren present, but also my sister, brother-in-law, nephew and his family along with my brother and his daughter.


Creatively, I think I did well. We always compare ourselves to other creators, but I am trying not to do that and I hope that each one who reads this post will just gain encouragement and inspiration from my finishes. I know I will be checking on a few friends as they post their creative finishes, too.
I branched out a little and tried a few new projects like rope bowls and making wallets. But, the biggest hurdle was stepping back into garment sewing. I started as a garment sewist, but haven't sewn clothes for myself in many decades. I haven't had the patience for pattern alterations the last several years but decided to give it a try this year. I even drafted my very first blouse pattern in more than 40 years! {It's that blouse in the bottom left corner of my garment collage}. I have a long way to go to make it right, but it's a beginning. I made it from fabric leftover from a quilt back. The print is not lined up and it won't be wearable, but it's been a good learning project for me.
I've really fallen hard for knitting and hope to branch out into bigger and more complex projects next year. I think it is the mindless act of knitting socks that I really love the most, so I might just keep it simple and stick with socks.
All collages were made with the Project Life app on the iPad. I love this tool for super quick scrapbook pages and documenting our travels this way. too. 







Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Socks



I follow Susan B Anderson on Instagram and love reading her inspirational blog. She is such a talented knitter. She posted a really cute photo of her Christmas socks next to her tree on Instagram so I decided to copy her. The first two photos are similar to Susan's.
I changed my mind and decided to model the socks and have Mr. Romance do the photo shoot. We started out really good but then got silly and by the end of the shoot we were laughing so hard. My feet kept cramping when I tried to point my toes. If only someone had a camera of the out takes with me lying on the floor with my feet in the air, trying to stretch out the cramp. It's tough being a {SUPER} sock model. Ha! Ha!
These socks were fun to knit and see the stripes form as I went along. I have to say the red scared me, but when I blocked them there was no bleeding of the color AT ALL! The socks feel fantastic. I am going to research other colors in the Poste Yarn label. I have been very pleased with all my purchases from Simply Socks Yarn Co. 










I'm glad I finished these socks in time to wear them to our son and daughter-in-law's house on Christmas Eve.

Sock Stats:
Pattern: My Basic Color Block Sock with a Fish Lips Kiss Heel
Yarn: Toes, Heels and Cuff are made of Simply Sock Yarn 80% super wash wool, 20% nylon Cherry Red color way. Stripe foot and leg Poste Yarn Striping Sock yarn by Simply Socks yarn 75% super wash Corriedale wool, 25% nylon Color is Jollyville
Needles: 24" circular Addi Turbo Sock Rockets US size 1 (2.5mm)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Dinner Napkins

My dearest friend has a birthday in December. It's always a difficult decision to choose a gift for her because we have known each other for so long that it feels like we have gone through all the stages of gifting. For the last few years I have been making my friends a quilt when they reach their sixtieth birthday. Jennifer has two more years before she can cross that milestone off her list, so this year I made her some linen napkins.
I purchased the linen bundles at Purl Soho (the warehouse is only a few miles from my house) and followed the tutorial on the Purl Soho blog to make the mitered corners. The handkechief linen is very soft and presses beautifully to get nice crisp folds. There are a lot of tedious steps to making these napkins, like pulling a thread to cut the first straight line and folding the sides and pressing twice, changing the thread to match each fabric and...well you get the picture. Each napkin took me about twenty minutes to make. The bundle can make three napkins from each color, so I have another two sets of twelve napkins to make for another time.
The pattern was super easy to follow and I can see many more napkins in my future made of fun prints for each season or holiday.










Sunday, December 20, 2015

Merry Christmas





The cards are sent, the gifts are bought. I've done a little baking, but we decided to cut back this year. There are plans to celebrate on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. We'll go to Midnight Mass (at 10 pm) at our Polish Catholic Church on Christmas Eve. I guess the only thing left to do is to wish all my friends and readers a very Merry Christmas.




Friday, December 18, 2015

Sparkly Socks








I started these socks on our vacation in Italy in October and finished them a few weeks ago. These photos show the slight shimmer of the silver threads woven into the yarn. They are just so pretty and festive.
When it came time to knit the heels I decided that I wanted to have contrasting heels and cuffs. In a perfect world I would have had contrasting toes too, but I was too lazy to rip them out and start all over again. I went to my local yarn store and found a coordinating grey baby merino that worked out really well.
I also wanted to try the Afterthought Heel. For those non-knitters, it is a technique where you place a removable row of stitches where the heel should begin and then go back and knit the heels after you are finished knitting the entire sock. This technique is to allow the stripe pattern to not be interrupted when knitting the heels. This new to me technique taught me that I still like my Fish Lips Kiss Heel technique, but I am willing to try to do an "Afterthought" version of it the next time I make striped socks.

Sock Stats:
Pattern: Vanilla Socks with an Afterthought Heel Free on Ravelry
Yarn: Glitter Stripe Gothic Plum Sparkle from Simply Socks Yarn Co. 84% superwash merino, 16% nylon 
Heels: Lanett 100% Merino light grey
Needles: 24" Circular Addi Turbo Sock Rockets US Size 1 (2.5mm)

Monday, December 14, 2015

Crossing Paths Quilt


intersection block quilt

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Earlier this year, when I was the queen of the Stitch Tease Bee, I asked my bee mates to make Intersection blocks using Film In The Fridge's fun tutorial. I asked for blocks using mustard, navy, teal, and fuschia fabrics. Twenty-three blocks arrived from my sweet friends. I made nineteen more so I could have a 6x7 block layout, resulting in a good sized lap quilt.
I pieced all the blocks together and then set it aside until a few weeks ago when I decided that Cotton & Steel's Bespoke Spark double gauze in Mustard would make the perfect background. It is so soft and was a dream to free motion quilt.
I am getting a little more brave when it comes to free motion quilting and for this project I used a swirl and stem pattern with leaves on it. It's just random and was fairly easy to do. I got a good rhythm going and was able to get it finished in two afternoons. Aurifil's thread color #5022 was a perfect choice. I am really on a mustard kick lately. I just love this color so much that I chose it as part of our wardrobe color choices for our family Christmas card photo. My kids had a ball with that one, wondering if mom wanted them to wear Gulden's or French's...or maybe Grey Poupon!
I wanted the quilt to be finished with a navy binding, but didn't have many choices in my stash. I ended up using Navy Ovals Remix by Robert Kaufman.
I am calling this quilt "Crossing Paths" because it is for my very special friend, Pam, who also happens to be my son's mother-in-law. She is such a fun, kind and encouraging friend. I don't get to see her much but I know if she lived closer we would hang out all the time. She's one of the funniest people I know and also one of the most honest. I am so happy to be able to gift her this quilt and I sure am glad that our paths have been crossing for the last 16 years.

Quilt Stats:
Name: Crossing Paths
Fabric: Random fabrics in Navy, Mustard, Fuschia and Teal
Backing: Cotton & Steel Bespoke Spark Mustard Double Gauze
Thread: Pieced with Aurifil 50 wt. Quilted by me with Aurifil 50 wt. #5022
Batting: Warm and White
Binding: Navy Ovals Remix by Robert Kaufman
Size after Laudering: 60" x 72"

Friday, December 11, 2015

Italy Trip, Part Three

These photo pages document the last few days of our time in Italy. These few days were among some of our favorite, mostly because we spent this time in places we had never visited. Chianalea, on the south west coast of Italy, was the perfect little village to spend the night before we boarded the ferry to Sicily. It is only 30 minute drive to the ferry in Villa San Giovanni. This village had so much charm with nothing to do but roam the alleys and sit along the sea. It's a pedestrian and moped only village. The Carabinieri called the B&B for us to get directions and stopped traffic so we could make a u-turn in the street. That's small town hospitality at its best.



The ferry ride to Messina and then the drive to our rental house was easy, but finding the house was another story. Italians don't give very explicit directions! We were pleasantly surprised and I was super relieved to find the house I had chosen from Air BnB was fantastic. It was clean and roomy, had a huge courtyard and laundry facilities and was only 30 meters from the sea.



Debbie and I enjoyed making dinner two of the three nights we were here. It was fun to go to the market like locals and buy fresh food and make a meal with limited ingredients and resources.


The beach was fantastic. The water was warm and salty. We floated in it for hours.


We went in to Taormina one day to walk around and shop for gifts. Mount Etna is always shrouded in the clouds, but it was a thrill to see it. Just this week we heard that it really put on a show by erupting in the night. We would have liked to see that!



Another meal prepared at the house. Except for the bones, it was pretty perfect.


Three days went really fast and it was time to head back to Rome and fly home. We stopped for one night in Salerno. It was a perfect location for a stop and only a few hours drive from Rome. 




It was really fun to travel with such good friends. After arriving home, we suffered from jetlag for longer than usual. I am excited to finally get all these memories in a scrapbook. All pages were created with the Project Life app.





Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Handmade Holidays

I am thrilled to be a part of Jennifer's Handmade Holidays: Inspirations blog hop.  Have you been following along? 
I have brought back an article I wrote a few years ago about a long time baking tradition that my grandparents brought with them when they came to America at the turn of the 20th century. I hope you enjoy reading about this delicious pastry that I have grown up eating and making.
Comfort and Joy
For as long as I can remember, making nut rolls has been a part of our Christmas tradition.
Some of my earliest memories of preparing the food for Christmas are of my dad sitting on the couch,
watching television, with a huge bowl of walnuts in front of him.


Mom would buy whole, unshelled walnuts and dad would sit for hours and crack them for her. Then mom would use her hand-crank grinder and finely grind the nuts.

Things have gotten a little easier since then. I have switched to pecans, because I like them better, I buy the pecans by the bag at Costco, already shelled. I use the grinding attachment on my Kitchen Aid mixer to get a finely ground nut meal.

The original recipe comes from my paternal grandmother. She was an amazing cook and baker. Grandma was originally from Czechoslovakia, where she was a cook for a wealthy family. 
A few years ago I met my cousins in Slovakia for the first time and was brought to tears when they brought out a plate of their homemade Nut Roll. It really is a long standing family tradition.



Being originally from Pennsylvania, where there were a lot of Slovak people, everyone seemed to have their version of this recipe. I have included my version in my Stanley Family cookbook so my boys will always have a copy for themselves. That's my mom on the page, since her recipe is the one I use...with a few changes. I like to make a little more filling than Mom did.
Here is my updated recipe:
Two Hour Nut Roll
Nut Roll by Diane Stanley

Ingredients

DOUGH
  • 3 envelopes active dry yeast
  • 3/4 c. lukewarm milk
  • 9 c. flour
  • 1 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 1/2 c. butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 9 egg yolks
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 3 T. oil
FILLING
  • 2 lb. pecans, ground in a meat or nut grinder.
  • 1 c. milk, scalded
  • 1 c. butter, melted
  • 3 c. sugar
  • 2 t. vanilla

Directions

  • 1
    Dissolve yeast in warm milk. Mix in sugar, salt, butter, sour cream, egg yolks and oil. Put flour in a large bowl, make a well in the center. Pour in liquid mixture and gradually begin stirring to incorporate all flour. When dough forms into a ball, then lightly knead for a few minutes. { You can also use the dough hook on a Kitchen-Aid mixer and mix until a smooth dough forms.}
  • Let rise in a greased bowl, covered, in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours. Divide dough into 9 pieces. Roll each piece out to a large circle, approximately 1/4 inch thick. Spread filling on dough and roll up like a jelly roll, sealing both ends. Place in greased pans with high sides,seam side down. Cover and allow to rise for 30 minutes. Beat 1-2 additional egg yolks and paint rolls with egg wash. Bake at 300’F for 45-60 minutes, until they look firm and appear done. I like to weigh the dough and filling and divide it evenly to make sure that all rolls are of a uniform size.
  • 2
    For Filling: Scald milk, add ground nuts, sugar, butter and vanilla. Allow to cool before using.

I didn't really know there was a competition in my dad's family until we traveled back to Pennsylvania for Christmas when I was 10 years old. 

My parents packed my brother, sister and me into the family car. They stuffed the trunk with our gifts from Santa and a gift for all of my cousins. I have 31 cousins! Are you getting the picture, here? We were crammed into that car for 2 days of driving straight through from California to Pennsylvania. 
Can you say "LEG CRAMPS"?
Of course, we visited all my parents' siblings.  Aunt Mary's nut rolls were so delicious! And then I tasted Aunt Emma's and her's were good too. Uncle George claimed he made the best ones. My Uncle Brownie was an amazing cook and baker. Hmmm...could there be a little competitiveness among the siblings and in-laws?
Either way, I sure enjoyed trying all the different versions and some yummy cookies as well. My aunts and uncles were all amazing cooks and bakers.
These delicious confections are not just a Christmas food. They are great for whenever you need some comfort and joy. I often make them for family funerals because they evoke so many memories of the "good ole days".
So a lot of sugar, butter and nuts wrapped in a delicious dough can make anyone feel better, right?
Making and eating this sweet treat brings back so many fond memories of holidays in the past.


It's also therapeutic to do something so comforting as making dough 

 rolling it out
 and spreading it with a sweet nut mixture.
This is a soft dough that rolls out so easily. 

 Just 30 minutes more for the second rise
 a brush with beaten egg yolks
 an hour in the oven

a thick schmere of nut filling between layers of sweet dough

 DELICIOUS!



I've made a double batch to get us through Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. Nut Roll is just one of the many Christmas treats I will be making this year.

What holiday sweet brings comfort and joy to your heart?
Be sure to link your Handmade Holidays project at Ellison Lane for a chance to win some generous prizes.