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Archive for December, 2007


Great Great Aunt Gene’s “Honest, They Really Won’t Kill You” Lemon Cookies

Today’s post inspired by Mason-Dixon Knitting and their Grandma Mabel Memorial Recipe Box Show & Tell Contest.

Hi Ellen!

Lemon Cookies I’m sure you remember these cookies from our youth. Mom found a scrawled recipe in Grandma J’s stuff. (For readers — Aunt Gene was our Grandmother Hazel J’s aunt. That made her our mother’s great aunt and our great great aunt…following?) Mom thinks it is the one that Aunt Gene and Great Grandma R (ours, not our mom’s) used when they made their lemon cookies.

Recipe Front

Recipe Back
She copied it out on a 3X5 card for me, stuffed it in the Recipe Boxback of a drawer and sent it to me several years later. I then carelessly left it lying around to be water-damaged carefully preserved it in my recipe box and waited several years to try it out. This was the year!

The really audacious thing about these cookies is that they are made with ammonia — it took a while to convince Dale that baker’s ammonia could be consumed…especially after he got a whiff of the kitchen. I explained that the ammonia really didn’t stay in the cookie, but was how it was leavened. (Not sure he got that.) If you want to try to make these, I got my ammonia and the lemon oil from Penzey’s. The pencil marks on the card are mine…my experimentation to determine to what “about 1/2 crock of flour” equates.

Cookie Close-UpI know I didn’t get the icing right, but after the marathon baking session we did earlier in the season, a lemon glaze was all they were going to get. Fortunately the nonpareils dress them up a bit. (We always have nonpareils in our household for that very reason — if I’m too lazy for even lipstick, nonpareils do suffice.) The cookies themselves are tender and have a delicate but distinct lemon flavor. It really makes itself known after the cookie has already been gone for several minutes. It’s that lovely piquant sensation you get from citrus oil…a bit of a tingle and a note of lemony-deliciousness. And it’s pretty addicting. I didn’t roll out all of the dough…will see how it freezes.

These would be awesome if I could figure out a nicely tangy lemon icing that could just be dolloped on them. Maybe lemon curd even?

There also has been a bit of knitting going on. I am down to 8 pattern repeats for the center panel of Marie’s wedding shawl. That said, I needed a break with something requiring a little less concentration. (I have no idea how folks memorize 12 row repeating lace patterns…I have to check every row. Though I do have the rows pretty well memorized, I just can’t keep track of which I’m on without checking.) Hearts for HeidiSo I started “Hearts for Heidi” the socks I promised Heidi for her to wear at the wedding. Hearts Close-UpI also have to get busy on my own shrug, but have at least progressed on that to the narrowing down to 8 patterns stage.

Guess What VestI’m also working on this. Can you guess what it is?

Gotta get going…Dale is slowly building resentment that I am playing on the blog while he vacuums in preparation for our very casual gathering tonight. Some friends and their mom/mom-in-law are coming over. We’ll go to the “Scottish Walk” in Portsmouth and come back to our place for heavy finger foods (the foods, not the fingers, though after this holiday all parts are a bit heavy), some champagne and celebration of the New Year based on Greenwich Mean Time. Yes, we are as young as we feel…and that would be fairly old!

Love, Jan

No blood was spilled.

Hi, Jan,

124.jpgThe trip was uneventful. Ken proclaimed his prediction for the Super Bowl - Browns all the way. Fine dining in Marietta seems to be defined as charging too much for ordinary food. They did have a short but good wine list - I highly recommend Seven Deadly Zins. It was Patty’s excellent idea that wine would help the lunch taste better in more ways than one. I was momentarily distressed when after I selected the wine for the table, the enthusiastic but inexperienced waitress poured big pours for the other 5 wine drinkers, leaving about a tablespoon for me. But Brother Timothy gave me the last half of his glass, which I really appreciated.

215.jpgIn an unrelated note, I did finally execute a Ball Band Dishcloth, a la Mason-Dixon Knitting. I’m leaving it as a thank you for the woman who is letting us stay in her house just down the road from Wilson’s parents. It is nice to have a bed and a door!

Ann’s Cap

Hi Ellen!

You are, of course, absolutely correct about the need to knit well vice well enough. I Ann’s Cap Frontfrogged the cap and started over…and am now very pleased with the results. Not only did I finish knitting it up last night, but I took my pattern notes and converted them into an actual written pattern! I’m going to e-mail it to you so you can do a check for me. Hopefully this weekend I can do a bit of blog tending and establish a section for us to make patterns available. I might even have the audacity to submit to Knitty or one of the other sites like Who Knits? or Ravelry.

Anns Cap BackThe cap itself is for my friend Ann who recently found she has ovarian cancer. She has formed a group of supporters around her that is helping her stay strong in the fight. More evidence that it’s our connections with others that form our safety nets. Tina graciously agreed to model for blog pix and for the published pattern. I’m pleased with the results — front and back…I’ll mail the cap off to Ann soon.

Have fun seeing the Ohio folks…It’s been too long since I’ve been back, but I just don’t have the energy to get there over a weekend.  Maybe after the wedding I hope!  Give my love to all.

Love, Jan

Do you recognize this yarn?

Definitely making good use of lazy minutes on this trip to make progress on the Refined Raglan. 45.jpgI decided to do the sleeve hems before attaching them to the yoke, so as to avoid having to turn the entire garment as I knit them. I used EZ’s technique for hemming this time, instead of knitting the hem in as I did for the bottom hem. You pick up stitches in the cast on row (right in the purl bumps - very slick) and knit a hem in a lighter weight yarn and smaller needle. I went from Aran weight yarn and a number 6 to DK weight and a number 5. A much better result - note how the bottom absolutely insists on flipping up - maybe this could be a design element? - but the sleeve hems look great on both the inside and the outside.54.jpg

123.jpgBiscuit is getting braver and came out from hiding to play. 214.jpgHe feels safest curled in Karen’s arms. But not so safe that he doesn’t look wildly about at any noise, thereby creating art pix.310.jpg

A quiet day here in WV today, then tomorrow we head to Marietta to have lunch with Patty, Tim, Ken (I hope) and Eloise. That means more knitting time in the car.

Happy Boxing Day!

Hi Ellen!

Boxing Day is meant to observe the day after Christmas when British well-to-do “boxed” and delivered gifts for their servants…but having to drag my sorry behind out of bed and into work today made me feel like it was more about having survived a number of rounds in the ring! At least I came in with some wonderful memories from the last few days. Christmas AmaryllisWe did have a great holiday — lots of the stuff you’re supposed to have…togetherness, love, appreciation, personal and spiritual reflection. Our bunch ranges along the Christian line from believer to agnostic, but we’re all well invested in being part of a better world by “being the change we wish to see in the world”. (Oh, wait a minute, that was on the paperweight we put in Marie’s stocking.) As my lovely amaryllis from my lovely sister bloomed on Christmas morning, I’ve gotta stick with believer.

Marie Decoratespict0002.JPGCookies to DeliverThe cookie and candy making crossed three days of the holiday and we delivered collections of springerle, dream bars, cranberry bars, rice krispy treats, sour milk rollouts, lemon squares, peanut butter and chocolate fudge, light and dark peppermint bark and buttercream mints to 9 recipient families/groups. We still have quite a stock of leftovers — even after Heidi and Marie took another boxful home with them.

Marie and Heidi CookiesAllen and Tina CookiesDale and Jan CookiesMy favorite cookies were all of our self-portraits. I don’t know if Marie had read your post for inspiration, but she decreed that we would all have to create them. And all did. I’m particularly tickled by Dale’s conversion of the santa into an astronaut. Allen’s detail on his Sailor was amazing too. And I love that Marie chose to do a burlesque costume and Tina went for evening dress. Heidi said she was going to wear what she was comfortable in — a buttoned down shirt and slacks — and that’s why she’s smiling so broadly. All got their personalities well captured!When I got out of the kitchen and to the decorating table, I had a little problem in that none of the ginger ladies or ginger men were left. I settled for using an angel. Allen Max and Ruby Cookiespoints out that I am anything but an angel…I point out that not all angels are nice and she does have knitting in hand. And possibly most remarkable are the Max and Ruby cookies…what a surprise given that they don’t have opposable thumbs.

Oh Christmas TreeKids Wait to Come DownstairsMarie and Heidi with StockingsAllen and Tina with StockingsChristmas morning brought many happy rippings of wrapping paper and lots of ooh’s, ah’s, and exclamations of “I love it!” Stockings were well stuffed and everyone got more than they deserved was blessed with many lovely gifts. We rounded out the day by rounding ourselves out by mass consumption of the traditional steak and baked potato dinner, more cookies and candies, adult beverages and more cookies and candies. Heavy activity ensued — card playing and puzzle making.

And of course, knitting — but EASY knitting…a simple chemo cap pattern for a friend with ovarian cancer. I am very pleased with the feel of the fabric, but am ready to rip and restart as I’ve decided I designed for too much negative ease. It will go on the head, but I think to be comfortable for longer periods needs to have an extra inch or two. Dale, Allen and Tina encouraged me to keep going on it last night (they each wedged it on tried it on last night), but you know how it is when you just aren’t happy with the way something is turning out? You just know where you have to go, so on to the frog pond for me.

Despite the missteps on the cap, I would be lying if I intimated that we all were anything but happy and content…and at least I still am!

Love, Jan

Christmas love

Hi, Jan,

We had a stellar holiday. We have gone to a gift exchange model for the adults, which seems to have allowed for much more personal gift selection and/or making. With only one gift outside of your immediate family to worry about, it seems you worry a lot more about it and really strive to hit the mark.

39.jpgHere is one of the gifts that hit the mark for me - 70% merino/30% silk roving. No, I am not taking up spinning, but Margaret spins, and that is what really hit me, that she would take on spinning this lovely stuff for me. I didn’t get a shot yesterday of the lovely yak yarn from Daughter #1 (cranberry - Karen says I need to consider wearing colors once in a while) or the excellent Rilo Kiley and Stars CD’s from Jenny (she is responsible for keeping me up to date in pop culture) - their gifts are always special to me as they seem to intuit what will really mean something to me almost all of the time.

Also on the knitting front, I can now reveal the holiday knit. 213.jpgIt is the lovely Ice Queen by Rosemary Hill and featured in Knitty this issue, but done in the Hurricane colorway so I am calling it Hurricane Princess because I knit it for our little princess.

122.jpgOf course, the best gifts are the hardest to wrap.

Love,

Ellen

Merry Christmas Eve!

Dear Jan,

We, too, are having a lovely approach to Christmas. Wilson and I gathered Karen in Cleveland and drove to West Virginia to join his parents and his sibs and their families for our traditional holiday. Karen’s kitties joined us. 44.jpgBiscuit hasn’t exactly settled in yet, 53.jpgbut Ganymede is happily receiving tummy rubs from everyone.

First job - get a tree. 119.jpgWe hiked out to the Christmas Tree Farm (located in the backyard) and selected a mighty spruce. 212.jpgJon felled the tree. 38.jpgDecorating was scary, as this spruce was extra spiny, but we managed it.

One traditional event is the Christmas Eve walk. 63.jpgThis started when we needed to burn some energy off of Karen and Jenny when they were little. Now we really need to burn off some of the holiday goodies, but it is always nice to get out and see some of the neighborhood lights. We walk a lot faster when we are doing the holiday in Minnesota.

Another tradition is Grandpa’s reading of “Silver Packages, An Appalachian Christmas Story” written Cynthia Rylant. This never fails to bring tears to 2/3 of the audience. 71.jpgJenny joined us by Skype from Korea. It was wonderful to see her. 81.jpgNice traditional Christmas picture, isn’t it?

Love,

Ellen

120.jpgP.S. Guess who we met at airport security in Mineapolis?!

Christmas Fun

Hi Ellen!

We have the house full of kids right now…okay, they’re not kids, but you know what I mean. Heidi and Marie arrived yesterday afternoon and Tina arrived the day before, so the family is together and it’s very good.

Yesterday Allen, Tina and I got started on the baking. We did many of our Christmas traditional cookies — ones that had gone unbaked the last few years. We still have a few to do, but got the bulk of it done…now the decorating of the roll-outs is another thing. That will be a major event for tomorrow. And hopefully I post with a run down on all the cookies and the calories staring us in the face.

Today I broke out the woolpets (TM) needle felting kit that I couldn’t resist when I ordered yarn for my wedding shrug. mama-penguin-and-scarf.jpgIt was for a little penguin and cost $15 at the Loopy Ewe. Well, she turned out really, really cute. I just had to knit her a little scarf to keep warm. And later in the morning decided she needed a baby, so I took some of the leftover roving and got busy making one. (The company says they include enough roving for one large or two small penguins…we prove the kit has enough for a whole penguin family.) I had it in my head that I had enough roving I could make a baby for each of the kids’ stockings. tina-and-jan-needle-felt.jpgTina was intrigued and came to sit by me. I handed her the second needle that came with the kit and showed her how it worked. She got busy and made her own baby. I knit little stocking hats for each of them. This led to Marie needing to make one too. It got a little watch cap with pom-pom. babies-in-watch-cap-and-stocking-cap.jpgAt that point, Heidi couldn’t be left out and she figured out how to make a fourth baby of a different color scheme to make do with the remaining roving. Hers got the a watch cap too. So…they think they made babies for the penguin family on our mantle, and they actually each made their own penguin babies. felt-penguins.jpg( Allen will get the baby I made.) It was so fun to all be working on the same craft…and seeing how cute each one was and how they each had their own personality. Definitely $15 very well spent.

Tomorrow I get to see how personalities shine through at the cookie decorating table. We’re going to try color flow this year…could be dangerous!

Hope you are having a wonderful time on holiday!

Love, Jan

The Christians and the Pagans

with a nod to Dar Williams

Dear Jan,

About a week ago, my boss and I had a conversation about how much he missed having the Santa Claus breakfast at work and lots of Christmas decorations in government buildings and at work and how he was sad he didn’t feel that we could just say “Merry Christmas” with abandon. I replied that I understood his nostalgia for the past and it was a shame that people couldn’t lighten up and accept a wish of Merry Christmas as a wish for happiness, not a forced indoctrination into Christianity. I did say that as a non-Christian, it could feel a bit lonely (despite being surrounded by lovely pagan symbols like wreaths and trees, but can I really count them when I know they aren’t sincere?). But basically I agreed - why can’t we all live and let live, and wish happiness and peace for all?

117.jpgYesterday a florist’s truck pulled up and delivered a lovely Christmas cactus. The card read “Happy Solstice and Happy New Year”. It was signed by my boss. It made me so happy.

And Happy Solstice to you, too.

118.jpgLove,

Ellen

P.S. Snow was falling at sunrise. Gorgeous start to the holiday.

Chessknit

Dear Jan,

Wilson and I have discovered an opportunity to combine our individual passions (the public ones). We call it chessknit. Two of my knitting buddies have youngsters who are interested in learning chess so we are combining chess lessons with knitting group.

37.jpg211.jpgW and V are both charming and bright. Just like Wilson, and much hilarity ensued. It is the high energy season of the year - hard to get a shot where one of the kids isn’t blurred.

43.jpgLisa made a bit more progress on the chenille shrug she is knitting for a winter dance; 52.jpgChris is making mittens and sharing in the hilarity. I continued work on the holiday knitting (which is blocking as I type this!).

The other big news of the day is that I successfully moved my itunes library to my Macbook.I now feel complete.

Love, Ellen