Archive for the 'holidays' Category


Happy New Year!

 We welcomed 2016 with about 100 friends crammed into our house! Actually, we welcomed it twice: we always toast with everyone at midnight GMT (the very family-friendly hour of 7 p.m. EST), and then again at midnight EST with whoever is still here (which ended up being about 20 people this time).

There’s a lot of food (all vegetarian), a lot of beer (thanks to the six-tap keg freezer in our garage), and lots of music.

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We had a scheduled concert at 5 featuring various friends performing different songs and everyone joining together at the end for a rousing rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” (damn straight we demanded our figgy pudding, too!). And there was plenty of other impromptu singing and noodling around on the piano and ukuleles as well.
What fun! And how lucky we are to know so many wonderful people! I’m confident that 2016 will be a very happy new year indeed!
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I just came across this post in my drafts folder. I’m not sure why I didn’t publish it earlier–maybe I was planning to do some big writeup about these items? No big writeup is forthcoming now, but I can share a few comments about these two projects

I made this Little Hanten (from Sock Yarn One-Skein Wonders) for a friend’s daughter. My friend and I went to grad school together (I remember many late nights working on our research grant proposals together!), and she now teaches at the University of Toronto. Now that I’m seeing this photo again, I remember how much I liked knitting this sweater. Another friend just had a baby, so I think I may need to cast on for another one of these soon!

Several years ago, I purchased a British knitting magazine (one of those that costs $20 here in the USA) just so I could get this gnome pattern by Alan Dart. My daughter asked me to make this for her, and she loves it. It’s fun to make, but seaming and sewing together all the parts (which are knit flat in the original pattern) is a PITA. So the next time I make one of these, I plan knit it in the round as much as possible.


I have awesome friends

Last spring, a huge tornado hit Joplin, Missouri, and took out a good chunk of the town. Among those directly affected were the parents and brother of my roommate from college (and still good friend), Beth. They lost pretty much everything: home, cars, belongings. The destruction was so bad that not only was their house razed afterward, but the foundation—which was too damaged to support another structure safely—was removed as well, and everything was filled in . All that remains is a flat empty lot with a driveway apron (the small ramp-like part leading from the curb to the main driveway) going nowhere.

Fortunately, none of Beth’s was injured. And the things they lost were, after all, just things—most of which could be replaced. But among the irreplaceables were items that Beth and her brother had made as children. When I asked Beth, “What can I do for your family?” she replied that some handmade Christmas decor would be much appreciated.

So I sent a note to my local knitting group, and right away several people volunteered to make something. One friend, Ann, is in the middle of downsizing/reorganizing and sent four boxes of Christmas stuff to Beth’s parents. (I checked with Beth about this before giving Ann the go-ahead to ship so much. Beth says there are holiday drives in progress in Joplin right now, so whatever her family can’t use or share with friends will surely find good homes with other people affected by the tornado.)

Other friends created items especially for Beth’s family. From the top : various ornaments from Katie, knitted owl and ball ornaments from Gina, a set of knitted accessory ornaments from Ruth, and a knitted stocking ornament from Beth (not the Joplin one).

All of this stuff (along with something I made) went out to Joplin early last week. Just in time for the holidays!


Free lunch: Christmas knitting

It’s a stocking. With a dinosaur playing a guitar. Seriously, this is so incredibly cool that I’m amazed I’m not knitting it right now instead of writing this post.

Here’s a ball-shaped ornament that doesn’t actually involve knitting but does use yarn and would likely be appreciated by a knitter.

And here’s a ball-shaped ornament that does involve knitting. It’s from Handknit Holidays, one of my favorite knitting books. (I haven’t actually knit anything from this book yet. But I love nearly all the projects in it, so I like to imagine that one day I will.)

It’s a little snowperson wearing a scarf! And a little elf wearing a scarf!

If you’re a fan of reindeer, you’ll appreciate this ornament and this hat.

If stars are more your style, try hanging these little stars or this knit-and-felted star garland in your home.

What? You prefer mini stockings? Look for further! Here’s a mini stocking for you . . . and an even mini-er mini stocking!

And while we’re on a “mini” theme, don’t miss this mini Santa hat ornament.

I love these little pine tree-shaped sachets, too, and think it would be great fun to fill them with all sorts of nice-smelling stuff. The folks at the Purl Bee do come up with some nifty patterns. I just wish they didn’t usually use the most expensive yarn on the planet for them.

For years I’ve saved wine corks, thinking I’d do something crafty with them. These little korknisser are one option. I made one of these a couple of years ago with Lamb’s Pride bulky. It looked great, but it wasn’t easy to knit these tiny things with such thick yarn. The one I made sits out on an end table during the holidays, though Sylvia often co-opts it for her toy bin.


May the fourth be with you!

Happy Star Wars Day, everyone!I actually posted this on Twitter at 2:30 in the morning (during one of those “woke up in the middle of the night and now can’t get back to sleep” episodes), but an e-mail from my friend Tall Rob reminded me that I hadn’t yet mentioned it here.Interestingly, #maythe4thbewithyou is now trending on Twitter. Looks like this meme has gone mainstream. I certainly don’t claim any credit for it—I think the geek presence on Twitter just reached a critical mass.


Today is a holiday

Yup. That’s right.

Happy Donner Party Rescue Day, everyone!


Fake or real?

I grew up with an artificial Christmas tree. In fact, my parents bought their tree the year after I was born and used it until a few years ago, when they replaced it with a newer model—one that comes apart into three pieces (instead of fifty) and is prelit with strings of lights.

Jan grew up with real Christmas trees in his house, and that’s the tradition we’ve maintained in our own home. We love the smell of real fir and don’t mind having to vacuum fallen needles (not too much of a problem if the tree is kept well watered, actually). And Sylvia loves our annual ritual of going to the local cut-your-own tree farm. We drive past that place frequently throughout the year, and each time we do she calls out to it in passing, “Hi, Christmas tree farm! See you in December!”

Before we headed out to get our tree last week, Jan and I wondered, briefly, if an artificial tree would be a better choice. The advantage of prelit over wrestling-with-light-strings are pretty obvious, but we weren’t sure about the environmental cost. We decided to table the issue for this year at least, until we’d had more time to look into it, and headed off to the tree farm.

As it turns out, we made the correct choice, environmentally speaking—at least according to an article that appeared in The New York Times last Friday.

In the most definitive study of the perennial real vs. fake question, an environmental consulting firm in Montreal found that an artificial tree would have to be reused for more than 20 years to be greener than buying a fresh-cut tree annually. The calculations included greenhouse gas emissions, use of resources and human health impacts. . . . .

Over all, the study found that the environmental impact of real Christmas trees was quite small, and significantly less than that of artificial trees — a conclusion shared by environmental groups and some scientists.


“If it’s edible, fry it.”

Several months ago, a group of friends started discussing various deep-fried oddities and our mutual love of deep-fried foods. (Me, personally, I think “the deep-fried group” should be on the FDA pyramid, right next to “the cheese group” and “the chocolate group.”) One thing led to another, and before we know it we were planning National Fry Day. Our motto: “If it’s edible, fry it.” Indeed.

One person graciously offered to host the event, which took place last Saturday. The oil was hot at 5 p.m., and although all participants also brought tasty non-fryable fare (e.g., salads, dips) to share and, ideally, make us all feel a little less guilty about the damage we were about to do to our hearts and GI systems, the deep-fried food won the popularity contest hands-down.

There were a few “pedestrian” dishes–that is, the sort of stuff you usually see deep fried, like samosas and sliced potatoes. They were good, but what interested me most were the things that one doesn’t often get to sample in battered and deep-fried form.


The list included:

  • bacon weave stuffed with sausage and cheese
  • fake bacon weave stuffed with fake sausage and cheese (a.k.a., “the facon weave”)
  • olives stuffed with Monterey Jack
  • olives stuffed with habanero cheddar
  • mac and cheese
  • Scotch eggs
  • Scotch eggs without sausage
  • Bacon-wrapped jalapenos
  • Tandoori chicken
  • Twinkies
  • Butterscotch Krimpets (Tastykake is a Philly company)
  • cake icing
  • cake batter
  • Snickers (of course!)

I’ve probably forgotten to mention several things that made their way into one of the deep fryers. I ate so much fried food that I think I slid into a brief food coma and missed some of the action. One thing I didn’t fail to notice was that a surprisingly large portion of the food that got fried was vegetarian friendly…though I suspect that after a trip to a deep fryer, much of this stuff probably wasn’t too friendly to anyone.

I am already starting to draw up a list of new stuff to deep fry. I hope we do another party like this. Maybe not until next summer, though–I think my body needs some time to recover from this one.

I totally agree with Scalzi: Grover is indeed the Best Muppet Ever.



Life update

Reading: Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen. For the past year or so, I’ve been part of a book group. We are far from hoity-toity in our selections: in the summer, anyone interested in leading a discussion proposes one or more books, then we vote on what we feel like reading. We meet only every other months during the school year, so the reading load isn’t heavy volume-wise. I am enjoying the opportunity to sit around and talk books with grownups every once in a while, and I also appreciate being prodded to read things that have long been on my to-read list (e.g., The Omnivore’s Dilemma) and introduced to things that would not have caught my eye otherwise–such as Water for Elephants.

This was an entertaining read–not particularly deep, with a fairly compelling narrative that kept me turning the pages to find out what happened next. On a scale from 1 to 100, I would have given it a rating of 85 . . . except . . . near the end of the book, the author does something that I think constitutes unfair treatment of the reader, and for that the rating gets bumped down to 65. I don’t want to spoil it, but I will say this: it’s a tomato surprise.

Watching: The Mighty Boosh. Oh my dog, this show is hilarious. (And, like most BBC series, is doesn’t go on forever and actually ends while it’s still strong. When, oh when, will American television ever learn this lesson?*) The first season is awesome, and the second season not quite as good, but in the third (and final) season the brilliance returns.

Here is one of my favorite moments (this one’s from the first season):


“Charlie was racked with guilt. He’d killed fifty Inuits–no one needs that.”

Getting into the holiday spirit: With one of my favorite Christmas songs ever, “Fairytale of New York,” by the Pogues. Because really, if such lyrics as “Happy Christmas your arse / I pray God it’s our last” don’t put you in the holiday mood, nothing will.**

*I am very much one of those people in the “Heroes should have ended after the first season” camp.

**Well,  Barenaked for the Holidays, by the Barenaked Ladies, would probably succeed. It’s a truly awesome holiday album. If you don’t own it yet, you should.

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