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London #alltheplaces

Our UK adventure begins!

We are a walking advertisement for Osprey.

After a great flight from Nashville to London via NYC, we hit the ground running with a full day of sight-seeing, determined to stave off jet lag by staying vertical as long as humanly possible. That included:

a wonderful brunch,

the Horse Guard Parade,

a two-hour visit to Westminster Abbey,

and the Two Chairmen Public House, which began quietly enough but filled when Parliament adjourned.

(Clay recognized Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party)

(Here’s my Merrie Dancers Toorie beside a pint, because I’m a knitter and the knitwear is important)

After liquid fortification, we walked to Buckingham Palace,

took the tube to Coventry Garden,

and had a proper English dinner of meat pies.

Then we crashed. And crashed hard, having made it to 21:00.

It’s amazing what sleep will do. And a very good cup of coffee.

Team USA Olympic-Inspired Hat

The 2018 USA Olympic Team uniform designs have been released and I don’t know about you, but I always look forward to their reveal! I have been a life-long fangirl of Ralph Lauren and his American-West-inspired lifestyle esthetic (not to mention his views on raising kids and the importance of family…check it out). We knitters are not disappointed by the inclusion of a gorgeous stranded-knit sweater design that will be worn by Team USA athletes at the opening ceremony in PyeongChang on February 9th.

There’s been some spirited discussion about the gloves but personally, I like them and think they will look fabulous on TV.

Those will be some warm, toasty hands.

There’s also a lot of chatter about the textile technology that will keep our team warm in South Korea. Also fascinating.

Inspired by the splendid colorwork sweater, I challenged myself to sit down and chart the motifs of the sweater using Stitch Fiddle, an easy-to-use chart-generating program. Wouldn’t it be great to have a hat inspired by the Olympic team’s sweater, I thought to myself?  Why yes, it would!

The men’s and women’s sweaters are not identical but feature many of the same motifs. I picked and chose the motifs I liked and placed them into this hat design.

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Knit with DK weight scraps from other projects, the hat is a generous beanie with some slouch that will fit most medium-sized adult heads. The size can be altered easily by going up or down a needle-size, or by lessening the number of repeats of the biggest motif, which is 18 stitches; please note, however, that if the cast on number is changed, some of the smaller motifs will not repeat evenly. If that jog doesn’t bother you, you can modify the overall size that way.

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Using less than 20 gram scraps of each of three colors, you can knit this hat now to wear during the Games, or cast on as you watch the opening ceremony.  This hat would be a great project to knit while viewing your favorite events……curling anyone?

You’ll find the hat pattern and color work chart at the link below.  USA, USA, USA!!!

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/team-usa-2018-hat

The Pudding Experiment

It’s been a very festive day, indeed. We started the morning at church with the children’s Christmas program where we were delighted by an especially jubilant little penguin in the front row who sang his heart out. He knew every word and he wanted to make sure that even the folks in the back row could hear each one. What a joy!

After a hearty lunch of leftover Tortellini and Kale Soup, we began the pudding experiment which in truth began yesterday.

For you see, it was the day to drive our Christmas cards to Spencer County for that special postmark from a real Indiana town named Santa Claus. While there, we almost got in line for the town’s Christmas parade and that would have been a good time if we hadn’t had so many other things to do. With Eric in the driver’s seat and that white beard, we looked right at home.

Wave to the kind people, honey.

It was a quick trip to Monkey Hollow Winery for our annual stockpile of Winter Warmer. By this time it was spitting snow. Now my cousins to the south, like far-south near Atlanta, were getting a blizzard this December 9th but we here in a Southern Indiana could only boast of flurries and quick snow squalls that didn’t accumulate. It did, however, add to the very festive vibe of the day. That and our Holiday Classics on iTunes Radio.

We had hoped to make a trip to the Ferdinand Antique Emporium one last time before they packed up and moved to their new location up the road. We also hoped to snag some bargains from vendors who wanted once less box to pack. We were not disappointed.

We filled a large cardboard box with many treasures but by far the best find of the day was a vintage German pudding mold.

Now you already know that we’re into all of the German things because this time last year, we were in Berlin sipping Gluhwein at German Christmas Markets and buying all the sheepskins. Hygge. We’re homesick for Germany this Christmas season.

Pudding molds are beautiful and this one deserves a holiday home. And a bath.

Not content to resign this beautiful mold to a shelf in the kitchen, we decided to mix up a pudding and put it to work. Eric asked a very good question; he said, “I wonder how long it’s been since a pudding was cooked in that mold?” We like to ponder those kinds of things when we purchase well-loved or well-worn items with stories hidden in every crevice.

Thanks to The Google, we quickly found what sounded like a yummy recipe (how can one go wrong with things like molasses and cinnamon and plump raisins and freshly grated nutmeg?) and we collected the needed ingredients.

I had just the right pot to fit the mold with plenty of room for three hours of bubbling steam and the smells, oh the smells. It’s supposed to sit and season for a bit to fully age. How long do you think we can hold out before taking a bite?

Childhood Dress to Table Runner in Three Easy Steps

While cleaning out some boxes in our basement this holiday season, I came across one with “vintage clothing” inside.  That’s what you call anything worn in the 60s or 70s.  It sounds much fancier than “old clothes”. 

At the top of the box was a red Christmas jumper; it was one of two identical dresses ordered from The Sear and Robuck catalogue for my sister and me to wear on Christmas Sunday, I’m guessing, in about 1970 or so.  Sidenote:  Did you know that you can look at old Sear and Robuck Wishbooks online?  Check this out and plan to spend a few hours there http://wishbookweb.com/  You will soon discover that plaid was a big thing then.


Even for boys.  Gotta love the Toughsins.  We all had ’em. 


Now back to my project…

While still in fairly good condition, the fabric on the bodice of the dress was degrading and as result, it was shedding copious amounts of red dust on everything it touched.  


Because of the mess, I was tempted to toss the garment right into the trash, but the plaid fabric was in such good shape that I hesitated for a moment or two.  I LOVE plaid and while I’m unsure of the fabric content because all of the labels had faded, it was most likely a polyester of some kind.  The woven fabric was in excellent condition and caused such sweet memories to tumble through my head.  Was that the year that I wanted an autoharp for Christmas?  I think it was.  

Obviously, there were too many wonderful memories tied up in that dress to simply throw it away.  So here’s what I did…

Step one:  Salvage the fabric.

Using my seam ripper, I got busy separating the skirt from the bodice.


This was a little fiddly and messy but easily accomplished while listening to Christmas music and having a cup of tea.

Then I gave that skirt a nice bath.  


Again, unsure of the fabric content, I used a mild detergent in cool water and allowed it to sit for a bit.  

I carefully rinsed the fabric and rolled it up in a fluffy towel to absorb most of the excess water.  Then I hung it on the rack to dry.  

Step number two:  Give that fabric remnant a new life.  

Now clean and dry, I carefully pressed the plaid fabric with a medium-hot iron to steam out wrinkles and open up the old hem, which promptly came out with a pull on the line of stitching.  

There was enough usable fabric for a small pillow or a doll blanket, which would have been equally endearing, but I quickly decided upon a table runner because of its obviously long and skinny shape.  Perfect.  

Following the lines of the woven plaid, I trimmed the fabric to its maximum length and width following the straight of the grain.  Then I serged the edges with the serger to keep them from unraveling.  Back at the ironing board, I turned in about 1/2 inch along all edges and mitered the corners, pinning them in place.  A straight line of stitching with white thread secured each edge.  Small lengths of red pom pom trim on each end provided the finishing touch! 


Step three:  Enjoy!

The table runner now sits on my farmhouse table under a piece of wood that was once part of my grandmother’s quilting frame.  Fat candles in thick,  seeded-glass holders line up on top.   There is so much sentiment and satisfaction in that simple centerpiece, now completed with the addition of the plaid runner.  I may trek out into the woods for a few sprigs of cedar, too. 

I think I love it.  

Merry Christmas!

I Do Christmas Cards for Me, Not You.

That sounds awfully selfish, doesn’t it?
Let me explain.
I’ve sent Christmas cards every year since 1982. That’s the year Eric and I got married. I’ve sent photo greeting cards every year since Clay was born in 1986. That’s more than thirty different cards, counting this year’s version. At an average of 100 cards per year, that’s more than 3,000 envelopes and pushing $1500 in postage.  Did you just check my math?  I know some of you checked my math.  
What?

Is it worth it?

How do I justify the time and cost it takes to send out Christmas cards each year?
It’s simple. It’s all about me.  
I come by it honestly. My mom was a big Christmas card sender. Yep, we even did photo greeting cards back in the day when we only had black and white film and my dad set up the camera with a timer. 


One of my fondest childhood memories of Christmas was the daily receiving of Christmas cards in our mailbox and the opening of each one. I especially loved the cards from people who lived far away but were long-time, treasured friends of my parents. The receipt of cards from military folks who served alongside my dad in the Air Force led to stories about my parents’ newly-married days living in a trailer park in Colorado Springs. Remember when you realized that your parents actually had a life BEFORE you were born? I loved hearing those stories about borrowed Christmas trees and jello salad made with canned, mixed fruit. What treasures. I never met the Kapertas in real life but feel like I watched their children grow up as my sister, brother, and I marked each passing year.  
I grew up thinking that Christmas cards are what you do in early December.  

Through the years, my Christmas card tradition has become so much more than simply giving and receiving holiday greetings. It has become an important part of the season for me.  I own it.  It’s all mine. 
It’s a timeline of friendships from every phase of my life.
I still exchange cards with friends from high school and college. And those years are measured in decades now. It’s wonderful to have friendship histories that are so long-lasting and true.  North High School, Western Kentucky University, and Ball State were once my stomping grounds and remembering those faces makes me smile.  
It’s a geographic scrapbook of all the places I’ve lived and the people I’ve met in each one.
From our tiny apartment in Muncie to our timber frame in Hassler Woods, we have dear friends gathered from each address we’ve occupied. There’s Haven Drive, our first house and our dear neighbors there; Woodside Court where my kids learned to ride bikes and we had an annual block party; and finally Petersburg Road and our “country neighbors” here.  These are cherished people who brought us homemade cookies, bought ice cream truck popsicles for our kids, and watched our kitties when we went out of town.  We’ve had the best neighbors.
 It reminds me of what I’ve lost and what I’ve gained.
Each year, and increasingly so, there are names and addresses that give me pause as I realize that no card will be sent this year. These tender moments lead to a reflective time of prayer and thanksgiving for that person and the impact he or she has had on me. I leave those names on my Christmas card list so that in the very least, I have a yearly reminder of the precious gift of life and friendship, and consider the continuing impact that we can have on others. This is a good time of year for that.  
My card list also grows every year, which is a good barometer of whether or not I am stretching and putting myself in new places and new experiences. I am never too old to widen my circle and make new friends.  
 It helps me to sloooooooow dooooooooooown.
December is a crazy and frantic time of the year for most of us. You know the drill…shopping, decorating, baking, traveling, parties…all of the busyness can be a real joy stealer. Here’s my recipe for sanity:
1. Light the Yankee Candle Company Mistletoe candle. It smells like a real Christmas tree, people.

2. Put on Christmas music. I have fine-tuned my Christmas Pandora station like a beast. NO Christmas Shoes. May I suggest starting with “A Christmas Song Radio” particularly if you like the old standards…Bing, Judy, and the like.

3. Brew a cup of holiday tea (I love Santa’s Secret by David’s Tea), OR make creamy hot chocolate with real milk and miniature marshmallows, OR pour a glass of wine (if after 5:00 pm…or earlier…up to you) and make sure it’s in a big, special Christmas mug or fancy stemware (I have a wine glass that says “Mrs. Claus.”  If I don’t quit eating this Dresden Stollen, I’m gonna be looking like that jolly lady soon enough.)

4. Gather your cards, list, pretty pen, and beautiful stamps. This year, I picked The Nativity, which is gorgeous. Take time to admire the art on that stamp.  


5. Savor the moment.
I don’t know how I did it with toddlers underfoot, or a million Christmas programs to attend (Christmas adrenaline, it’s a thing) but I always found a moment or two to steal away and work on the cards each day. Peace. On. Earth. 
It’s a blessing counter.
With each name I write (and I don’t judge if you use labels because those blessings can be tallied, too), I have an opportunity to think about that person or family and recall how very thankful I am for their presence in my life. They include fellow cheer moms and marching band parents, my children’s teachers (man-oh-man, am I thankful for those people), my church family, small group friends far and near (at one point we joked that if you wanted to get relocated, just join our small group), cousins scattered across the country, and on and on. That fills me up to the point of bursting. Watch out for glittery bits of Debi flying all over the place. So very thankful.
Sooooooo, here’s the honest truth, people: I receive all of these precious gifts before I even get one card in my own mailbox. And to quote Linus, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”  Amen. 
(And that doesn’t even start to describe the incredible joy that comes when greetings come my way. I love, love, love every card and every picture and yes, EVERY CHRISTMAS NEWSLETTER. They are my absolute favorite. Send them to me with abandon and ALL of the details.)
I started a new tradition a couple of years ago. We drive to Dale, Indiana to have our cards postmarked from Santa Claus because why wouldn’t you do that? There’s also a quick stop at The Christmas Store for a new ornament, and a short trek to Monkey Hollow Winery for a case of Winter Warmer. See how much fun doing Christmas cards can be?
Oh yeah, I started one other Christmas card tradition last year that was inspired by my sweet cousin, Angela. If you send me a photo Christmas card, it gets pinned to a big bulletin board in my laundry room so that I can see your sweet face all year. I often stop to count my many blessings and pray a prayer of thanksgiving over your picture. To quote another holiday favorite, “It’s the gift that keeps on giving the whole year.” (One point for me in the Christmas Vacation quote contest.) Thank you, Eddie.  

From Hassler Woods in Earle, Indiana, we wish you the Merriest of Christmases and Happiest of New Years!!!! 

Rejoice, rejoice! The Savior is born!

A Full Day in Poznan

Good morning, Poland!


After an amazing breakfast at the hotel, which included braunschweiger and mackerel for some, we hit the streets of Poznan.


The old city is very quaint with tall and narrow buildings.


School children were everywhere.


Each day at noon, the court house clock tower strikes and the doors open to reveal two goats which move forward to butt heads twelve times.  We take our places in the square to observe.

As promised, they come out and the school children shriek with joy each time they strike.


Why do they butt heads?  Here you go…

A legend behind the original addition of the goats to the clock mechanism states that a cook, while preparing a banquet for the voivode and other dignitaries, had burnt a roast deer, and attempted to replace it by stealing two goats from a nearby meadow. The goats escaped and ran up the town hall tower, where they attracted the attention of the townspeople when they began to butt each other (according to some versions, this drew attention to a fire which might otherwise have done significant damage). Because of the entertainment provided, the voivode pardoned both the cook and the goats, and ordered that two mechanical goats be incorporated into the new clock being made for the building.

After securing a warm, spicy beverage, we walked up to the Christmas Market and also popped into an antique store.



There, Clay discovered a 1916 stereoscopic camera.  Being an avid collector of antique viewers and cards, I think he is still thinking about that camera.

We purchased some candy.


And found a great place to warm our chilly bones.


We accidentally found a great place for dinner.


This part of the menu was very sincere.


With help from our kind waiter, we decided upon a variety of Polish dumplings with fried beets, fried cabbage, and the best roasted potatoes we have ever had.


Of course, we had to top off the evening with a little dessert.

When we got back to the hotel in the evening, this display made so much more sense to us.  


Yes, these goats have pants.  

Poznan

The somewhat early departure from Dresden was eased by slices of stollen and a gift of fresh croissants from our Airbnb host.  


Packing up our bags and backpacks, we took the tram to the central station.  


We said goodbye-for-now to Cameron and Michael who headed for an adventure in Prague, while Eric, Clay, Tif, and I took the train for a return to Berlin and then on to Poznan.  Cameron is already posting Instagrams from Prague so be sure to check out her feed @camhalcomb!


On the train to Berlin, our cabin-mate was a Polish gentleman named Michael who was traveling through Berlin on business.  He lives in a small, coastal village on the Baltic Sea.

He shared a lot of historical information about Poland and gave recommendations of food to sample.  While his English was very, very good, we all chuckled at his attempt to explain the word “garlic” in describing a type of pickle they make.  I especially loved the description of his family’s Christmas celebration, with a big meal on Christmas Eve and then celebrating the twelve days of Christmas that follow.  This is such a special time of year to travel.  Michael even taught us to open a beer bottle without an opener.  “Easy peasy” he said.  

We had a brief layover in Berlin before boarding our train for Poznan.


After securing a car for the four of us, we settled in for the trip across the border.


That included a picnic of wine, bread, cheese, salami, fruit, and cookies, some on-board knitting (I am turning the heel on my sock and Tif is knitting the thumb gusset of her mitt).  We also watched “Home Alone,” a family Christmas favorite.  

We arrived in Poznan after dark and quickly walked to our hotel.  Clay and Tif checked in with the film festival and were introduced at the beginning of their screening.  It was fun to see the film sub-titled for this non-English-speaking audience.  


The Q and A after the screening was engaging and lively.  An interpreter from the festival translated from Polish to English.



There was one request…

A crowd selfie!


Many stayed to talked to Clay and Tif after.


This young man wanted to be Clay’s friend on Facebook.


We are anxious to see Poznan in the daylight and explore the old city today!

Dresden

We are just back to our apartment in Dresden after spending a very full day in Altstadt Centre.  

We started with a delightful breakfast, Dresden style, created by Clay and Tif.  Our Airbnb host also provides fresh fruit and bread daily.  


Catching the bus to the city center, we got off one stop early so that we could walk along the river and cross the Augustus Bridge on foot.



Once across the river, we walked to The Zwinger, the palace complex of the Saxons.

We walked around the palace garden and after securing steaming cups of hot tea, walked around the terrace on top of the palace.  The bells chimed the hour and played a tune as we shuffled in and out of the many student groups touring today.


We walked past the opera house and Furstenzug mosaic toward the Christmas Market.



When rounding the corner, we heard music and followed the sound to find a brass quintet playing under the bridge.  We listened to several festive pieces.


There are several markets within the town proper; one of our favorites was the Stallhof which offered more medieval booths and wares.  Two Bavarian sheepskins may be coming home with us.

Cameron and Michael enjoyed the exhibit of the Gems of the Green Vault while the rest of us toured the Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister, an art museum.


My favorite room was the collection of paintings of Dresden by Bernardo Bellotto.


The gong of the docent sent us scurrying outside…

When we exited the museum, it was snowing!

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Another walk through the Christmas market led us to dinner and a plate of cookies to enjoy back at the apartment.  


Tomorrow we head for Poland!

Dresden

I’m enjoying a full mug of hot kaffee in our Dresden apartment.  This is a lovely city.  My mom told me that this was one of her favorite spots in Germany and not to miss it.  I have to say, she was right (again).

We had an enjoyable train ride through the countryside from Berlin to Dresden.  Tif and I knitted on the trip; me knitting socks and Tif knitting mittens.  We shared and sampled delicious pastries purchased by Cameron and Michael for the trip.  We sang a bit of “Hot Chocolate” from The Polar Express when the agent punched our tickets.  (I’m sure they get that a lot here.  Maybe not.) 


After locating our apartment and our first trip over the magnificent Elbe River bridge, my family indulged my love for yarn and walked with me to Nach Strick und Faden.




It is a sweet yarn shop with a most helpful shopkeeper and a wide selection of German yarns and notions.  I chose two skeins (a Zauberball and Wollmeise) and an Addi 9-inch circular needle.  

Next, we hopped on board the bus and headed for the main square.  Again, the view of the city coming across the river is breathtaking.  After a luncheon of potato soup and pretzels, we walked to Dresden Frauenkriche, The Church of Our Lady, rebuilt in 2003.  All of Dresden was decimated in WW2.  Recovered stone used in the new church is easy to see because it was blackened by the bombing and fire.  


I am so thankful that several in our group insisted that we take the tour up the dome of the church.  So thankful.  


We watched the sun set over Dresden from the dome.



Once down from the dome of the iconic church, we wandered into the Christmas Market.  We quickly found a warm fire and steaming cups of Gluhwein.  We also found more Springerle molds!  Wandering carolers and horse drawn wagons passed by.  The church bells rang at 6:00 pm.  

We once again got the chance to talk to several interesting folks and especially enjoyed a chat with the merry-go-round operator and woodworker, who hosted the fire we sat around.  Alexander gave us a German’s perspective of Dresden history and it was fascinating.  


This is our happy place.

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