It's started

I collect Christmas CD's. Martina McBride's "White Christmas" is the best. Give her a listen ~ she's wonderful. I'll wait here while she puts you in the Christmas mood. This year she's released a "Blue Christmas" with Elvis Presley. Get a load of her hair! It really looks like they're singing live together even though Martina was only 2 years old when this footage was actually recorded by Elvis.

It's started. Decorating for the holidays in earnest. I switched out the swag my grandmother bought us as a house warming gift 14 years ago for a big wreath that I'll add live evergreen sprigs to. The garland lights give the room a lovely glow. I've collected ornaments for about 35 years and buy them for the kids to start their own unique collection.
In the evening when the stove is on with the garland and Christmas tree lit and candles are flickering it's the coziest place in the house. There's a glass sliding door on the wall opposite the quilt. We turn on the outdoor deck lights while it's snowing and the room turns into a winter hideway.

We're hosting our first Christmas party here on Sunday so this week we'll be decorating more inside and out. It's stayed cold so it's still white outside with more snow in the forecast. Looks like it will be a wonderful White Christmas this year.


It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

We've had a few dustings of snow around here already and it's beginning to look and feel a lot like Christmas ~ my favourite time of the year! This photos is taken part way down the lane of my parents century stone farm house just after the sun rose. We have Christmas parties marked on our calendar, days set aside for baking, decorating and some serious knitting and sewing. My friends come for a lasagna dinner and visit. This year it's going to be after the last day of the Caledon Dog Show and Obedience Trials the end of this month, all of their poodles are invited too. It's so much fun to fill the house with so many great friends and a herd of poodles. It's delightful to see the dogs all getting along so well, enjoying the event as much as we do. These are the same women and dogs I spent a weekend with last July at a cottage in the Muskokas. That was blissful, I can hardly wait for next year's trip there!

The kids, dogs and horses love the new snow, but Bonnie especially. She snuffles and plays with it with her muzzle.

I feel the Christmas spirit earlier each year. It's hard to resist bringing out all the decorations too early. We wait until after my dad's birthday on November 13th and then it's daily bits of preparation so we're in full swing by the first Advent. Christmas planning, shopping, list making, organizing and purging the house and getting ready to decorate. Some people have a big spring cleaning, I dig in more just before December. All this snow has me ready to go. I've cut evergreen branches from the farm to add to our front porch urns with funky outdoor LED lit branches.

This year I bought The Holiday DVD to add to our holiday collection. Between the fun storyline and great locations ~ not to mention Cameron Diaz's character wears some amazing knits ~ it'll be a great movie to knit to while the Christmas spirit nestles in to our home. And Jude Law - yum!! Yeah, after this weekend I'm going to start Christmas decorating a little at a time and the trees goes up just before our first party in 2 weeks. I usually like things more minimalist, neat and tidy, but at Christmas it's decorations in overdrive. Trees, the mantle and window are all adorned.

This is the before shot of our family room mantle, next week I'll post the 'after' when it's all decked out. Tradition dictates the mantle is the first thing decorated in the house. favourite recipes only made at this holiday, places we shop only before Christmas, movies and music, decorations that hold wonderful memories, the candle light service on Christmas Eve and cookie baking on a huge scale... I love the familiarity of it all. We spend Christmas Eve with my family and after everyone has gone to bed I stay up late to watch White Christmas on the VCR.

I'll post a Cookie of the Week in December to share our most favourite Christmas baking recipes. I love to collect new tried-and-true cookie recipes and would love to get some new ones from other blogs. I scored a fantastic one last year from Norma! Love these Dutch Letter Cookies!!! Not really a true cookie, I guess. Don't believe the title or first line in her post ~ these are so good they're angelic. They're the first people reach for on the assorted cookie plates I bring everywhere we visit and serve to guests in our home. I can resist most temptations during the holidays, except the cookies...

Dawn is coming over for a day of baking and sock knitting and I'll get to add new recipes to my repertoire from her. We're also planning to make Claudia and Mr. Puffy's Almond Crescents, my husband Don's favourite holiday cookie.

Seeing the evergreen pine bush at the farm tipped in snow brings on my festive mood! Christmas day we drive to Don's family a few hours away. Boxing Day is crashed at home ~ just the 4 of us and the dogs ~ I knit and watching way too much TV. New Year's Eve is a fondue supper followed by a big pancake/bacon/eggs and goodies brunch at our house to bring in the New Year on Jan.1. It's a lot about the food and completely about guests and going visiting with family and friends.

I edited and still used the word Christmas 11 times not including the title in this post! Oops, that's 12. It really is my favourite time of the year. I love our traditions during the whole of December. What are your favourite traditions and cookies?


My Favourite Quilt Shop & a LYS

Everyone has a favourite place to shop when they have something specific in mind. When I need more quilting fabric I head 20 minutes up the road to the small town of New Hamburg. It has a delightful little historical strip of shops and restaurants. I've been a patron of Heart'n Home Creations since it opened and Esther's store has become the only fabric shop I frequent.

She has an incredible inventory of quality quilting fabrics, patterns and notions as well as gifts and scented candles. I can't leave without at least a few fat quarters, even when I'm just passing through town and really don't need anything. There's always something new and wonderful to find and a welcome stool to pull up to the counter and visit. Esther is friendly, knowledgeable and extremely helpful, she makes you feel at home as soon as you walk through her door.

There are all sorts of interesting nooks and crannies of merchandise and fabric bolts in this store. It's a sensory delight. If you're in the region this is a destination shop worth stopping at.

On the quilting front here at Chez Koch there has been sewing. Some of my friends were interested in the quilts I make and I've taught them to piece tops. I've also gotten a few of them reaquainted with their forgotten passion for knitting. We try to get together once a month from fall to spring for a day of sewing, lunch and scoot to Esther's shop if time permits. It's great to get together with so many talented and enthusiastic friends for a day of fibry indulgence. What a great way to spend a day! We're talking about turning these sewing days into a weekend retreat.

There's a new LYS opened just a short walk from Esther's called Shall We Knit. Karen's store is full of lots of yarny goodness. We're planning a weekend of a pajamas sleep over, great meals, sewing, knitting and carrying on. We have so much fun when we get together ~ there's as much laughing as there is stitching. I have fabulous friends ~ I am truly blessed.

My Magic Loop sock made some progress today during my car knitting time. I'm almost the the heel portion. Will see - the true test if I like the Magic Loop vs. my dpn's will happen between the start of the heel and finishing the gusset... I'll let you know how it goes.


New socks and day trip knitting

This was in my mail box yesterday! The 1st instalment of my 1st sock club: Riverview Drive colourway in MCN fingering that arrived packaged with a magnet and 2 delicious Dove chocolates from The Plucky Knitter Classics. Thanks Sarah!

I wound the yarn before rushing in to work this morning and cast on at break time. I've got startitis and I've got it bad! These are the first socks I'll knit on circs in Magic Loop which I learned about in the sock knitting workshop last Saturday. Dawn and I had a fabulous day out having lunch and sitting in the rocking chairs by the wood stove at Camilla Valley Farms in Orangeville while it rained, hailed and then snowed outside. I love my DPN's so I'll see how I feel about knitting with this technique? I'm a hard sell, I really am fond of my DPN's. I'm an extremely tight knitter, so these are 4.5mm addi turbos to get a reasonable gauge.

After checking out all sorts of sock patterns to compliment this yarn I opted for my favourite comfort sock: a simple K3P1 rib on the leg and stocking stitch foot. These were almost Charades but when the hand dying is this gorgeous the yarn can speak for itself without pattern work. I adore the look of fancy patterned socks and enjoy knitting them, but I don't find them comfortable tightly laced into my boots. I've got a weak right ankle and have had 3 reconstructive surgeries on the ball of that same foot so my pretty open toed sandals and dressy high heels are getting dusty in my closet. It's hiking boots for serious support lacing up my leg now or high quality running shoes. Function has become a priority, so pretty ~ but plain ~ socks it is! I pampered my feet with regular pedicures, painted toe nails and luscious hand knit socks sticking out the top of my footwear. This yarn?? Divine!

Friends and I are heading out on Sunday to Fort Erie which is about 2 hours south of us close to the Canada/USA border for a day of Tracking Dog tests. I'm not entered but will be cheering from the gallery and taking pictures. I'm also not driving which means 2 hours knitting time in the car with great conversation. Hopefully I can knit on the way home too, but it's doubtful there will be any daylight left. I'm casting on Cascade 200 in dark gray for Toast. Check out the beautiful photographs with this free pattern from Leslie of A Friend to Knit With. This will be the perfect project for this trip, I can chat away and just knit round and round and round. No counting after I've cast on, just keep knitting.

Excuse me, I need to go knit now...


My first Quilt

I've always had an affection for quilts. When my husband and I were first married we went to an Apple Butter and Cheese Festival that also held a Mennonite Relief Quilt Auction. While I'd always liked quilts ~ that was the day I realized I loved them. I had to have one - or lots - eventually. Annual trips to the International Plowing Match (IPM) found me in the Hand Crafted tents drooling over the quilts on display. Winners and entrants in the various categories all hung up for me to enjoy and women wearing white cotton gloves turning them over for anyone who wanted to see the stitching from the back too. The quilts were the reason I went along each year although I did enjoy the other displays, especially the horses in the plowing competitions.

Six years ago I was standing in the aisle looking at a quilt at the IPM . It was done in the colours I'd chose if I knew how to make a quilt. My husband was standing back further on the opposite side of the aisle waiting for me and I though he and I were alone. I told him I wished I could make a quilt like that one. An old woman with a scratchy and annoyed voice over my left shoulder said, "Well learn, dearie!" She startled me speechless. As she walked off Don grinned at me with a 'she sure told you' look on his face. I couldn't stop thinking about what she said. Learn? Me? To make a quilt? Why not?? Why couldn't I realize that myself, I needed a stranger to tell me to do what I really wanted to do? I was in a class within a month.

I love fabric: the colours and endless combinations and the idea of creating something that will wrap someone else in warmth made by me with love. I enjoy every part of the process of making them. Some projects weren't my thing, like stained glass. I was happy with my finished objects, but really wasn't keen on the making them part.

This is the first quilt I ever made. It's a scrappy Twisted Log Cabin in browns and earthy tones made for my son Ryan when he was 11. He helped pick out some of the fabrics and chose the backing. We drove to my favourite quilt shop 'Heart'n Home Creations' owned by Esther. I can get lost in her little shop for hours. I sit and visit with Esther when I go to New Hamburg and feel the inspiration seeping into me from the bolts of fabric and finished quilts on display.

Ryan asked me to hang his quilt it in the front entrance so it doesn't get wrecked or worn. It was machine pieced on my old Singer sewing machine. If projects are a reasonable size I machine quilt them on my Brother now, I've done some hand quilting and more often then not quilt tops are sent out to be long arm quilted. I've made lot of quilts since this one, learned a lot and improved my skills, but this one is my favourite. It makes me smile when I look at it and remember that woman's voice and what she said. She was the kick in the butt I needed to stop mooning over other people's work. This quilt wasn't even done yet when Nicole and I were out picking fabric for me to make her a quilt too.
My goal is to own my own long arm quilting machine with a stitch regulator. I need to convince Don that our living and dining room would be great if we added French Doors, removed the furniture and made it into my sewing & knitting studio with my own Gammel...


I can't sit still

I found this in my mail box. 100% Cashmere 2ply lace from Plucky. 800 yards of hand painted goodness. There's 4 skeins of fingering headed my way soon too for some serious sock knitting. I really need to sit down and knit. Take a holiday. Maybe go away somewhere for a weekend to knit? And take Piper and Chase. They don't mind my knitting a lot.

I started a blog. Then 2 blogs. Now 3. In one month. #3 is a passionate project I'm working on. It's been rattling around in my head for a long time and has me very excited. Yesterday I secured a domain name for a web site I plan to build over the next year that will be linked to that blog. I haven't a clue about building a web site. It's going to cut into knitting time, like my first month on Ravelry. I need to look into the regulations regarding copyrighting the name. Not sure if I need to or not? It won't be an operational business for a year or 2 while I make prototypes and wash and test them and build a business plan. It's a sewing endeavour. I love fabric as much or more (did I say that aloud??) then yarn. Shh, don't tell my yarn stash. I have a pretty impressive fabric stash too. I hope to develop a Cottage Industry type business. No idea about anything like that so I'm at the beginning of a huge learning curve. The suffering manufacturing industry vs. a stay at home cottage one is making it looking more appealing now. Made in Canada with Canadian and American materials. Made in my home. In my kitchen. By me. No made in China merchandise that litters the shelves of the local pet stores with no concern for the North American floundering economy or safely regulations concerning lead and other dangerous content. I am a huge supporter of things like Moms Unite.

It's too bad I need an income. I'd happily stay home and be a mom and taking care of my family and craft to make gifts for family and friends. But that wouldn't last long. I need to be challenged. To work and create and do something! I need to learn from the Diane Keaton character in Baby Boom and make something from all the excess apples in my life.

Me being me, I can't leave things alone. Get a new recipe ~ tweak it after the first try. New knitting pattern ~ a little more shaping here, maybe some extra length? It didn't take long until I noticed Blogger blogs that were tweaked. I can change things?? This blog started out with a blue background. Then I decided white would compliment the various colours of my knitting and photos better. Then the header looked too plain... I can be a tad obsessive (stop laughing Dawn) with things that interest me. Things shouldn't change too much more here at Renee Knits Too, after I figure out how to change the font on my header to one that isn't available from Blogger. But that's not a promise, I like to make things nicer when I can so colours or layout just may change here still... I'm still trying to figure that HTML edit out. And I'd like to add 2 bands of colour down the outside margins of the body and sidebar. I tried a few tutorials. Change the background colour of the blog, then edit the html codes to make it white again behind the body and sidebar. I'm sure it's a simple enough edit, I just haven't made it work yet. Soon, I'll figure it out soon. Like a dog with a bone I shall persist.

Notice the frame around my little garden angel? I discovered the toys on Big Huge Labs. That's where the frame and mosaic tools I used on an earlier post came from. I'm determined to find a way to change the font in my header (see I'm like a terrier... can't let that change go until I kill it or fix it). Tried 4 different free fix ideas. None worked. I'll keep trying. Anyone been successful at doing that on Blogger?? If you know how, could you put me out of my misery? Helpful advice from friends ~ priceless. I'm enjoying the challenge of figuring it out and I won't give up. I'm German. If nothing else I am stubborn and determined. It's in my DNA, it's not my fault...

Little angle dude? He's not doing so well. He's made of cement. He's been in my garden for 20 years. I took the picture with the lush ferns just before I started this blog -- before killing frosts and snow came. Actually, it was the very first picture I took on my new digital camera. Last winter I forgot Angel Dude outside.

He was buried under snow early in the winter and didn't resurface until spring. Water got down into his neck shearing his torso in two when it froze. He's been decapitated too. He's perched precariously there in amongst the ferns and propped up from behind by driftwood. I don't want him losing anything else so he's coming in for the winter. I don't dare forget again, he's already lost his head and the tips of his wings are crumbling away. He's still smiling though. Gotta love that about an empty headed cement cherub.

Knitting is progressing slowly. I'm outside most of the time I'm not at work. Soon though, I'll keep telling myself that. Soon I'll have more time to knit. Until then it's a sock that is travelling around with me for a few minutes here and there. The urban sweater finally has a sleeve, one more to go. I've made more Luxe neck warmers for gifting and started a scarf. Dawn and I will be going to a sock workshop on Saturday in Orangeville, ON. That's should spark a frenzy of sock knitting around here to coincide with all the Plucky sock yarn on the way.

No day for me is complete without a little knitting, even if I can't sit still for long.

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