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S/V Mari Hal-O-Jen
Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Joyous Gifting
December 13, 2010, 11:33 pm

I gave my very first present of the season tonight. I was nervous but I think it was really, really well liked.

The Queen's Own Nutcracker
December 10, 2010, 1:35 pm

Yesterday was an unusual day here in Key West. Cold, cold, cold. We set a new record for the coldest maximum temperature breaking the previous record set in the 1920's. It only got to 61 degrees and that had to have happened at 12:01 in the morning because the whole entire day it just kept getting more and more blustery and then rain would start to mist down and it was so bitter and wet and felt just like England.

The last time I was in England was to help my sister move back home after studying at Manchester and as we were bashing about the country having a grand time it began to rain or maybe it kept raining but just rained harder. I remember standing in Bath at Pulteney Bridge with my sister looking up at the stores that cross the River Avon discussing the next day's destination - Shakespeare's Home! Just up the river that was so flooded it looked like it was boiling and realizing that all this water had to be coming from somewhere upriver. Having come to this realization we turned about, went to the train station and changed the tickets from Stratford-upon-Avon to the Isle of Wight. That is how much I like cold and rain and wind.

However, it made yesterday a perfect day to curl up on a couch, pull a blanket over my toes and knit. Would you like to see the results of my blustery British knitting day?

May I introduce you to the Queen's Own Nutcracker? With his high bearskin cap and shiny brass buttons our sentry swore to take charge of our Christmas tree and all presents in view, keeping always on the alert, and observing everything that takes place within sight or hearing.

Would you like the details? I've never written a pattern before so if anything is unclear, please ask or tell me a way to say it clearer!

Here's what you will need:

1 champagne cork
1 Black Swan cork or other black cork
6 gold beads
Scrap red yarn, I used Amaizing yarn from Southwest Trading Company which is a sport / 5 ply corn based yarn
Scrap black yarn, I used Chenille Thick & Quick by Lion Brand which is a super bulky acrylic

US 3 - mm 3.25
US 10 - mm 6
Tapestry Needle
Sewing Needle and thread

Okay, now to the pattern itself!

Jacket body:
Cast on 16 stitches.
Row 1: knit
Row 2: knit
Row 3: k2, p12, k2
repeat rows 2 and 3 until body measures 1.50 inches or long enough to cover your champagne cork. Bind off. Break yarn, leaving a long tail. Wrap jacket around the cork and sew together down the front of the cork. Sew the gold beads on each side of this seam.

Bearskin Cap:
Cast on 10 stitches
knit in garter stitch until hat is one inch long.
Decrease row: k2tog 5 times (5 stitches)
Break yarn, leaving a long tail and pull through the 5 stitches still on the needle and tighten.
Using the long tail, sew the back seam of the hat to make a long tube that will fit on your champagne cork.

Icord! I love Icord! Cast on 3 stitches and Icord away to length desired. I wanted my little guy to be saluting so I kept holding it up against his approximate shoulder area until it was long enough to reach the brim of his bearskin. Then I matched the second arm to the first. Using the tapestry needle attach arms to the jacket and to the cap if you want your Nutcracker to salute too.

When he is not guarding our presents under the tree, he generally resides on the windowsill in the kitchen where he tells me to do the dishes and that jacket potatoes with prawns might be nice for dinner tonight.

If you make a Nutcracker of your own, please, please leave a note. I would adore seeing others this Holiday Season!
*Ravelry Link*
December 9, 2010, 7:10 pm

I completed the Queen's Own Nutcracker tonight and I cannot wipe the smile from my face at all! I am so in love! I can't wait to reveal him tomorrow when the light comes in - please let us have the sun back! This is Key West after all!!!

Speaking of lights, I adore these gorgeous bloomy Christmas light photos I'm taking this year, to me it looks like bougainvillea blossoms. So lovely! Do you like this photo or does it drive you insane? 'Cause my husband walked in and said "Your focus is off" and I said "But don't you love the bloomy bougainvillea effect?" and he said "!!!"

What's your opinion?

Yarn Along - Nutcracker Edition
December 8, 2010, 2:15 pm

Ginny at Small Things is hosting a Yarn Along each week. Since I'm in one of my knitting phases right now, I thought I'd join in the fun.

If you recall, last week's knitting wasn't much fun but oh! this week is making up for it! I'm knitting the cutest little Nutcracker ornament that I think is going to look just like the Queen's Guards at Buckingham Palace, right down to the big furry hat!

Billy Collins has been nearby today, I am determined to go to hear him this year when he is in Key West. After all, Marianna has been studying his writings in English class this year, specifically Sailing Alone Around the Room.

O Tannenbaum
December 7, 2010, 10:57 pm

I would leave the tree up all year just for the lights.

Random photo of onions 'cause onions are nearly as good as beans!
December 6, 2010, 3:42 pm

Beans. I love beans. I truly do. Nothing makes me happier than finding out beans are part of a meal. Pasta with beans - Yay! Salad with beans - double Yay! Beans with beans - Heaven!

Unfortunately, Marianna and Hal do not share my extreme love of the lowly legume and were appalled the other night when I apparently took my adoration one step too far.

I took the hamburger off my bun and replaced it with a pile of black beans straight from the can.

I was so, so happy! I topped it up with a little more cheese, a tomato slice or two and took the biggest sloppiest bite. Mmmmmmm...and looked up to 2 sets of the biggest shocked eyes I've ever seen in my life. Literally, they both stopped chewing at the same time, mouths full, jaws stopped, eyes falling out of their heads.

Silly carnivores.

I'm all at Sea with this Recipe!
This Moment
December 3, 2010, 2:50 pm

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Outdoor Hour Challenge - Signs of Autumn
December 2, 2010, 8:40 am

A few years ago Marianna and I completed several Outdoor Hour Challenges, a few more were on Marianna's blog, I think, and even more weren't blogged - oh, the horror! Doing something and not blogging it! lol!

Anyway, while out walking yesterday a cold front began to push through the Keys. A dark line of clouds brought increased wind and a definite nip to the air. By the time I made it back to the house I was convinced we were in for a downpour, the clouds were that low and ominous!

Being chilled (it was 72F and windy after all, with no sun) I brewed up a cuppa tea and sat down with my favorite sketchbook committed to spending just 15 minutes. It was fun! I had a great time and realized just how much I miss it. I need to get over my perfectionist tendencies and just do it.

So I did. Do you doubt that it was breezy? Check out the tag on the teabag - it was blowing all over the place! And yes, that is a coconut sitting on our table. If it's shaken you can hear the juice slosh inside it.

On to the sketch itself. Dark gray clouds and tattered banana leaves, a little info on the weather - wind gusts to 30 mph, and the date. I've spent so long doing everything with my daughter as homeschoolers that I think I'm just beginning to realize that I can continue to do the things I enjoy without her, just for me.

But that is a topic for another day!

Thank you, Barb, for continuing these terrific and inspiring Outdoor Hour Challenges! I really do enjoy them so very much.

Nature Study
Yarn Along
December 1, 2010, 1:40 pm

Ginny at Small Things is hosting a Yarn Along each week. Since I'm in one of my knitting phases right now, I thought I'd join in the fun.

Except this week isn't so fun. See that pile of black in the upper corner? The fact that the needles have no stitches on them??? Oh yes indeed, thanks to a terrific movie last night (Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, I'd never seen it! I live on Keys Time.) guess what I get to do this morning?

As for the reading, a library trip is in order this afternoon so I've been tiding myself over with old Christmas magazines. I LOVE Christmas magazines! Especially foodie ones, mmmm...yum!

WIP Wednesday - Pink Mohair
November 24, 2010, 6:59 am

And I'm not talking turkey here!

I've found myself making baby hats and booties this Fall. I've never made a hat before in my life or knit on circular needles and find myself completely addicted now! The previous baby hats and booties that I neglected to take a picture of before the baby shower were knit out of an organic corn fiber that is terrific for babies and washing and is super soft. This particular set is knit from a mohair that I worry may be itchy so I'm thinking of lining the hat with another (store bought) basic infant cap.

But! The truly exciting thing is I'm busting through my stash! Yay! I've had this pink mohair since I worked in the weaving studio 10 or maybe even 12 years ago now. It was given to me then by the lady who ran the studio as it is simply awful to weave with and it is no breeze to knit with either! Time for it to go away.

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S/V Mari Hal-O-Jen
Who: Capt. Hal, Jennifer, and our daughter Marianna, a great photographer!
Port: Boca Chica
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