Knitting cookies, baking sweaters


The happiest people are those who do things for others. Just put a bit of yourself in a homemade gift. Making something, anything, is one of the very best ways to show your love for family and friends. Children love to do for others if given the opportunity.

I don’t knit, but I appreciate the love that goes into the creation just like baking. I think knitting and baking are similar in the way that both take concentration in putting it all together, but there’s also something very therapeutic and meditative about each process.

I’ve always heard people who practice yoga are some of the happiest people on earth. I think it’s that quiet meditation found in yoga, but it can be found in other activities like baking and knitting, too. It’s that pure creative process that gives off an inner peace. I find that same peace when my hand touches the ballet bar for plies, practicing Pilates and hearing just the sound of my breath, and again when I’m baking and making the house smell good. What makes knitting and baking different from other activities is that it’s a gift. You are creating for someone else, something made from love.

Baking is a great way to get the kids involved in the kitchen and they get to help with a gift for someone they care about. Children can be taught to knit, too. I remember my grandmother teaching me something simple; I made headbands in all different colors for my family. I see knitting and baking as a great activity for children because it can help with fine motor skills.

My grandmother knitted sweaters, Christmas stockings, and blankets for all the grandchildren. They are all little treasures to our family. What better time to think of knitting than with new babies and holiday gifts. I was very lucky to have my friend from ballet knit a baby blanket for my daughter and my friend’s mother from Austria knit a baby sweater for my son. The feel of the blanket and sweater is plush and soft. You can see and sense the work that goes into knitting.

It seems like knitting was becoming a lost art for a while. A knitted gift has such a long lifespan that continued appreciation for them far exceeds feelings for anything “store-bought.” I think of my little red and green stop and go mittens my grandmother made for me that my children now wear. It’s like they are wearing hugs on each hand.

Don’t have a granny or friend who can knit you something? There are websites that let you pick out your own granny to knit a hat or scarf. When you look at the grannies’ faces you can tell the result will make you smile. How could you not love something someone made for you? You may not just see grannies knitting anymore now that Kate Hudson has made knitting hip and young people have taken it up again. There are many books and magazines that have made knitting chic and not just for babies. There was a gorgeous hat Carrie Bradshaw wore in Sex and the City when she was in Paris. I would love to make something like that someday.

Where I am in my life, working with small children, I can’t bring myself to add a “new” activity like knitting right now. If there were only eight days a week, ah the things I would do. I have to pick what to do with my windows and what makes me a happy person is doing ballet and baking. That’s what I have time for now. One day I’ll make room for learning how to knit, until then I will appreciate what others can do.

Click on these links for more knitting information:

Please enjoy a family favorite that my mother, daughter, and I love to bake during the holidays.

Spiced Cardamom Cookies
5 ¾ C flour
1t baking soda
1T salt
1T ground cardamom
1t ground allspice
¼ t ground pepper
¼ ground cloves
8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 C dark brown sugar
½ C sugar
½ C dark corn syrup
¼ C water
¼ C heavy cream
1 large egg
2 t vanilla

Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cardamom, allspice, pepper, and cloves in a large bowl. Place butter in a mixer bowl. Bring sugars, corn syrup, and water to a boil in a large saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Pour hot sugar mixture over butter, and then beat on low speed until combined. Beat cream egg, and vanilla in a bowl, then add to butter mixture, Beat on medium speed until well combined. Reduce speed to low, and add flour mixture, beating until just incorporated. Divide dough into thirds, and flatten each into a disk. Wrap each disk in plastic, and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. Preheat oven to 350. Roll out 1 disk between lightly floured parchment to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut out shapes with holiday cookie cutters. Spacing them1 inch apart on cookie sheet. Bake cookies until edges are golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. If small start checking after 8 minutes.

Birthday Monsters

You’re not awake. It’s 6 o’clock. You hear a ring. You hear KNOCK KNOCK. You hear the door come crashing down- THE BIRTHDAY MONSTERS ARE IN TOWN!”

This is the beginning of my daughter’s favorite book of the moment, Birthday Monsters! By Sandra Boynton. Zooey recently turned three and our house was visited by the “birthday monsters” for about a week! We waited for them on the porch, we looked for them in the kitchen, under the beds, in the closets…This is a game she came up with! She was determined to find those “birthday monsters”!

It seems they only came when she was asleep leaving behind a mess of wrapping paper and crumbs from an eaten cake. Zooey was so excited about her birthday! She would say for weeks, “My birthday is coming up soon!” When it finally arrived she wanted to know, “Is my birthday down now?” Well, her birthday was on a Tuesday and her party not until Saturday. So…Zooey’s birthday and the “birthday monsters” stayed DOWN for about a week!

Who are the monsters? In Sandra Boynton’s book, they come make a giant whirlwind of a mess, leave with the presents and cake, then come back to clean up. I think the “birthday monsters” are real! They could be a number of things: a wild birthday girl, grandparents spoiling your child, you spending too much money on a birthday party…Poor pathetic parents (myself included)! Always cleaning and working so hard to make time with their child special, meaningful, and unforgettable.

Kids just want to feel special with the simple things. My 2nd graders want to share cupcakes with their class and have “Happy Birthday” sung to them! My three year old wants cupcakes too, but more important are balloons and lollipops! I think children don’t care as long as they’re having fun with their friends and Mom and Dad are smiling with them. Simplicity with a heaping cup of thoughtfulness is the best, always!

I remember my birthday parties; they were homey parties with a splash of extra love and care my Mom always threw in. I like home! I like to bake my own cupcakes, do my own planning, and try to make it about family and friends celebrating my child’s special day. Like Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz, there’s no place like home! This is true for birthdays but also the holidays. Think about the memories you have of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, The Fourth of July…!

It’s all about the food, right! The kitchen provides the ambience: good smells coming from the oven, music and laughter in the background, good conversations with family and friends, a nice cup of something. That’s contentment! I remember being in the kitchen with my mom baking vanilla cupcakes, I’m sure that is what heaven will smell like! Whenever I smell cupcakes, memories of Mom’s kitchen come into my mind. I hope I can do that for my children.

Cooking is one of the very best ways I can think of to show my love for my family and friends. I love to see my daughter and son’s round tummy pooching out! I know it is full of love and I am content knowing I made what went into that adorable pooch! As cheesy as it may sound I think the secret ingredient that makes anything taste divine is love.

The “birthday monsters” come and go, but what lasts are the memories. When Zooey asks me with a giant smile, “Mommy, do I smell cupcakes?” I know I’ve made her happy with a simple birthday pleasure and she will remember the smell! Smells have a way of getting stuck in your memory. You know what I’m talking about! Now, go make something yummy and feed your child’s belly with love. And if Daddy eats the leftovers you can call him a “birthday monster”!

Birthday Monster Cupcakes
2 C cake flour
2 t baking powder
¼ t salt
½ C whole milk
2 t vanilla
1 C unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½ C sugar
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 350. Using a stand mixer, beat butter with the paddle on medium speed until creamy. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Drizzle in eggs one at a time. Add dry ingredients a little at a time alternating with milk and vanilla. Beat just until combined. Pour batter into lined muffin tins using an ice cream scoop. Bake 18-20 minutes.

Cream cheese frosting
1 stick softened unsalted butter
8 oz pkg. softened cream cheese.
4 C powdered sugar
1T vanilla

Mix butter and cream cheese together and gradually add powdered sugar beating until smooth and creamy. Stir in 1T vanilla. After frosting cupcakes, sprinkle with coconut. (At Christmas we freeze the cupcakes then roll in coconut and call them snowballs).