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Merry Making

Merry Making

There are days we’re content to experience winter from the more hospitable side of the window. Big, plump flakes are gorgeous, but inevitably damp. A bright, crystal-clear day is absolutely spectacular! But the frigid cold will nip your nose as soon as you step out the door.

Here on our island, winters are filled with rain and mist while all the snow is caught by the surrounding mountains. Glistening droplets spill from gutters and run down windowpanes and trees emerge from the fog like lace.

These are some of the best examples of gluggaveður—the Icelandic word for weather that’s nice to see, but not be out in. Essentially, ‘window-weather!’

On days like these, we brew ourselves a cup of something warm, and set up our projects near a window. There, we watch the falling snow, glittering rain, or the passage of the sun and busy our hands.

We are makers all year round, of course, but there is something about the holiday season that really sets our fingers to itching (and stitching, and knitting, and baking, and…). It’s not just the weather that drives us indoors to our desks and craft tables. It’s also the cozy, giving spirit of handmade holidays! Each festive act of making is such a pleasure. And crafting lends an intimately personal touch to our celebrations.

Hand-made ornaments, whether felted or embroidered, are fun to stitch while awaiting holiday festivities—and a delight to bring out and remember every holiday ever after. Their nostalgic charm tells a story of time well spent, of winking needles and twinkling trees past. Last year, a number of Churchmice stitched up the Felt Sheep Ornaments—and we love seeing them frolic among the boughs! Even the simplest ornament brings joy. Don’t we treasure the hand-wound yarn ball ornaments as much as that tiny, collectible teacup?

That personal touch naturally extends from our decorations to the gifts we give. We love knitting for others—the act of a giving hand-knit garment might even delight us more than the actual act of knitting. All of our needles are clicking furiously (just a couple weeks until the Big Day!). We weave in ends and wrap up socks and scarves, beanies (Laura’s been knitting a steady stream of beanies in Blue Sky Fibers Bulky. Its mammoth size makes sure they go quickly!) and mittens—even a few sweaters!

We might be a bit rushed now, but in the end we love it. Before the clock strikes twelve on December 31st, we’ll already be thinking about what we’ll make next year. In fact, Alicia’s already making plans for her post-holiday knitting. That’s when she gets to knit for herself!

Holiday traditions can’t be mentioned without recalling the warmest room of the house—the kitchen. Whether we’re baking holiday treats for our own consumption or bringing out batches for company, the warm, spiced scents of ginger and cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg really bring home that this is the most wonderful time of the year. We each have a menu of festive favorites, but if you’re looking to start a new tradition we have a suggestion. We’re lucky enough to have a professionally trained baker on our staff—Erika, our tea buyer!—and she’s come up with this recipe for Holiday Tea Shortbread.

We love crushing a little handful of tea leaves into shortbread. With the citrus, almond, clove, and cinnamon notes of Harney & Sons Holiday Tea so much the better. (Pack your shortbread cookies in an empty tea caddy or tag-along tin for easy gifting!)

Holiday Tea Shortbread

Yield: Approx 30 cookies

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
⅓ cup granulated sugar
¼ tsp kosher salt
½ cup + 3 tbsp unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
1 tbsp Harney & Sons Holiday Tea, finely chopped.

Measure flour, sugar, salt, and tea into large bowl. Using cool hands (or two forks), rub in cold butter until no large pieces remain and mixture appears ‘sandy’. Bring mixture together until it forms a ball. Turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap, roll into and even log about 10” long. Wrap and chill in refrigerator until firm, 30-45 minutes. (Well-wrapped dough can be made ahead and kept in freezer up to a month; defrost in fridge before slicing.)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line baking sheet with parchment. Lightly roll chilled dough long to smooth out any imperfections in the shape. Using a sharp knife, cut ¼” thick slices; place about 1” apart on baking sheet. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or ‘til edges are just starting to brown. Cool in rack.

Tip: No need to make the entire batch at once—you can slice and bake as needed.

While the kitchen might be the warmest part of the house, nothing quite warms our hearts like the little space we’ve set aside for making. All of our tools are there—cups of pens and pencils, scissors for each and every thing that needs snipping, needles and hooks, stitch markers, pins, measuring tapes—oh, my! Right about now it’s probably covered in wrapping paper, packages awaiting bows, and cards awaiting stamps. But so many possibilities are rooted on that desk or craft table. Our ribbons and yarns and threads are nearby, and our indispensable tools are close at hand—ready for the next time the weather looks best through the glass.

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