I honestly wasn't trying to be selfish when I settled in these for a Christmas gift, I was feeling inspired. But sometimes it happens that I'll decide on a project for a friend, and then sometime later, usually right before I finish it, I realize that it's much more suited to my taste than to theirs (no worries, I made her something else and she loves it). And so it went with these.
I fell for this pattern as soon as I saw it, even making a lunch hour run up to Purl one day to purchase it. I used almost all yarns from my stash, but I did buy a skein of Spud and Chloe Fine in Cricket. One of the yarns that I used, the purple, was a total pain to work with. It's super old and kept breaking, so I'd wet splice it back together when I could. It was also pretty rough on the hands, which detratced from the fun of making these (side note: the offending yarn was blue at one time, but was one of the skeins that I dyed with grape Kool Aid last summer). Each legging took me a week to complete, with a 2 month break in between.
Now, how did these change my life? Well, I'm a skirt and dress person, all year long. Usually I get by with tights and my long down coat, but still, when it's 20F outside, the wind is whipping about and I'm running errands (remember NYC means no car for me), it can get cold. But with these on, I don't feel a thing. They are like mittens for my legs, only better, if you can imagine. Trends come and go, but I am a leg warmer convert. They just make sense!
(See the rabbit ear in the background? That's right, no cable TV for me!)
Some of the gifts I made for friends last year actually were delivered to their intended recipients, like these:
Not soup crackers, but rather Pepparkakor, or Swedish ginger cookies. I made them for Niclas, a Swede who married my friend Beth last summer and, since they live in Brooklyn now, spent the holidays away from home. I'd been reading a lot last year, on blogs and in magazines, about Swedish Christmas baking, and since I know what it's like to be away from one's family at the holidays, I thought he could use a little taste of home. When I decided on these, I knew that I had a cookie cutter stashed away, and was pretty sure that it was of the Christmas variety. Wrong. My best guess as to how I ended up with a duck is that I made sugar cookies one Easter, but honestly, I have no recollection of doing so.
These are a bit time consuming, as each batch must be returned to the refrigerator for a few minutes after rolling and cutting but baking, but they're worth it. Simple and delicious on their own or with tea, they're also very nice with ice cream (but really, what isn't).
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and baking soda; set aside. In another large bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar, and golden/corn syrup using a handheld mixer set to medium speed until the mixture is pale and fluffy, 1–2 minutes. Add the reserved spice mixture and the heavy cream in 3 alternating batches, beginning and ending with the spice mixture, until the dough just combines. Transfer dough to a work surface, divide in half, and shape each half into a flat disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap; refrigerate for 1 hour.
Heat oven to 350°. Unwrap 1 disk of dough and place on a floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll dough to a 1⁄8" thickness. Cut out cookies using the cookie cutters of your choice and place cookies 2" apart on parchment paper–lined baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough, rerolling scraps. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until browned and set, about 12 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.
To make an icing, if you like, whisk confectioners' sugar, lemon juice, and egg white in a medium bowl until smooth. Transfer icing to a resealable plastic bag (or a pastry bag). Snip off a bottom corner of the bag and pipe icing onto cookies in a decorative pattern.
MAKES ABOUT 48 COOKIES
Note: I was able to make approx. 72 cookies from this batch, and the dough freezes very well so you needn;t use it all at once. Also, I didn’t have parchment, and had no problems removing the cookies from the trays, so I think you can safely skip it. Lastly, when a recipe calls for ground clove, buy ground clove. Trying to grind whole cloves into powder fine enough for cookie dough may well drive you to drink (in which case, you should invite me over).