a week of treats—it’s party season

Posted on 7 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events, designing, food and garden

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there are some things you can do ahead of the holidays to reduce last minute rushing, it’s true, but in the case of a few goodies, fresh is WAY better.

like homemade nut brittle. it keeps for a while, but it’s best when very fresh.

almost every year i make nut brittles for holiday giving—they’re not everyone’s favorite, but we don’t know those people who snub them, apparently. because each year i make a LOT of nut brittle and each year i seem to run short and leave someone wanting.

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last sunday was the day—i ramped up with a batch of peanut brittle to get started, in case i’d lost my mojo. but nope—that batch came out great.

well, i DO have the dead-easiest, no fail recipe. i mean that—i just googled easy peanut brittle recipes and there isn’t one with as few ingredients or as easy a method as this one, which i ripped from a magazine in 1983. i can’t remember if it was in an ad or in a recipe article, but here it is:

1 cup peanuts, raw or lightly roasted, with or without salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter NOTE: this is the original amount but i always cut the butter in half with absolutely no fallout; in fact, the full amount makes it rather greasy IMHO
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (not in the original recipe but it adds just a bit of complexity)

First, prepare everything ahead so you can work fast when you need to: measure out all the ingredients, set out potholders where you can reach them, and line a baking sheet with parchment or silpat (foil will also work, but it needs to be greased).

Put all the ingredients in a skillet (for me, a stainless skillet works better than a nonstick one) and heat over medium high, stirring gently until mixture begins to turn clear and brown—a light tan is not what you’re going for, wait it out until you start to see a richer brown—5 to 6 minutes. Once that happens, you have to work fast—the mixture burns easily. AND IT’S VERY HOT; USE CAUTION AND DON’T LICK ANYTHING. Pour the hot mixture over the parchment and quickly spread it out as thinly as possible. Allow to cool and then break it up.

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that’s it! seriously, you could make some right now if you have the stuff in the house. then stand back and accept praises with as much dignity as you can muster with brittle crumbs all over your face.

this recipe is easily doubled (i always do), but i don’t recommend tripling it because it’s hard to work fast enough to spread that much brittle while it’s liquid.

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and it works well with other types of nuts too—even  mixed nuts. higher fat nuts do brown more, so it’s better to use UNroasted ones. i didn’t; i had roasted ones in the house and guess what? these batches ARE darker and the peanut brittle police still haven’t shown up (but they are disappearing just as fast as the golden batches).

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okay, now i’m just warning you—the pecan one is just to DIE for, so you might need to make two batches and hide one where only you can find it. just today i was thinking that maybe next year i would try some improvising with the pecan brittle. or maybe next week . . . i’ll keep you updated.

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anyway, four double batches total took me maybe an hour or so; i’m telling you—easy and fast. that made enough to fill around ten chinese food cartons—a generous amount.

if you’re going to make a LOT, be sure to keep your kitchen ventilated; in my old kitchen, cooking more than this amount on one day would cause the humidity to rise to the point where the brittle started getting wonky. just sayin’—you probably have a much nicer kitchen than my old one anyway, haha.

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once the brittles were done and taste tested, i made a big batch of these glazed pecans. if you think that brittle is good, well, these are crack. but i like to make both.

we had decided to gather for our office christmas party on wednesday evening, so i started preparations for that on monday. our gang is pretty easy-going, but i like to offer homemade food when people come over.

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we have a variety of dietary needs to consider, but the main concern is that the food be yummy, right? so i thought hard about what kind of cake to make. i’m getting the gluten free baking under control for myself, but i’m still pretty novice at vegan baking and i don’t have cause to do a lot of it. i have an old apple cake recipe that our family enjoys quite a lot and remembered that it did not call for dairy, only eggs. so i tried my hand at a gluten free, egg-free version.

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the result was not too shabby; on the outside, it looked pretty close to the original—a festive top, perfect for the holidays (though we never limited ourselves by calling it a christmas cake).

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and inside? while not quite as flavorful as the original, it wasn’t a flop either, and was enjoyed by all, more or less. i’m just happy that everyone at the table could eat a slice and no one was left out.

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once i had a cake squared away, all that was left to do on party day was make some gluten free dough and prepare the toppings (david purchased regular pizza shells for most of our guests).

this time, i tried the GF dough recipe from america’s test kitchen. of all the recipes i’ve tried, this one had the best rise, texture, chewiness, and crispiness—most like my favorite traditional doughs. it was also very easy to work with. it performs extremely well as a base for toppings, where most GF crusts fail.

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it does lack the depth of flavor that good pizzeria doughs develop from longer rising times and using a starter, but i think i can work on that. the texture and structure is harder to come by in a recipe so this one is a keeper for now.

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with an array of vegetable and cheese toppings (as well as homemade sauce), everyone put together their own dream pizza.

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yummilicious!

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lots of happy people around the table—lillian and her husband, erica, doug, and barb (of course!). it was a really nice evening; i am so happy to be part of this team and to be able to relax and celebrate with them at this time of year.

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today i relaxed for an extended morning with my knitting and enjoyed the feel of stone soup fingering yarn with my coffee. tomorrow, i plan to relax even more and have a whole day of knitting—probably on my birches cardigan, so i should have progress to share next time.

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happy holidays to you and yours—merry knitting everyone!

this is what it’s all about

Posted on 9 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, book reviews/events, designing, interviews, projects

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our red scarf fundraiser design—snow flies—knit by our dear friend barb. it looks like an ordinary scarf, one of hundreds you could choose to knit this season, but let me tell you how it is SO much more . . . and the most important $7 you could spend this holiday season.

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first, every cent from sales of this pattern through 12/31/16 will go into our scholarship fund. and if you are lovin’ on our red festivus 3.0 yarn as well, we are also donating a portion of the yarn and kit sales to the same fund (yes we have kits too, yay!)

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who knows, this could be the lifesaver you were looking for—a fast, fun project that can be finished by the 25th and make you  hero twice—once for a special student and once for that lucky recipient.

I always look forward to hearing from our sponsored student and from foster care to success, the organization that we work with to choose the student who will receive our scholarship.

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when our contact, tina raheem, wrote to me in august of this year, she included a photo of our previous recipient, brandy, taken during her study-abroad trip in florence. in this photo, it looks like she is visiting venice and is dressed for a masquerade; what a wonderful experience!

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in the same letter, she introduced me to our new scholarship recipient, jelissa and included a note from her as well.

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i was really REALLY touched to receive this beautifully written note from a young woman i hadn’t yet met or corresponded with. it gets right to the heart of what our scholarship is about—the safety net. here was a student who was faced unexpectedly with an extra year of school that she wasn’t sure how to pay for and there was our scholarship—the perfect fit (no pun intended, haha).

i asked permission to email jelissa myself, as i have done with our other recipients and got an immediate response:

I am so grateful for you and the Knitspot community for your generous donation to help further my education. If there’s anything you’d like to know about me, please feel free to ask. Just to start, I am 23 years old, from Dallas Texas (moved away when I was ten), currently living in Harlem, NY. I was placed in foster care at 13 years and aged out at 21. I graduated from the Borough of Manhattan Community College in December of last year, and will start classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology August 29th (fall semester).

Thank you again and I can’t wait to hear from you.
Jelissa Roberts

we had a little exchange of emails during the next few days and i liked her so much from what i read; i knew you all would love her too.

then a couple of weeks ago, i wrote to let jelissa know that our red scarf fundraising drive had begun and could she think about a photo essay to send us during this month to share with all of you. today, i received her photos and story, so here it is:

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I go to the Fashion Institute of Technology!! This is the 27th street & 7th Avenue entrance of my school.

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Just wanted to take a picture of one of our iconic yellow cabs.

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This is ME!!! I had a presentation for my AC111 class (Advertising and Promotions). My team and I did really well (I’m in Macy’s by the way, my school is pretty close by.)

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I took this in class before my professor came in!

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Here’s where I work; which happens to be Central Park!!
It’s called the North Meadow Recreation Center, located at 97th street Mid-Park. In the spring & summer I help out with the basketball clinics and tournaments, run my own fitness program, and join in on other programs in Central Park. Currently I’m running our Youth Hockey and Ice Skating clinics for the winter! I’ve been getting kids suited up in their hockey gear all week!

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I was on my way home, here’s a photo of the 145th street & St. Nicholas Station.

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AMC Times Square Movie theater! I got to see a free movie!

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I take this path to work every day.

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It’s me again, with my co-worker Joseph (we call him Cool Joey!). We’re on our way to the Annual staff holiday party.

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The holiday party is held at the Central Park Boathouse every year!

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Inside the party room.

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Thank you sooooo much for everything! I hope you enjoy the pictures!

isn’t she wonderful? thank you all who have purchased and contributed so far; we ALL really appreciate your kindness! doug tells me that our total so far is $2,050—and we’d like to get to $5000 this year so we’ve got a ways to go; please spread the word.

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and if you’ve been waiting a bit to see how the snow flies scarf turned out before diving in and purchasing, please know that the pattern is now final—those who have purchased can download a fresh copy and those who purchase now will receive the latest version.

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if you’d like a kit for a scarf/wrap size, click here; if it’s the stripey cowl you are after, click here—they are both available in our signature red festivus 3.0 or in beautiful natural shades (and kits or a pattern make a great gift!). tell your ravelry buds about it too or share on your Facebook, twitter, and instagram (with a link).

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if you purchase the pattern our site in order to donate a little extra, we will be happy to add the pattern to your rav library; just leave a note on your order and david will take care of that. that reminds me—once you’ve purchased, please join in on our red scarf KAL on ravelry in the knitspot mothership group!

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be back soon with my holiday week activities and knitting—see you then!

snow beaters

Posted on 8 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, designing, food and garden

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oh yeah, it’s snowy here. AND it’s cold too—wind chill below zero and everything. look what a nice job mister knitspot does on that walk. you can tell we are city people at heart, haha.

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but look at my garden!!

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i totally thought that the really REALLY cold weather would kill it off, but no, it seemed fine. and then we got a dump of snow on tuesday (after this photo) and i thought, surely THAT was it. but no—turns out those beehives of snow that now cover the chard are little warming cocoons, sheltering them from the wind. they are like easter eggs; when you crack open the frosty dome, theres a bright green and recenter, haha. and i don’t think we can kill the kale at all; it’s just fine.

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ditto for the collards. now, give things another week and they could be in trouble. but for now it’s safe to plan on greens for dinner. which is a good thing because colds are starting to go around. i am a firm believer that lots of vegetables keeps us from getting those.

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not to mention how perfectly festive it is to see those greens upon greens, mixed with a little red, when i look into my dinner plate.

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it really has gotten very cold, which is quite unusual for december; most years it holds off until january. nevertheless, here we are. already sort of housebound, at least for now (the forecast is pretty much cold and then colder through christmas at least).

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so it’s  good time to cozy up indoors with some knitting at every opportunity, am i right? after finishing up the short and stripey snow flies cowl in time for the fundraiser kickoff and festivus yarn release, i cast on right away for a larger cowl all in delicious red. this project is so fun—i hope you’ll visit our rav group to knit along with us on yours.

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i got through my ribbing on saturday morning and started the patterned portion during my class, then completed the first repeat that night.

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i took a night off on sunday to work on something else, but on monday i completed one more repeat. it’s so funny about this colorway—in the skein, it looks like it has a lot of pink, but when you knit it up ina texture like this one, the richness and depth of the colorway really develops.

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i think the lustre fibers in the kent DK yarn base also play part. the color almost behaves like an enamel; when you look close, you can “see into it”. more than half done now and still i had some yarn left in the cake from my first skein. i’m saving my leftovers for a stranded color work project i have in mind—turns out i didn’t completely get that out of my system while knitting our recent club projects . . .

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i spread the rest of the knitting out over tuesday and wednesday and bound the whole thing off this morning. i soaked in in cold water with wool soap and a little vinegar and there was no color runoff at all.

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now it’s stretched out to dry on my workroom floor, where it can catch the drifts of warm air from the heat vent. it will dry very quickly this way, so i need to remember to turn and reshape it often.

i should be able to take photos tomorrow and finalize the pattern soon. barb also finished up her scarf (second size) last night at the shop; she’s blocking it today and will bring it back next wednesday. we should have pattern with final photos and yardages well before christmas!

doug is going to let me know tomorrow where our scholarship totals stand, so i will get back to you with those in a few days. the yarn is selling well, but we could use your help in getting more patterns sold—please spread the word about this great cause.

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on tuesday, as that storm was cooking and coming to a boil, i watched from the window while knitting on my latest obsession.

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a big cozy cardigan in stone soup DK. i have been living in my longer, oversized cardigans this fall and winter and i got to thinking that another caïssa-style sweater in stone soup DK would be lusciously warm—just what i need.

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and wouldn’t you know, i don’t have anything in my own wardrobe that’s knit in the marble shade! so i threw a pattern together just before we left for thanksgiving and worked on a sleeve swatch during my trip.

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i love the texture SO much; it looks like birch trees to me so that’s what i’m naming it—birches.

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even better, the fabric reverses to an equally cool pattern; i’m thinking i may be able to wear it both ways (with the seaming on one side being a visible feature; i’ve always liked that look).

so i finished my first sleeve last week and figured out what i want to do with the fronts.

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same body pattern but with a wide lapel that sports a cable feature. the cable will likely extend only partway up and then give way to plain ribbing through the neck drop and collar area; i’m keeping my options open on that. i started the first front (above) and after a few hours realized that there was a 2-stitch column near the center that i didn’t like the look of.

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so i ripped back, laid out the surface pattern just a bit differently and restarted. thank goodness for a larger diameter yarn—it didn’t take long to regain what i’d had to get rid of.

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now it’s exactly the way i want it and i’ve even knit another repeat onto what i have here. big cozy sweater will soon be mine, YES.

while i love my caïssa as designed, i sometimes miss having buttons. so for this one i will add some kind of closure—maybe just a toggle or two with a hidden button inside the wide lapel, i don’t know for sure yet. i do have to decide soon tho, haha, as this knit is speedy.

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i want to bring in bunches and bunches of our hardy rosemary and put it all around the house . . . can’t you just smell it?

it’s that wonderful time of the year

Posted on 5 CommentsPosted in projects

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OK, everybody, get your needles warmed up—it’s kick off time for our annual Red Scarf Fundraiser and KAL!

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when these samples skeins arrived the other day from yarn hollow, barb and i cast on right away at knit night—her snow flies scarf in progress (above) and my small stripey cowl (below) are just the beginning.

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this first one took no time at all;  it was done within 24 hours. i love me a quick holiday knit. but the nice thing is that this festive stripey version also has a nice vintage look that carries on well once the holidays are over.

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now that this cowl is finished i plan to cast on this evening for a larger one in solid red.

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i couldn’t be more excited to be releasing the latest red scarf pattern and yarn—this is what makes christmas a holiday for me. each year the release of our red scarf fundraiser pattern brings the true meaning of the holidays to our community—when we devote december sales from this pattern and yarn, then knit along together to raise money for our knitspot scholarship, which goes to one student who participates in foster care to success programs. Our previous student brandy, has graduated and gone on to study further. our current student is jelissa, who attend the fashion institute of technology in new york city—the organization even found a student who plans a career in our industry; how much do we love that??

foster care to success is an amazing organization with all sorts of programs to assist young adults who are aging out of foster care to navigate a journey to college and beyond. if you can imagine your own kids getting through the challenges of college AND taking care of their own housing, groceries, cooking, paperwork, doctor and dentist visits, car payments and maintenance, insurances, PLUS negotiating the complexities of adult decision making, relationships, interviews, important meetings, and interior life without you you as a safety net, then you can grasp how urgent it is to provide whatever support we can.

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For me, it started in 2008 with knitting scarves for the scarf drive that year. the next couple of years, i sent along a little cash as well to help with mailing, to pay forward the good fortune this community has provided me. then in 2011, i had the idea of increasing those funds by designing a pattern to raise money . . . and we raised enough to put the knitspot name on a scholarship. the next year we raised even more with the 2012 red scarf pattern, fall line and the scholarship drive became an annual event.

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a couple of years ago we expanded our fundraising by having one of our yarns dyed an exclusive shade of red—it is available only at this time and only in very limited quantities.

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the first part of our shipment arrived today; doug and erica got the listings ready for purchasers and they are live right now!

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lillian labelled them all before she left the office and is excited to get to work monday to pack and ship your orders.

we would LOVE to exceed last year’s amount of $4500—can we get to $5000 this year??

want to be part of it? you can participate in several ways:

  1. purchase a pattern and/or add an extra donation on our website—use the pulldown menu to increase your gift and the entire $7 price PLUS that amount will go into the scholarship fund. we are happy to add the pattern to your rav library if you let us know!! (but we have to do it manually, so please tell us)
  2. purchase a pattern on ravelry—the entire $7 retail price will go into the pot.
  3. purchase a nifty scarf kit which includes the pattern PLUS enough special edition festivus 3.0, to knit a scarf, wrap or cowl. we will add 10% of your purchase price to the fund.
  4. buy one or more skeins of festivus 3.0 for any project and we will add 10% of your purchase price to the fund.
  5. please, please, PLEASE tell everyone you know about the fundraiser—they don’t need to be a knitter to throw $7 (or more!!) at this wonderful cause. please mention it with a link on your Instagram, Facebook page (and link it), tweet it (with a link!), pin it (yes, with link) and finally just drag your friends over to look at the blog, haha. we’ll even give them a “knitter for a day badge” if they help out.
  6. join us for a fun red scarf KAL in our ravelry mothership—we promise a rollicking good time, plenty of support, and of course, neat-o prizes.

and with that, i’m going to sign off and go cast on for my big cowl while dinner heats up on the stove. thank you all so much in advance; let’s make 2016 our biggest year yet!

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