May Rainbows and Rhubarb

 

ImageOkay, I’ll admit it, I always had a secret desire to dye a rainbow. At first I squelched it, because it reminded me of sticker collecting in fourth grade and I figured knitters are more sophisticated than that. And then I squelched it because sometimes rainbows can have political meaning, and I didn’t want to make people feel left out. And then I feared that the colors would run and it would turn out muddy. But one day in the Lair, I was feeling playful and Chris had prepared some extra yarn for new colorways and so we just went for it! The result: Over the Rainbow, and I’m head over heels.

I chose my favorite classic dye color for each shade (of course, we have seven different reds, five yellows, six blues, etc…) and lined them up in the skein. Rainbow purists can and should point out that my rainbow doesn’t follow the classic ROY-G-BIV arrangement, and this was purposeful, mainly to safeguard the yellow from the other, deeper colors. And this rainbow made it though washing and drying with all of the colors still vibrant. The fourth-grade rainbow lover in me came skipping out and gleefully claimed the first set.Image

This color combination made me so happy that I immediately cast on, and after just two weeks of Little League baseball, finished the first one on the way to a tournament. Two weeks may not be impressive for you speed knitters out there, but for me it’s pretty darn good. And no second sock syndrome here! The lure of the colors pulled me right through cast-on and I’m just about ready to turn the heel on the second one.

 

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The cherry tree in our side yard is a-bloomin’. Hope we’ll get a good sour cherry crop again!

New in the Lair

My dad presented us with this rhubarb bouquet yesterday. Spring is really here! We do like rhubarb around here; one year, Belle asked for a rhubarb cake for her birthday! Since her birthday is in the fall, it was a little tricky….
This year, I was thinking of trying this Apple Pie Bar recipe from Roxana’s Home Baking and substituting cooked, sweetened rhubarb. But it’s hard to resist a good, old-fashioned rhubarb pie….
Are you all getting rhubarb? If so, please share what you’re making with it! I’d love to know.

Take care and have a lovely weekend,

Jaala

Friday Fiber and Food

Fiber Love

Amy J, Chris and I have been dyeing, drying, packaging and administrating like crazy, so here are some behind-the-scenes Yarn and Lair pictures for Friday.

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if you’re wondering, we mark cakes with different-colored stitch markers to show which yarn base we used so we don’t have any mix-ups!IMG_1099

minis

We add a little mini-skein to every box, and your lovely orders have been keeping Amy busy skeining up these fun little guys!

it's always Fashion Week around here
it’s always Fashion Week around here

And Chris has only been in the Lair a little while, but already contributing ideas to make things more efficient and more fun! So here’s a flash sale, courtesy of her!

Happy Pi Day! To celebrate, we’re having a flash sale in the Knitcircus Yarn Shop– buy 3 skeins of regularly-priced yarn, get 14% off your purchase. Use coupon code MmmPi, good through 3/15 (to give our overseas customers time to see this). May we interest you in some Lemon Meringue?

contrasty

Food Love

I’ve mentioned my favorite foodie podcast, Spilled Milk,, many times on the Knitcircus podcast, and Molly also has a lovely blog called Orangette which I’ve loved for years. Matthew wrote a very fun book, Pretty Good Number One, about his family’s eating adventures in Tokyo which made me want to take my kids there right away!

Knitting blogs are no problem, but I wanted to get more food blogs going and found this list on Saveur of the best food blogs for this year. A bunch of these are going to foodify me for sure!

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I knew Anthony Bourdain had made a career of travelling and eating after the success of his bad-boy memoir, Kitchen Confidential, but hadn’t realized he’d written more books. Just finished reading Medium Raw, a collection of profiles, stories, interviews and rants. Very tasty.

Huh, just saw that Kitchen Confidential was made into a tv show in 2005 with Bradley Cooper and Nicholas Brendon (Zander!). Has anyone seen this? It actually looks pretty good.

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Recommended by local reviewer (and friend) Stephanie Bedford: Bread and Butter, by Michelle Wildgen, the story of three brothers in the restaurant business in a medium-sized city. On the flip side of Kitchen Confidential, not as much about coke-fueled all-nighters as about making a go of it in a tricky business and navigating relationships in a family determined to stick together.

Sorry, no photo, but through this long winter, we’ve been making this delicious hot chocolate from AllRecipes. We prefer our hot chocolate with several servings of homemade whipped cream, renewing it as each spoonful melts…

Last Sunday, Belle and I hosted a hot chocolate party for Grammy and Buppa; she whipped the vanilla cream while I whisked the chocolate. We set the table with white plates and napkins and felt very sophisticated.

Happy weekend, everyone, and wishing you lots of tasty food and fibers! I’ll be hanging out at the Knit-In tomorrow morning just enjoying the scene, so please say Hi if you’re in the marketplace!

Jaala

So Very Nice

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We’re all curled up in front of the fireplace this snowy afternoon. Belle’s under the weather, so a lot of Modern Family going on.

My great-grandmother who came over from Serbia knitted the stockings above, and the Steve felt stocking was made by my dad’s grandmother for him. We feel very lucky to have these.

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Today holiday baking really begins! Lil Buddy and I tromped through the snow to cut out gingerbread cookies with Grammy. And the ones above, adapted from the Tassajara Lunches, Picnics and Appetizers cookbook,, racketed to the top of our new favorites. It’s super quick and easy to make (and Lil Buddy doesn’t even know they’re gluten-free).

Peanut-Chocolate Bars

3 cups rolled oats

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup natural peanut butter

Chocolate Topping

3/4 cups mixed semi-sweet chips and unsweetened baking chocolate

3 T butter

1/8 cup white sugar

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9×9 pan.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix all Bar ingredients. Spread evenly in baking pan.

Bake for approx 13-15 minutes until golden brown on edges. Allow to cool.

Topping

In microwave-safe measuring cup, combine all Topping ingredients and zap at 30-second intervals, stirring between, until all are melted. Spread evenly on top of Bars.

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Belle’s Barley Hat--finished! She has made her old mom extremely happy by wearing it nonstop since the bind-off. It’s in Knitcircus Yarns’ Harlequin DK in Tiny Princess.

Tonight; fudge, sugar cookies, GF chocolate-vanilla pinwheels and caroling with our neighbors. I love that. My voice is perfect for caroling, since I’m good at knowing the words and singing enthusiastically and it’s best if nobody can really hear the non-tune-carrying.

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The plow still hasn’t gotten to our street, so Buppa and Lil Buddy just got to try some cross-country skiing right out the front door. We’re so happy to be cozy inside; I hope that everyone on the road today is able to get there safely.

Take care,

Jaala

Big and Tiny Trees

IMG_2397Oh, Christmas tree!

This weekend, we took the kids to the same Christmas tree farm we always went to when I was a kid.

christmas tree farm sign

Summer’s lies just outside of town, tucked between beautiful, rolling hills.

It was strange to be there without snow; usually, the kids bring their sleds and romp around as we look for the right tree. When they were little, we pulled them along behind us, wrapped in their puffy snowsuits.

But the place was just as cheerful as ever:

cottage front

This year was a big moment; Li’l Buddy wanted to cut down the tree himself!

cutting down the tree

He got that saw in there and worked away, and did succeed in felling the tree (with a little help from dad).

carrying the treeWithout snow and sleds, Mike and I used our muscles to carry it back.

With lights, paper chains and all of our favorite ornaments on our sweet fir tree, we’re ready for the holidays!

giant snowball 2

Oh, and we did get our snow, just a day later.  🙂

Our tree gets its own tree

Last week, I had the dear pleasure of having coffee at the Sow’s Ear with Susie Anderson, whose mitten and tiny ornament patterns are causing such a stir on Ravelry.

tiny tree

This weekend, I made her Tiny Tree, and liked it so much, I’ve already cast on my second one! It would be so fun to make one for each of the members of the family, each with their own color of embroidered ornaments…

We also got the holiday baking rolling with Thumbprint Cookies from the book Gluten Free Christmas Cookies. Belle loves both chocolate and lemon curd, so that’s what we made!

chocolate gf thumbprints

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Next, a new recipe: Coconut-Apricot cookies from Carole Walter’s Great Cookies (a splendid gift from my mom in a Christmas Past).

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These looked like shortbread cookies:you roll them into a log and slice them; but they have the soft, moist chew of a macaroon. Definitely a new favorite.

In the lair

It’s Yarn Club package time again! All last week, I’ve been winding, dyeing and working on getting all of the treats together. Clubbies, your packages will be going out in the next day or two!

Have a great Monday,

Jaala

Holidays Start

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I just love the holidays! It’s extra work and planning, but so much fun.

One tradition we started when the kids were younger was to give them one beloved Christmas book a day; I wrap them in simple tissue paper tied with yarn, and we read it sometime that day.

Last weekend we began our crafting and treat-making.

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Belle and I found wonderful, 18-colored construction paper, and we couldn’t resist sorting the strips chromatically and making rainbow chains. One for the fireplace, two for the tree, and one each for Grandma and Grammy.

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Next, we made Peppermint Bark; a longtime kid favorite, because it involves crushing candy canes with a hammer.

IMG_2350It’s so simple, and delicious.

Peppermint Bark:

You crunch up one package of mini candy canes inside two zip-top bags, with a hammer or other blunt object in a safe place, like the garage.

Then you melt one package of dark chocolate chips on low heat in a medium-sized saucepan, adding about a half teaspoon of mint extract.

When the chips are melted, add about one quarter of the candy cane powder.

Spoon the chocolate onto a baking sheet covered with parchment, or lightly buttered.

Sprinkle another quarter of the candy canes over the top and put in the refrigerator until the candy hardens.

When it hardens, break into pieces with your hands.

Store in a covered container int he refrigerator for up to 3 days.

The first batch we just kept for ourselves to enjoy, We’ll make more just before we deliver the cookies in a couple of weeks.

Have a great Monday,

Jaala

 

 

Cyber Monday One-of-A-Kind Yarn Sale

 

Midnight Mystery

I call these skeins One Man Bands: I love trying out new colorways and combinations, and these skeins are true originals.

Today and tomorrow, reward yourself for all of that holiday hosting and shopping with a fun-one-of-a-kind skein. All of them are 20-25% off in the Knitcircus Etsy Shop.

This one reminds me of the eighties; gray and pink!

This Mulberry color is one of my new favorite shades. I may try to replicate this one…In this case, the MCN base was too hard to keep in stock, more’s the pity.

 

Some of my favorite One Man Bands…

Long Weekend

I hope all of you Stateside had a wonderful weekend; we hosted 15 people on Thursday, and everyone pitched in on the cooking and cleaning, so it went pretty smoothly. Our family has so much to be thankful for, and we toasted it up right with our water glasses! At the end of the toasts, Belle had drunk up all of her water!

The hit of the meal this year was the homemade chocolate pie. Li’l Buddy really wanted to make it, so we used what has fast become the family favorite: this Chocolate Pie recipe from Instructables.com. Unfortunately, I didn’t snap any photos, but it looked very much like the pictures form the recipe site. I made one homemade regular crust and one gluten-free. For the GF crust, I used 1/2 cup of butter (one stick) plus one cup of our all-purpose GF flour mix. It didn’t need any water, since the GF flour tends to absorb less liquid. We cut the cold butter into small pieces and used a pastry cutter to mash it together.

On Wednesday, LI’l Buddy’s class had a Thanksgiving Feast, so he and I made 2 more chocolate pies to share with the class. It was a bit of extra trouble, but I have to say, of the 6 pies there, ours were the only ones that didn’t come in a bakery box. I guess hanging out with a crafty and foodie crowd IRL and online has skewed my worldview to thinking that everyone makes things from scratch!

The rest of the weekend, we enjoyed brunch at my brother and SIL’s house, and see more adorableness from the twins, now three-and-a-half. Littlest Buddy loves to make music and dance, and Tiny Belle wears a princess dress every single day.

The kids wanted to go to the mall on Black Friday (they’re getting older!) and we did some bowling and saw a movie in the theater, Wreck It Ralph. It was definitely fun and over-the-top, and we all got a big bang out of it.

Mostly, with our house still pretty clean from Thursday, we enjoyed hanging out and actually relaxing (knitting, reading, throwing the football around, fixing things) without a big agenda. We didn’t want it to end! But now we’re rested up for the big holiday rush. Hope you are, too. 🙂

Happy Monday,

Jaala

 

 

 

Apples for Sauce and the Most Compact PC Ever

A relaxing, rainy weekend at home was just what the doctor ordered for our family; each kid got to host a sleepover, complete with French toast and sausage breakfast.

Since we’ve agreed that I’ll knit for the kids on Sunday, here’s the latest Sunday Project:

Li’l Buddy’s own personal computer! This was his top pick from Teeny-Tiny Mochimochi.

Even though he’s getting so big, on seeing the finished mini-pc, Li’l Buddy yelped with happiness, and tonight he took it to bed with him, carefully setting it on his pillow.

A Hundred Pounds of Apples

The kids’ music teacher won a grant to start a Healthy Snack program at school, and we’ve been busy with that, too.

My dad knows of a derelict apple orchard, and a last weekend, a small group of us picked semi-wild apples.

The kids climbed into the branches and shook the trees, and my dad and I crawled underneath to harvest the apples.We took as many as we could carry, and there were plenty left!

Li’l Buddy and his good friend kept urging me on, and at their insistence, we made seven batches of applesauce. Those kids cut and cored apples for two-and-a-half hours! We tried the crock pot (good, juicy sauce, but turned browner), the pressure cooker (my favorite method, resulting in pretty, pink sauce) and the stove top. It took three hours on High in the crock pot, 10 minutes of steaming in the pressure cooker, and about a half hour on the stove top.

When we served it to the kids, we used little paper cups on trays, with little spoons sticking out of each cup, and amazingly, reaction was overwhelmingly positive, even though it looked different than store-bought. My favorite was the second-grade class; we told them the skins gave the sauce extra nutrients so they’d have lots of energy, and several of the little guys cried, “Give me the energy! I want more energy!”

A number of generous parents volunteered to cook up apples at home, and it ended up being enough applesauce for 125 kids (plus a little to keep).

Here’s our basic method:

Ingredients: 

Apples

Cinnamon

Lemon Juice

Brown Sugar or Maple Syrup (optional)

Using an apple corer-slicer, remove the cores, but leave the skins on! You can see that we had many varieties, red, green and yellow, some of which were the size of prune plums, some like small supermarket apples. I recommend using cooking apples like Macintosh or Granny Smith, but whatever you’d like to try will probably be delicious.

Fill a medium-sized mixing bowl with apple pieces, then throw these into your pot of choice. If using a crock pot, no extra liquid needed; if using a pressure cooker or stove top, about a quarter cup of water or apple juice makes it smoother.

Cook your apples until soft; if using the stovetop method, make sure to stir it often to keep the apples from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Next, you want to mush the apples in some way. Other parents used a food processor, which probably is easiest.  We don’t have one, so I used a bit more labor-intensive method, putting the apples into a stand mixer and mixing them well, until it loosened up and looked like very chunky sauce, then hand-straining with a food mill into a big bowl (this part is very funny if you have kids, who clamor to have a turn straining and laugh uproariously when the apple puree squirts them in the eye). If using a food processor, just process until it looks like apple sauce you’d like to eat!

Now, in a big bowl, stir in a couple teaspoons of lemon juice to preserve the sauce a bit. If you aren’t going to eat it within about a week, you may want to freeze your extra sauce. If you’re using tart apples, you may want to balance this extra citrus with some maple syrup or brown sugar. For the schoolkids, I added about 2 tablespoons of maple syrup to a batch of applesauce.

Now it’s time for the kids to perform a crucial role: taster. Our guys would take turns shaking in cinnamon, and we had a row of plastic “tasting spoons” out for them to try the sauce, until they pronounced it, “The best applesauce ever!”

For the sauce we kept ourselves, we added brown sugar to taste, but the sauce was really yummy without it, too.