You know two things that go really well with tea? Tea goes great with knitting and reading. Perhaps drinking tea, knitting and reading all at the same time might be too much, but if you can do it, that's amazing. If you need a good book recommendation, I'm currently reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke and am really enjoying it. If, however, you are looking for a book with significantly less than 800 pages, you should read my book! I just wanted to let you know that tomorrow, January 19, 2017, is one of my Amazon "free book" days. This means you can get my book, Half Veiled, for free! Yay for free things! So, if you have a few minutes and at least a mild interest, you should follow this link to my book on Amazon. Thank you so much for your support, and as always, thank you for reading this blog!
I would assume anyone who reads this blog (and I hope somebody does) is a creative force. I assume this because you are reading a knitting blog and knitting is a creative art. Creativity can eek out in many ways; my knitting needles catch a lot of my creativity. However, some of my other imaginative juices have flown into a book. It is a lighthearted fantasy designed to make the reader laugh, or at the very least smile a little. Perhaps lighthearted fantasies are not your thing, but if they are, or you are just looking for a quick beach read, I would really love if you chose my book for the honors. It is entitled Half Veiled and is available for purchase on Amazon for $2.99. That's cheaper than most knitting patterns! I have included the book cover and link to the Amazon page for your convenience. The book is published under my maiden name, Rachel Reese. I thought it had more of a ring to it. Something about those double r's.
I hope this new year allows you many outlets for your art. As always, keep knitting! And thank you so much for making my blog a part of your meanderings.
No matter what holiday you celebrate, I wanted to wish everyone a merry Knitmas. I hope everyone is able to spend time with people they love and they find warmth and joy in the company they keep. I look forward to the new year and the possibilities it brings. I am hopeful in my knitting life, too, with a whole slew of projects already in the queue. I am grateful to anyone who reads this blog and hope you feel the warm fuzzies I send your way. Thank you for being part of my community.
As I pick up my project bag and head to my seat
I say Merry Knitmas to all,
Whether you knit flowing great shawls,
Sweaters or hats, trinkets and bobbles or socks for your feet.
Needles in hand, a yarn over or two,
warm wishes are made especially for you.
Warning, the recipe that follows is DANGEROUS. It is quick, it is easy, and the results are so yummy you may end up eating far more of the delicious little bites than you ever intended. At least that is what happened to me. These no-bake cookies reminded me of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. I was first drawn to the idea because I thought it was a great way to make cookies with my toddler- he could eat all the dough he wanted and I did not have to fret about salmonella poisoning. Win/win, right? And the fact they tasted even better than I thought they would is yet another win- except to my waistline. However, the holidays are right around the corner, and for us that means visitors. These are a great little treat to keep in the fridge for any guests you might have that have a sweet tooth. And if you have small children coming to visit, this is a really fun kitchen activity.
I feel like "no bake" is a little misleading. It is very true that you do not have to bake anything, but you do have to use the stovetop. However, it is much faster than having to bake batches of cookies, so I'm not complaining. Right up front, I will say I swapped the smooth peanut butter for chunky and reduced the amount of sugar in the original recipe. People seemed to have trouble with the cookies setting, but I placed mine to cool on the counter for half an hour and then put them in the fridge overnight. The next day they were more than ready to be moved to a sealed container in the fridge.
The recipe is adapted from the Food Network Kitchen Peanut Butter-Chocolate No Bake Cookies
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup peanut butter (I used extra chunky)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 pinch kosher salt
1. Line two baking sheets with wax or parchment paper and set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the sugar, milk, butter and cocoa to a boil. Make sure you keep an eye on this and stir occasionally. Allow the mixture to boil for 1-2 minutes. Remove it from the heat. In the same saucepan, add the oats, peanut butter, vanilla and salt. Stir to combine.
3. Using a teaspoon or small scooper, drop the dough on the prepared baking sheets. You will want to do this while your mixture is still warm.
4. Allow your cookies to cool at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. If your baking sheets will fit in your fridge, cover them with plastic wrap and set the cookies in the fridge overnight. If baking sheets do not fit between the leftovers, as was the case in my refrigerator, wait about an hour and then gently transfer the cookies in a single layer to a plate. Cover with plastic wrap and allow at least four hours before you move the cookies to a sealed container.
The cookies should be kept in the refrigerator in a sealed container. They are at their best if eaten within three days. However, we munched on ours for a week and there were no complaints. Toward the end of the week, however, the texture of these little delights did suffer.
I am a big advocate of shopping local when possible. After all, it is the local shops that give a town its charm, its unique voice, and are run by the very people who live in a particular community. I know sometimes cost and practicality can be prohibitive. I love my local yarn shop, but I cannot afford to buy all of my yarn there. The prices and selection online can be alluring, especially if you need to buy a large quantity of yarn. However, when I can, I shop at my local yarn shop, and it's not just for the yarn.
Of course a yarn shop will have your yarns and notions, but that is just what a yarn store sells, what it gives away for free is far more valuable. Yarn shops across the country, and likely across the globe, provide community. This might not sound like a big deal, but it's huge. We owe a debt of gratitude to the yarn shop owners that run what is hardly ever a lucrative business to support the outlet so many of us seek in knitting. Whether we knit to feed our creativity, relax after a stressful day, or challenge ourselves, the fact that you are reading this post suggests that knitting is important to you. The proprietors of knitting shops know and respect that. They are there to help decipher patterns, start projects, run knitting groups, put the pot of coffee on...the list is fairly long. But more than any of that, they play host to a support group that requires nothing but your presence.
We all struggle with things. There is a huge range of struggle, and perspective is helpful when dealing with the small stuff. However, we feel what we feel and sometimes it's hard to get past the small stuff. I have had two children and am about a year removed from the birth of my second son. What I have personally been struggling with lately are the changes that have happened to my body. I breast fed for a year and struggled with one breast being significantly larger than the other, to the point my shirt pulled awkwardly to one side. And while I've lost the baby weight, my stomach muscles were stretched, along with my skin, and I do not feel great when I look in the mirror. And now that I've stopped breast feeding and my hormones are shifting once again, my face has broken out like a teenage girl. Shouldn't having two children give you a free pass on acne? I am extremely lucky, I have a supportive husband who thinks I am beautiful no matter what. And I can acknowledge that these problems I am struggling with are SO small compared to the struggles of others, but that does not boost my self-esteem when I peek in the mirror and am shocked by the angry red bumps on my face, my now crazy hair, and my strange stomach skin.
Why do I mention any of this? Because when I walked in to my knitting store last week, I found a group of ladies sitting around a table, knitting and chatting, who made me feel GOOD. Many of them knew exactly how I felt, and we were able to joke about our spreading hips and changed sizes. They understood. Simply sitting with people I knew had gone through something similar helped me. I didn't need much, I just needed a little boost. And I am confident even if I had a problem none of the knitters at that table had experienced, they would listen, help, offer advice...whatever I needed. Sometimes we need someone to tell us we are being ridiculous, sometimes we need somewhere to go where we can cry over an empty nest or the loss of gluten in a diet. And it doesn't have to be a struggle that pulls up our chair to a knitting table, it can be achievements and joys, too. Having a baby? Knitters love babies. Getting a puppy or cat? Knitters love pets, too.
My point is that without a knitting shop, there would be no place for this kind of unique community. Knitting tables at the back of shops across the globe host people from all different age groups, background, ideologies...but people are brought together by a craft and that craft opens doors to communication. With two toddlers, I do not get out much, but when I do, I love the feeling the yarn shop gives me, the strength it lends me, the understanding it provides. But this community cannot exist without support. If we fail to shop at our local stores, they go away. The owners are generous, but they need to eat, too. And when a yarn shop's doors close, you are not just losing a retail store, you are losing a wealth of knowledge and experience that could have been shared. So next time you are able, perhaps you have a birthday coming up or a little extra cash in your purse, stop by your local yarn store. Buy some needles, some yarn, some cute project bags- whatever tickles your fancy. Then, sit. Sit and talk with the ladies and men that are in the store and get lost in a group that asks very little of you but is willing to give you so much. And when you get up to leave, thank the owner of that store for providing a safe place for this kind of creative community to exist.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that it takes a village to raise a knitter. Let's help keep those villages alive.
It's that time of year again. The weather is going to start cooling off, the days are getting shorter, Starbucks is about to roll out their Pumpkin Spice Latte and football is about to take over Sunday afternoons once again. Perhaps even Saturdays if you have a college ball fan in your house. Growing up, my family was never a "football family." In fact, we did not watch any sports unless it was one of my sister's soccer matches. I was sort of taught to scorn the franchised, big money world of professional athletics and the fans that supported it. Football? That was the worst of the worst as it was just a bunch of oversized men running in to each other. I made it through college without this opinion being shaken too much, though I did enjoy attending a few of my school's athletic events. However, once I went to grad school and met my now husband, my whole sporting world changed. My husband is a HUGE Duke basketball fan and, to an only slightly lesser degree, a Carolina Panther's fan. I attended grad school at Duke and was introduced to a whole new concept of "fan" as undergrads camped out to gain entrance to one particular game, the Duke v. UNC basketball game, at least two months ahead of the actual event. With tents pitched in freezing temperatures, I looked upon the scene and wondered if perhaps I was missing something. It turns out that perhaps my family was wrong about sports.
What was before me was a group of people enjoying each other's company, deciding to suffer the elements together, for what was sure to be an energized game. Simply put, it was fun. It was fun in every sense of the word. Perhaps an irresponsible amount of alcohol was involved in the months of waiting, but these young people were going to have stories to tell for years to come and experiences with their friends that outsiders would never understand. My attitude toward sports began to shift. Then, in an effort to understand my then boyfriends obsession with sitting in front of the TV on Sunday, I started watching football. It was then that I realized it was a nuanced game; that the men on the field were waging tiny wars with each play. The more I understood the rules, the more interesting it became. And then I had the largest epiphany of all...football games were a legitimate excuse to eat football snacks. I love football snacks.
So, when a friend of mine invited me to a class at a local establishment called Art & Soul to create a mason jar tray for my favorite sports team, I gladly accepted. How fun. The real point of the class was to show off the versatility of Annie Sloan's chalk paint. I have used this paint before and can attest to the fact that it is amazing. It is overpriced, not easily accessible, and I am not convinced it is better than other chalk-like paints out there- but it is a good product and was the first of its kind in the modern market. Sometimes I feel like I need to pay my dues to the first of a great idea. The wax is really worth its weight in gold, too...and a little bit of that goes a very long way. But I digress. In the class we made a small tray with three mason jars to house cutlery or other useful additions to a football food spread.
The letters on the front of the tray were created with vinyl stickers that were peeled off after a second coat of a contrasting paint color was added. The jars were painted on the outside, then lightly sanded before a wax coating was added. (For the football, you paint the jar white first. Once the paint is completely dry, you use tape to create the strips and laces. You then paint the whole jar brown. When it is dry, you remove the tape and you have a cute football jar. It is recommended that you use a mason jar WITHOUT fonts or a logo on the front, as that would make your football have a wonky texture.) All of it was made using Annie Sloan's chalk paint. The end product is very cute. It was super easy, too. The class, with drinks, food and talking, was a little over two hours start to finish and I walked out with a completed project. You could forgo the sports idea and make a mason jar tray for flowers or something to match your kitchen or dining room with a little more finesse than "Go Panters!" Dare I suggest you make a tray for jars to house knitting needles? The possibilities are numerous and simple with this quick craft.
Really, my bottom line here is that I have grown to appreciate what it means to be a sports fan. It's a community. It brings people together, it leads to good times (and some sad times, too), and it is exciting. I understand it is not for everyone. My parents and sister are still staunch neigh sayers when it comes to professional athletics. And that's okay, too. I don't really like large crowds, so physically being at an event is not for me, but I understand it is tons of fun for the people who do enjoy the energy and bustle of a stadium. I love to pick up chicken wings, grab some M&Ms and watch the game at home with my family while we chat and laugh and have a good time. If you, too, happen to be a fan of football, I hope you have a great season in whatever form that takes! But whatever you do, you should make a mason jar tray. ;-)
I love adding things to this site, but I am well aware that I am not a fast knitter. While I have dreams of finishing projects quickly, creating informative tutorials often and reviewing everything knit related, the reality is that time just does not always allow me to fulfill these ambitious dreams. That is why I'm starting this page. There are a ton of things I come across or other projects I am working on that are outside the realm of fiber craft that might still be interesting. Really, this will allow me to post more often. I figure, the more often I can create a quality post, the better this site will be. I still want this to be a predominately knit worthy site, but as every knitter knows, life is rich and many things inspire us to create. I hope readers find this page as entertaining and worthwhile as I hope it will be.
This is still a Rachel Simmons page, it just has more of my world outside of knitting. I hope you enjoy!