In the Kitchen | Let's talk about...

Let's talk about FOOD! I love food. I mean, I really LOVE food! I love cooking it and eating it and I even love reading books about food. Food. Is. Awesome. As you may know, these last few months have been insane in the most amazing of ways, but with the busyness of our lives, it's super easy to decide not to cook and just pick up take-out or eat something from a box a wee bit more than we should. I'm happy to report that has not been the case... thanks to Real Plans!

Real Plans is a subscription online meal planner offering a variety of options for dietary needs/restrictions that I discovered through one of my favorite foodies, Michelle Tam of Nom Nom Paleo and I've been using it ever since. I was instantly in love, but I wanted to see if the love wore off over time. It's been more than 3 months now and I love Real Plans even more today!


TRUE! I'm now spending a fraction of my previous planning time getting organized and cooking so much more for our family! Over the last 2+ years, cooking at home has become even more important for me with my celiac disease diagnosis, because in addition to it being rather difficult (and expensive) to dine out, we're also limited in options. I have yet to be bored with Real Plans and my 'to cook' list is growing weekly.

I've always loved cooking. My mom is a wonderful cook and shared the joy of the kitchen with me at an early age. I honestly can't even remember how young I was, but I do remember feeling right at home in the kitchen and it's the same to this day. I love the flavors, colors and smells of fresh food and making something delicious from scratch is one of my favorite past times. I enjoy it so much, that many times I'm at a crossroads of knitting or cooking and cooking can win that contest. I love cooking THAT much!

I also adore my cookbook collection (really, I'm a total sucker for pretty pictures of food and flipping through pages and putting on post-it notes), but getting organized for the week was time consuming and was expensive (really, I wanted everything) and I would much rather spend my available time actually cooking. But... I found that if I didn't spend the time planning, I'd toss whatever into the cart at the grocery store and so much of the food would go to waste over the next week because I lacked a plan. 

Now I spend about an hour each week planning things out and we're saving $ at the grocery store. Real Plans has paid for itself (and then some) with what we're saving. Wanna see how it works?

So... now I feel like this is an infomercial, but seriously, this has changed my life and I'd only share if I believed in it and I wholeheartedly do - I believe in it so much that I'm an affiliate now. I'm also asked frequently about how I plan food out and I've been so happy with Real Plans that I HAVE to share the joy! In addition to a HUGE library of recipes that are built in, there are some amazing additions that are really reasonably priced, including: Nom Nom Paleo, Whole 30, Well Fed, Cookie & Kate and more! AND... (yes, this is where I say... "wait, there's more!") you can modify the existing recipes (ingredients, portion size...) and you can add your own recipes. The latter is very important to me because I find so many delicious recipes online and it's as simple as adding a url to the recipe box or clicking on the Real Plans Chrome extension to add it. It's so easy and quite fun. 

That's all the words I have for you today. I'm passionate about cooking at home and healthy eating and I hope I've inspired you to get organized and into your kitchen. Questions or comments? I'd love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below.



On the Needles | All about Jane...

It's a happy Sunday in our home - the boys are lounging, hubby is assembling his new office chair and I'm writing out a new recipe for trial later today. We're having tacos for supper (yeah, tacos are kind of the best) and I've wanted to make homemade refried beans for a long time, so we'll see how it goes. Fingers. Are. Crossed. Of course I could just use an existing recipe, but that's just not how I roll. *wink*

Before the evening events get underway - supper prep, podcast prep, podcast recording, supper eating, settling in to watch TV - I'm going to get back at some knitting from last weekend. We talked about these projects in last week's podcast and I'm here to share a few more details... 

This is what happened last weekend and I'm getting back to work on all of these lovelies this weekend - it was only after all were cast on that I realized all 3 new projects were Jane Richmond designs. LOL! I still have a sweater that's in the naughty corner, but the sleeves are slowly getting knit (again), so I hope to show that off soon. In the meantime, I needed a wee bit of a knitting pick-me-up and this was my answer. Really, one naughty project justifies casting on 3 new ones - right?!

First up are those super-amazing-spectacular socks... the pattern is Climb (by Jane) and the yarn is Spun Right Round 80/20 SW Sport in Renee's classic Graffiti colorway - it's a fresh arrival at Firefly Fibers and this month's featured yarn for the Sock of the Month Club, so I had to cast on. This is the 4th time I've knit Climb and this pair is raveled as Sporty Climb


If you haven't tried Spun Right Round, you really should! We carry SW Sock and SW Sport Sock at the store, but it sells so fast and each skein is so unique that it's not currently available in our online shop. If you can't visit Firefly to see this gorgeous yarn in person, Renee has an Etsy shop that is sure to make you drool (a lot). 

The second project is the Clarke Pullover (also by Jane)... 

This is a sweater that is going to get a lot of use. We got a huge order of Tosh DK a few weeks back and I couldn't resist casting on Clarke. My color choices are similar to Jane's with Dirty Panther and Antler and it will be endlessly wearable, but a friend also cast one on and is using a rich purple that I can't wait to see knit up. Honestly, I'm already planning at least one more Clarke, but for now, this one is raveled as Classic B &W Clarke.

For project success when striping... pre-wash dark colors with a wool wash and a couple tablespoons of white vinegar before casting on to avoid them bleeding onto lighter colors. Trust me, it's worth the extra time and effort. 

Last up is Arbutus (again, Jane.  I swear I'm not a stalker)... this is the January project for our Simply Handmade-along and there's still time to join (check out the Arbutus Love post for details and the discount code on Tosh DK through Monday 1/25)! This is my 3rd Arbutus and for this one I'm using Tosh DK - raveled as Arbutus the Third (Arbutus the second sadly didn't make it onto ravelry)... 


This is a fun and interesting knit with short rows and the project resembling an alien mouth (in my mind, anyway) while in progress.

If you enjoy a bit of knitting geekery... I'm using my preferred short row method - wrapless short rows - for Arbutus. Ysolda has a fabulous video for the wrapless short row method on her Technique Thursday page - be sure to check this page out, her tutorials are great! 


So, there you have it. This is the rest of my weekend and I think it looks pretty awesome!

Are you knitting this weekend? Do you have a favorite short row technique?


Sock Weather

It's cold here in the Midwest. Currently it's 19 degrees below zero. Yes, -19. It. Is. Cold. Logan is hanging with me today as I work from home. Something outside is apparently stare-worthy - I saw nothing beyond the frost covered window, but I didn't ask questions.

wpid-IMG_20140106_094529.jpgEach summer I hope and dream of heading into winter with stacks of hand knit socks for myself and hubby. Over the last year, Susan B. Anderson began posting tantilizing photos of her overflowing sock drawer and it's impossible to not be sucked into the world of socks after seeing all that beauty.

I was inspired, motivated, and I had dreams... I also have a job and it takes time to knit a full drawer of socks. Winter is obviously here (remember, -19) and I'm down to only a couple pairs of hand knit socks, so I'm frantically clicking away between other projects. I cast on a new pair of socks while we were in the car heading to hubby's Grandma's for Christmas, completed the cuff on the way back, and I turned the heel that night when we got home.


Nice long cuff on the finished sock, right? Yeah, about that... I was knitting on a 9" mini-circ in the dark on the way home and had no idea of how much progress I was making. Upon our arrival home, I was pretty excited to see it was nearly 10" long, then... I cast on the second sock and realized I would have to do it again. LOL! It's okay, I'll get there. Eventually.

A couple questions have come up since my last post with the darning poll (results are coming, just keep reading...). The questions were:

  • How did I knit that much so fast? Well, it's a sport weight yarn knit on a US 3 (3.25mm), so they knit up really fast. This particular yarn is Regia's 6-ply that comes in 150gr balls and they've really expanded their 6-ply line over the last couple years - with our shop inventory expanding proportionately. *eek*
  • What pattern do you use? My "go-to" sock pattern is Churchmouse's Basic Sock. Not only is it my personal "go-to" for socks, it's also the pattern used in the Top-Down Sock Workshop that I'm teaching again in just a few weeks and the pattern I recommend at the shop to new and seasoned sock knitters because it's just simply a good basic sock pattern. Churchmouse dubbs it, “The sock we return to again and again.” This is SO true!


This pattern is the closest to a "perfect" top-down sock pattern that I've found in my 12+ years of knitting socks. I knit and teach these socks exactly as the pattern is written, with ONE exception:

  • I pick up ONE extra stitch at the top of the gusset. I've always done this on top-down gusseted socks and it really helps to close up that pesky little hole that can appear. Picking up one extra stitch really makes a HUGE difference for me and it really helps the students in class, too.

I've taught a variety of sock classes at Firefly Fibers from the beginning and as luck would have it, a little over a year ago, the timing worked out that I would solely lead the sock classes (sock/sole, get it?). I decided then that I wanted to offer a sock class of some variety on every class schedule and each of those classes have been a huge success! I just really love hand knit socks of all varieties and I love teaching sock knitting - check out the Top-Down Sock Workshop details and contact the shop to register if you're in the area and interested in joining me in the upcoming class! It's a good time with plenty of tips and side-by-side assistance along the way.

So, before I get back to work on my cuff or get distracted by something else:


The results of the darning poll (which I'm leaving open in case anyone else wants to add their input): 

Sock Knitters, what do you do when hand knit socks are in need of repair?

  • 57% Knit a new pair
  • 38% Darn them
  • 5% Other

I'm a wee bit surprised that so many of us do the same thing and just knit a new pair - I'm also a wee bit comforted that I'm not alone. Granted, there are variables with darning: quality of the remaining sock, repairs needed, etc... I have some socks that I have darned and some that really just aren't worth it. But still, my first inclination is to just knit a new pair.

I'll be back soon with a couple more sock tidbits as I get ready to cast on another pair!

Cheers! Alisa