Saturday, December 12, 2015

Candy Ornaments

It's a bit dusty in here, excuse me while I clean up a bit.

This year, while perusing Ravelry, someone asked where they could find candy that looked like Christmas lights. This gave me an image of hard candy in bright colors shaped like the big old fashioned Christmas lights, and lead me to a recipe for hard candy ornaments on the Food Network site, which I made. Except I apparently don't have any cookie cutters that look like Christmas lights, so my original vision wasn't quite fully realized. Excuse me while I add "cookie cutters that look like Christmas lights" to my shopping list for next Christmas.

The recipe as posted on the Food Network site was rather lacking. In details, in photos, etc, so I've decided to type up all the tips from the comments and post it here along with how I went about it.

Candy Ornaments (makes about 12)

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 16 oz bag of Jolly Ranchers
  • Vegetable oil
  • Meat thermometer or other pointy thing (ideally metal but a toothpick could work)
  • Brush (for brushing oil)
  • Parchment paper and paper towels
  • Cookie tray and cooling rack
  • Cookie cutters! Next time I might make Christmas rocket ships to go with my mittens and so forth.
  • A sharp knife
Preheat oven to 350F. 

Place parchment paper on baking sheet and spray liberally with cooking spray. Pick your cookie cutters: the larger, simpler ones seemed to work best so as pretty as that snowflake might be, it might be super frustrating to remove from the cutter later!

Place cookie cutters on the tray. I recommend doing about 6 at a time--I did all twelve at first and had to pop half back in the oven to soften them back up. Brush each cookie cutter inside and out with vegetable oil, then place unwrapped Jolly Ranchers inside. Be generous, I pretty much filled it up as high as it could go. The thinner the ornament, the more annoying it was to remove them from the cookie cutter. Be careful though, because you want the candy to melt completely without bubbling.

By now, all the individual unwrapping means you're oven is definitely pre-heated. Stick those babies in for 6 minutes. Take the tray out of the oven and put it onto the cooling rack. You've got to move fast but carefully now, because it's easier to do some of this while the candy is still hot.

Brush your knife with vegetable oil, and start cutting the overflow off from the edges of the ornaments (you can see the cherry Jolly Ranchers really overflowed from the mitten and ornament cutters on the left). I just piled up the extras by color onto a spare bit of parchment paper. I held onto them until after I was done, in case any ornaments broke and needed to be remade. Make sure to reapply oil every now and then.

During this time, you should also use the meat thermometer (dip the tip in vegetable oil) to start making holes in the ornaments, if you want to add string to hang them with (or tie them on as a gift tag). This is something that will take a few attempts, as the soft candy will start to ooze back in, so alternate pulling the overrun candy from the edges of the cookie cutters and making the holes.

After I did this, I put the ornaments onto a plate with paper towels to help sop up the excess oil. Be careful--if any of the ornaments are still too warm (and therefore too soft) they'll stick to the paper towels and you may get bits of paper towel on your ornaments.

Now, take your knife (remember, you want it oily still) and insert the tip between the candy and the cookie cutter gently. The candy should still be a bit soft but not so soft it gets terribly deformed. You want to get the cookie cutter to release from the candy, so work it carefully around the edges. It seemed more effective for me to not do the entire edge, but to get it to release here and there all around (so not like a grapefruit but more of a perforation approach). Carefully push the candy out of the ornament--if you aren't careful, and/or the candy is too soft, you'll wind up with a slightly deformed shape, like the ornament below.

Once all of your ornaments have been freed and are cool, wipe them off with a paper towel to remove more excess oil. If you made holes, once they're cool and firm, you can insert your twine/string/wire through the hole. In the one at the top of this post, I used a twist tie and some yarn.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Empty Chairs and Empty Tables

Somehow, this weekend seems to have flown by. I had a nice, long, well-deserved vacation at the end of the year (12/20-1/1!), and was supposed to be back in the office Thursday, but then weather happened and I worked from home Thursday and Friday, instead. This finally feels like a weekend, after the dreaminess of a long vacation where you don't have many plans, and I can't believe it's over already.

Friday night I finished watching Torchwood, while starting a(nother) Bloody Stupid Johnson. I've knit the damn thing before, so you'd think I'd be able to figure out the pattern, but apparently not. Saturday I spent a good part of the day cleaning the kitchen, before I moved on to reupholstering a chair that had once been my brother's desk chair.

I moved into my current place, a house with four roommates, in September, but due to the craziness of 2013, I was gone more than I was here, or at least, that's what it feels like. We have a little nook that serves as a dining area, with a skinny table in it. And, until Thanksgiving, only one chair. I'd mentioned to my mom that I wanted to acquire more chairs from Good Will, and I came home with this chair, covered in a filthy off-white fabric (too filthy for pictures).

So now we have two chairs! I bought fabric from Joann's almost immediately, but I didn't have the time to deal with the chair until yesterday. Now it makes me happy to look at--I'm not much for orange and yellow, but this one is very cheerful (and appears more orange than white in real life--in the picures, the effect is generally reversed).

On top of all that, I went to the grocery store and spent a stupid amount of money, and then reorganized my section of the pantry, and packed lunch and snacks for tomorrow. Luckily I've gotten some more knitting and TV time in (Star Trek and Haven--really good by the way and on Netflix!), and now I'm thinking it's time for one more episode of Haven before Downton Abbey.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Finish It 1 of 4

When I said that including the Mock Colorwork Fleckle Mitts in my "Frog It Or Finish It" review, I wasn't kidding. I knit up the thumbs and wove in my ends while watching Torchwood Season 4 last night (wtf American Torchwood. at least Jack was naked that one time).

It's hard to photograph your own hands.

I knit the small size. And also the medium, I think--I think I made the medium on the first glove, forgot, and started the second one as a small. They fit nearly the same.

I took this one with my nose.
I used size 2s instead of the 4s the pattern called for--I didn't like the fabric I was getting on the larger needles. These are quite snug and stiff, but I'm happy with them (even if my new FitBit is causing an unsightly lump). I have smallish hands, I think.

Oh hello.

The yarn is the called-for yarn, since I got one of the kits--A Hundred Ravens Iachos, a fantastic fingering weight yarn that comes in gorgeous colors. Mine is in Ironwood and Lothlorien. (I am shocked and appalled that Chrome doesn't know the word Lothlorien.) This is my fourth project from her yarn, and they've all been stunning. It blocks awesome, too.

I finished these just in time to wear them in my chilly house today--Boston is in a snow emergency and I worked from home today, and we keep the house chilly during the day. They kept my fingers warm while I started to catch up on the 105 emails I received during my 13 days of vacation.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Review, Preview

2013 was an absolute shitty year for me. It started in October of 2012, 7 days before my last post, and continued shitty up until October of this year. Things seem to be evening out, though my job is still stressful.  My personal life was so stressful that the massive changes and uprooting of my job that started in January 2013 that should have been freaking me out, I basically ignored. Once my emotional energy started to free up, I started to realize how stressful work was. The best thing for me was crafting--I finished 11 different knitting projects in 2013, and took up cross-stitching, finishing 2.5 starter kits in the year. In contrast, I knit 5 projects each in 2011 and 2012.

2014 is going to continue challenging, at least at work, but I do feel like it's a fresh start in ways I've never felt before. I entered a new decade of life, and I'm starting to figure out what it is I really want to do. I also think I'll have another excellent crafting year--it's an awesome way to watch all the great TV shows out there! ;)

So with the new year, I've started two projects--one is a quick(er), reflective project, and the other is a year-long commitment. The year-long commitment is a repeat of one that got lost in the shuffle last year--I am going to be re-attempting Photo365, taking at least one photo a day. I'm setting the bar low, here--just has to be a photo, nothing particular. The other is the focus of today's post, and inspired by a friend in my knitting group, who calls it "Finish It or Frog It". The idea is to take a look through all of your works in progress and make a decision to either finish it, or to frog it (rip it out). I had fewer projects on the needles than I thought I had, which was nice.

From left to right, that's baby blocks, a lacy Baktus, a Lace Ribbon scarf, a Hanami, a Sack Boy (complete except assembly), Mock Colorwork Fleckle Mitts, an Urban Aran Cardigan, and a passel of hexipuffs.

I started the Hanami in February, 2008, making it the oldest WIP I have.

The yarn is Spirit Trails Fiberworks Atropos, 100% Bombyx Silk, laceweight. It's a lovely combination of peachy orange and spring green, though it does suffer from Silk Stink. As you can see, I'm only a few rows into this five year-old project. I'm adding this to the "finish it" pile, though I'm going to rip it out and start over again. I'd like to set a goal for completion, but that's unlikely to motivate me--I'll just need to find some reasonably mindless TV to watch for a while.

Next up is the Lace Ribbon Scarf, started in June of 2009. 

Please excuse the lousy photo, this is Malabrigo Yarn lace in Tuareg, which is a much lighter shade (and not the TARDIS blue shown here). This is soft, and lovely, and the pattern is pretty boring and I think there are much prettier patterns out there that would show off the Malabrigo better. This is a relatively easy "frog it".

The next eldest pattern was started only a month after the Lace Ribbon scarf, and is a Sack Boy from Little Big Planet. 

It's hard to see there, but the Sack Boy is done, except for assembly, which I've been putting off since sometime in 2009. I think I need to trim the zipper down to size, and do some other "not really part of my skillset" things, hence the procrastination. This is a finish it, since it's so close. Originally it was going to go to my then-boyfriend and his roommate, but now I think I'll keep it or give it to the roommate.

The Urban Aran Cardigan, a modification of the Patons Urban Aran pattern, has been languishing for quite some time, as well. I started it in March of 2010 and made quite good progress, until I ran into a mistake in the shoulders that I never summoned up the energy to rip back and fix.

This is a tough one, because the yarn is Misti Alpaca Chunky in charcoal, oh so lovely and soft. But this must-needs be frogged--I've gained a bit of weight since then, and a 42 inch finished bust on a cardigan won't cut it any more. This frogged into two balls of yarn, but clearly was from three.

In October 2011, I started making Two Seam Cubes to make blocks for a baby who is now 2.

That actually makes this an easy frog--I can save the yarn (Plymouth Yarn Dreambaby DK) for future babies. I did complete 2/3 of 2 cubes--I won't frog those since the yarn is already cut, but I doubt anything will ever come of them.

Also in October 2011, I started a Lacy Baktus.

As pictured here, it's lovely, but in person is far, far too yellow for my tastes. Route 66, in Spunky Eclectic Touch Sock, was one of those yarns I loved in the skein and hated once I started to use it. This is a frog and probably a yarn I'll try to swap.

2012 and 2013 were good years for finishing projects. I'm starting the new year with only two unfinished projects from 2013, both started in the fall, and none from 2012. First up is the Mock Colorwork Fleckle Mitts, from a kit with yarn from A Hundred Ravens, started November 10th of 2013.

These are a bit of a cheat--last night, I bound off the second mitt, and now just have to pick up stitches for the thumbs. This is a finish!

Lastly, we have The Beekeeper's Quilt, a forever project I started November 22nd of 2013 when I got bored with the mitts (they're gorgeous but slipped stitch "colorwork" gets real boring, real fast!).

This quilt is modeled after similar fabric quilts, and consists of tiny knit hexagons, that you stuff with wool or polyfill or yarn (I used polyfill).  I've knit 19 of the suckers so far, and I want a blanket big enough to be my bedspread on my full size bed, so I have a long, long ways to go. This is a keeper, too, but like I said, it's a forever project.

And there we have it--starting 2014 shed of the weight of four projects, and determined to finish another four. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

I miss you

A week ago today, my grandpa died of a massive heart attack while getting dressed. He was 90, and he knew he was going. We found his obituary ready for us, and cards for Christmas. I had him for 29 years, and I know how lucky I was, but it doesn't always make it easy. 

In college, I wrote a poem for him. I never told him, because I don't think he would have understood what I meant by it, and would have thought I was making fun of him. That couldn't be further from the truth, but I know he was self-conscious about the way he talked--the way I desperately wanted to talk as a girl, so I could be more like Grandpa. 

I wanted to read it last week, at the wake or funeral service, but I forgot to make sure I had a copy of it before I left for NJ, and no one in Boston had a copy to send me. That's OK, because I found it was still a bit of a work in progress. We'll call the version below the "final" version, I suppose, since I'm sharing it here. 


Granpa doesn’t eat
He eats cold cuts and cheese
on bread; no mayo, no mustard.
Granpa doesn’t eat sandwiches:
it’s a sangwich.

Granpa doesn’t take
He sits in his chair in the basement
with the Daily News and his reading glasses.
He just rests his eyes.

Granpa doesn’t say
his o’s right.
He watches basebawl,
drinks cawffee, black.
He answers the phone, “ye-LLO.”

Granpa doesn’t give
“There’s two kidnsa good
in this world--no good
and good for nothing.
Which one’re you?”

Granpa doesn’t talk
about feelings.
He says, “I’ll see you
when you’re better dressed,”
not “I love you.”
Granpa can’t afford it,
and Granpa won’t talk about feelings.

(c) 2012 Christine Whitlock

RIP, Eugene
Eugenio Luigi Nicolini
Eugene Louis Nicolini
January 18, 1922--October 8, 2012

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Project: Sagittarius

This is a somewhat belated update on my first Zodiac project, for Sagittarius, which I was cryptic about last month.

Fefferknits just had her twins (8 weeks early! Way to throw off my deadlines! Geez!). As a baby shower present, I had decided to make the babies stuffed elephants.

The babies should come home this week, and they'll get to drool all over Bernie and Eunice! (Um, that's what I've been calling them anyway.)

I used Caron Simply Soft (Shadows for the green elephant, Tweed for the purle), and knit up the wonderful Elefante pattern. I did tweak it slightly--the ears are crochet, and I got to them at work, when I had neither the mental capacity nor the physical resources to crochet elephant ears. Instead, I used the ears from another pattern. I also decided to forgo the poly-pellets.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Another year, another decade. As some of you faithful readers know, I work in textbook publishing. Like the car industry, we operate in the future. I just held in my hand the pages of a book that I have been working on since calendar-year 2007, and was signed in calendar-year 2005. The book was 5 years in the making, and will be physically bound as of next week, in calendar-year 2010, but it's a copyright of 2011. There are several bound copyright '11s in my office right now, that we weren't legally allowed to ship out until yesterday. It gets very confusing, since professors are only just finishing their first semester with the 2010 copyright books, and we are already working on 2012 books. (And in some cases, beyond that, since first editions have a much longer lead time than revisions.)

This is a long-winded way of saying that I never have any idea what the actual year is, anymore, without checking a calendar or asking someone who preferably doesn't also work in publishing. In some ways, the new decade started for me three years ago, which makes all the "looking back" posts and articles a bit odd for me. (10 years ago I was a junior in high school!)

But the new year is the new year no matter when my brain is, and the new year is always a time for reflection and resolutions. This year, I'm not doing resolutions per se, but rather a "Zodiac Challenge" that as far as I know was concocted by my friend DigiKami. The idea of the challenge is to complete 13 projects over 28 day periods throughout the year, leaving us with a day off at the end of the year. I agreed to do this, got lazy and forgot to come up with challenges, except for a few vague ones, so when I got my reminder email this morning, I was scrambling a bit.

The challenges are meant to be projects, and if you don't finish your project within the allotted four weeks, you must put it down. If you finish early, you can go back to any previously unfinished projects. Obviously not all projects will take as long as others--one of mine is to sand and either repaint or stain a small dresser and my night stand, which should only take me a weekend, and another is to crochet my grandfather a blanket.

I'll be posting here with updates about my challenges. The first challenge will be a secret, though. It's something I need to do and would get in the way of starting any other projects, and I can't have someone reading on here what my challenge is for the 1st through the 28th.