The Life and Times of Florence Knitingale

Thursday, August 31, 2006


I was shopping the other day, and studying some yarn (so unusual for me....) when I was approached by a charming lady who wanted to know if I knit. Do I knit........! I told her I did, and she invited me to join her fledgling knitting group. She was so nice, I decided to try it--tonight will be my first time there. In the interest of combining some of my favorite things (and possibly bringing others down with me) I made some caramel brownies to take with me. See what you think:

A tiny bit blurry...who would guess that a plate of brownies wouldn't be a good photography subject (surely it isn't my skills......). Anyhow, wanna make 'em? (Don't be silly--of COURSE you can do it!)

Ms. Knitingale's Knitting Group Brownies

you'll notice that the base of this is just an ordinary brownie recipe--feel free to use your own if you like it better. I don't recommend a mix, though, as I don't think it will be dense enough to support all the caramel-y goodness!

Okay, get yourself a microwavable bowl and put 4 oz of good quality unsweetened chocolate in it. Nuke it about a minute, then put 1 1/2 sticks of real butter in. (My mom always said I could use cheap margarine in baking--that no one would ever notice. She lied. Use the real butter.) Nuke it for another 45 seconds or until it's mostly all melted. Stir it together until smooth. Now dump in 2 cups of sugar, a teaspoon of real vanilla, and 3 eggs. Stir it all together, but don't beat it--it won't be dense and fudgy if you overbeat it. Now stir in 1 cup of flour. See how easy that is? Okay, spread it in a 9 x 13" pan. (I line mine with foil and spray it with a bit of butter flavored cooking spray because I'm too lazy to scrub the pan later.) Bake it at 350 for about half an hour. It will start to pull away from the sides when it's done. Put the whole pan on a cooling rack to cool.

Now, make the caramel topping. (No, don't panic--I swear this is foolproof. And I don't mean "a trained chef could do it blindfolded"--I mean you really can't screw it up.) Get yourself a saucepan (medium size ought to do it). Put a stick of real butter in it (I never said this was healthy). Line up these things on the counter, in this order: 1/3 cup of milk, 3/4 cup of packed, light brown sugar, 1/2 cup of white sugar, 1 cup of graham cracker crumbs. (A note here: if you are a better person than I, you may certainly get yourself a box of graham crackers and crush the life out of them. I, however, will admit that I just buy the box of premade crumbs. It saves me cleaning cracker crumbs off of every surface in my kitchen once I get frustrated and toss the whole thing in all directions. In any case, you may go either direction with this.) Okay, now turn on the burner under the butter. How high you turn it depends on how diligent you want to be. Butter burns way easy, so I put it on medium heat and stir it around pretty much constantly. Once it's melted, stir in the lined-up ingredients in the order listed. Bring it to a boil, still stirring. You're almost there. Now boil it for 5 minutes. You'll need to stir pretty frequently, and you'll need to turn it down if it starts to stick. Don't worry--it will be fine. Feel free to lick out the brownie batter bowl with your free hand as you wait for the 5 minutes to pass. Time's up? Great. Now spread the caramel stuff on the brownies. It'll get thicker--promise. Stick it in the fridge for an hour or so. Knit a few rows while you're waiting.

Last step: melt a regular sized bag (12 oz, I believe) of chocolate chips. You can use milk or semi-sweet chocolate. I've done it both ways, and they're both good. For the picture above, I used semi-sweet. Spread the melted chocolate carefully over the caramel. Let it set up, but watch it closely. If it gets too hard before you cut the brownies, it will break instead of cut nicely. Cut it into as many squares as you like. If you're like me, cut a few of them too big, so that they require trimming, and someone to eat the scraps. Scraps don't have calories, I'm pretty sure.

I'll let you know how the knitting group goes. I'm also volunteering with Knit for Life today in addition to my usual Monday, so maybe I'll have meaningful progress on pomotamus to share tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Becoming Ms. Knitingale

But first, some yarn porn:

I love this stuff--Araucania Nature Wool in colorway 07. It doesn't look really great on my monitor, but the actual yarn is shades of teal and really, really lovely. I got five skeins of it yesterday at Spin Knitters of Bothell, whom I can already feel sucking me into the vortex of spinning my own yarn. Not sure yet what these particular five skeins are going to be....but I can feel a cardigan tugging at me.

ANYWAY, back to the story. I started prerequisites for a nursing program when I was around 24, and was working in a nursing home as a nurse's assistant. I loved it, loved the whole career path ahead of me. But I ran out of money, and also confidence. I changed direction, taking a job as a teacher's assistant for non-profit childcare program. I enjoyed it, and eventually found an employer who paid for me to go back to school and become degreed in Early Childhood Education. By the time I was 30, I was chosen to create and become the director for a corporate childcare program, within the biotech sector. It was sort of dizzying--you want me to be in charge? Really?? Within a few years, I had the program licensed for 72 children, was respected in the field, and managed 17 people. Let me tell you: if you have a choice between managing 17 people, and slamming your hand repeatedly in the car door, pick the car door. The whining, the squabbling, the crying--and that wasn't even the children!

After 7.5 years, the company opted to outsource the daycare--after first making me research and prepare presentations on the various outsourcing options. Nothing like doing the legwork to end your own job. But it was okay. I mean, it wasn't at first, but it got that way. After a year of trying to find my way back to a satisfying childcare job, I realized I was failing because I wasn't satisfied in that field.

I was lucky--I had stock options. Not a ton, but enough that I was able to pay up front for training to become a medical assistant at night, while I worked for a cancer institute by day. It was great, I loved it, but ultimately wanted more. More money, more challenges, more options.

That's the quick and dirty version, but that's about it. Now I'm taking classes and trying hard to see the light at the end of a very long tunnel. I changed schools recently because the one I was going to decided to choose nursing students via lottery--yeah, that's who I want taking care of me when I'm sick: the chick who happened to get her name drawn out of a barrel instead of the one with actual medical experience and love of the profession. The head of the nursing program says the decision was made because they wanted to "level the playing field" and make sure everyone had an equal chance. Well....yeah. I mean, God forbid the smart, dedicated ones have an edge over those who just want the money and job security. Why, people might actually get good, compassionate care!

Is it just me, or is the world getting dumber?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Of Knitting and Nurses

I nearly put "of knitting and nursing", but figured that folks might believe this to be a breastfeeding blog....and, while I'm all for breastfeeding, having never had a child OR fed one, I doubt I could be of much help. No, the truth is that I am a 40-something returning college student, wannabe nurse, and acute yarnaholic, hoping to document my travels from here to nursedom.

In my area (and I suspect all over the country), getting into nursing programs is getting harder and harder--not enough teachers, too many applicants. The net result is that the hurdles are becoming more and more numerous, until I wouldn't be completely surprised if they added a swimsuit comptetion (Dude, I am SO out of there if that happens.....neither I nor my thighs need a job that much.....). So I'm taking prereqs and angsting about whether or not I'll get in, as I compete with 20-somethings that look 12 and wonder how I got to be this old.

Then there's the yarnaholism. I've been a knitter for about 20 years, which means I started with acrylic, straight needles, and plain sweaters. I've updated recently, to wonderful fibers, circular needles, and multiple projects, and I'm trying really hard to resist the urge to learn to spin (yeah, good luck with that--if I could own an alpaca, I already would). On the needles now:

Pink cashmere sweater for my mother; the center panel looks lacier in person

Pink pomotamus sock--I'm probably the last person in knittingdom to still be working on these, but has anyone else noticed that doing anything --ANYTHING--else while working on them leads inevitably to tinking, frogging, and creative profanity?

A shawl in Frog Tree 100% alpaca--so soft I can hardly stand it. I'm having faith the final product, once blocked, will look more like a lacy shawl and less like a pile of teal green Top Ramen.

There's also the toes of a pair of newly cast-on gray wool socks for hubby, but I haven't managed a good photo yet.

So, this is my first ever blog and I will almost certainly screw it up 100 times. Hints, suggestions, etc. are all welcome. I'd also love feedback from nursing students and wannabes like myself, and any and all fellow yarn addicts. Next post: Part 1 of the saga of how I went from corporate director to knitphile and student.