Russell the Carrot, your new best knitted friend

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My friend and coworker Stevi had a baby last winter, and I never got a chance, what with school and all, to make her new baby boy anything fun. However, as my summer draws to its close, this problem has been officially solved.

Meet Russell the Carrot. Russell is a fantastic orange friend who will add joy to your life. Not only is he good for your eyesight, but he is extra huggable and squishable, and has a smile for every occasion. Apparently, Stevi’s son is really into hugging, and he loves anything with a smiley face, so Russell should be right up his alley.

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I had the (rare) presence of mind to write all of Russell’s creation down as I was making him, so I am presenting his pattern here for all to enjoy. When I was searching for knitted and crocheted carrot patterns originally, I was a little discouraged to see how tiny they all were, because we were looking for something big enough and durable enough for lots of play. I think that Russell will fill that void nicely in the knitting world.

For his eyes, I went ahead and tried to do something similar that I did with Mr. Sedaris’s Owl, and came up with something that’s halfway between Heidi Kenney (Are you familiar? You should be.) and the Muppets. I feel like that’s a pretty good place to be.

Here we go. Want a clean and easily printable PDF? Just click here.

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Russell the Carrot
a knitted carrot friend

Peaches & Cream Cotton in color 1628 – bright orange (but any worsted-weight cotton will do)
small amounts of worsted-weight green and red yarn for carrot leaves and smiley face

US size 5 (3.75 mm) double-pointed needles (Gauge is not the most important thing in the world here, but you want to make sure that the resulting fabric is tight enough to not allow stuffing to poke through. I got about 6 sts per inch with this particular yarn and needle combination.)
Size F/5 (3.75 mm) crochet hook
tapestry or yarn needle
polyfill stuffing
white and black felt for eyes
sewing needle
sewing thread in black and white

Abbreviations & Definitions:
m1: Pick up the bar between the st just worked and the next st, and place it on the LH needle. Knit into the back of this loop to inc 1 st.

ssk: Slip the next 2 sts as if to knit. Insert the LH back into the front of these two sts and knit them together to dec 1 st.

k2tog: Insert the RH hand needle through the front of the next 2 sts as if to knit and knit the 2 sts together to dec 1 st.

For all crochet stitches and abbreviations? The internet is a much better resource than me for this, trust me. I am not so good at explaining those. Have fun with Google.

Carrot Body:
CO 3 sts. Keep these 3 sts on one double-pointed needle, and knit in I-cord for 2 rounds, pulling the yarn across the backs of the sts to close the resulting “tube.”

Divide the 3 sts onto 3 separate needles.

Round 1: *k1, m1* 3 times (6 sts)
Rounds 2-6: knit all sts
Round 7: *k1, m1, k1* 3 times (9 sts)
Rounds 8-12: knit all sts
Round 13: *k1, m1, k2* 3 times (12 sts)
Rounds 14-18: knit all sts
Round 19: *k1, m1, k3* 3 times (15 sts)
Rounds 20-24: knit all sts

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Round 25: *k1, m1, k3, m1, k1* 3 times (21 sts)
Rounds 26-30: knit all sts
Round 31: *k1, m1, k5, m1, k1* 3 times (27 sts)
Rounds 32-36: knit all sts
Round 37: *k1, m1, k7, m1, k1* 3 times (33 sts)
Rounds 38-42: knit all sts
Round 43: *k1, m1, k9, m1, k1* 3 times (39 sts)
Rounds 44-48: knit all sts
Round 49: *k1, m1, k11, m1, k1* 3 times (45 sts)
Round 50: knit all sts
Round 51: *k1, m1, k13, m1, k1* 3 times (51 sts)
Round 52: knit all sts
Round 53: *k1, m1, k15, m1, k1* 3 times (57 sts)
Round 54: knit all sts
Round 55: *k1, m1, k17, m1, k1* 3 times (63 sts)
Round 56: knit all sts
Round 57: *k1, m1, k19, m1, k1* 3 times (69 sts)

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Rounds 58-65: knit all sts

This is a good time to start stuffing. Make sure you use something to get that stuffing all the way down into the carrot point, like a chopstick or the eraser end of a pencil, before you fill it up too much. Keep stopping to stuff the carrot intermittently as you go through the following steps to ensure a firm, but squeezable, carrot friend.

Round 66: *k1, ssk, k17, k2tog, k1* 3 times (63 sts)
Round 67: knit all sts
Round 68: *k5, k2tog* 9 times (54 sts)
Round 69: *k4, k2tog* 9 times (45 sts)
Round 70: *k3, k2tog* 9 times (36 sts)
Round 71: *k2, k2tog* 9 times (27 sts)
Round 72: *k1, k2tog* 9 times (18 sts)
Round 73: k2tog all the way around (9 sts)

Break yarn. Put in your final bits of stuffing, pushing it down as far as possible. Thread the remaining sts onto a yarn needle, and draw the yarn through the sts, pulling them tight to close the top. Fasten yarn securely with a small knot, if necessary, to keep the hole closed. Weave in ends.

Carrot Accoutrements:
Attach green yarn to top of carrot, using the top “ring” of sts that you pulled closed, with crochet hook and a slip stitch. Make a series of chain sts of about 3-4″ long (or however long you want). At the end of the chain st row, turn back by skipping the first 2 chain sts and making double crochet stitches in every following chain st. Because the crochet hook used for this is much smaller than customarily used for worsted-weight yarn, the strips of double crochet will corkscrew around themselves, resulting in fun, curly carrot leaves.

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At the end of the row, when you get back to the top of the carrot, secure the strip by slip stitching into the top “ring.” Then make another strip! I made five of these, varying the lengths slightly throughout, and that seemed to fill in the top nicely, but you can make however many you want. Just be sure to finish the last strip by slip stitching into the top of the carrot. Then break your yarn and draw it through the last loop, pulling tightly. Weave in ends.

Cut small circles of white and black felt for the carrot’s eyes, and sew them securely onto the carrot. Just pick whichever of the three sides you think is the prettiest. I sewed the black “pupils” of the eyes onto the white circles first, and then attached the entire thing afterward, just for ease of handling. Make sure you knot everything securely and pull the ends of the thread through into the stuffing so that they can’t work loose.

Embroider a big smile onto your carrot using your yarn needle and red yarn, using back-stitching to get a nice smooth curve. In order to keep the stitching from pulling out, I was sure to thread my yarn through the stuffing (with the knot on the outside of the stuffing) before beginning and finishing the stitching. Keeping the knot on the outside of the stuffing will make it much harder to pull through, but keeps the yarn hidden inside of the knitting.

Hooray! You are done! Be pleased with yourself and your new carrot friend.

A Pizza Masterpiece – Jinger & Dan’s Ultimate Hawaiian Pie

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Dan and I are both very opinionated people, especially in the kitchen, so sometimes it’s hard for us to make dinner together. Usually one of us cooks while the other person sits at the kitchen table and keeps the conversation going. For certain dishes, we each have our roles, one person doing prep like chopping vegetables and making sure the pans are clean, and the other person mixing and stirring.

However, for pizza, all of these rules go right out of the window. Pizza, in our kitchen, is a collaborative art. It is an event. It is a chance to eat more pepperoni while creating the pizza than actually ends up on the pizza, most of the time.

This time, Dan was responsible for picking our overall topping theme, and we think that we came up with a thing of beauty that needs to be shared. Jinger & Dan’s Ultimate Hawaiian Pie.

I’ll just let you take in the majesty of that name for a second. Here we go.

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First, we start with the Easiest Pizza Dough in the World from everybody likes sandwiches, the only pizza dough that you ever really need to know how to make ever again. There’s no need for tons of rising time or pre-planning. You get the idea to make pizza, and with this dough, you can have it in about 40 minutes, with the perfect chewiness on top and cornmeal crispiness on the bottom. Right on. Jeannette’s a genius.

We doctored up the crust just a tiny bit with some oregano and basil sprinkled in there, just for some added flavor. Brush on some olive oil and cover it up with some tomato sauce.

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Now, put mozzarella on that pizza, if you’re into that sort of thing. Dan doesn’t like cheese (crazy, I know), so this went only on my side. Feel free to make fun of him in the comments and tell him how awesome cheese is. I certainly do.

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Then comes the really good stuff. Thinly sliced sweet Vidalia onions, sweet orange bell pepper, delicious fresh pineapple, and some maple-cured breakfast sausage links. Yep. Maple breakfast sausage. I know it sounds weird, but it was a revelation. The maple flavor just adds to the sweetness, and the acidity of the pineapple and tomato sauce cuts through with a delicious tangy finish.

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Dan added a bit of finely diced jalapeno to his side, but he is much, much more adventurous than me in terms of the spicy stuff.

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Now, I know people might be thinking that this is sacrilegious, that a Hawaiian pizza is strictly ham and pineapple, but we’ve got a special ingredient that makes this undeniably Hawaiian, at least in the origin of its ingredients.

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Black lava sea salt is some seriously delicious stuff. We sprinkled some on top after the toppings were done, and every time you encounter one of those little black crystals, the saltiness cut through, making the sweetness even more apparent, similar to the effect of salted caramel or hot chocolate. This particular salt has a certain something to it, as well, that’s difficult to place in the flavor department. We rarely put salt on anything, but the black lava sea salt has a savoriness to it (would you call that umami?) that regular table salt or sea salt just doesn’t have. It’s salty, yes, but serves more to enhance flavor than cover it up. It’s great stuff. Plus, you can get your own right here, no trip to Boulder required.

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The sprinkling of black lava salt was accompanied by some pepper as well, and some dried rosemary on my side, from our long-dead, but still fondly remembered, awesome rosemary bush, a casualty of last year’s Hurricane Isaac. It still lives on in my heart, though, and in several small spice jars.

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Ready for the oven.

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And done! The miracles of the internet.

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And it was delicious. We had a moment where we both looked at each other and nodded acknowledgement of this fantastic creation, even pausing Pitch Perfect for a second to tell each other how good we thought it was. Dan’s not usually into stuff that’s too sweet, but he was so into this that he ate his entire half of the pizza that night.

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I showed remarkable restraint in leaving myself a piece for another day’s lunch. A rare moment.

Jinger & Dan’s Ultimate Hawaiian Pie

for the Crust: go here and follow the recipe for the Easiest Pizza Dough in the World, adding 2-3 healthy shakes of dried oregano and basil (approx. 1/2 -1 tsp) instead of the dried rosemary in at the end, then feel awesome about yourself for making such freaking great pizza crust.

olive oil (for brushing the crust)
approximately 1/2 – 1 cup of tomato sauce (we went with Prego’s Chunky Garden sauce because it has big chunks of sweet tomato)
1/2 – 1 cup of grated mozzarella cheese (depending on who’s eating cheese and who is crazily not eating cheese)
1/2 sweet yellow, orange, or red bell pepper, thinly sliced
medium sweet Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
4 maple breakfast sausage links, sliced into small coins (we like Pederson’s Natural Farms from Whole Foods)
approximately 8 oz. of fresh cubed pineapple, thinly sliced
jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced (completely optional)
black lava sea salt, pepper, and dried rosemary to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prep your awesome pizza dough.

After pressing your prepared pizza dough into your pan, brush lightly with olive oil. Spread tomato sauce evenly over crust, and then add toppings all over the place. Add spices to taste. What great directions I am giving you.

Place in oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, until sausage is browned and a bit crispy on the edges, cheese is bubbly, and crust is golden brown.

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Slice it up and eat it, but try not to burn your mouth from jumping in too fast. Try not to eat the whole thing. You’re welcome.