I met Joy the Baker and gave her an eggroll. True story.

On Tuesday, Joy the Baker had a book-signing here in New Orleans before she started on her book tour for her new offering, Homemade Decadence.

2014-10-17 791

No one who reads this blog, or reads any food- or baking-oriented blog (or maybe any blog ever) should be surprised to know that I have a fairly serious girl-blog-crush on Joy the Baker. Doesn’t everyone? She makes absolutely beautiful food, blogs about her mistakes, has a feisty orange cat, and rocks cool tattoos and glasses. She might be who I want to be when I grow up (and perhaps who my blog personality thinks that I actually am), even though she is only 1 year older than me. She just recently moved here in January, and I am so glad that she’s here in my hometown to enjoy the food and weirdness along with us, although I am extremely jealous of the amazing morning light she gets in her French Quarter kitchen.

2014-10-17 792

For her book-signing, I decided to continue my self-imposed tradition of bringing small knitted objects to famous people that I feel have influenced a part of who I am. Perhaps you might remember when I gave David Sedaris an owl? Or attempted to bring Eddie Izzard a squirrel? Well, this time I decided to bring Joy the Baker a present, but it was for her lovely orange cat, Tron-Cat, who makes the occasional appearance on her blog and whom I decided needed a little bit of knitted love.

2014-10-17 754

Unfortunately, I made this decision on early Tuesday morning, and then had to wait until I was finished with class, and forced myself to rush home as fast as possible to knit an eggroll. That’s right, an eggroll with catnip. The pattern is from the Spring 2003 issue of Knitty, Feline Dim Sum by Julie Falatko, and it is so freaking cute that I can’t stand it.

2014-10-17 758

I love how that picture of the wonton toy stuffed with catnip looks so illicit up there.

2014-10-17 762

2014-10-17 765

2014-10-17 766

I had previously used this pattern in 2004 to make some little toys for my brother’s cat, Chunky, and it was only about 5 minutes before she discovered how to bust open the eggroll and regale herself in catnip all over the floor. Slight adjustments had to be made.

2014-10-17 768

It’s only catnip! I promise!

2014-10-17 769

In order to keep things super secure in there, I first stitched down the flap as instructed, although I did it extremely crookedly for some reason. Let’s chalk it up to nerdy excitement and being pressed for time.

2014-10-17 771

Then I tacked down the corners of the top of the flap, just for good measure, running the yarn along the top for a few stitches…

2014-10-17 772

…then pulling it back down and tying it into a knot…

2014-10-17 773

…and finally threading the ends through the middle of the stuffing to hide them. I left all of the ends long inside there in order to prevent any accidental, or cat-rage influenced, unravellings.

2014-10-17 787

Then, it got a label and was photographed. Notice how I suddenly had the presence of mind to let the recipient of one of these gifts know my name and the name of my blog? After the Eddie-Izzard-and-Jeff-the-Squirrel debacle, I’m never not shamelessly self-promoting again. I managed to get everything done in 2 hours and 15 minutes, with just enough time to pick up Dan and head to the bookstore.

2014-10-17 083

I’m pretty sure that this is the moment when I said, “I have a present that I made for you, but it’s not only for you. It’s for your cat.” Notice the adorable confusion? This was the intended effect.

2014-10-17 081

She told me that I couldn’t possibly be for real, but she seemed delighted all the same.

2014-10-17 082

I know that I was.

2014-10-17 793

She was also super funny and adorable in person, just as I suspected. I managed to keep my fangirl-type tendencies in check as much as possible, and somehow didn’t embarrass myself or trip over my shoes the entire time. A triumph of the human spirit.

And can we talk about this amazing book? It’s got so much fantastic stuff in it (so many ice cream recipes!) that I haven’t even been able to properly absorb it yet. My winter break from school will certainly be filled with delicious things because of this wonderful lady. Joy, thanks so much for being lovely, too. Don’t ever stop making people happy. Good advice for everyone, really.

Drunken Pumpkin Bundt Cake – a tale of adventure, mishap, and Irish Cream

2014-10-03 057

I went to go and get a flu shot yesterday, and on the way home, I went to the grocery store and bought the following items:

2014-10-03 699

I didn’t need 3 whole cans of pumpkin, but they were on sale, and I was powerless to resist.

Since last week or so, probably since the calendar officially told us that fall was here, I have been daydreaming about a cake that incorporated 2 of my favorite things: pumpkin and cheap Irish cream liqueur.

I am aware that most people use Irish cream as a mixer in more elaborate cocktails or as a way to make their coffee more interesting, but, over the years, it has become my favorite drink all on its own. Just in a tiny glass with an ice cube? I have no idea why it’s so great, but it is. Irish cream is made with Irish whiskey, sugar (or honey), and cream, blended together into perfection. Its thick, silky texture makes it an easy substitute for milk in any cake recipe. And its warmth and slight hint of spice from the whiskey makes it, in my opinion, a great pairing for the cinnamon, ginger, and cloves inherent in pumpkin baking.

Putting them together makes so much sense to me that I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t thought of it before. Or really, that no one appeared to have. I found a whole ton of recipes involving combining pumpkin and rum in cake-y form, but nothing with delicious, wonderful Irish cream. This needed to be fixed.

In my kitchen, it’s not fall until…

2014-10-03 702

…now.

I went to Betty for inspiration and a basic yellow cake recipe, and then just experimented from there. There was a tiny bit of heartbreak along the way (ooooh, spooky foreshadowing!), but everything turned out amazing in the end.

Ready?

Drunken Pumpkin Bundt Cake
adapted from Betty Crocker‘s Starlight Yellow Cake and inspired by the glories of fall, in general

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 1/4 cups Irish cream liqueur (plus about 1/4 cup extra for brushing)
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
powdered sugar, for dusting

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly grease and flour the bundt pan of your choice.

2014-10-03 701

Seriously, do this thoroughly. (More foreshadowing, I know. Bum bum buuuuuuuuummmmm!)

In large bowl, put all ingredients, except for powdered sugar, and beat together on low speed for about 30 seconds, and then at high speed (or only halfway if you’re using a KitchenAid mixer, like me, because high speed would probably send pumpkin splattering all across yourself and your kitchen) for about 3 minutes.

2014-10-03 705

2014-10-03 712

2014-10-03 719

Pour batter into prepared pan.

2014-10-03 723

Admire the lovely orange color and the amazing smell for just a second before you pop it into the oven. While baking, that heavenly smell will only intensify. Your kitchen will smell like hot toddies and pumpkin pie. You will suddenly decide that you are the smartest person on the planet. Or maybe that was just me. I do tend to get a little bit cocky before the fall. BUM BUM BUUUUMMMMM!

2014-10-03 002

Now, here’s where things went a bit awry. I baked my bundt until a toothpick came out clean (about 50 minutes), which is usually the standard. However, this resulted in a cake that was just a little too…delicate for the rigors of being a stand-alone bundt. It’s super moist and delicious, and I wouldn’t recommend changing anything about the ingredients, but just increase the baking time in order to get a thicker, tougher crust on there that will prevent this type of tragedy.

2014-10-03 005

After I waited the normal 15-20 minutes to release the cake from the bundt pan, I made sure to run a butter knife along the edge, and flipped it over. And about a third of the top of the cake decided to stay in the pan. (It’s okay to gasp a little. I’m pretty sure that I did, too.)

2014-10-03 004

A few years ago, this would have probably made me cry a little. However, I decided that I am a grown woman, and instead, I got to work with a butter knife, making strategic cuts and delicately prying that cake top out of the pan and placing it in its correct place. I was determined to photograph and eat this goddamn delicious cake, and nothing was going to stop me.

Thinking back on it, I’m pretty sure that lengthening the baking time to least an hour (as long as nothing was scorching) and then waiting a little longer before attempting to get the cake out of the pan would probably solve all of these problems. I’ll definitely be making this one again soon, so I’ll be sure to report back.

2014-10-03 007

Then, I left the cake alone to cool properly (and hopefully decide to fuse together a bit) and made a salad. This is not required, but highly recommended.

2014-10-03 011

After the cake was fully cool, I poked it all over with a toothpick, steering clear of the Franken-cake pieced-together sections for fear of further damage.

2014-10-03 012

2014-10-03 013

Then, I brushed a little extra Irish cream over the top, letting it sink into the top layer of cake. It was probably just a bit less than 1/4 cup, but who keeps track of these things? Just keep going until the top crust is saturated. Then, let the cake sit for just a little while longer, like about 30-45 minutes.

2014-10-03 014

That Irish cream layer will soak in and harden a little bit, giving the cake a sort of “shellacked” outer layer. Ideally, it won’t be sticky or too moist, just sort of thick and glossy.

2014-10-03 024

2014-10-03 029

Now, sprinkle the top with a thin layer of powdered sugar. I debated going crazy and concocting some sort of Irish cream icing or frosting, but this cake is so moist and flavorful that you really don’t want to overpower it.

2014-10-03 046

And you’re done!

Slice into that glorious cake and take a bite. I’ll wait.

2014-10-03 051

It’s so good, right? It tastes like warm pumpkin pie, like whiskey and spices on a cold day. Dan took one bite and said, “I think I’m going to get drunk.” Hence the name: Drunken Pumpkin Bundt Cake.

2014-10-03 060

Go out and make one (and just keep it in the oven a little longer than I did) in order to bring instant pumpkin spice sass to any party or just to warm up a chilly fall night. You will be glad that you did.

Knitting Magic – the Rainbow Honey Cowl

163

As part of my birthday present this year, in addition to an awesome new knitting bag that looks like a Red Cross medical supply kit, a copy of John Waters’ new book Carsick, and a birthday cake covered in bees, Dan got me one of the most beautiful skeins of yarn in history.

018

Mountain Colors Twizzle in Bitter Root Rainbow. Oh, you thought I had a picture of the whole thing? Well, I got way too excited to wind it up when I found a good project for it, so…oops. I do have some lovely on-the-swift shots, though.

009

010

That color gradation makes me weak in the knees still. The entirety of the Bitter Root Rainbow colorway cycles through the rainbow, with some extra stops in reds and magentas, all in one loop of the skein. It makes for a heartbreakingly beautiful skein, but (as all knitters have encountered) what looks strikingly beautiful in the skein does not necessarily translate to the knitted object. You could have the most gorgeous colorway in the world, but, unless it’s self-striping, the wrong stitch count in the garment will turn out something that looks like clown vomit.

017

022

Not to say that the wound ball itself looked like clown vomit, per se, but it was starting to make me a little bit worried. It looked more like a bag of candy than a vibrant saturated rainbow. My initial zeal to cast on right away was dampened.

067

I needn’t have worried.

066

Some sort of magic twist of fate inherent in the 110 stitches and slip-stitch honeycomb pattern of the brilliant Honey Cowl by Atonia Shankland for MadelineTosh ended up slowly stacking the colors on top of each other, creating a slowly rotating rainbow of slipped stitches that floated on top of a more rapidly-changing background. A Rainbow Honey Cowl emerged.

130

There is no way that I could have possibly planned that insanity right there. Rainbow flashing all the way through? It’s freaking amazing. And see how it seems like it’s getting shorter with each rotation? That makes absolutely no sense at all, but it’s fascinating.

123

141

I seriously couldn’t stop staring at it while I was working on it, terrified that it might suddenly stop doing the awesome thing that it was doing and revert to a more vomit-like state.

145

Nope, just plain lovely the whole way through.

135

Even the seam side looked cool. I particularly like what those reds, purples, blues, and yellows are doing down there near the bottom. I cannot possibly take any credit for how beautiful this thing came out. It was just dumb luck, really, but I will be more than happy to accept compliments galore when I start wearing it out this fall.

173

180

It even looks great when it rolls and flips inside-out on the back! I appreciate that fact immensely, given the fact that my neck is not terribly long, and I have the tendency to shrink down and bury myself in the neckline of my scarves and coats.

189

I have yet to own a cowl, but after this photo-taking session, I can certainly understand the appeal. It’s the warmth of a scarf without all of the ends or fringe to contend with. It turns any shirt or jacket into a turtleneck experience. And the rainbow in this adds a lovely bright pop of color to anything. Since I tend to wear gray and blue most of the time (probably 95% percent of the time…I am wearing a gray t-shirt and jeans as I type), this can be a really fun way for me to pretend like I am being adventurous and bold, without risking any sort of fashion faux pas, or having to actually be adventurous enough to buy clothes that have real colors in them.

282

Cooler temperatures cannot get here soon enough (and I say this with experience after having worn the thing for an hour and a half in New Orleans 85-degree weather to get the pictures). I can’t wait to wear my rainbow.

Pickled Okra & Roasted Peanuts? Don’t mind if I do.

My friend Gaby recently made the mistake of making me interested in something.

She told me about a lovely farmers’ market and farm located right in the middle of New Orleans called Hollygrove Market & Farm, and they have a weekly “box” (spoilers: it’s actually a bag.) of amazing farm-fresh vegetables, fruits, and other glorious food items that come from all kinds of wonderful backyard and independent farms in Louisiana and southern Mississippi, and it’s only $25. How awesome is that? It is remarkable that after living 6 years in Colorado, I somehow never got in on a CSA-subscription, but know that I have been enlightened as to Hollygrove’s existence, things are a-changin’.

Part of what’s great about Hollygrove is that they put up on their website what’s going to be in the “box” each week, so that you can choose if you want to get in on that or not. Right now I am kicking myself for not going this week because homemade organic blueberry jam was involved. And sweet potatoes! Sigh.

Anyway.

2014-09-18 472

Since I started making Hollygrove a part of my grocery considerations, I have received some treasures (like this amazing okra that has no business being so beautifully green) that needed some extra prep work, with awesome results. Working from a CSA-style box makes you change the way you think about cooking. It makes you want to eat seasonally all the time. It makes you want to go put your own hands in the dirt for a while. And it makes you wonder how hard it would be to make things that most normal people usually buy.

Enter pickled okra.

2014-09-18 474

People from the South go crazy for pickled okra. Every single person that I talked to about the possibility of pickled okra proclaimed their undying love for pickled okra right there on the spot. Even Dan enjoys pickled okra, and that’s saying something.

The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking really helped me out on this one with this super easy recipe for refrigerator pickled okra. For those not in the know (and you’re looking at food blogs on the Internet, so how could this be?) refrigerator pickling is a quick-pickling method that doesn’t involve lengthy boiling periods for brine-making, sealing, and sterilization, since the contents are usually much, much smaller and meant to be consumed within a month or slightly longer. These types of things are especially appealing if you only have enough okra to fill one quart jar (about a pound) and the grocery stores in your area would look at you sideways if you asked them where they kept the wide-mouth funnels.

Directions were followed, with the one exception that I put a few peppercorns into the mix instead of hot peppers, because I have come to terms with just not being badass enough for that. And then the waiting ensued. You have to wait to eat these for at least two weeks, otherwise your okra will somehow be both fibrous and slimy, a disgusting combination. But, if you diligently wait the two weeks?

2014-09-18 574

You will be rewarded.

2014-09-18 570

And then you will eat a whole bunch and brag to everyone on Facebook and Instagram that you did something that countless millions of other people have done before you, but oh my god it doesn’t matter because pickling is a miracle.

2014-09-18 575

2014-09-18 577

These are sour and crunchy and amazing, with little seeds that pop in your mouth. You will probably never ever buy a jar of pickled okra again.

2014-09-18 579

In fact, you’ll now be looking for more opportunities to spend an inordinately long period of time hand-crafting something that any other person would have used a 2-for-1 coupon for.

2014-09-18 524

Like roasting your own peanuts!

The next time I got the “box,” Hollygrove had included a pound of green peanuts. What on earth are green peanuts, you ask? Oh wait, you already knew? Well, I had no idea and needed some assistance. Avalon Acres helped me out. Green peanuts are basically totally raw, straight from the ground, chock full of water and ready for boiling or roasting.

2014-09-18 521

Something that they don’t tell you is that peeling green peanuts is not a walk in the park. Peeling this one pound of peanuts took me at least half of a game of Scrabble. Good thing I had coffee to aid me.

2014-09-18 525

The peeled peanuts were soaked (floated, really) in some salt water…

2014-09-18 530

…dried off and coated in salt and pepper…

2014-09-18 532

…and then roasted for waaaaaay longer than the recipe told me to. I’m thinking that I probably need to get my oven checked out now, since I had a very similar problem roasting pumpkin seeds last year. The recipe claims that 20 minutes at 350 degrees should be enough, but we went more than double that time before anything looked vaguely roasted.

2014-09-18 534

Good news, though. They were delicious.

2014-09-18 539

Normally, the little papery inner shells of peanuts give me the heebie-jeebies, and I always am careful to peel them aside if eating roasted peanuts. On these? They were the best part! Every bit was super crunchy and smokey, and they only lasted about 48 hours.

My desire for making common household condiments and appetizer-type things has only intensified. I think I need to rush into this headlong and make my own ketchup now. Who’s with me?

Complement Anklets – stripes and extra strapazierfähig

I am supposed to be either studying EKG’s in order to quickly identify various types of dysrrhythmias or writing a paper about the safety and transportation concerns in a local neighborhood.

2014-08-22 087

Instead, I am writing about socks.

2014-08-22 033

This should come as a shock to no one. Given the chance between taking pictures of and writing about handknit socks or doing pretty much anything else (unless it is take pictures of and write about homemade ice cream), I will choose the socks every time.

To hell with appropriate time management skills. It’s almost the end of summer! (Although you’d never know it from the 90-degree weather today here in New Orleans.) People on the Internet need to know about handknit socks so that they can get ready for fall and the all-important task of parading about the house in their awesome socks, so I am here for them. They might need some super sassy socks to hurry and put on after they do their ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in their bare feet, like I stupidly did. I am here for them, too. Anyone with cold feet, really.

2014-08-22 044

These were stitched up with Lana Grossa’s Meilenweit Fantasy, a yarn that, according to the label, is both “waschmaschinenfest” and “extra strapazierfähig.”

2014-08-22 040

Great.

2014-08-22 037

2014-08-22 038

I think these heels and toes are where that extra strapazierfähig is really going to come in handy. (And yes, I know what it means. Do you?)

2014-08-22 046

This yarn has been in my stash for such a long time that I’m not even sure what prompted me to buy it. I am not the biggest yarn of the checkerboard stripes in a lot of self-striping yarns, but something about these alternating bands of green, blue, and orange really caught my attention.

2014-08-22 084

Hence the name: Complement Anklets. Get it? Because blue and orange are complementary colors? And because you’ll get lots of compliments when you’re wearing them?

*Cue rimshot, and following crickets*

Anyone else find punny homonym jokes as funny as I do? No? Okay, moving on. Here’s a picture of some fuzzy cat feet along with mine.

2014-08-22 092

Bowie really wanted in on the modeling. He’s a natural.

2014-08-22 073

I used the Yarn Harlot‘s Good, Plain Sock Recipe from Knitting Rules. Again. It is seriously the only plain sock pattern you’ll ever need ever again for your whole life.

2014-08-22 076

Good, plain sock patterns don’t fight with the stripes. They make the stripes front-and-center. They make everyone realize just how important stripes are to you, as a person. They fit just perfect, every single time, and after you make them enough, you don’t even look down at the pattern anymore. You just know what you need to do next and do it, and if knitting socks completely on the fly doesn’t make you feel like a proper knitting badass, nothing else will.

Cold.

Dan and I made an ALS Ice Bucket Challenge video. Click right here if you want to hear my high-pitched voice and see Dan torture me by pouring that water way too slowly. You know you do.

And go donate to alsa.org to help fund ALS research. It’s totally worth it.

Triple Helix – a super mathy hat

spencer 6

People ask me to knit things for them relatively often, and I usually politely decline by explaining how busy I am. School starts up again tomorrow. (My final year of nursing school! I am so excited that this experience is drawing to a close that I am very nearly almost smiling as I type this. It’s a real moment.) Once school starts, all I tend to do is study, work, sleep, and complain about studying, working, and sleeping. It doesn’t leave much room for recreational activities, hence the overload on knitting projects and ice-cream-based dessert blogging this summer.

2014-07-29 006

However, there was a particular project that I knew that I had to finish before the summer was over. My friend and co-worker Spencer had asked me to make him a hat sometime last winter, and after a great deal of pretending like I didn’t want to do it, I got started with gusto.

Spencer is a math person. He makes jokes about the Monty Hall problem and never stops to see if you understand, just assumes that you will, because otherwise why would he be talking to you? That kind of person needs a mathy hat.

spencer 2

(He’s also a photography person, coincidentally, and the exceptionally lovely first, third, and fifth pictures in this post are all his. Beautiful stuff.)

How do you make a mathy hat, you ask? You take a deep breath and fall down into the rabbit hole of helical knitting. You remember that you saw that the amazing Grumperina knitted some helical striped socks a few years ago, and you dig through your stash to find something that works.

2014-07-29 044

I decided to go all out with the helical goodness here. Three rows of ribbing, three colors of continuously spiraling helical striping, six-part decreasing in order to create diminishing hexagons in the spiral as it works its way up? This thing is practically an episode of Schoolhouse Rock. Three is a magic number, indeed.

spencer 1

Want the pattern? Keep reading below, or go ahead and click on this handy link for an easy-to-read printable PDF.

2014-07-29 046

Triple Helix
a super mathy hat

This original hat was made to fit heads up to 24″, and changes in size can be made easily by decreasing/increasing the number of stitches cast on in multiples of six.

Yarn:
Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Worsted (85% wool, 15% mohair blend, 190 yds. per skein), 1 skein each of M-75 Blue Heirloom (Color A), M-03 Grey Heather (Color B), and M-06 Deep Charcoal (Color C)
(Really, any good quality worsted-weight wool or wool blend will do.)

Supplies:
US size 8 (5.0mm) 16-inch circular needle
US size 8 double-pointed needles
stitch markers (in at least 3 different colors or styles)
tapestry or yarn needle
scissors

Gauge:
5 sts per inch on US 8 (5.0 mm) needles

Pattern:
CO 108 sts with Color A on circular needle. Join into round, being careful not to twist.

Knit in 1×1 ribbing (k1, p1) for 2 rounds.

Using stitch markers, divide stitches evenly into 3 sets of 36 sts. I found it helpful to use stitch markers that were all the same color here, in order to differentiate from the marker you’re using to mark the beginning of the round and the stitch markers that will be used later to indicate the decrease sections. Using 3 distinct colors or styles will help to prevent a lot of confusion down the line.

2014-07-29 284

For the setup round, knit the first 36 sts with Color A. When you reach the first stitch marker, drop Color A, join Color B and knit with it until the next marker. At this marker, drop Color B, join Color C and knit until you finish the round.

2014-07-29 281

For the next round, continue knitting with Color C until you reach the first stitch marker. Then, drop Color C, pick up Color A (where it was conveniently left for you), and begin knitting to the next marker. Resist the temptation to twist the colors at the marker or to pull aggressively at that first stitch. Just drop the color you’re working with, pick up the one waiting for you, give it a tiny tug to even out the tension, and get going. You’ll continue to do this same maneuver over and over again, spiraling the colors upward in rounds until the piece measures 6″ in length (or whatever your preference might be). Keep in mind that the last color for each round always ends up being the first color that you use for the next round, so there’s no color-switching as you go past the beginning of the round.

2014-07-29 288

Decrease section:
Now, divide your sts further so that you have 6 sets of 18 sts each. It’s easiest to do this by just dividing each section in half with a different color of stitch marker, especially if you use locking stitch markers so that nothing has to come off the needles.

Decrease round: *ssk, k to 2 sts before next marker, k2tog, slip marker* until end of round, while continuing to switch colors at the appropriate stitch markers. (12 sts decreased, 96 sts remain.)

Plain round: k all sts, continuing to switch colors at the appropriate stitch markers.

Repeat these two rows 7 more times, until 12 sts remain, switching the double-pointed needles when appropriate. Use the gaps between the needles to stand in place of your color-switching stitch markers.

2014-07-29 293

Final decrease round: *ssk, k2tog* until end of round, while continuing to switch colors at the appropriate stitch markers. (6 sts decreased, 6 sts remain.)

Break all yarns, leaving long enough tails to weave in for Colors B and C, and a longer tail for Color A. Tuck the strands for Colors B and C into the hole at the top of the hat so that they are on the inside. Thread Color A onto a yarn needle and pull the yarn through the remaining 6 sts on the needles, pull snugly, and secure to the inside of the hat.

2014-07-29 011

Weave in all ends, and then spend a few minutes staring lovingly at that awesome spiral. Finish the hat by thoroughly washing and wet-blocking it, which will ensure that the tiny ribbed section stays flat and that the color-switching areas settle down. When the actual knitting is taking place, these areas might feel stiffer or tighter than the surrounding fabric, but a good blocking makes it all even out nicely.

2014-07-29 003

Now, go pretend that August is a reasonable time to wear a wool-and-mohair blend knit hat and go show it off. Not everyone might know right away that it’s a hat that displays your spectacular math love, but the right people will.

Score One for the Pie People – Freestylin’ with Jeni’s Raspberry Blueberry Oven-Baked Empanadas

2014-08-06 122

Dan and I got into a small debate last weekend with some friends as to whether cake is better than pie. Dan and I fall firmly down on the “pie” side, which might be one of the defining reasons for our eight years together. I’m sure other factors play a part, but they surely can’t be as important as pie.

Cupcakes, with their beneficial frosting-to-cake ratio were mentioned during this debate, and I countered this argument with the existence of hand pies. Or empanadas. Or turnovers. Or whatever you want to call these wonderful little single-serving treats that give you an amazing crust-to-filling ratio that blows a cupcake away.

People who grew up in New Orleans (like me) also grew up on Hubig’s Pies, these amazing deep fried sugar bombs that always made an appearance at every family function in my childhood. (I have an aunt who used to work in their corporate office, and it was always her potluck contribution to bring an entire case of assorted flavors.) Unfortunately, Hubig’s suffered a devastating fire in 2012, and the factory has yet to be restored. That leaves those of us firmly entrenched on the “pie” side without some of our favorite things.

How do we fix this problem? We make our own.

2014-08-06 079

We get out our new ice cream cookbook, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts, turn to the page with the recipe for Sweet Empanadas, and get to mixing up some dough.

2014-08-06 081

2014-08-06 084

Jeni’s has been encouraging people to take the recipes in the cookbooks and run with them, putting their own spin on things or creating new flavors, something they’ve dubbed Freestylin’. #freestylin if we want to be super-cool.

2014-08-06 087

When I was asking Dan about what flavor of hand pie he’d like, he specified raspberry. I was in more of a blueberry mood. What to do, especially since we’re in freestylin’ mode? Mix them together.

2014-08-06 099

Raspberries and blueberries cooked down into a delicious syrup makes the most beautiful deep magenta that I’ve ever been able to produce in my kitchen.

2014-08-06 103

I cut my circles out of my dough, using a Hard Rock Cafe cocktail glass that I have never used once for alcohol, mostly because of its cartoonish shape.

2014-08-06 105

And because I didn’t have any troubles with the dough, I was bound to run into problems sooner or later. The recipe recommends 2-2 1/2 tablespoons of filling per pie, but I could barely fit in one without having problems sealing the dough.

2014-08-06 107

See those ones in the back spilling their purple guts already? I think that I might need to invest in an empanada press. Then, the oozing might not have been so…oozy.

2014-08-06 112

Because we were freestylin’ (and slightly because I am still moderately terrified of boiling oil), I decided to bake the pies instead of frying them. Everything got brushed with eggwash and sprinkled with some extra sugar. Then, they went into a preheated 375 degree oven for about 35 minutes, switching places and turning halfway through.

Even though oozing did occur, however, the pies stayed fairly plump and didn’t lose the majority of their fruity filling, so things worked out in the end.

2014-08-06 119

Especially when we scooped some vanilla bean ice cream (tragically not handmade) on top, as per Jeni’s suggestion.

2014-08-06 120

Look at that melty, fruity goodness. Yum.

2014-08-06 126

The pies have only been in existence for two days, and they are already more than halfway gone. I should have doubled things up, clearly. Or maybe we just need Hubig’s back ASAP. Either way would be a win for us “pie” people.

A Study in Subtlety – Stone Molly

2014-07-21 010

About a month ago, I saw a beautiful skein of Malabrigo Rios sitting in a basket in a yarn shop in New Orleans. (The Quarter Stitch in the French Quarter. And yes, before you ask, of course you should go. It is small and colorful and packed with amazing things and friendly, helpful people.)

2014-07-17 014

It was relatively unassuming. Just pale and brownish, a bit of a pastel rainbow going on. The color name listed is Piedras, spanish for “stones.” It reminds me of smooth river stones or collections of seashells. Items that seem drab and brown from far away but reveal rainbows of color on closer inspection.

Dan was skeptical, but I saw that it was going to knit up into something special. Something that would show off that hand-dyed splendor for which Malabrigo is known and coveted. However, it’s also some pricey stuff, so only one skein went home with me.

2014-07-17 024

While it was sitting on the swift, being wound, I noticed those beautiful rainbows even more.

2014-07-17 023

I mean, look at that! It’s not screaming out to be noticed, but it’s so pretty that I can’t even stand it. What do you do with only one skein of a yarn like that?

2014-07-17 025

2014-07-21 051

If you guessed make a fabulous slouchy hat with lots o’ texture, you are right! Meet Stone Molly.

The pattern is Molly from the very talented Erin Ruth at knit me a song. I can’t pretend that the name didn’t draw me in, as this particular combination of colors plus pattern name makes me think of Molly Hooper from Sherlock. (Let’s all pretend that my post title didn’t give that away.) It doesn’t appear as though her blog is still up and running, which is a shame, because this hat is an engineering marvel.

2014-07-21 052

First off, you are working in two different stitch patterns that have two completely different row counts. The mistake ribbing (or waffle stitch, if you want to make yourself hungry while talking about your knitting) has a 3-row repeat. The cable has an 8-row repeat. Completely non-divisible and yet totally balanced. Genius.

2014-07-21 055

Secondly, the decreases in this hat are deliberately placed in order to interrupt the stitch patterns as little as possible. They only take place on knit rows so that the purl stitches in the ribbing track all the way up the crown. There are no attention-grabbing spirals or squares, just fields of purls and cable that inexplicably get smaller and dwindle towards the top. It would have never even occurred to me to do such things.

2014-07-21 053

Thirdly (and in my opinion, bestly), the cable pattern does not just unceremoniously cut off once the decreasing begins, which is something that happens often in lesser hat patterns. This cable subtly tapers down until it melts into the background, and when the hat is on, the effect is of a wide cable that evenly decreases all the way up to the top of the head. And also, just one cable element to be worn rakishly off to the side? Yes, please!

In order to make this hat with only one skein of Malabrigo Rios (which clocks in at a generous 210 yds., normally fantastic for a hat, but maybe not for one with so much texture and slouch), some modifications did have to be made, but I was sure to incorporate these as seamlessly as possible into the original pattern. I fought the good fight in trying to make the whole thing with just one skein, but I ran out of yarn with only 5 decrease rounds to go, and all that beauty was certainly not going to be sullied with the clumsy addition of another yarn for the top. I did some math, ripped things back out to the appropriate point, and soldiered on.

Now, in order to knit this as I did, you have to go and download the original pattern because it is so much genius, and you definitely want to support those designers that make these beautiful, elegant things, yes? Then take a look at my changes as follows:

The original pattern states, “Repeat Rnds (1-3) 18 times more.” Instead, I only did 15 repeats of the entire sequence, ending up with Row 2 instead of Row 3 of the cable pattern. This way, the ribbing section remains intact and only the cable crosses need to be moved around within the crown decrease section. I know this doesn’t make much sense without the pattern in front of you, but that’s why you went and downloaded it, right? Right.

Now for those decreases. Only some of the rows deviate, and this is only to offset the cable crosses so that they remain the correct proportions for the cable to decrease seamlessly into the crown. Here are the way that those rows should now read:

Row 5: P1, k12, p1, knit to end
Row 6: P1, C6F, C6B, p1, knit to end
Row 11: P1, k8, p1, knit to end
Row 12: P1, C4F, C4B, p1, knit to end
Row 15: P1, k8, p1, k2, (k2tog, k3) to last 4 sts, k2tog, k2
Row 16: P1, C4F, C4B, (p1, k1) to end
Row 19: P1, k4, (p1, k1) to end

And that’s it.

2014-07-21 023

The combination of all that texture and the subtle rainbow striping of the yarn results in a hat that looks like a rich coppery brown from afar, but reveals hidden rainbows of color close-up. Not to toot my own horn too much (but really, what else is blogging but that?) I feel like this was the perfect marriage of yarn and pattern, and I can’t wait for the fall so that I can wear it everywhere.

Kai-Mei (or…Dark Purple Socks Are Impossible to Photograph)

2014-07-17 067

I have had a skein of Mountain Colors Bearfoot in Mountain Twilight sitting around in my stash for at least 6 years now.

i 014

It is, quite possibly, the most beautiful sock yarn in the entire world, and I was hoarding it for years simply because there were no patterns that justified its use. It’s a superwash wool, mohair, and nylon blend that you would swear had silk in it due to how soft and slippery and smooth it is. The color is the absolute darkest blues and purples imaginable, with little bits of magenta and gold streaks. You can understand why I wanted to wait. Instead, I would just occasionally take it out of its drawer and pat it admiringly, and then put it away with a bit of a sigh.

Recently, I attempted to make Cookie A.‘s Kai-Mei socks with Noro Taiyo, and the result was…a mess. The yarn was simply not right in any way, shape, or form for the delicate goings-on of Kai-Mei.

Mountain Colors, though? Perfection.

2014-07-17 035

Kai-Mei is a joy to knit, especially if you are a big sock-knitting nerd, like me. It has a wonderful little lace flower-heart-type motif that is not only asymmetrically placed, but also runs across the top of the sock diagonally due to a lovely bit of increasing and decreasing engineering ingenuity.

2014-07-17 047

I know that it doesn’t sound like much in words, but a whole bunch of knitters just thought that sounded totally awesome.

2014-07-17 051

This type of gusset decreasing results in a relatively normal-looking ribbed sock on one side…

2014-07-17 052

…and totally bad-ass diagonal lace on the other.

2014-07-17 048

Here’s Cookie A., stating it much more succinctly and poetically:

Shifting the gusset decreases to one side of the lace panel causes it to angle across the top of the foot, demonstrating that the path taken need not be traditional.

How do you not immediately mark that with a post-it with an exclamation mark on it and pledge your most precious skein of sock yarn to it? You are just compelled.

2014-07-17 050

This pattern is not without its tricky bits, though. Firstly, there is a whole lot of 3×3 ribbing that you have to get yourself through before you get to the exciting part.

2014-07-17 037

2014-07-17 038

The heels are fairly standard as well, and you are so excited to do this diagonal lace thing that you just fly through it.

2014-07-17 262

And while you are knitting that awesome diagonal lace, you run up against a configuration like this. You have one needle with the standard amount of stitches, one with only a few that are consistently dwindling away, and one with a whole boatload that are getting difficult to navigate. If you’re doing the right sock, add in a stitch marker there, just to make things more interesting. It becomes like a weird little balancing act, trying to knit all of the stitches properly and follow the pattern while also avoiding dropping all of the stitches accidentally off of the tiny needle (which may have happened once when I decided to slide my stitches to the end of the needle with a little too much gusto) and piercing yourself in the hand with all of that extra needle that is sticking out at all sorts of odd angles. It’s very porcupine-y.

Why not just rearrange stitches, you ask? Well, the spaces between your needles are acting as your stitch markers, letting you know when you transition between thematic elements, so unless you want to add in several more stitch markers (you don’t), you suck it up and carry on to your triumphant end.

2014-07-17 040

One of the more entertaining parts of this process was blocking the socks once they were finished. As already established, this yarn is super dark. So dark that it looks like a different color in every single picture, I know. (The most accurate ones are probably the first one up top, and the one of the skein by itself. Everything else is a mishmash of electric blue and magenta.) It takes a lot of dye to make sock yarn that saturated.

2014-07-17 267

Meaning that my sink, which is already kind of a strange shade of pink, was looking pretty festive after the socks came out. Funnily enough, even though they left behind hot pink water, there was not a single mark on the towel that they were left on to dry. Must have some kind of magic, those Mountain Colors people.

2014-07-17 075

These socks, after their brief photoshoot and moment in the spotlight, are being sent along to a lady who really loves her purple, and I do not think she will be disappointed.

2014-07-17 041

I feel similarly after knitting these socks as I do after every knitting project that I would call “challenging” or one that introduces me to a new technique or construction method. I get so excited to knit them that I fly through them and sacrifice important things like vacuuming my house regularly in order to complete them. And then after that…I’m a little sad. I wish that I had gone a little bit slower and let them last a little longer, much like when reading the last chapter of a great book, you simultaneously need to know what happens next, but also are painfully aware that the end is coming.

Maybe that just means that I need to knit another pair.