Snowflakes in July

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School starts up again soon, and I have a mixture of feelings about it. This summer has been a much-needed relief from the ridiculousness of my school plus work schedule, and I have been enjoying it immensely. However, near the end of any extended free time, we all feel that same nagging feeling that maybe you should be doing something. Something more than eating crackers and watching marathons of Criminal Minds.

I have been celebrating the end of my awesome summertime monotony by dutifully making delicious oatmeal creations every morning.

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I have been writing thank you notes and catch-up notes to fantastically patient pen pals. (Cassie, it’s in the mail!)

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I have been waiting to see the first blossoms bloom on the baby magnolia tree we planted earlier this winter.

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And I have been making super awesome Christmas stockings.

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As previously stated, one of my coworkers requested some Christmas stockings so that she and her husband could celebrate their first Christmas with their new baby girl in style.

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I may have gotten a little too excited about having something to do, and therefore made this a huge embroidery project to satisfy the weird urge in me to make simple things more difficult.  Graph paper and radially symmetrical doodling was in order.

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These stockings are a heavily modified version of the worsted weight basic Christmas stocking from Interweave Press‘s Christmas Stockings.

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You can tell it’s modified from all the giant post-its.

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Sarah, my lovely coworker, requested something simple with their names at the top and a single snowflake on the front of each stocking. Because this was not going to be a fair-isle affair due to the pattern not going all the way around the stocking, it was a good time to polish up my duplicate stitching skills.

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I mean, look at that stuff! I am so pleased with myself. And isn’t that what blogging is all about?

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Now, I can’t keep tooting my own horn and say that I was planning the whole thing from the very beginning, but I really like how the dad’s stocking’s snowflake is a little heavier and more solid, the mom’s snowflake is more delicate and airy, and the new daughter’s snowflake is somewhere in-between.

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See? I’m not just imagining that, right?

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These parcels of early holiday joy are all packed up and ready to meet their new owners soon. And now before school starts in 2 1/2 weeks, I need to make a knitted carrot with a smiley face. Because, why not?

I Heart Knitting

I forget sometimes just how much I love knitting.

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Luckily, sometimes there are those projects that come along that make you realize just how much the mere act of doing something small makes you super happy.

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These two projects in particular are responsible for my knitting happiness as of late.

First up? My Grey Gardens, made from the fabulous Knitty pattern of the same name.

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Like that chandelier growing out of my head? Me, too!

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Much better.

I love the texture that the entrelac has after blocking. Lovely little quilted squares all interlocking together.  And that twisty bit!  Great stuff.

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Now, as you can see from the fact that I am wistfully staring outside in these photos, I have yet to develop the self-confidence and bad-assitude necessary to rock one of these in public.

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Just kidding. However, it was only for a few minutes due to the fact that it is summer, and it was extremely hot outside. Come fall, I am going to be so freaking awesome.  And I will have very warm ears.

This next one should keep me occupied for slightly longer.

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My friend at work is going to be having a baby this fall, and I asked her if she’d like for me to knit her something for the baby. She asked me if I’d like to make Christmas stockings for the baby and her husband for them to enjoy during their first family Christmas. You can’t say no to that adorable-ness, even though it is a bit strange to knit Christmas stockings in July.

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The pattern is a highly modified version of the worsted weight basic Christmas stocking from Christmas Stockings by Interweave Press (very sadly discontinued because it’s a great starter book for this particular craft), and yarn is the classic Caron Simply Soft, one of the more lovely acrylics out there on the market.

After I finish knitting the stockings themselves, I’ll be working up charts for duplicate stitching their names and some snowflakes on there. There’s something about their vast expanse of smooth even stockinette that is extremely satisfying. I keep stopping in the middle of the rounds and admiring them, which is ridiculous, but I know that my fellow knitters are totally with me on this one. We all need to take some time to revel in our excellent craftsmanship skills, yes? Right?

Please tell me someone else does this.

We All Scream for Making Ice Cream. At least, I think that’s how it goes.

For my birthday this year, I treated myself to a bit of an indulgent book purchase.

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Not that the book itself is indulgent, but the amazing things inside of it are. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams are true to their name, absolutely splendid. It took me a few weeks to even be able to decide on which one to start with on my ice-cream-making adventure. We all know that I’ve had some success with my ice cream maker so far this summer. However, that was with coconut milk and minimal cooking effort. I figured I was ready for the big guns. For boiling milk and cream and the slightest hint of danger.

I mean, that milk could curdle, you guys! It’s downright nerve-wracking.

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Hard decisions got made, and Lemon Cream Ice Cream it was. It’s definitely not hard to get me on board with lemons, especially if zesting and juicing is involved.

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Zest! Hooray!

Now, proper ice cream making, especially with Jeni’s fantastically detailed method, requires all kinds of planning. Something for which I am not usually known. However, I was up for the challenge here. Lots of pre-planning went down in this kitchen.

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And bowls. Lots of bowls. That’s the key to everything here. You need bowls for each separate step and ingredient, and you need to be able to coordinate your bowls with the temperature changes required. And you need a Ziploc bag.

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Plus, you need to fold over the edges of your bag so you can pour in your ice cream base. I never remember to do this. I am so proud of myself.

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Then whole milk, cream, and sugar got boiled together with lemon zest goodness.

Then there were various mixing steps (obviously not pictured) that required quickness and even more boiling and whisking. This new professional-ice-cream-making Jinger knew better than to try to take pictures and mess it all up. Or maybe I just forgot. Either way.

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I even poured my base into that bag without spilling. Amazing.

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Then things got spun up. Again, with the nerve-wracking. There’s always the possibility that bad things will happen, and then that there will suddenly be no ice cream. That would be incredibly sad after all this work. And all this mess that had already been made.

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That’s another thing. You will make a mess. Unless you are better at things than me.

All that work and pre-planning and mess-making paid off, though, because this beautiful stuff came out of the ice cream maker.

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Smoothing out that tangy lemony goodness with your trusty spatula makes you feel pretty dang awesome.

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I even remembered the parchment paper step in order to keep our new baby ice cream from freezer burn.

Now. Four hours of freezing means mess-cleaning time.

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But it’s all totally okay when you get rewarded for your efforts with this.

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Tangy, creamy, lemon amazingness. Jeni is doing something right. This ice cream tastes like pool parties and angel food birthday cake. Picnics and lemonade. Late night strolls and fireworks.

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With a smidge of self-satisfaction.

Hooray for ice cream makers and summertime! The only issue here is that I may make this stuff a lot faster than we can eat it. Maybe that’s not really a problem.

Eat It by the Handful – Orange Cranberry Granola

Granola is a big deal in my house.

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Whenever granola gets made, granola gets eaten at alarming rates, usually just in handfuls while standing in the kitchen when deciding what else to eat.

I started musing out loud about different kinds of granola to make, and Dan only made the specification of “no chocolate,” so the granola world was my oyster. What says summertime? What says sweet and tart and midday snacks?

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Orange and cranberry? I think so, too!

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This one starts out fairly similarly to my Orange Chocolate Granola, heaping together all kinds of oats, nuts, and orange zest, plus the addition of fresh-squeezed-orange-juice-soaked dried cranberries.

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Hot damn.

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Doesn’t that look like something delicious you’d find professionally available for sale in a Whole Foods bulk bin? Is that weird that that’s my basis for pride?

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Resist the urge to shove your face into the hot melted butter-sugar-honey goodness. It’ll be delicious, but extremely burn-y.

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Bake it up and feel proud of yourself.

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Orange Cranberry Granola

4 cups oats
1 cup whole raw almonds
1 cup sliced raw almonds
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
zest from 2 large oranges (approx. 2 tbsp.)

juice from 1 large orange
1/2 cup dried cranberries

2 1/2 tbsp. butter
scant 1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Zest both oranges, and set zest aside. Juice one orange (and save the other orange in the refrigerator for a refreshingly cold summer snack later after you come in from the garden). Place the dried cranberries in a small bowl with the orange juice (so that the berries are completely covered with delicious juice), and allow the cranberries to soak for 20-30 minutes while you combine the other ingredients.

Put all ingredients from oats to orange zest in a large bowl. Drain the cranberries and add to the bowl. Mix thoroughly and make sure that everything is well-distributed.

Heat the butter, vegetable oil, honey, and brown sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat until melted. Allow mixture to briefly come to a boil and then remove from heat. We want to make sure that everything’s slightly caramel-y so that our granola isn’t too soft from the orange oil. Add the vanilla extract after you’re done with the heat and mix well.

Pour the butter and sugar mixture over the oats and mix well with a rubber spatula, making sure to get everything completely covered with sugar.

Spread the mixture evenly in a thin layer over both cookie sheets. Place in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring twice during baking time to prevent scorching.

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Allow granola to cool completely on the cookie sheets and then break apart. Put in an airtight container with a lid that allows for easy snacking during your kitchen indecisiveness time. It’s awesome.

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Soaking the cranberries not only prevents them from scorching in the oven, but also gives it that super orange zesty kick every time you come upon one of those delicious tarty morsels. It’s like eating an orange cranberry muffin, but super toasty and crunchy. I had some for breakfast this morning with some vanilla yogurt, and I think that if you do the same, you’ll be a happy, satisfied person for at least 20 minutes, I promise you. Possibly for the entire morning. And then the whole rest of the day. It’s highly likely.