Rainbow Ripple Love

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I don’t really have very much clever to say. Just look at this beautiful thing that I made for a minute.

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Just…

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…it’s so pretty. So pretty that I was honestly surprised when I was done that it was something that my fingers actually made.

Anybody else ever get that feeling? Some sort of crafting-based imposter syndrome? Just me? Okay.

Anyway, this lovely thing was made for my friend and coworker KB, who just gave birth a day or two ago to her first baby. There’s been a bit of baby-craziness around work lately, with 6 different ladies having babies within the last 6 months, and that’s just on our floor. And there’s still more to go, so I’m not quite done posting baby blankets yet for this year. With so many tiny babies popping up, it was inevitable that some of them would get covered in my handmade love, yes?

KB and I went through Ravelry for quite a long time, looking for the exact perfect blanket. She didn’t want to know the gender of the baby ahead of time, and she was definitely game to go for something bright and fun and colorful. She was also really into the more classic vintage look of crochet, rather than knitting. She’s a good person and a good friend, so I was willing to suffer through the pain that crochet puts my fingers through for her.

When we got to the project page for Celeste Young‘s stunning Rainbow Ripple Baby Blanket, we both fell in love. What a gorgeous pattern, full of opportunities to be creative and make all kinds of different crazy beautiful starbursts. However, it’s hard to get much better than the original pastel rainbow, and that’s what KB wanted. I got as close as possible by sourcing the Berroco Comfort through a few different places (mostly through the good, good folks at LoveKnitting.com), but I could not find a skein of Limone to save my life, probably because it’s discontinued. Instead, I subbed in Buttercup, and I don’t think anyone would have known if I hadn’t mentioned it. Whoops.

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Want the full color list? Grape Fizz (9708), Boy Blue (9707), Robin’s Egg Blue (9714) (which is actually the most lovely greenish-gray teal), Buttercup (9712), Peach (9704), Pretty Pink (9705), and Chalk (9700).

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Working on this was also a really great experience, despite the finger pain involved. Am I holding the crochet hook weird or something? I get cramping and soreness in my middle and ring fingers on my right hand, no matter the project or the yarn or the tension involved, every single time I crochet. This doesn’t happen with knitting, unless I’ve been working on something for hours. It might also have been worse this time due to the crazy amount of handwritten SOAP notes and scholarly hand-typed nonsense that I have had to produce this semester, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the cause.

Enough complaining. This thing was a joy to create. I’m always a sucker for simple design that turns into something really elegant, and those perfectly lined-up double crochets in those chevrons really do it for me.

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I didn’t even get freaked out about all of the ends I had to weave in. It was nothing but love.

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The only thing that I changed about the pattern was adding an extra “double” row of the white at the end, just to make the final border look more…final.

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Rainbow in the sink!

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Blocking this was a bit of a challenge, due to the fact that once the whole thing was done, it was larger than my blocking mats, so some creative pinning had to take place. I guess this means I need to send out into the ether a wish for some more awesome Knit Picks interlocking blocking mats to magically appear on my doorstep. However, that means that this blanket is big enough for all kinds of tummy time and snuggling for a good long time.

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It was worth it. Such good chevron starburst action.

I had quite a bit left over of all of the wonderful Comfort colors, so I knew that I needed to make a special friend for the new baby to go with the blanket.

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Enter Frank. I was so into the Robin’s Egg Blue, that I knew I wanted to feature it, and I had the most leftovers of the Grape Fizz. It’s lucky that they work so well together in Deja Joy‘s Tessa the Turtle Amigurumi pattern.

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I literally squealed when I realized that the crochet stitches made a little “ridge” between the top and bottom shells. You have to love those little details.

The only thing that I changed about the pattern on this one was using my standard felt muppet-y eyes, firmly stitched in place, rather than plastic doll eyes. I think he looks a little bewildered, but friendly, perfect traits for a first soft friend.

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As for the name Frank, when I finished him up and presented him to Dan, I said, “What do you think this guy’s name should be?” I fully expected turtle puns or T-related alliteration. Dan turned towards me, glanced at the turtle, and said, “Frank,” and then went back to watching Nascar.

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Frank, it is.

Both KB and baby are still in the hospital after a little bit of a rough entry into the world, so let’s all send them some good vibes. Hopefully they’ll both be home soon, safe and warm and wrapped in rainbow love.

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Good, Good Dice Bags for Those Good, Good Boys

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I have previously spoken of my love of the McElroy brothers, and if you are new to my special breed of knitting-based insanity, I highly suggest you click that link and read all about it. When I wrote that particular post, I was merely only full of the Candlenights spirit, and had no idea of what was to come the following year.

One frantic morning, I spent the better part of an hour sitting in front of my computer and cell phone, all hopped up on not yet having slept after a 14-hour night shift, alternating refreshing each screen and texting back and forth with my friend Bailee’s friend Chelsea as we attempted a coordinated strike to obtain precious tickets for two McElroy shows in a row.

Let me back up a little bit. The McElroy brothers, and their charming father Clint, announced that they would be recording two separate live podcasts in Austin at the end of May. Opportunities to see BOTH My Brother, My Brother, and Me and The Adventure Zone, the greatest D&D podcast that I have ever had the honor to listen to, dangled in front of me. (It’s actually the only one I listen to, but when it’s THAT good? You only need one.) My friend Bailee and I knew that we had to get tickets, but the problem was that each show was only being sold separately, and both lots of tickets went on sale at the same time, at about 10am central time when I would normally be sleeping (because night shift makes you a vampire-person) and Bailee would be working as a productive non-vampiric member of society.

What to do?

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You make it wooooooooork. You enlist Chelsea, one of the greatest and most devoted supporters of other people’s silliness (and just freaking awesome person), to purchase TAZ tickets at the exact same time while Jinger is sitting at her computer, still awake after 14 hours of screaming, vomiting children, poised to click as fast as possible to get those good, good MBMBAM tickets.

You join the hundreds (thousands?) of other rabid McElroy fans that have the exact same brilliant plan that you do. And then you crash the damn website.

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That’s right. So many people were ravenous to see these ridiculous podcasters that the ticket website was completely overwhelmed, which resulted in everyone getting “stuck” in the queue for tickets for over an hour while everything stalled. What to do when that happens? Chelsea, that brilliant girl, gets on the phone directly to the theatre, and actually gets through. She bypasses the system and scores orchestra seats! And then you do the same! Miraculously! Much dancing about in your chair occurs, as well as joyous proclaiming of your mutual awesomeness splattered all over Twitter for rational people to ignore. Seriously, Chelsea, you’re my hero.

After all the excitement settles, you’re left with a question. What on earth do you make to give to these wonderful podcasters, especially since they will be the first ones in history to receive two (2!) handknit gifts from you that are not directly related to you? Or Dan?

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Dice bags? Dice bags!

We all know that I hold a special place in my heart for acting-intensive roleplaying games. And every roleplaying person worth their salt needs a good, sturdy dice bag to hold all of their special treasures, right?

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I chose Knit Picks Dishie for these, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. Lovely saturated colors (Ash, Eggplant, Navy, and Silver, if you want to know…), a hint of a sheen, great stitch definition, and sturdiness that somehow also remains soft and pliable. Good, good stuff.

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But you can’t just let things be simple, right? Of course not! It’s just not a Jinger-project for famous strangers unless it involves a silly amount of duplicate stitch.

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I sat down with a glass of wine and a screenshot of the Lord of the Rings handwriting font (click here if you’re interested in the exact one, for some weird reason), translating them into knitter’s graph paper to make custom monograms. Like a completely sane person.

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Yep.

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All kidding aside, there are few things I love more than well-executed duplicate stitch. It’s so satisfying to do when you hit a really good stitching rhythm, and it’s really fun to sit down with the graph paper and chart out something lovely, especially when it turns out exactly the way you saw it in your head. These letters, in particular, please me, due to the varying line-weights in the strokes, and how those things actually still come across in the final, embroidered version. It felt really good watching them “develop” right in front of me while I was working on them. When I finish writing up the pattern so that everyone can make one, I’ll be sure to chart out the other letters in the LOTR alphabet style so that you can enjoy it, too.

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It seems like you have a lot of dice until you lay them all out. Maybe some clever cropping?

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Better!

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Do we think Justin, Travis, Griffin, and Clint might like them? I hope so. I hope that they like the new dice that I picked out to go with them, too, because what’s good is a new dice bag if it’s empty?

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I tried to pick colors to coordinate with their bags, and also just ones that were pretty. Because opening up your dice bag should feel like looking at little precious stones. Little precious stones that could make you a triumphant hero. Or they could make you trip on your shield and split your tongue in two so that you have disadvantage on all spell-casting, and you’re a cleric.

I might have a little bit of experience in critical failures, you guys.

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To the McElroys: Wengelbertina Slapdeback, my all-time favorite character I’ve ever played, a holy cleric of Pelor who also looks like a German beermaid who could beat your ass down with her flaming longsword, prays that all your attack rolls are crits with max damage. And I hope you guys don’t get overwhelmed with all of the aggressive nerdiness coming your way this weekend in Austin.

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Amen.

A Very Tiny Post about a Very Tiny Sweater (with a very long name) – the Super Simple Buddy Balls Bear Sweater

Remember that last post when I talked about making a little bitty sweater for a funny stuffed bear? Well, I decided to write out a really quick pattern for it, just in case anyone else is struggling to make a sweater for the very cool, but strangely proportioned, Buddy Balls bear plushies.

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Maybe you’d like to get one of your own? There you go.

Here’s the pattern in an easily printable PDF for your toy-knitting enjoyment.

This tiny sweater was made with the lovely, yet sadly discontinued, Naturally Merino Fine 10 ply, but any slightly-lighter-weight worsted wool or wool-blend will do. Now, go make some tiny sweater for bears with giant heads. It’ll be fun, I promise.

Squares and Squares and Squares

Or maybe, more properly, Rectangles and Rectangles and Rectangles.

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Now, I have knitted a number of projects in the past with finicky finishing work. A Dale of Norway ski sweater, complete with terrifying steeks and zippers. Tiny toys, with hand-stitched felt eyes and itty-bitty ears. Duplicate stitched snowflakes for days on end. I could go on and on.

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However, now that I have completed a Warm Up America! Afghan…I feel as though I have summited some sort of insane mountain of mattress-stitch achievement.

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Let me step back and explain.

My brother got married back in September of last year, and in proper fashion, I told him and his wife that I would be happy to make them a new afghan for their house and their new life together. Knowing that my sister-in-law is partial to purple, I decided to go with something patchworky with greens and browns, too, to match their decor. However, all of this planning in my mind for the perfect blanket for them had to go on the back burner while I finished nursing school and then got a real-life job. What I originally thought would end up being a first anniversary present instead ended up being a Christmas present, a fact that I know is making all of the knitters nod their head in solidarity.

Projects like this seem so simple at first. You get pulled in to the allure of the patchwork square. It’s the same seductive pull that makes you start working on something that involves thousands of granny squares, not even thinking about how all of those squares are going to put themselves together.

You start thinking about what would be the perfect afghan and think back on the beautiful one you saw in the fantastic book Knitting for Peace, the Warm Up America! Afghan…8 different types of squares with simple stitch patterns, perfect for beginners or for some mindless knitting while you watch Jessica Jones on Netflix.

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You see all of those little squares and think, “Oh, it’ll take no time at all to make one of those! And they’ll be small, and portable! I can knit those anywhere! Gosh darn it, I am so smart. There’s no way this will backfire.”

You order up a whole boatload of Knit Picks Brava Worsted so that you can get started. You figure, “Oh, acrylic will be such a good choice for this. Easy to wash and take care of, tons of color options. Yes, this will be fantastic.” (Note: Knit Picks Brava is pretty fantastic, don’t get me wrong. However, acrylic will come back to bite you in the ass later, don’t you worry.)

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You start cranking out squares like it’s going out of style. (I know some people want to know the colors, so here we go: Alfalfa, Almond, Brindle, Cream, Dublin, Mulberry, Peapod, and Sienna, 3 skeins each.)

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You knit squares (rectangles, actually) at every opportunity, and since you are now working as a night-shift pediatric RN, you have lots of weird time alone at night to get to know these squares since you can’t force the entire house of Dan and cats to get onto your new bizarro schedule.

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The cats try their best to help. They are unsuccessful.

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You realize quickly that every single “square” of this pattern is completely different in terms of gauge, especially row gauge (which is something that knitters really don’t end up having to think about or compensate much for, which made it even more crazy-making), and that you have to do a fair amount of math to get each square to come out to roughly the same length.

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You take the time out of making squares to procrastinate a little and make a little chart to figure out just how many more squares you need to make after you are done procrastinating. You start kicking yourself for deciding that you were going to make the blanket a little bit larger than the pattern originally called for, mostly because when they provide 8 different stitch patterns but tell you to only make 49 squares, your brain explodes a little bit. 64 squares is much more pleasing to your psyche in terms of a finished project, but when you realize how many more squares you have left to go…you start to hate squares.

All of those beautiful patchwork blankets in your head start to taunt you and mock you for your hubris. You keep knitting until you just can’t knit any more, slogging your way through stupid, stupid, lovely garter stitch in the name of love for your family.

And when you finally finish…

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There is absolutely no relief at all. Now you have to join those squares together. Those squares whose sizes have seemingly absolutely nothing at all to do with one another, no matter how good your math or tension was.

That stack of lovely squares right there is a bit deceiving. The squares come of the needles looking a lot more like this:

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Now, if this was wool or cotton, our blocking situation would just be washing and laying things out, or perhaps a light iron. However, acrylic makes you work hard for the kind of squariness you desire. You dutifully haul out the steam iron and blocking wires and T-pins.

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Every square needs to be pinned out to match the 7″x9″ dimensions needed, some adopting this position easier than others. Then, (and don’t freak out), you use your steam iron to intentionally ruin your fabric.

It’s called “killing” acrylic, and usually it’s a terrible thing to accidentally do to a beloved article of clothing, melting the plastic in the yarn. However, in a controlled environment, the right amount of heat (as little as possible to make steam and staying away from actually touching the fabric) and dedication will coax those squares into flattening out their edges, opening up their stitch patterns, and fitting themselves into the straight edges and corners you need to sew them up without wanting to gouge your eyes out.

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You do this, 3 squares at a time, until everything is perfect and lovely and you are so done.

But, you are definitely nowhere near done. Now…the sewing.

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You lay out all of those squares, trying to make things pleasantly random, taking care not to let 2 of the same color or stitch patterns touch each other. (I did originally try to make each row and column have only one of each color or pattern, but it turned into an endless unwinnable sudoku game because I absolutely did not want to do diagonal stripes. I settled for each row having only 1 of each color, and then let the chips fall where they may for everything else, just to save my sanity.) You put off the inevitable sewing process just a little longer by taking moody, artful pictures of your little squares all lined up.

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Mattress stitching is your stitch of choice, of course, because you want everything to line up as nicely as possible. (You must go here and learn its ways right this second, if you don’t already know.) The pattern gives you very, very little guidance here, but joining the squares into columns actually goes really fast and easy, due to all of the squares being either 35 or 36 stitches wide. Sewing things up when they are actually the same exact size is quick and satisfying.

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Zipping up those seams feels pretty good.

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The vertical seams are not the same cakewalk. First things first, you have to pin out the seam between squares.

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Then, you sew up the sides using the ladders between the first and second stitches from the edge of the row, zig-zagging between the squares.

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But, as you remember from earlier, every single stitch pattern is a completely different length in terms of number of rows, so you’ve got to do some creative stitching.

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You watch your pins carefully, and try to see if they are leaning in one direction or another. In the above picture, the pin is leaning to the left, meaning that there’s more fabric up there to be incorporated into the seam. Therefore, you need to fit more of those rows into a smaller amount of rows on the bottom (picking up 2 ladders on the top and just 1 on the bottom) to ease everything in.

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When it goes right, it goes so right and you feel like a finishing genius. When it doesn’t, you think, “Eh, people don’t look at the corners anyway, right? I don’t need to take a picture of that one. Or that one. Or that one back there.”

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What corners? Low-angle photography makes corners not matter, right?

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Finish up the edges with 2 rows of single crochet, just to make those corners nice and neat, and then hit it again with a tiny blast of steam so that everything lays down nice.

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Then, take a breath and weave in all those ends.

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There are a lot, so it would be good for you to take some breaks between and do this as you go along as a relief from the sewing-up frustration.

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Wait. What frustration? It all melts away when you see that final finished project, exactly as you envisioned it in your head.

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Fields of green and brown and purple, looking like farmland from an airplane.

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Those slightly wonky edges and corners just don’t matter anymore, because it’s so perfect all of a sudden.

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You know that your brother and sister-in-law are going to absolutely love it, and all of the work is worth it. The endorphins kick in and shape the experience in such a way that you start to think, you know, I should make another one of those for Dan and I, as soon as I have some more free time.

But maybe in cotton next time.

It’s Almost Too Hot for Knitting – Woodland Gyllis and a Great Rack

Because it is so freaking hot outside, I went and did the only sensible thing.

20150719_140115I made another scarf that is impossible to wear until it cools down outside. This is because I am a very sensible person who is in no way obsessed with sock yarn.

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Yep. Not crazy at all.

20150524_120249The pattern is Gyllis by the always amazing, beautiful, alien creature that is Stephen West. This man is a powerhouse of knitting design. His patterns are all about structural details and blocks of color, making each piece seem more like a work of architecture than something you’d wrap around your neck.

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I made his Herbivore pattern many years ago, and it is still my very favorite scarf in the wintertime, so I knew that when I found this beautiful yarn, Prism Saki in Woodlands (purchased at the absolutely delightful McNeedles, a store that I only recently discovered but will definitely be making my go-to LYS), that it was begging to be knitted up into something special.

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Something special enough that I would stand out in the 98-degree weather after sneaking onto Loyola’s campus with a bunch of merino wool on my body. It’s that good. Super soft and lovely while still retaining enough stitch definition to pop out all of those yarnovers and twisted stitches. I need a skein of every single color right this minute.

20150719_140136The contrast color is Cascade Yarns Heritage Sock, another great merino and nylon blend. I still have some left over, as well as the Saki, so you might see an anklet that pairs the two together again. As I was knitting it, I kept going back and forth as to whether I liked the two colors together, but after seeing it in action in the sunlight, I’m more than sure that I made the right decision.

Now, I am not the only crazy person making crafts in the ridiculously hot weather.

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Dan made a wine rack out of pallets! Like, with his hands and stuff.

20150713_100529And by stuff, I mean tools. But, seriously, he saw a picture of something similar on Pinterest, and just decided to go out in the garage and make one, with no schematics or anything. Just made it up.

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It’s so perfect that I am simultaneously overjoyed and jealous. We all know already that Dan is the ultimate laid-back stealth crafter. He completely wings things all the time, and they come out exactly as planned.

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It’s infuriating.

Goddammit, that’s a good looking wine rack. Everytime I walk by it, I smile. And then I think we need to buy some more wine.

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.

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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.

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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?

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You will be rewarded.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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…dried off and coated in salt and pepper…

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…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.

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Good news, though. They were delicious.

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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?

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

Yarn:
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

Supplies:
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
scissors
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.

Adventures in Gingerbread – Part Two: The Exciting Conclusion!

There’s a moment when you’re sitting in your kitchen with a cherished project, where the royal icing is all made up and just about to flow out of the tip of that pastry bag, and you think back on all the cookbooks you have read, all the baking blogs you faithfully follow, and all the YouTube videos you’ve seen to prepare yourself, and you take a deep breath and say to yourself…

I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.

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Which was basically the thought that was racing through my brain the entire time I was attempting to ice my gingerbread monstrosity.

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(Can you guys tell yet that the birds are my favorite part?)

As previously stated, I’ve never made anything involving proper gingerbread before, especially nothing that eventually had to stand up and carry its own weight. I’ve never made royal icing and piped it onto a surface before, but surely, reading so much Bakerella should prepare you for this experience, right?

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In theory, yes. But in my real-life, very cold, very early morning kitchen…not so much. There’s nothing that can prepare you for drawing with liquid sugar than the very precise act of drawing with liquid sugar for the very first time.

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So all that you can do is just jump in and realize that it may be a complete disaster, and that’s totally okay, because you’re still going to post it on your website so that others can share in your delight at your kitchen failure. And then keep taking deep breaths, because with enough patience and toothpicks, it might actually…look…okay.

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Not exactly the storybook page come to life you were envisioning, but goddamn it, you drew a freaking boat in sugar! Who cares if there’s a whole bunch of bubbles in there! Not me! I guess! Hopefully!

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Now, when you’re getting ready to work with royal icing, people warn you to get ready to work quickly because that stuff dries fast. This might be a big lie, especially if you made sure you were completely ready for this. It might actually take several hours.

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It did. It did take several hours, which meant that our big moment of truth was left until this very morning. It was finally time for…The Stacking.

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I’m hoping that the addition of graham crackers as a structural element here doesn’t get me disqualified (even though I might already be because my gingerbread seascape is in no way residential).

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Ta da! The miracles of three-dimensionality.

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Here’s a little bit of what this bad boy looks like underneath, keeping up all those layers.

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Hooray!

At this point, I sat and anxiously ate a bowl of cereal, hoping that the whole thing wouldn’t slide apart all over itself before I could stand it up. Then I started to worry about it falling apart when I stood it up for the pictures. And guess what!

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It didn’t! It’s actually still standing up on my counter as we speak! (Although, I’m totally going to lay that sucker right back down before I leave for work, because who knows what might happen while I’m gone. The universe might decide to shatter those cookies all over the place. Or more likely, the cat will decide that it finally needs to investigate what the hell has been going on on top of that counter all these days.)

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A little backstage action, past the sight lines, so to speak.

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Birds!

You guys, I am so excited. I know that there’s no way I’m going to win anything in this contest, what with the non-house, non-traditional, non-gingerbread, so completely non-perfect elements at work here, plus…these people are super-serious about their gingerbread houses. Movita‘s going to lay the smackdown, and I just. Cannot. Wait.

Sometimes getting up weird and early to bake cookies and play with sugar in order to make something completely impractical is totally worth it. Because you get to take super moody pictures of it in the morning light and feel pretty dang good about yourself.

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Adventures in Gingerbread – Part One

So. There’s a lovely blogger lady about whom I have already gushed effusively, the wonderful Movita Beaucoup. She holds several no-holds-barred, throw-down, food-related contests during the year, one of which is Ginger 2012.

I have never gotten a chance to participate in one of these contests. Until now.

Bum bum buuuuuuuuummmmm!

Those were awesome suspense sound effects, by the way. Because…I have never made a gingerbread house. Ever.

There is mostly good reason for this. I’m not a big fan of ginger, as we all already know, and growing up in New Orleans just doesn’t lend itself to typical winter activities. Yes, we try to pretend it’s really cold and turn on the fireplace and drink hot chocolate and wear scarves like this is a normal activity in 60 degree weather, but really…you’ve got to have that undying holiday spirit in you to pull this off without feeling extremely silly. Gingerbread houses are just not a part of my family’s average holiday activities.

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And after all of this is over, I’m pretty sure that I still will have not made a gingerbread house.

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Because I am a big, ridiculous person who has to do something different. I can’t just make a little house and cover it in gumdrops, apparently.

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Nope.

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I have to make a gingerbread diorama. Of something completely non-holiday-related. Of course.

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Not Martha‘s awesome gingerbread recipe lends itself well to cutting out strange shapes, plus it has some extremely finicky steps, which usually guarantees that I am drawn to it like a moth to a flame.

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This also might be the only time I haven’t had problems with rolling out dough in my kitchen, probably because I made some serious concentrated attempts to cover everything in my kitchen in flour out of dough anxiety.

Did I mention strange shapes?

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Yep. Birds.

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And a really messy countertop.

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There’s also a slight issue with me in that fully cooked gingerbread doesn’t really look all that different from raw gingerbread that I just put it in the oven. I’m crossing my fingers.

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Now, I know that the seaside scene I’ve presented here doesn’t have much Christmas-y-ness to it, so here’s a sneak peek of some super secret presents…

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Shh! Don’t tell.

Part Two…coming soon. Stay tuned.

365 Project – Week 17

I know I’m a little bit late this week with the 365 update, but it’s been a crazy weekend of bird-watching, garden-watering, and Tekken-playing. Because we’re awesome, that’s why.

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Pay no attention to the fact that the top name up there bears a striking resemblance to #2, which is a thinly-veiled attempt by my friend Jonathan to psych me out. The true situation remains that I beat him by over 10,000 points on In Bloom in Rock Band, and no amount of fiddling with the high score display will change that.

I also totally killed it on Blitzbrieg Bop on expert bass mode, much to our mutual surprise.

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Sometimes work days are a little slow on the creativity, but Dan came out punching with the smoothie-making right before I left. Yum!

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Bowie found a new place to nap in my office. Now he can track my every move in here from someplace other than my lap or the back of my chair.

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Breakfast for dinner! Scrambled eggs, sausage, and spinach is our go-to thing to make when nothing else sounds worth the effort. Delicious!

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Dan and I gussied up a bird feeder that had been languishing under our patio and put it out in the open where the birds could enjoy. Since then, it’s been crazy bird times out there. I predict that when we get to our 60s, we’ll be out in the woods with binoculars, counting warblers while wearing funny hats.

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A new kitchen experiment, created by Dan. A neighbor gave us a big bag full of hot peppers from his garden, and we filled them with homemade mashed potatoes and bits of ham and then baked them, turning them into tiny little twice-baked potato pepper bombs.

Dan enjoyed them, but I was physically unable to eat more than two before being forced to hold in a mouthful of milk for several minutes to quench the burning. Oh, the burning.

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Our library opened! This significance of this event is probably not immediately obvious, but New Orleans East has been without a proper library since Hurricane Katrina. Nearly seven years with just a little mobile-home-trailer Bookmobile sitting in an empty parking lot, but now it’s a real place with lots of great brand new stuff. I intend to be a loyal patron.

SUPER-BONUS-PICTURE-BECAUSE-I-WAS-LATE-TO-POST-THIS-WEEK:

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Baby possum! Opossum? Possum! This little guy likes to cut through our yard every afternoon for some reason, and the first time he was spotted, he trotted into the garage and seemed to make himself at home. He is adorable and probably vicious. I hope he figures out a new route if he chooses to become less skittish and unfriendly. Right now, he’s just big-eared and cute.