Thankful for Pie 2017 Edition

Here we are, at the end of another year. This year in particular was a challenge, mostly due to the fact that it seemed like every other day that the world as we know it was crashing down around our ears. That’s why doing a year-end round-up thing is usually so pleasing to me. Even if nobody’s reading/listening, it gives me an opportunity to look back on everything that happened and pick out all of the good parts. Especially the stuff that might not have made it onto the blog. It makes you remember the good things, even when everything else is still pretty terrible.

First up, in January, Dan and I went to the Women’s March here in New Orleans.

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We hung out with some of the coolest, nicest people ever and got to see some truly hilarious protest signs.

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It really felt good to walk amongst so many people who felt like they just needed to do something. Who are doing things and working hard to make things better. I had a coworker ask me, very sincerely, the day afterwards, “But what is everyone marching for? What’s made them so angry?” My answer: “Everything.” I knitted quite a few Pussyhats for friends and for myself, and Dan and I will definitely be wearing them when we march again this year.

In January, I also finished a vest for Dan, a project that still fills me with pride.

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Speaking of Grow Dat (the little farm that Dan’s running through all joyfully), in February, Dan and I really got the ball rolling on getting creative and cooking with our weekly CSA haul.

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Every week there was more and more kale, and we rose to the challenge. Seriously, I have never eaten so many greens in my life.

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I pickled beets and carrots and daikon and peppers and okra and anything else I could get my hands on. And that’s just a tiny sampling of all of our homecooking. We unfortunately did not sign up for the Grow Dat CSA this year, mostly due to the fact that my time’s going to be even more limited because of school, but it’s definitely helped us to eat better and for me to step up my cooking skills. Do go check out Grow Dat and the Hollygrove Market if you’re here in New Orleans. You’ll be glad you did.

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Studying was a huge part of my life this year, having started grad school in January after graduating from nursing school in May of 2015. I did not take many pictures of it, because it is not particularly visually exciting, but school really ran my life this year. I kept working full-time as well, until the summer, because I am a crazy person and thought that I could handle it. Now I’m down to two days a week (but it’s still night shift and still a crazy-busy job), but at least now I can breathe.

In March, I had to go to “intensives” for school, and I got to see what is possibly the greatest billboard advertisement of all time.

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You might think that a busy highway is no place for Sir Mix-a-lot jokes. You are wrong.

In April, Dan and I found my doppelganger in the New Orleans Museum of Art.

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And we went to a Hootenanny!

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Grow Dat hosted this huge party for all of its subscribers and donors this year, complete with bluegrass music and square-dancing lessons, and all kinds of amazing food and cocktails from all around the city. I may have had a whole lot of strawberry punch and donated a large amount of money to buy a tractor, but those kids were so excited that it was impossible to not get super excited about tractors right along with them.

In May, I made some dice bags.

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Want to make your own? Here’s the pattern, and here’s the chart for your very own LOTR-inspired monogram on the front.

Then, Bailee and I drove ourselves down to Austin in order to personally hand them to the McElroy brothers.

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It was amazing, plus I made an extra-special awful face in that picture, so that’s how I get to remember it for the rest of time.

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We got to hang out with my brother and sister-in-law, and I got to meet some wonderful Twitter people in real life and eat brunch with them, which is why I think the Internet was really invented: to eat brunch with cool people in different parts of the country.

In June, I went to San Francisco to visit my best friend, Jonathan, and his wife, Rebecca, who are two of the best people, just hands-down.

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We went to a Japanese mall.

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We saw Justin Townes Earle.

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We saw the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Bay Model.

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We saw beautiful water and gardens.

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We ate at In-N-Out Burger.

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We saw Elvis Costello at the Greek Theatre. (My third time seeing him, and a wonderful birthday treat.)

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We saw so much modern art at SFMOMA that I’d previously only seen in textbooks, which blew my mind a little bit.

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Warhol, Chuck Close, George Segal, Robert Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein, Rothko, Duchamp, Josef Albers…I didn’t want to leave.

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We also watched a lot of the new season of Twin Peaks, so it seemed only fitting that I baked us a cherry pie to enjoy.

What a wonderful trip.

During July, I was deep into the throes of knitting for the Summer of Socks, but I figured that this would be a good opportunity to post some pictures of the baking I did this year. Nothing ended up on the blog, but dang there was some good baking coming out of my kitchen.

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And I haven’t posted any pictures of the cats yet!

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Bowie and Trip make every year better.

In August, I made a lovely baby blanket for a lovely lady.

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And a very cute bunny.

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Dan and I also enjoyed the eclipse with Dan’s custom made shadowbox viewer, and a giant welding helmet. Everyone loved science for a whole day. It was great.

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In September, Dan and I finished up a masterpiece.

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And then we just couldn’t stop doing puzzles. We have three now that need to be framed and hung before we’re allowed to do any more.

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Dan also took this nice picture of me in the courtyard of Le Petit Theatre before we saw a show.

In October, we showed some friends from out-of-town around the city for Halloween, which always includes some above-ground cemetery action.

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Yep, that’s right, that’s a human jawbone just hanging out. Every day is Halloween here.

I took those same friends to the National World War II Museum, and we had a great, although sobering, time.

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The production value of this museum is downright astounding. I highly recommend it, even though I’m not really a huge wartime-history buff, just because everything was so detailed and interactive. Just make sure you plan to spend the whole day there so you can see everything. The place is massive, and the four hours we spent were simply not enough.

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This was my favorite fun fact.

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I also posted about some awesome socks in November.

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And I visited Bailee in Mississippi for her birthday!

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We ate all kinds of fried chicken and fancy pastries, listened to Taylor Swift and did our Tarot. A really, really good day.

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I surprised myself and made a beautiful rainbow baby blanket in December.

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Complete with turtle friend.

And then I made another one.

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With elephant to match.

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All of these pregnant ladies in my life have such good taste, so I really had to step up my game to give them some beautiful things.

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Dan requested apple pie for his birthday (as per usual), so I got my buttermilk crust game-face on.

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He also had an extra request this year, and that was that a make peach cobbler for one of his coworkers, a widower whose wife used to love to bake. He’s a good egg, that Dan.

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Then, the Summer of Socks was upon us, and I posted all about my super-secret sock knitting escapades, in three installments (1, 2, and 3!).

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Then, just a few days ago, Dan and I welcomed a new family member into our lives.

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Her name is Turbovicki, and she’s very red and half-electric. We love her.

I have never had a new car ever in my entire life, so I’m having a complicated mix of feelings about it. On the one hand, I feel like I really don’t deserve something so nice. I’m bad about treating myself and doing nice things for myself, because I just don’t ever feel like I’ve done anything special for it. It was a very big decision to even allow myself to think about having a new car.
On the other hand, oh my god if this isn’t the coolest car ever. I’m trying to get over myself and enjoy it.

So, all in all, a pretty good year, full of baking and knitting and schoolwork and love. Speaking of baking…

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First thing for the new year will be a new pie recipe, so you can enjoy all kinds of chocolate and cherries to start 2018.

I can’t even express how good it feels to look over all of this and to be able to share it with all of you. I’m always glad to have the outlet of blogging and to be able to share my (albeit small) accomplishments with a tiny corner of the world. I hope that you all had a good year, despite the ongoing garbage fire of a world, and that we can share the upcoming goodness of 2018 together.

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Lace and Cables and Elephants

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For my last baby blanket of the year (I was about to say there’s been a bunch, but really only two others. But seriously three baby blankets in a year plus working and grad school? That’s a lot. I’m super proud of those beautiful things, so please do go look at them here and here.), I present this lovely piece of lace and mock-cabling.

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Uuuunnghh. So pretty.

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This gorgeous thing was made for my friend and former nursing school group partner extraordinaire, Bonnie. Bonnie is one of the nicest people I have ever met. She has never been anything but welcoming and sweet to me, even though I can be sort of a prickly person to get to know (especially when I was in nursing school…sorry everybody). She is full of smiles and encouragement, and I am always happy to see her.

We work in the same hospital, except she’s in the NICU, being one of those superheroes that takes care of all of the tiniest, most fragile patients that there are. I get pulled there occasionally, to my general terror, because I am always scared to death that I am going to break a baby. When she’s there, I know that there’s a wonderful friendly face alongside me, ready to answer questions and make me feel comfortable.

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A girl like that deserves something really lovely for her new baby, and I’m more than honored that I got to make it for her. She wanted something sort of simple and classic, and I think that SweaterBabe‘s Fancy Stitch Baby Blanket was just the perfect choice. I tried to come up with a better project title than “Fancy Stitch,” but really…”fancy” describes this pretty aptly.

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I used Blue Sky Cotton for this, because it is the most perfect yarn for baby projects, in my humble opinion, and that gives the lace and curves a really wonderful squishiness. It’s a long-wearing, good, strong cotton, but it feels absolutely luxurious here.  I want an entire adult-sized blanket made out of it.

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The whole thing came out so elegant. Perfect for a soon-to-be sweet wonderful baby.

I had to make a little squishable buddy to go with this blanket, and the grayish-lavender color (number 644, if you really needed to know) just screamed “elephant” to me.

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This little guy was made using leftovers of the lavender, plus some of the white left over from the chevron blanket. The pattern? Elefante by Susan B. Anderson, who has so many more patterns for some of the cutest plushies I’ve ever seen.

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He is so plump and adorable. Plus, I love the little ridges for the edges of the footpads and trunk. Good stuff. When I sent a picture of him over to Dan, he declared that he looks like an anteater, so we’re calling him Arthur.

There is only one issue. If Arthur’s left unsupported…

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…he looks a little…depressed. In the original pattern, this is more of a design feature with his trunk supporting his head and acting a bit like a fifth foot. However, when I adjusted his eyes to be more muppet-y (just like I like them), I felt like I needed to push up his ears to make his face more open and friendly. Which ended up just making him look like he’s Eeyore, staring at the ground sort of sadly.

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But he’s just perfect if you hold him and play with him and squish him, which is exactly what the best stuffed animals are for.

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Arthur also looks super cute just sort of resting on things, like he’s intently watching everyone else walk around. I’m choosing to think of it as a design feature.

I did make one other tiny change, due to the fact that crocheting the ears as written with their tiny, tiny stitches and multiple crocheted increases caused me physical pain. Instead, I knitted up some circles and whip-stitched them together after folding them in half. The little whipped stitches really make it feel homey and handmade to me. For those who are inclined to make some tiny elephant ears, here’s the instructions:

Ears (make two):
CO 3 sts, and distribute them evenly across 3 double-pointed needles.
Knit 1 round.
Kfb across all sts (6 sts total).
Knit 1 round.
Kfb across all sts (12 sts total).
Knit 1 round.
Kfb across all sts (24 sts total).
Knit 2 rounds.
Kfb across all sts (48 sts total).
Knit 3 rounds.
Bind-off all sts.
Fold each circle in half, with the right-side facing out, and whip-stitch the edges together.

Then follow the rest of the pattern as written!

This project was the cap on a really great knitting year, most of which I haven’t posted about yet, due to its super-secret-ness. Don’t worry though, that’ll all be coming soon. For now, just enjoy that lacy squishy elephant goodness and go make your own.

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.

Socks and Chevrons and Bunnies

I haven’t been posting much, but I have been knitting like a crazy person as of late. Ever since my summer semester ended, I threw myself into a self-imposed “Summer of Socks,” the details of which I am not at liberty to disclose due to the fact that it is super-secret.

I can give you a few little cheeky detail shots, though, if that tickles your fancy.

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Oooooooh. Aaaaaaah.

Moving on.

Before the “Summer of Socks” began, I worked on a project near and dear to my heart, a baby blanket for my friend and co-worker Mary, who is about to have her first baby.

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I’m a firm believer in the fact that baby blankets need to be easy to care for, yet also classic and clean-looking, so what better yarn than Blue Sky Cotton? It’s super soft and lofty, yet strong and washable. It has wonderful stitch definition despite its softness, perfect for the pattern that we chose.

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Mary told me that she already had some antique and vintage furniture for the baby’s nursery, so I wanted her to be able to have something that could fit in along with the antiques and yet still be sort of on-trend. When I told her about the Chevron Baby Blanket by Espace Tricot, she was totally on-board. And it already recommended Blue Sky Cotton for the yarn! What kismet.

Mary picked the colors Ash, Bone, and Aloe, and I got to work, right after I was done being stunned at how beautiful they all looked together.

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The only change I made to the original pattern was leaving the inside portion of the blanket striped with only two colors, and leaving just one stripe of accent color on the end.

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If you’d like to do this yourself, you need to buy 1 skein of your accent color, and 2 skeins each of your inner stripes. I also carried the colors up the sides, twisting the alternate colors at each right side row rather than breaking the yarn, because I thought that all those woven-in ends would break up the clean look of the whole thing.

After I was done, I still had quite a bit of the Aloe color left over, plus a need to keep making things for the new baby. So, I went looking for a vintage-y stuffed animal pattern.

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The overall winner was the Knitted Bunny pattern by Jackie Erickson-Schweitzer, a fun little origami-inspired piece of fiddliness that was right up my alley.

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First, you knit a plain stockinette square. Then, alchemy-like, you use a little polyfil stuffing and some strategically placed rows of stitches to fold it up into an adorable bunny. You also take the time to knit some tiny ears, which might be the cutest part of the whole thing.

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I did make a tiny change, though, to enhance cuteness. In the original pattern, they tell you just to use a crochet hook to pull out some stuffing for a tail. Although this might be cute, it probably also isn’t ideal for an animal for child, so I went ahead and made a big fluffy pom-pom tail that is easily removable/remade if it gets pulled apart by a curious baby.

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It’s so freaking cute I can barely stand it. I was watching a documentary about the trial of Whitey Bulger while I was making it, which tempers that a bit, I guess.

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Simple and classic. And chevron-y and pastel-y enough to be somehow completely in style. I am beyond proud of how it all came out.

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And I think she liked it. Seriously, it could not go to a more deserving person. We both started nursing at our hospital at the same time, went through orientation together, and I can honestly say that she is one of my favorite people. Mary is a little bit of sunshine in my day, and I was happy to give her something lovely that she will hopefully be able to love for a long time.

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She’s good people. Now with a good bunny. And a good blanket. It’s the least I could do.

Showered with Love – the Moderne Baby Blanket

“The people you work with are people you were just thrown together with. You know, you don’t know them, it wasn’t your choice, and yet you spend more time with them then you do your friends or your family. But probably all you’ve got in common is the fact that you walk around on the same bit of carpet for 8 hours a day. And so, obviously, when someone comes in who you… you have a connection with… yeah.” – Tim Canterbury, The Office

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Now, I know that quote up there is about a man finding the love of his life, but really, I think it applies for all of those wonderful work relationships that everyone experiences, but are hard to describe.

There are people who you would have otherwise never would have met, and once you’re put together with them, particularly in the stressful field in which I work, find it very difficult to imagine your work, hell, your life without them.

My lovely friend Christina is one of these people.

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I knew from the day that we met, in a class where we had to qualify for our PALS certification (that’s right, I’m all kinds of responsible for the lives of children now, it’s crazy), that she was going to be one of the people that made my new job a good place to be. We work night shift together on the 6th floor, where we take care of lots of different high-acuity patients, children with brain injuries, kidney diseases, and heart defects, and even though it’s night shift, it can be extremely hectic and demanding, due to how much care our kids need and how busy our hospital is.

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Christina is always there for me to bond with over our shared pediatrics experience. She’s kind to a fault, knowing exactly the right way to talk to children and parents to put them at ease, and I know several kids that we see frequently who ask for her to be their nurse every time they come. Even when she’s got a ridiculous amount to accomplish in a shift, she’s always got a smile for anyone who comes up to her. She is always down to help with any small task or enormous disaster (usually involving inordinate amounts of bodily fluids) that occurs, no matter what.

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When Christina found herself suddenly, and really unexpectedly, about to have a baby, I knew that I had to make her something to show her how much I appreciate having her in my life, no matter how randomly we were brought together (and also because I feel like love is best shown through gestures like these, not just how we sit off to the side of the nurses’ station and talk about our pets).

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She and her boyfriend didn’t want to find out whether the baby is a boy or a girl ahead of time, so I figured that the silly amount of yarn I had left over from Squares and Squares and Squares would be best served in making a green-and-brown woodsy, squishy blanket for a teeny, tiny baby-to-be that will be very much loved by his or her entire adopted nursing family.

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Time to talk shop. The pattern here is the Moderne Baby Blanket by the glorious ladies behind Mason-Dixon Knitting, baby cousin to the Modern Log Cabin Blanket, which I made in 2009 with Elsbeth Lavold Silky Wool and remains a prized possession in my home, only allowed to be used in my office where there are no cats allowed. I can’t blame them, that squishy garter stitch is really, really tempting to stick your claws in and get in some good kneading.

Wanna see that one?

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Hell yeah, that’s a big blanket.

This Modern Baby Blanket is quite a bit smaller, and full of little tweaks to accommodate the fact that I was using yarn from another project. First things first, I was dealing with seven colors here, as opposed to four, so I had to be strategic about not letting colors that were too similar stack up on each other, as well as constantly checking to make sure that I was using up each color as much as possible, judging each new rectangle by its placement and what size it would be before choosing which color to go with next.

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That sounds so much more complicated than it actually was.

Go ahead and click on the link for Squares and Squares and Squares above in order to see which colors of Knit Picks Brava Worsted I used (it’s all of them except for Mulberry), in case you want to make your own. The only other thing that I changed was the size of the blocks around the outside edges. Because I was using the leftovers from another large blanket, all I had to work with was slightly less than a skein of each color. Because of this, I worked with each color as long as I possibly could, and then recalculated how many stitches to pick up on the subsequent crossing blocks.

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Again, that sounds way more complicated that it was. Part of what’s wonderful about this pattern is how easy it is to customize. I’ve seen fantastic adaptations where people make long gradients of one color family, where they knit in extra borders between blocks, where they go crazy with multicolored yarn…it’s all awesome.

The Brava makes for a wonderfully squishy, hefty knit, perfect for softening up a floor to let a baby hang out and get some tummy time, while also being really easy to wash and care for.

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After finishing up, this precious bundle made its way to a super-stylish baby shower (Seriously, look at all that gray and green! I want to redecorate my house to look like this future baby’s possessions now.), in our conference room on our hospital floor, because sometimes work can wait while people eat fruit tarts and open presents.

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There’s Christina there, reading out her cards and looking radiant and teary-eyed, not realizing just how much we all love her and are willing to shower her with that love.

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This baby is going to be so spoiled and adored. There’s just no way around it. And no other person who deserves it more.