Summer of Socks, vol. 3 – Barbecue Casual & Pool Socks, the exciting finale



If you’ve made it all the way here, you’ve done an amazing feat! You’ve read through an unprecedented three-day-long streak of blog posts all about…socks.



In our first installment, we saw socks for my mom and dad. In the second, for my brother and sister-in-law. Now? Well, no Christmas would be complete without a secret surprise gift for my boyfriend, Dan, plus an extra pair of socks for myself (because I couldn’t let everyone have warm feet without me).


The truth is, this whole project started with this little skein of yarn. This beautiful yarn cake is Satchel from Mrs. Crosby Loves to Play (the most hilariously weirdly named yarn company ever, which also happens to make some truly stunning stuff, please do check them out), in the colorway Rueppell’s Griffon. Dan and I noticed it when we were browsing in McNeedles, a not-so-local LYS that we enjoy, and the staff there told me that the colorway was meant to be a dupe for the Lorna’s Laces colorway named “Zombie BBQ.”


We were delighted. If you thought that they had to say anything else to get me to buy that skein of sock yarn, you would be mistaken. However, I knew that if I bought it in front of Dan, he would put it together rather quickly that a secret pair of socks was in his future, so I instead headed out to Lacombe, a 40-ish minute drive from here, by myself while he was working in order to buy it later and hid it away, biding my time for the perfect secret sock moment.

That moment came this summer, when Dan went out of town for a few days for his sister’s wedding, and I was already deep into the Summer of Socks. He was only gone for a few days, which meant that I had to knit and block the pair in that short amount of time. At this point, I had already knit 4 pairs of socks in quick succession, so my fingers were up to the task.


But what pattern would do this glorious yarn justice? Business Casual by Tanis Lavallee was an utter joy to knit. I had no problem flying through it, even though it involved cabling and a bit of fussiness, due to the fact that it is so incredibly well-written and clear. Other sock pattern writers should take notes, because it’s that good.


Also, those tiny delicate lattice cable crosses kill me. They just look so good.


That’s it really. I tried to find a more clever way to say it, but that’s all. They just look so good. Especially how they peel off from the ribbing on the cuff.



I just really like looking at them, guys.


I wasn’t the only one.

Both socks were knitted up quickly, and I had such a good time with them that I was kind of sad that they were over so fast. However, there was a strict deadline here, so blocking commenced and the socks stayed hidden away and secret for 4 more months while I waited for Christmas.

With the combination of yarn and pattern coming together so perfectly here, I knew that there was only thing that I could call them: Barbecue Casual. When I presented them to Dan, wrapped up inside a very silly elephant mug (he’s a fan of elephants and silly mugs, so double-bonus), he was so happy.  It’s going to be so hard to not steal them.


For my socks, I used another treasure that I had squirreled away from McNeedles for a while. This is Lorna’s Laces Solemate, which is a very cool blend of superwash merino, nylon, and Outlast, a proprietary blend of microfiber that helps keep your socks from making your feet get too hot. It’s pretty interesting stuff that results in a sort of silky-soft, light sock that stays nice and warm without horrible sweaty toes.


I got it in the colorway Bayou McNeedles, the special colorway created especially for and only available at McNeedles. It looks like really cheerful school colors to me, or a painting of a calm pool of water with plants and greenery around it. Hence the name, Pool Socks. I know, it’s not super great, but I can’t be expected to be clever all the time.


Again, I went with the Good, Plain Sock recipe featured in Knitting Rules! by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the Yarn Harlot. I just wanted some simple and plain anklets to show off those colors, and I knew that there was high potential for flashing in a space-dyed yarn like this, which could ruin any all over stitch patterns.


Normally, I am not a fan of flashing, but that big blue zag across the whole thing really did it for me this time. If it’s in the right colors and the right place, flashing can be quite an interesting thing.

And there we have it, the exciting conclusion to….the Suuuuuuummmmmmmer of Sooooooooocks. In reality, it just looked like me knitting something small while listening to my Advanced Assessment class online lectures or watching Midsomer Murders on Netflix…so just like I normally look, with perhaps a bit more urgency. I just hope that everyone enjoys their new socks.

And I hope that all of you have warm feet throughout the winter and into the new year. If not, just let me know. I’ll make you some socks.


Summer of Socks, vol. 2 – Denim Ribs & Embossed Leaves

Yes, ladies and gents, it’s time for another installment of…bum bum buuuuuummmm…


The Summer of Socks! While we’re in winter! Hooray!


Just as a recap, as I explained in the last post, I spent the summer knitting socks for my family, and I packaged them up with hot cocoa mix and personalized marshmallows into super cute mugs for them to enjoy on Christmas Eve.

And speaking of super cute mugs, just look at those little kitties. Those things are just so freaking adorable. I couldn’t resist getting them for my brother and sister-in-law, as they are also cat people.

Here we have the next two pairs of socks in the line-up. Denim Ribs


…and Embossed Leaves.


Oooooh. Aaaaah.


My brother Jarrod tends to spend his life in jeans and t-shirts, and when I saw the colorway called the Pearl in Knit Picks Hawthorne, I knew it was something that he would like. I’m not sure where the name “the Pearl” comes from, since all I can think of when I hear that is the incredibly depressing novella by John Steinbeck. Looking at this colorway, with its varying shades of denim-y navy blues and pops of cream and gray, I get the impression of a well-loved, well-worn pair of jeans. Not to mention the synchronicity in the fact that it looks like the denim cousin to the Mt. Tabor colorway, previously featured on my dad’s socks.


I didn’t want to do anything too fiddly here, due to the fact that the high contrast between the colors would probably obscure any stitchwork. Instead, I wanted something where those long stretches of cream and gray would pop out and spiral around and look awesome, just like they looked in the skein.


I went with an old stand-by, dependable pattern, the Good, Plain Sock recipe featured in Knitting Rules! by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the Yarn Harlot. She is knitting royalty, and if you don’t have a copy of this book, you are seriously missing out. In it, she gives “recipes,” not complete patterns, of socks, hats, scarves, and shawls, and gives you all the tricks and tips you need to write your own patterns for yourself. Plus, she’s funny and snarky in all the right ways. I adore her.


I have made so many socks with this pattern, and it always comes out great. This one in particular has a 3×3 ribbing throughout the cuff, sort of similar to my Plain Vanilla Taiyo socks. They also have simple slipped-stitch heels and capped toes, just the basic background structure to make the yarn really stand out.

I played a serious game of yarn chicken with these, due to the fact that my brother wears between a size 10-10.5 men’s shoe, and I had only about a foot left of yarn when I was done. Good thing to know that Hawthorne, with its 357 yds., had plenty enough for some giant socks.


Here we have some of the prettiest yarn I have ever seen. Seriously, look at all of these colors! It’s Knit Picks Hawthorne (again!) in the colorway Alameda, and man, it was so much fun to knit up. I lived for hitting all of the little bright blue spots. (Do other knitters do that? Pick a favorite part of the colorway and get really excited to knit those particular stitches when you see them coming up? Just me? Okay.)


These beauties were made for my sister-in-law, Kim, who enjoys feminine details, especially if they’re purple, so I figured something lacy and flowery and leafy would be perfect. The pattern here is Embossed Leaves by Mona Schmidt, again from the book Favorite Socks: 25 Timeless Designs from Interweave.


I’m been wanting to knit this pattern up for a good, long time, mostly because of the ingenious little details that take into account how the leaf pattern interacts with the structure of the sock. There is a stockinette stitch smooth heel with purled “gutters” on the sides that extend from the purled areas between the motifs on the cuff. That sentence seems like nonsense, but trust me, it’s something to be excited about.



The star toes incorporate purls into the decrease, making it look like the leaves all swirl together at the bottom. And those perfect little spirals at the end of the toes! Mona, you’re a genius.

That’s it for this installment. Stay tuned for the next…and final episode of….the Summer of Sooooooooooooocks (oooooocks oooooocks oooocks ooocks).

Summer of Socks, vol. 1 – Retro Rib & Osean

The wait is over!


I know that you were all on pins and needles, just frantically wondering what all of my super-secret sock hinting was about. You barely got any sleep, with all of that uncertainty. Your work suffered. Your personal life suffered. It really took a toll that neither of us anticipated. And for that, I am truly sorry.

Oh wait, I forgot! There’s like, maybe 2 people who read this. What a relief. I’m glad to know that thousands of lives have not been ruined over some Christmas socks.



That’s right! Christmas socks! I spent my summer, in-between working night shift and studying during the day, knitting socks for each member of my family, each one personalized to their likes and dislikes and relative foot sizes, as one would hope. They were then packaged up with hot cocoa and monogram marshmallows into a new mug, all perfect for enjoying on chilly winter nights.


And dang if they didn’t come out cute.

First up, the socks that I made for my parents, Retro Rib and Osean.  (Those are the sock pattern names, not my parents’ names, just for clarity.)


My dad is a hard person to knit for. He often loudly declares not having a need for any things at all, at any time at all. He pretends that he thinks that people waste time on hobbies, but secretly loves receiving anything handmade. He’ll insult your present by saying he has no need for it, but then tell you exactly how he’ll use it in the same sentence.


It’s a bit of a complicated relationship.


He’s a fan of green things, especially when they’re vaguely camo- or military-esque, so I figured that the Mt. Tabor colorway of Knit Picks Hawthorne would be perfect.


It’s a lovely tonal mix of greens and grays that has a sort of nice silvery-sheen to it. It’s rustic and homey without being drab.

I chose the pattern Retro Rib by Evelyn A. Clark out of the book Favorite Socks: 25 Timeless Designs from Interweave, which is a wonderful book for anyone who’s an avid sock knitter. It’s got all kinds of gorgeous patterns with a range of complexity levels, plus lots of size options for most of the socks, which is great when your brother and father have really big feet.


I did make one important pattern modification here, which I think really ties the sock together. The original pattern calls for a regular slip-stitch heel, where every other stitch is slipped on the RS rows, to make a visually-interesting and sturdy fabric on that part of the sock. It’s fairly standard and makes sense usually, but it made absolutely no sense to me here, considering that the sock has a mistake rib pattern that prominently features long columns of twisted stitches.

Instead, I only slipped the stitches that lined up with these columns, continuing that pattern (except for the purling) all the way down to the bottom. I feel like it makes for a much more elegant solution than just slapping any old heel on there. I also remember (keep in mind I made these months ago) that the directions for starting the heel flap didn’t really make the flap centered in a way that made sense to me, so just make sure that you’re keeping a eye out for that, if you’d like to knit a pair yourself. There are errata listed on Interweave’s website, so there might be a fix there already. Do yourself a favor and check, instead of just flying off half-cocked, like I always seem to do.

Anywho, my dad did just as expected when he received these. He said, “What made you think to make these? For me? What am I going to do with these?” and “Oh, these are just too big!” and “Okay, well they fit but they’re not going to fit under my shoes,” and “I guess I can wear these when it’s cold,” and “Oh look, they fit with my slippers! These will be great when it’s chilly outside.” And in a matter of hours, they were suddenly an acceptable gift.

Mission accomplished.


Making things for my mother is not nearly so much of a challenge. She loves receiving gifts, especially handmade ones, and she’s a very good gift-giver herself. I have knit more things for her than anyone else in my family, except for Dan. She knows how to receive a gift with grace and delight and takes pleasure in taking care of and displaying these objects as they are intended. She also knows that knitted items are meant to be worn, not just looked at, and she uses them faithfully. It’s real cute.


When I visited my best friend and his wife in San Rafael, CA, this summer, we stopped by a small yarn store/custom fabric dying shop called Dharma Trading Company that appears to have a lively and thriving online business of which I was unaware. I asked the person working there if they had anything local, because I enjoy buying hand-dyed local yarns when I’m travelling, and she showed me Invictus Yarns, an Etsy seller from Sacramento who does absolutely beautiful work. This particular skein is Beyond, which is a really soft and wonderful merino, nylon, and cashmere blend, in the colorway Tranquility. What better way to pamper the feet of someone who really deserves it than with cashmere?


My mother and I share a love of the color blue and a preference for anklets, so when I saw Osean by Trudy Hertaas while searching on Ravelry, I knew it would be perfect.


It has a wide lace panel in the center that mimics ocean waves, flanked by rope cables on either side. It was just enough fanciness to show off the blues and greens of the yarn without getting too crazy.



The whole thing came together so nicely, it was like the yarn and pattern were made for each other. After she opened her gift, she put them on right away and wore them for the whole rest of the night. I hope that she wears them so much that she wears a hole through all that cashmere and I’m forced to make her another pair. That would be great.

Stay tuned for two more installments of…bum bum bum…the Summer of Socks! In the middle of winter. It made more sense a few months ago, I promise.

Baxter the Bunny, a new super-squishable friend.

I promised some bunny action last time, didn’t I?

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Here’s Baxter!

My brother’s girlfriend, now fiancée, Kim, had expressed a desire in getting a stuffed bunny ever since she saw the infamous David Sedaris owl. I figured that Christmas-time was probably the perfect time to make that happen, but when I was searching for patterns, I had a hard time finding something small and squishable, yet full of potential personality. Nothing had that perfect proportion like the original owl pattern did of fatness and plumpness, while still having enough room for an expressive face, although some things came really close.

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Enter Big Cuddly Bunny by one of the all-time greatest knitting sites ever, the Purl Bee. Purl Soho’s blend of whimsy, retro style, and good old-fashioned solid crafting is always right on point. Their giant crazy bunny was going to work just fine, but he just needed to be miniaturized.

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Here are my pattern changes, so that you can make your own tinier, yet still super cuddly, version for yourself. BIG GIANT NOTE HERE: I am not claiming the genius of the Purl Bee to be my own. I am only posting my pattern modifications for this particular project. Please go visit them to get the original pattern if you wish to partake in the bunniness.

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Trip wishes that he could, but being without thumbs makes the knitting kind of difficult. He’ll just settle for biting everything instead.

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First off, our materials are obviously slightly different. I used Cascade Yarns Ecological Wool, color 8085, the leftovers from my totally awesome, yet seldom used (because I just know that the cats will eat it somehow), Hemlock Ring Blanket. Way less than one skein’s worth, obviously. I used double-pointed US 7 needles as well. And you’ll need some black and white felt for Baxter’s quizzical expression, along with white and black sewing thread.  The gauge is somewhere along the lines of 4.5-5 sts per inch, but the main goal is just to get a sturdy fabric that won’t stretch out of control when stuffed.

Now for the real changes.

During the “THE BOTTOM” section, change Round 13 to *P6, kfb, repeat from * to end of round. (64 sts)
Then, go on to Round 14: Purl.
Round 15: *P7, kfb, repeat from * to end of round. (72 sts)
Purl 6 rounds.

Changes to “THE BODY”?
First, start by knitting 35 rounds.
Round 36: *K7, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (64 sts)
Rounds 37 & 38: Knit.
Round 39: *K6, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (56 sts)
Rounds 40 & 41: Knit.
Round 42: *K5, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (48 sts)
Rounds 43 & 44: Knit.
Round 45: *K4, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (40 sts)
Rounds 46 & 47: Knit.

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Follow the rest of the finishing steps detailed here, except you obviously won’t need a whole bag of stuffing. Just stuff your bunny up plump as you can. You’ll be able to add in the last bits of fluff before you close him up, so don’t worry if you can’t get it all in there right now.

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No changes to “THE BUNNY’S LEFT EAR.” Just do that all as written.

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The only change for “THE BUNNY’S RIGHT EAR” takes place when you are reorienting your stitches to get to the second ear. Since we ended up with more stitches at the top than the original pattern, you’re going to have 10 stitches between the ears on either side of the top of the bunny’s head, meaning that a total of 20 sts are not being used to make the ears. Just knit the ear as stated, making sure that you have left the proper amount of stitches in the middle to close up the bunny’s head, and only using 10 sts to make the ear.

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Make perfect sense? It will when you have it in front of you. I promise.

After making your second ear, go ahead and top off your bunny with the last amounts of stuffing and kitchener him closed. I did not do any duplicate stitching for the ears, because I didn’t feel as though Baxter was in a particularly cutesy mood. He’s more of a sedate, cool, woodsy bunny, even though he does look a little anxious.

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After that, cut out all your felt pieces and sew them on with gusto, just like you did with your owl and carrot. Didn’t make those? Just take tiny stitches, and be sure to hide all of your knots on the inside of your work. I find that stitching the pupils onto the eyes first makes things a lot easier. Make sure his teeth are slightly crooked, and you’re all good to go!

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Wait! Don’t forget to make the pom-pom tail! I bought my very first pom-pom maker for this, and I have to say, it was an extremely enjoyable experience. Something about that fat, plump pom-pom is very satisfying, especially since I have only been able to turn out limp, floppy ones in the past. The thing I am getting at here is — go and buy a pom-pom maker right now. Even if you don’t use it much, it will make your life better.

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And you will make someone else’s life better when they receive their new squishy friend.  Now, go make a bunny and make somebody happy.

Chocolate and Orange, Together Forever – Doctored Up Chocolate Orange Bundt Cake

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Beautiful chocolate and orange above the fold? Do I have your attention? Good.

There is a well-established precedent here on this blog that I believe that chocolate + orange = holidays. Therefore, Christmas dinner this year required for me to get up early to make a decadent chocolate and orange treat for everyone to enjoy after the long day’s festivities.

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Cue Joy the Baker‘s Chocolate Orange Bundt Cake. (By the by, the photos here were taken by multiple people, none of which were me, on various phones and cameras whilst I flitted about the kitchen wearing an owl apron and a super serious face.)

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This cake, by itself, is pretty damn delicious, but this was Christmas, dammit. Game had to be stepped up. First addition? I poked holes all over the beautiful finished and cooled cake and brushed fresh squeezed orange juice (from the lonely little orange that you zest and then ignore to make the cake) all over the cake, letting it soak in.

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See? Super serious business here.

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If you’ve got tiny bits of orange pulp all over the outside of your cake, you’re doing everything right. In life and in baking.

Second addition? Get out your favorite chocolate ganache recipe. Don’t have one? Betty does, and it’s pretty great.

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Pour it all over that cooled orange-drenched cake (with aluminum foil cake stand protectors, of course), and then admire it for a second.

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Then spread things out a bit with a spatula. Did you start to smile? Stop that. Baking is a serious business.

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Now, we haven’t even eaten dinner yet, so we can’t dig into this cake. Besides, ganache (which WordPress doesn’t believe is a real word, by the way) needs to set, which is a cruel, but necessary, step. What do we do while we’re in that weird between-time when we can’t eat dinner or dessert yet?

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Well, in my family, you make more dessert, apparently.

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Super basic roll-out sugar cookies, again from Lady Betty.  Cookie cutters from my awesome friends Brittany and Michele made their inaugural sugar cookie appearance.

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You may think that bunnies don’t belong on a Christmas cookie plate. You are wrong.

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I don’t know why I wanted to include this one, but I really like this picture somehow. I feel as though those cookies are cowering in fear from my threatening cookie-eating presence. They are right to fear.

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After dinner, all kinds of royal icing happened.

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Again, no smiling allowed. Decorating sugar cookies with icing, candies, and sprinkles requires extreme concentration from all involved.

We made approximately 800,000 cookies. Here are a few highlights.

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The kitchen counter got a little crowded.

After all that hard work decorating, it was time for cake!

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It was worth the wait.

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I feel like this would be even better in mini-Bundt size, where you can get an even more favorable ganache-to-cake ratio. It’s all about the balance between the floral, tangy orange and the creamy semisweet chocolate. And then overloading it with a whole bunch more chocolate.

Year-end roundup is not over yet! Remember when I said something about bunnies being involved? Those cookie cutters didn’t count. We’ve got way more bunny goodness coming up. I am still excited about it, and it’s already over. That’s saying something.

Preventing Cold Feet in the New Year

I ended up knitting a whole bunch of things for various people to put on their feet at the end of the year. I’m not sure how it turned out that way, but these things tend to come in waves.

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First up, my brother didn’t know that he needed handknit socks named after a famous mathematician, but he did.

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These are from the always fabulous Cookie A., sock designer extraordinaire. I have made many of her sock patterns in the past (Ravelry links all, of course), and they are always the perfect combination of technically complicated, fun to knit, and just a little bit nerdy.

These ones in particular, Cauchy, are from her fantastic book Sock Innovation, and they are named after Augustin Louis Cauchy, a French mathematician responsible for the Cauchy-Schwarz Inequality. Therefore, they are covered in tiny stretchy inequality symbols.

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See? Math! In your socks!

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Seeing as my brother and I are math-and-science-minded people, I figured he’d enjoy them.

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I may have upped the geekiness quotient by knitting them out of Berroco Sox in the colorway called Watson. My science brain is still feeling so clever.

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I think he liked them, if his willingness to be a sock model for my silly knitting photo shoot was any indication.

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He’s a pro already.

Next up? Well, Dan needed some socks, too. Some super secret ones.

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I knitted up Longitudinal from Knitty after falling in love with its stripey cleverness.

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You knit your lengthwise stripes on a long circular needle, doing a bit of a modified-magic-loop-technique-sort-of-thing. After a minor setback while learning the cast-on method prescribed, I was off and running.

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I am a sucker for some good squishy garter stitch, and the stripes make it even better. The yarn is Knit One Crochet Too’s Ty-Dy Wool, and although it is a tiny bit splitty, it made for some lovely stripes. I’m a big fan of how slightly imperfect they are.

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Dan is calling them his lizard socks. I like it.

Two warnings, though, before you embark on your lengthwise sock journey yourself. #1? These socks tend to slouch a bit at the ankles. I think it just might be the way of the lengthwise sock, unless you deliberately knit them slightly small to stretch. #2? That Kitchener stitch bind off all the way up the leg to finish? I don’t think that I have ever had such angry thoughts about my knitting as when I was completing that. Usually Kitchener doesn’t bother me one bit, but this is garter-style Kitchener, for what feels like several hundred stitches. It is super easy to get mixed up and skip a step, so just buckle it down, pour yourself a drink, and pay attention. You’ll get through it, you just won’t like it while it’s happening.

Last up? Some plush purple goodness.

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Purple Mukluks for Dan’s mom from Knitting Pure & Simple. (It’s pattern #116, if you’re so inclined. You should be.)

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Knit up in Cascade Pacific Chunky, one of the loveliest wool and acrylic blends out there. Super soft and shiny with gorgeous saturated color. Yum.

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The mukluk shape is created by some very clever short-rowing in the instep. I have used the word clever a great many times during this post. I may need a thesaurus.

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Check out that grafting action.

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I obviously didn’t have to be coaxed to model these ones off. I’m excited to put them in the mail for her soon. She definitely deserves some squishy woolly comfort for the rest of the chilly New Hampshire winter.

If you think that’s the end of my year-end making-of-things, do not fret! I promise that there’s more baking and knitting to come, which may or may not involve chocolate, oranges, and bunnies. I’ll let your imagination work out the rest.

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.

Smells Like the Holidays – Orange Chocolate Granola

Sometimes trying new things ends in disaster.

For instance, yesterday, I attempted to eat a grapefruit. I have never liked grapefruit, but I had really high hopes for this homegrown pink beauty that was given to us with nothing but friendship in mind. Needless to say, it didn’t end well.

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However, sometimes you take a chance on something, and things go so much better than expected.

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Last year, I tried my hand at homemade candies of various types, with mostly positive results (and moderately singed fingers), but I figured this year we’d go a little healthier. And a little safer on the digits.  Granola it is!

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Two different granola recipes from Joy the Baker were the major inspiration for this recipe, but the combination of chocolate and orange is what really screams “holidays” for me.

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Photos for this post provided by Dan, of course, as you can tell by my oh-so-glamorous-and-attractive face here. Seriously, why don’t I have my own cooking show already?

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The orange kick in this granola is provided by copious amounts of orange zest, which will make your kitchen and house smell just as festive as your party favors.

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Hell yes. How can you go wrong with almonds, walnuts, coconut, cocoa powder, and orange zest? You just can’t.

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And then we add honey and butter? Oh my.

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Almost forgot the brown sugar.

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Mix. Mix. Mix.

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Spread. Spread. Spread.

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Resist the urge to eat the pre-baked granola while it’s sitting there being so fragrant and delicious.

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Bake. Bake. Bake. And then stir. Stir.

You only stir twice. Combo breaker!

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Fill up those goodie bags! And then top with a heaping spoonful of mini chocolate chips to make the whole thing even more festive.

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This recipe makes two pans full of toasty granola, which was enough for 11 people to get a healthy breakfast-sized portion.

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Spoon it up on top of some yogurt or ice cream or just eat it by the handful like those of us with no willpower do. Enjoy that chocolate and orange and make the holidays last just a bit longer into the new year!

Orange Chocolate Granola
inspired by Joy the Baker‘s Toasted Almond Granola and Cocoa Almond Granola

4 cups oats
1 cup whole raw almonds
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. salt
zest from 2 large oranges (approx. 2 tbsp.)
2 1/2 tbsp. butter
scant 1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
mini chocolate chips, for topping

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

Mix together all ingredients from oats to orange zest in a large bowl. Make sure that everything is as equally coated with cinnamon and cocoa powder as you can get it and that the zest 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 all the good bits completely covered with sugar. This might take a while. Be patient.

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.

Allow granola to cool completely on the cookie sheets and then break apart. Add chocolate chips here as you transfer your granola to a large airtight container or into individual goodie bags. The more the better.


A super special holiday thanks to all my readers who voted for me in Movita‘s gingerbread throwdown! I felt your love from across the interwebs, and I’m so grateful for all of you! You guys are awesome!

I hope that everyone had a very lovely holiday season, and I wish everyone a very happy new year!

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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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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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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