Hurricane Helix Socks

Hey everybody! Remember when I used to be a blogger?

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Oh hahahaaaa, she’s hilarious. Self-deprecating humor is just the best.

Anyway, grad school has eaten away a large portion of my life this fall, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been making things. In fact, a good knitting and/or crochet project has been by my side the entire semester, keeping me sane when the cavalcade of school and work and school and work is ready to bury me.

After the “Summer of Socks” wound down (and no, I still can’t divulge any details about it yet), I had an awful lot of extra odds and ends of sock yarn lying around. For years now, I’ve been using these scraps to make tiny squares for a project that Dan and I dubbed FutureBlanket. When we still thought that we maybe might have kids one day, we thought all those tiny squares might become a baby blanket.

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However, as years have gone by and we realized that we like our family just the way it is, I’ve just been knitting tons of tiny little colorful squares out of leftover sock yarn to make a blanket big enough for us both to share. One day I’ll lay them all out and see just how big it’s gotten. It’ll be the most beautiful, chaotic, colorful thing I’ve ever made, that’s for sure.

Anyway, my adventures in sock yarn this summer left me with more leftovers than I was used to, either due to the fact that I have a penchant for anklets, or maybe because I got some weird giant skeins. I had way too much beautiful stuff left just to relegate it to tiny squares, but probably not enough to make another pair of socks out of any of them.

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Also, although each skein was beautiful in their own right, they really looked weird together. Each one was its own weird mix of blues and greens, but in much different color temperatures and tones. I thought, there’s surely no way these things could look good together, right?

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HOT DAMN.

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You all know of my love for Grumperina, knitter extraordinaire, and I’ve already waxed poetic about her helical knitting sock pattern in my Triple Helix hat pattern. However, I had never yet taken the plunge and made a pair of helical socks of my very own, using her genius sock recipe.

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I’m not sure what took me so long. Maybe I was afraid of short-row heels? No need, not when you have Laura Chau’s amazing short row heel tutorial to guide the way.

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I mean, just look at those stripes. Knitters dream of achieving this type of random goodness. There are random stripe generators and flipping a coin, and all kinds of other methods, but apparently helical knitting with 3 different disparate colorways, plus one really beautiful solid, is the trick. The yarns that I used here are Prism Saki in Woodlands, last seen in my Woodland Gyllis scarf, Invictus Yarns Beyond in Tranquility, Lorna’s Laces Solemate in Bayou McNeedles (both of which are in super secret projects you haven’t seen yet), and Valley Yarns Huntington in Grey.

Well, I guess I can let you see a little sneak peek of those super secret socks, right?

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Really pretty, right? But you’d never, ever imagine they’d look so good together.

I used the Huntington for the tops, heels, and toes, and I think that’s really the trick to getting all of the colors to mesh together, selecting something that’s just contrast-y enough to let all of those blues and whites pop without muddying up the mix.

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The slight bluish cast to the gray really ties the room together, I think.  These beauties have been named Hurricane Helix due to the fact that I finished the majority of the knitting on the night when the entire city of New Orleans went on lockdown, waiting for the ravages of Hurricane Nate, which never really came.

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If you’d like to make your own the same as mine, I cast on 64 stitches for a women’s large size and knitted 12 rows of 2×2 ribbing at the top before getting going on the stripes. I made sure that the gray was the first color in the stripe rotation so that it always ended up at the beginning of needle 4 at the end of each set of 4 stripes, which ensured it was always in the right place to start the heels and toes. This probably makes no sense now, but it will when you’re knitting the socks, I promise.

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I also used a flat toe construction because that’s my preferred style, but short-row or star toes or whatever else you like would work, too.

So grab your ugliest sock yarn scraps, put them all together with a gorgeous dark solid color, and make yourself some helix socks. You’ll be glad you did.

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Thankful for Pie (somehow pie-less, yet still awesome) 2015 Edition

I guess this recurring post is just the year in review now, instead of a declaration of love for pie, due to the fact that I can’t get my act together around Thanksgiving anymore. (Want to see previous years? 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.) Nevertheless, you can be thankful for things anytime during the year, right? Right.

Also, even though I know for a fact that Dan and I ate a whole ton of pie this year, there are absolutely zero pictures of pie! I know, right, but my crust game was just seriously lacking this year. Have no fear, no matter what, pie is always right up there on the list of things that I am most grateful for.

Here we go.

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January was a bit of a blur, as I was starting my last semester of nursing school. Pancakes and beignets were enjoyed at every available opportunity.

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Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day nearly collided in February. Let me tell you, if you want to see some really unflattering pictures, look through about 100 pictures of me screaming at a parade. I get so serious about absolutely needing some useless pieces of plastic, and I look completely deranged. Anyway, Endymion is one of my favorite parades, so it was great to take some out-of-town friends and act like a maniac just to get a frisbee.

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Ha! I lied! Of course, there has to be pie for Pi Day in March! (Seriously, I completely forgot about this amazing pie until just this moment. Bad, bad baker.) My friend Amanda came up with possibly the greatest pie name ever, Chocolate and Cream and Berries? Oh My! Any pie that has punctuation in its title automatically has my vote.

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April brought with it a lovely scarf with beautiful silver beads, of which I still have approximately 8000 and no ideas for how to use them.

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Also, my last nursing school exam! I had a much-needed old fashioned at the St. Roch Market and resisted the urge to run around dancing in the streets.

May? Oh man, May was busy.

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Graduation Day!

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Valedictorian!

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Party planning!

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Rumchata Ribbon Ice Cream! Let’s be honest. The ice cream was the most important. That, and that lemon and blueberry bundt cake up there was pretty amazing, too.

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I designed and made a pretty cowl, Cowl Before the Storm, and it might just actually be cool enough to wear it today when I go see Star Wars.

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We went to see the Rentals! I got to chat with Matt Sharpe a little bit after the show, and I told him that I played through my cassette tape of Return of the Rentals so many times since age 13 that the ribbon snapped.

Yes, that is a Stay-Puft marshmallow man dancing up there during the show. It’s best left unexplained.

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Also, I dressed up like Fox in Socks at some point. Bright red scrub pants are the bomb.

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Dan and I tried to take June as easy as possible.

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I came home from work after midnight on my birthday to find a chocolate cake surprise from my love, plus new vinyl records!

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We did all kinds of coloring. (Yes, I am aware it is super trendy. No, I do not care. Coloring is awesome.)

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I made these awesome alcohol-drenched cupcakes.

In July, I started my new real-world job.

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I never would have predicted that I could simultaneously experience so many different emotions at one job, in even one hour at one job. My previous job life has been mostly retail and management-type stuff, and the feelings range from frustration to accomplishment, but mostly you just want to hurry up and finish things so you can go home.

Working with these kids has been so different and so eye-opening for me. I get to celebrate their victories, sing along to their favorite movies, comfort them and dry their tears, make crazy faces and make them laugh, be the bad guy with the medicine so that their parents can continue to be their heroes…in the short time that I’ve been there, I’ve experienced profound loss and unmitigated joy side-by-side with these children and their families, and even though I come home from night shift exhausted and generally don’t have any idea what time it is anymore, I can definitely say that I made the right decision to work in pediatrics.

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Plus, the hospital is close to my very favorite snoball stand, so that’s a plus. There are no shortcuts to quality.

At the end of July, my grandmother passed away. I actually found out about this the day before I took my NCLEX nursing license test while simultaneously battling terrible food poisoning brought about by Chinese food shrimp. There was a big mess in my brain for a fairly long time.

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She loved Christmas, and I felt her absence from our table this year strongly.

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Making pretty scarves helps you get through these things, even though it’s August and way too hot outside.

September?

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A trip to Los Angeles to deliver a very special scarf

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…to a very special person.

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I met the love of my life at the wax museum. It was hard to let go.

And then, the Emmys? What?

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I was just as surprised as you, Jamie Lee.

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Such a crazy trip, courtesy of my brother and sister-in-law, who seem to have created a habit of making opportunities for me to get to go do amazing things. You guys are great.

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In October, my baby Bowie had his 8th birthday. Here are some more adorable cat pictures, just because.

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Dang, those cats are cute.

November started with more alcoholic cupcakes.

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There’s still a lot of winter left to make your own RumChata cupcakes, so you should get on that.

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In December, so much blanket knitting (which you all just read about yesterday, right?), plus carouselfies…

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…more beignets and coffee…

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…and a large pack of angry cranes that followed Dan for about 10 minutes, thinking he would share his beignets.

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Plus, super secret work on a super secret project that I am terrible at keeping secrets about. Let’s just say, it involves a certain Avenger with a propensity for wearing patriotic colors, plus his troubled half-robotic-armed friend. That’s pretty vague, right?

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It’s been a year of ups and downs, that’s for sure, and as I looked through all of my pictures, I was struck by how much I didn’t really document things much this year. It just felt like a whirlwind to finally finish school and start a new life in nursing, or perhaps I am also lazy and attracted more to sleep than to putting my life back together again after school.

Now that life is starting to reassemble around my new job, I feel like I’m getting back into the swing of making things. Hopefully, 2016 will be full of pies (and I’ll actually remember to take pictures of them), knitting, hugs, and love, not just for me but for all of you out there. I’m just itching to get out there and make things already, and I can’t wait to show you when I do.

Year-End Thankfulness and Awesomeness Round-Up (or…Thankful for Pie: Damn Fine Cherry Pie Super-Late Edition)

You guys. Like usual, I decided to use all my free time after finishing the semester forgetting that I had a blog to post things on. Whoops.

In order to make up for it, get ready for waaaay too much content.

This year has been for me, as well as for many others in my life, full of ups and downs, and to properly celebrate it (as well as make up for the fact that I completely forgot to do a Thanksgiving post this year, even though I had an exorbitant amount of pie pictures ready to go), I decided to go through all of my pictures from this year and pick out my favorite moments for which I am enormously thankful. Heavily featured? Awesome people and silly situations, plus knitting.

Don’t worry, there’s also pictures of pie. And ice cream. And a whole lot of me, which I normally shy away from, but why else have a blog if you aren’t going to at least take one entry to celebrate how awesome you are, even if you feel as though you make super weird faces in most pictures?

Here we go.

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I made my friend Bailee this giant labor of love early in the year, the sight of which prompted the following amazing text message:

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And can we talk a little bit more about Bailee?

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She moved back home to Mississippi at the beginning of summer, but she is still totally game to drive all the way back in order to sit with me in a movie theater for nine hours to watch all of The Hobbit trilogy.

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I miss her all the time. That girl’s a keeper.

Speaking of Mardi Gras…(I know that’s not right, but how else does one transition solely on photo content?)

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My friend Jonathan orchestrated a lovely surprise for his wife this year when she was riding in a Mardi Gras parade. We dutifully waited for her float in the place where we said we would, and then we ran as fast as we possibly could down the street in order to meet her float and scream at her and receive beads four more times.

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Needless to say, I think that Rebecca was delighted.

You know who else is delightful?

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These guys.

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Best (and probably most photogenic, for sure) cats ever.

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In March, I walked for MS with my spectacular nursing school friend Gaby, who is an inspiration to me in so many different ways. She is always there for me to roll my eyes with and knows that the best way to deal with the seriousness of the health care industry is to have an awesome time and not care at all about what anyone else thinks. She believes in the wisdom and comfort of good coffee, good wine, and pictures of Grumpy Cat, and I am so happy that she is my friend.

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In April, I made banana bread and talked a lot about ASMR right here on the blog, and the outpouring of love and appreciation that I got from friends and blog-buddies alike really knocked me out. I can’t even express how thankful I am for ASMR and all of the wonderful content-creators out there, like Heather Feather and Springbok ASMR and countless others. You guys are so freaking great.

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In May, I threw caution to the wind and wore a wig all day to dress up as Ramona Flowers. I am still proud of myself for not having a panic attack from so much wig and goggle anxiety.

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In June, I made this amazing frozen yogurt from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, and then posted about it on Tumblr. Then, Jeni’s Ice Creams itself actually reblogged it and called it the “official flavor of summer,” and my mind got blown while I watched it get reblogged over a hundred times. I know that those are pretty piddly numbers for most seasoned Tumblr folk, but my brain exploded everywhere for a few hours when that happened. It was awesome.

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Later on that same day when I made that frozen yogurt, I went to my birthday party where lots of really pretty ladies thought it would be fun to grab my boobs. It was.

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And then, at June’s end, Dan and I went to visit my brother and his now-wife in Austin to see Eddie Izzard and give him this handknit squirrel. I’m pretty sure we all know how that went, but I still wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything else. I just hope that Jeff found a good home eventually.

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In July, I made a hat. I just think it’s really pretty.

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Then in August, another hat, plus a published pattern and the highest day ever for views here at jingersnaps. Brain exploded again, you guys. You have no idea how happy that stuff makes me. Someone actually made one of their own in that very first week (want to see? Ravelry link!), and it came out so cute. I was elated. Knitters are seriously the best.

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Oh, and in August, I got free ice cream on my snoball once for absolutely no reason. It was pretty great, too.

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In September, I discovered that I could knit rainbows.

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And my brother got married! I managed to wear makeup and a lovely dress and didn’t spill anything on myself, somehow.

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Plus, Dan and I took lots of picnics and bike rides in the park and along the lake. Can’t you just see the joy radiating from that beautiful man’s face? He loves a good tire swing.

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In October, I invented an extremely boozy cake that made a bunch of people really happy. And tipsy.

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I also met one of my idols, Ms. Joy Wilson from Joy the Baker, and gave her a homemade cat toy. Like you do.

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I actually attended a school function for once, but only because it required wearing a fancy dress and drinking wine in an aquarium. When else would we ever get that opportunity?

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Also in October, my wonderful friend Amanda from Colorado visited New Orleans with her husband, and we had the most amazing time. We managed to somehow visit a record store that was showcasing Mardi Gras Indian costumes when this happened:

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The artist himself actually put that on my head. My face pretty accurately reflects my feelings, both of excitement and of confusion as to how these uber-talented artists can wear these things and dance around the way that they do. Seriously, the headdress alone was nearly 40 pounds.

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We went on a trip through the Honey Island Swamp with them, and then later that same weekend…

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See anything familiar about that headdress? We saw that exact same guy, this time wearing his beautiful handmade costume and leading a second-line down Canal Street. Their time here was pretty astounding. It was like the New Orleans that the commercials make you think always exists, but rarely does outside of Mardi Gras. We saw live music, alligators, and graveyards, plus topped it all off with Sazeracs.

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Oh, and in October, I read a bedtime story to Darth Vader and a Stormtrooper. It was a busy month.

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In November, I met William Joyce! And what a delightful man he was. He really gives a good autograph.

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I feel like December was all about pie. Apple pie for Dan’s birthday. Cherry pie for a super-fun Twin Peaks HD viewing party. (Hence the ‘damn fine pie’ reference in the title.) French silk pie for Christmas, with no pictures unfortunately. Pie is always one of the things that I am thankful for, and this year made me realize just how much people like when you’re around if you can make a good pie.

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In December, actually just a few days ago, I got the opportunity to see Degas’ Little Dancer in person. Degas has been one of my favorite artists for as long as I can remember, and it was a privilege to see such a wonderful and influential part of art history.

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Now that I look at it all together in these fantastic little moments, 2014 was a wonderful year to look back on. Not only do I have some really amazing friends, but you guys reading this are a huge part of my joy, just in case you didn’t get it by now.

I am thankful for everyone reading and everyone crafting and everyone working hard to make things that people will love, regardless of what they are. You should all be so proud of yourselves for creating beautiful things and moments in other people’s lives. Thank you for a lovely year.

Mr. Izzard, I Made You a Squirrel (or…Jeff the Squirrel)

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I love Eddie Izzard. I’m not sure when I saw or heard him perform for the first time, but it was love at first sight/listen. He is the funniest man alive. Everytime I hear someone say that they did something absolutely insane (or when I catch people sleeping in the big squishy chairs at the bookstore), I hear his “like you do” in my head in that wonderful lilt. I also hear his voice whenever I say the word “jam.” I offer “cake or death” at every opportunity. I like my coffee covered in beeeeees. I have declared that the mouse is under the table, the cat is on the chair, and the monkey is on the branch.

Those who aren’t in the know don’t realize that this stuff is hilarious. Story of my life.

Dan gets it, though. He even got me a birthday cake covered in beeeeees.

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See?

My brother also knows about my deep-seated love, and he surprised us with tickets to go and see him in Austin this weekend as my birthday present this year. I may have danced a little when he told me. More than a little. I then concocted a plan that seems extremely similar to a plan that I had last year around the same time: I would knit Eddie Izzard a squirrel and present it to him in some way at his show, just for him to have for no reason. Like you do.

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This little guy is named Jeff (obviously) after Jeff, the god of biscuits, Jeff Vader, Jeff Jeffty Jeff, and all of the other strange Jeffs that find their way into Mr. Izzard’s wonderful stories. (Oh my god, I just saw that they sell an “I’m Jeff Vader” t-shirt on his website. Waaaaaant.)

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He has been interrupted during his frantic acorn eating with distressing thoughts as to whether or not he left the gas on.

Fabulous.

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Twins, yes?

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The pattern for Jeff the Squirrel came from the adorably titled Knit One Squirrel Two by Rabbit Hole Knits, purveyor of all sorts of knitted cuteness. His acorn came from the Spiffy Little Acorn pattern by Revati Poole, also so tiny and adorable. (Ravelry links all, by the by.)

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I think that knitting and sewing on those teeny tiny little ears was my absolute favorite part.

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Making his slightly worried facial expression runs a close, close second.

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And that huge fluffy tail was a great deal of fun as well, even with the ridiculous amount of tiny knots and unwinding of yarn strands involved. The tutorial for this is located here. I had some trouble finding it at first on the main site, so I figured that anyone else who wanted to join in the fun shouldn’t have to waste time searching for it, too. All you need for it is a pipe cleaner and a good movie to watch while you make knots.

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Whenever I see this picture, all I can hear is, “That squirrel is looking at me,” in my best Brian Fellows voice.

This little guy was just a joy to work on, and I was more than a little sad to finish him up. However, I know that he’ll bring joy (or at the very least, delighted confusion) to an all-around fantastic person, which more than makes up for it.

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The only trouble is…how do you manage to give a squirrel to Eddie Izzard? With my David-Sedaris-owl-giving, there was a book signing involved, which made the whole hand-off of the adorable knitted item a lot easier. This is a whole different type of event, a stand-up show in a big theatre…I have no idea how to present him with his squirrel. Ideas have been tossed around like waiting out at the backstage door after the show, speaking to security guards and having them pass it along, passing it hand-over-hand (crowdsurfing the squirrel!) until it reaches the stage…All equally weird and seemingly likely to fail. I’m thinking that I might just send him a tweet linking to this post? I have no idea. I would like to just come off with as little of a hint of stalkerishness as possible.

All I want is for an awesome person to have a handmade gift. And how could you say no to this face?

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You’re right. You can’t.

The Summer So Far? Ice Cream and Muffins!

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Hello there. It’s been a while. I’m afraid that I have been reveling a tiny bit too much in the fact that my semester ended and doing some things that I don’t get a lot of chances to do. Like what, you ask?

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Sitting near lakes during lovely sunsets.

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Having lunch dates with my love. (At Dat Dog, of course. Overloaded hot dogs and Barq’s in the bottle should be the opener for every summer vacation.)

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Knitting a little squirrel for Eddie Izzard. Like you do. (Pattern is the hilariously titled Knit One Squirrel Two, by Rabbit Hole Knits, a lovely little bit of knitting that turns out some very strangely shaped little items. Don’t those tiny squirrel leg/haunches look like drumsticks? And the squirrel body? I can’t even get into that.)

We’re going to see Mr. Izzard in Austin at the end of June as a special birthday treat from my brother and his fiancee. I’m still wondering exactly how I am going to manage to give him a squirrel as I do not have any idea as to whether he is into the whole autograph-and-shaking-hands-with-fans situation after his shows. Anyone have any ideas short of me going on Twitter and telling him that I really want him to have this tiny squirrel, no strings attached? I’m pretty sure that I will be sent to awkward-Twitter-stalker jail for that one.

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Eating frozen yogurt out of cups that depict some sort of crazy dystopian mountains-vomiting-rainbows insanity.

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Listening to the charming words of Mr. Kai Ryssdal, (in person!) everybody’s favorite sassy business radio host.

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Reading Infinite Jest and giggling when I see references to children’s pictures books and M*A*S*H throughout, although I don’t think David Foster Wallace much cared for the antics of Hawkeye and Trapper John (I almost wrote B.J., but I’m pretty sure he was only into the early seasons).

Playing this game with Trip almost every single morning. He crouches in the corner now and waits for me to wake up so that I can get that sunbeam-iPhone-reflection going for him.

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Watching awesome bands and eating crawfish with wonderful friends. (And the Ghostwood even has a new 7″ out called Empty Cosmic Gloom that you should purchase so that you can get your fix of New Orleans pop punk goodness.)

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Causing my right thumb to go numb by X-Acto-ing tiny stencils of popular movie symbology so that I could tattoo them on small children. I do weird things for work sometimes.

Speaking of…

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Dressing up as Ramona Flowers from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World for our Summer Reading Kickoff party at work, where we all dressed as our favorite characters from novels (graphic novels included) that were later turned into films. Dan is responsible for the amazing goggles and war-hammer, and yes, you should be jealous of that fact. This was the first time where I ever got so into a costume that I would consider this ‘cosplaying,’ and it’s weird to think that my first time cosplaying happened on the clock at Barnes & Noble. I had some fairly extreme wig + goggles + tights + combat boots anxiety, but had an awesome time nonetheless. Especially after the event was over and I spent 3 hours at the information desk helping people, being the only person inexplicably in a costume in the entire store. I’m sure I confused some people. Except the people in the graphic novels aisle. I’m pretty sure that I delighted them.

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Making Jeni’s Roasted Strawberry & Buttermilk Ice Cream, from her amazing first book, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home.

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I didn’t get to eat much of it, as it was contributed to a work potluck in the break room, but it was some delicious stuff.

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It was a reason to actually go out and buy buttermilk, something that I do not normally do, even if a recipe tells me to.

Now I am in the situation where I have an awful lot of buttermilk that is going to go bad soon if I don’t use it up (How can you tell if buttermilk has turned, by the way? This is an important question.), so some baking just had to be done. Loaves of banana bread were mixed up and baked, but I still had more left over, so I turned to another old favorite.

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Pinch My Salt‘s delicious Whole Wheat Orange Spice Muffins were a great way to get up early this morning to use up that buttermilk, plus make my whole house smell like oranges, which is always a plus.

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Just one swipe on that grater, and it’s all over for me. I love oranges. I need a more emphatic word than love, but my hands still smell like oranges, and I’m too distracted and enchanted too care.

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Just lovely.

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The oranges are zested and juiced, and then combined with whole wheat flour, flaxseed meal, and some wonderful warm spices.

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I always like this moment right before I whisk together my dry ingredients, when you can see all the different colors and textures. It’s like sand art, in the best sense of the word.

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The wet ingredients are not nearly so attractive unmixed. Or mixed, frankly.

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But chunks of walnut make an appearance as well. I like to keep the chunks fairly large just to make these muffins as rustic and homey as possible.

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I’m going to pretend that that’s also the reason why I don’t smooth out the tops of my muffins, but laziness is probably also a factor in that.

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But look at that gorgeous cracked top! It’s so worth it. The tops of these muffins are sweet and have just the right amount of crunch. The bottoms are moist and orangey and buttery and full of whole wheatiness.

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You can even pretend that they’re still healthy when you dump a bunch of butter on them and enjoy them with some tea on a Friday morning. I have made these muffins countless times, but this is probably the first time with actual honest-to-goodness buttermilk, not fakey whole milk and vinegar kitchen hacks.

There’s only one problem. Even with all of this hearty buttermilk-based baking, I still somehow have buttermilk in my refrigerator. Apparently in Louisiana people must be drinking this stuff, because I can’t think of any reason why I had to buy a whole liter of this stuff. What on Earth am I going to do?

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Oh dear. Summer has only just begun. Someone ask me to make them an ice cream cake, quick.

Friendship + Apples + Almost Famous = Love

I had a test yesterday, but it was hard to concentrate because all I could think about was getting home so that I could make pie.

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After submitting my last answer, I got in the car and flew to the grocery store, where they rewarded me with a free flower and a smile. Hooray for Valentine’s Day!

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Trip doesn’t understand yet that flowers are not to be eaten.

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Dan and I have a bit of a running joke in our house, where if I ever express uncertainty as to what to make, or claim that I am bored during the day, he tells me to make an apple pie for him. No matter what day it is or what occasion might be coming up, you can be sure that Dan wants apple pie. What better day than Valentine’s Day to finally indulge him and make him up a pie? Betty helped out.

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Also, what better day than to hang out with your totally awesome friend Bailee, who will take awesome action shots of the whole pie-making process? None.

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Action!

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(Oh, Bailee, please forgive me for posting this picture, but you cannot possibly understand how much I love it.)

Not only did we make pie, but we also completely embraced our Palentine’s Day, watching Attack the Block, my new favorite British sci-fi action movie (not a packed genre, I know), eating carrots and hummus in an attempt to be healthy before the rest of the day’s festivities, and laughing more than seems healthy at my failed attempts at crust.

Yep, you read that right. There was some spectacular crust failure going on, either from too warm temperatures or too much shortening. Knowing me, probably both. The poor crust was somehow both sticky and crumbly, and just would not get off the countertop and into a pie plate without me losing my mind. Solution?

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Hearts! We broke out the cookie cutters and got to improvising. My original idea was for them to turn out something like this, but we all know that Pinterest can be a real danger zone when it comes to overestimating your own abilities. That said, I think that things looked pretty cute once we got rolling.

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Cute!

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We attracted some attention.

If you noticed earlier, there were two apple pies on my counter. One of these was going to one of Dan’s coworkers, a super nice man named Mike who unfortunately lost his wife this past fall. We wanted to brighten his day by including him in our baked goods rotation for Valentine’s Day, but I wasn’t too sure about the hearts. Solution #2?

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Stars!

Can you tell that Bailee is ridiculously taller than me? It makes these shots that I normally have to stand on a chair to get seem super simple. Anyone else think that she should come and do blog photos all the time? Me too.

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Super messy doughy countertop.

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But look at those pies! Everything got a light eggwash and a sprinkling of sugar before going into the oven.

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The shapes kind of…melted into the apples a bit, so they lost their definition, but I still think that they came out really festive.

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And then you don’t need to say that love is the secret ingredient, because it’s right there on the top, in full view. Love in sugary buttered form.

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I’m sure that no one will be shocked to hear that Dan and I each ate a piece of it before going out for Valentine’s Day dinner.

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It just seemed like the right thing to do.  Even with all the crust failure, it still tasted amazing.  Warm and cinnamon-y and perfect.

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Gifts were exchanged. I got Dan the adorable Zombie in Love, illustrated by one of Dan’s favorite artists, Scott Campbell. He got me one of the original double-sided placards from when Almost Famous came out in theaters.

This is more than just a poster, really. I don’t believe that I have ever told this story before on the blog, so let me tell you about the day that Dan and I met. In 2006, I used to play D&D with a couple of people that Dan lived with. One day, we decided to go over to their house to play a minifigure-type game, and Dan was there, getting ready to watch a movie. He put in Almost Famous, which I had also never seen, and I asked if I could watch it with him. He said that would be great and asked me if I wanted a drink. For the next two hours, he kept asking me questions about the movie and the music, so much that I originally thought that he wasn’t really paying much attention to the movie for some reason. He later told me that he was doing this intentionally to get me to talk to him.

Cue the “awwww.”

About a week later, he showed up at a piano bar when my friends and I went out, and we spent our time together making origami napkin animals and flowers at the end of the table. We started dating a week later and have been inseparable ever since. Ever since that night, Almost Famous has been our movie. We even plan to name our first child (if FutureBaby ever becomes a reality) William, because William Miller is the name of the main character. Yes, we are dorks. But it means a lot. Hearing that Philip Seymour Hoffman died a few weeks ago really hit me where it hurts because he is responsible for one of the most wonderful moments in that movie. In movies period, really.

Sigh. I’m getting sad about it again just writing about it. Let’s look at a picture of a tiny owl instead.

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He also got me a tiny owl. It’s pretty great.

After the pie, we got ourselves all fancied up…

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…and went to one of my favorite places.

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Tujague’s is a New Orleans institution. It’s super old, and super dedicated to doing things the way they’ve always done them. An oak bar that’s over a hundred years old with cloudy glass, cracked terrazzo tile, white tablecloths, and prix fixe. It’s one of my favorite places.

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Then there was a lovely walk in the French Quarter, just to round out the evening. There would have been coffee at Café du Monde, if we felt as though there was any more rooms in our stomachs, thanks to crawfish gnocchi, corn and crab chowder, amazing steak and shrimp, and caramel cheesecake. And the apple pie we ate before we left, of course.

But, hey! It was Valentine’s Day! We’re allowed to be ridiculous and share our love of food along with our love of each other, right?

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Thanks so much to Bailee for her awesome pictures and fabulous company on this very lovely of Pal/Valentine’s days! I hope that all of you had a wonderful time yourselves and got to spend some quality time with the people and things that you love, like I did.

Oh, and I love you guys, too. Don’t forget that.

Dan made a scarf. And then he made it look cool.

I have no idea how long ago it was now, at least 4 years ago probably, but one day Dan decided that he wanted for me to cast on some stitches for him so that he could make a scarf. He had been attending my knitting-and-socializing-while-eating-ice-cream-and-sandwiches group every week for months without a project of his own, and since he had already been taught how to knit, and could surely be taught how to purl, then he could definitely make himself a scarf.

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On Tuesday, that scarf officially became a reality.

During this past week, New Orleans…shut down. There was snow and ice in the forecast, and we apparently have absolutely no idea how to handle such things, so we were stuck inside with just our cats, our Scrabble board, our extensive collection of ridiculous movies, and our knitting to entertain us for two whole days.

I don’t know how we survived.

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(Look at that lovely even tension! Can any of us say that our first scarves looked anything as nice as this? I certainly can’t, that’s for sure.)

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In true Dan fashion, he just took whatever random balls of yarn I had left over from a project and made them into something effortlessly cool. Remember his freehand pumpkin masterpiece? It was something like that, just spread out over several years’ time.  He doesn’t really ever have a plan, and he doesn’t really ever care. He just makes cool stuff. Those of us who have to try really hard to be cool (and fail most of the time) will always be in awe of this talent.

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He decided that it should be 1×1 ribbing.  I taught him how to purl.  He decided at some point that it should have some big color block stripes. Just on the side. For no good reason.  We made it happen.

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And it’s genius. It reminds me of racing stripes in the best way possible.

We took the scarf out today in the now mid-60 degree weather (it makes absolutely no sense to me how 62 degrees is possible two days after 20 degrees, but thinking about it too hard will make my brain hurt), and pretended that it was cold enough to wear.

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I think I’ll call this one, “Dan with Bird House.” He’s such a great model.

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No, seriously, he really is. And I can tell that he’s really pleased with his work (even though, let’s all be fair, this is about 3% Jinger since I did cast on, bind off, and block this for him, plus teach him how to knit in the first place…maybe let’s even call it 5%), even though he’d never admit it.

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He just looks super cool.

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And helps the rest of us look cool by default.

Good job, babe. I’m proud of you. Now make me one, or I’m going to steal it.

Why didn’t anybody tell me pumpkin seeds were so good?

If you read that title in your best Mel-Brooks-in-Spaceballs-voice in your head, we should be friends.

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I have only ever carved a pumpkin once before in my life. And I have only ever attempted to roast pumpkin seeds once before in my life. These were two separate occasions, however. The pumpkin carving occurred during high school, where I chose a very tall and slender pumpkin during a pumpkin patch trip, and I carved a cartoon bunny face into it. Looking back, this choice does not make much sense. Roasting pumpkin seeds was similarly nonsensical. I attempted to make pumpkin pie from scratch (instead of from my beloved can of Libby’s), and I ended up with strangely stringy pumpkin pie and a kitchen that smelled like burning because just throwing pumpkin seeds in the oven until I thought they might be “done” was apparently not the greatest idea.

I might not be so great at Halloween, you guys.

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When Dan brought home two huge pumpkins after work one day, I was determined to up my Halloween cred and give both a second try. I went and bought a cheapy pumpkin carving kit, got a suitably spooky idea in my head, and we got to work.

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Someone thinks that he is my muse.

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The first hole! Is it lame to say that I was intimidated? Or just my use of the word lame?

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The first cuts weren’t so bad, plus they lead the way to the glorious bounty inside.

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Ew. I don’t know if I’ve explained this before on the blog, but I have a real problem with my hands being dirty for an extended length of time. Especially sticky-type dirty. Which you’d think would not be an issue for someone who bakes all the time and regularly sticks her hands into glue and paint and various craft supplies. There’s a big difference, let me tell you.

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Crafting and baking usually involve a very limited amount of wet hands time, and if your hands need to be dirtied while painting and drawing, chances are it’s dry stuff and smudges. No big deal. Plus, my mom got me some fun cinnamon-scented scrubby handwash for the kitchen that takes butter off your hands like it’s going out of style, and that makes baking messes infinitely more tolerable. Pumpkin carving is a whole different ball game. Cutting into that pumpkin ensures you at least 45 minutes to an hour of sticky scraping and grabbing slippery pumpkin seeds and guts, and frankly, typing about it now is still giving me the heebie-jeebies.

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Let’s just say that I am proud of myself. And that I made a big awesome sticky mess, and I was totally okay with it.

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Now with the carving. I followed all the directions as well as I could (and are we really that surprised?). I taped on my drawing.

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I pounced.

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This was so much harder than I thought it would be. I felt like I was going to break that tiny plastic wheel with the fierceness of my determination. I can’t imagine what this is like with a design with lots of tiny curved lines. Do those talented people just freehand it onto the pumpkin instead? Inquiring minds need to know.

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I carved extremely slowly with a very tiny delicate saw.

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I watched the pumpkin bucket fill up with alarming amounts of seeds and guts and realized that I should have kept the seeds separate.

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I watched Dan, with his typical ease, freehand and attack his pumpkin with gusto while I flitted around trying to make things “correctly.” He definitely had the right idea.

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I was rewarded! Look at that little cat!

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Spooky cat. Our crazy tiny cat, Trip, has been immortalized. Sort of.

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Dan’s scary pumpkin face. The man definitely has me beat, Halloween-wise.

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We kept them lit on the kitchen table and enjoyed them while the cats inspected them and decided that they smelled funny and were scary. Here comes the slightly sad part. During the weekend that we displayed these on our porch, our slightly cool weather heated up again. Now I know from experience that carved pumpkins are not meant to survive in 80 degree weather. They melted themselves into a weird orange pile of goo within 4 days. Sadness all around.

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At least we got good pictures.

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But we’re not done yet! I had another Halloween hurdle to clear, and this one was much more successful. I spent an agonizingly long amount of time getting all of the pumpkin gunk off of those precious seeds and got to work.

The perfect pumpkin seeds recipe from Oh She Glows came in handy in showing this wayward pumpkin seed roaster the way. First things first, I refrigerated the pumpkin seeds for a day, mostly because I had no time to bake that particular night, but also because it helped those last little bits of pumpkin goop to fall away as I was getting prepared.

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The seeds were boiled up in some salty water, to increase potential crispiness.

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Then they got mixed up in some olive oil, sea salt, and paprika.

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And now, since nothing really ever works properly around here, was where the trouble came. For some reason, my pumpkin seeds took forever attain their perfect roasted crunchiness. In the original recipe, things seem to take only about 20 minutes, but mine took maybe twice as long, even though I followed all of the other instructions to the letter. Perhaps my oven’s temperature is not terribly accurate. Perhaps the moon was full. Perhaps my seeds were not dry enough. Who knows?

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What I do know is that we ate them up so quickly is that there was no time to get a suitable picture. I brought them to school and work, and the friends who sampled them gave them rave reviews. I had never eaten a proper roasted pumpkin seed before, but now I might be hooked. They tasted like something between popcorn and the really delicious brown chewy bits of a fried egg. They were delicious, and now they are gone.

And now I need to somehow get some more without having to scrape out another pumpkin.

Is my Halloween reputation redeemed?

Indulge in some Honey Almond Peach Oatmeal. And then go back to whatever relatively unimportant thing you were doing before.

I’m taking a few precious minutes out from writing a theoretical care plan about a patient with acute exacerbation of chronic heart failure to tell you guys something really, really important.

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Life is better when you eat fancy oatmeal.

When I was a kid, fancy oatmeal meant being able to microwave my own packet of crappy pre-made stuff in an envelope all by myself, especially if it was the kind that came with that little weird jelly packet that you could draw your own designs with.

Now that I am an adult, I have gone past the phase of thinking that oatmeal is disgusting, and I am right back on the oatmeal train. Dan and I will frequently eat oatmeal for dinner if we are at a loss of things that we want to put in our mouths that actually exist in our house. And with all the work and school and hospital-experience nonsense that’s happening around here, it’s nice when you know you’ve got that canister in the pantry waiting for you.

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This weekend, we actually had a free morning together, so the oatmeal preparations got a little bit fancier than our standard nuts and honey fare.

Clockwise from the top left-left hand corner we’ve got some quick-cooking oats, some old fashioned oats (because I need my oatmeal to have some tooth to it, no mushy grossness for me), coconut, oat bran, cinnamon, raw sunflower seeds, and raw almonds. All pretty standard stuff around here.

But where does the “honey” and “peach” part come in?

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There we go. A fresh, ripe peach got thinly sliced, and honey was drizzled onto our nutty oatmeal goodness.

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Yes it was. Now, at this point, we got a little bit of attention from some hungry animals.

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I think it’s fair to say that your oatmeal is going to be really good when tiny cats want to know what you are up to on top of that counter.

Boiling water got poured on top, and then…

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Bam! Oatmeal! Of course, some stirring and delicate perfect placement of peach slices happened, too, but we don’t need to get into that.

Want to make some? I figured.

—–

Honey Almond Peach Oatmeal

Ingredients:
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup old fashioned oats
1 tbsp. sweetened shredded coconut
1 tbsp. oat bran
1 1/2 tbsp. raw sunflower seeds
small handful of raw almonds
several generous shakes (I suppose that’s technically a dash) of ground cinnamon
1 tsp. honey
1/2 large peach, thinly sliced
boiling water (electric kettles are awesome for this exact purpose)

Directions:
Combine all of your oatmeal ingredients (except for the peach!) in a medium-sized bowl while you are waiting for your kettle to boil up your water. Pour boiling water over the top of your oatmeal to cover, and stir thoroughly. Use less water for some really sticky, thick stuff (that’s the way I like it) or more water if you’re into the creamy texture. The oatmeal should absorb the water fairly quickly, in 2-3 minutes.

Dan will often splash some whole milk into his oatmeal right here to make it even creamier. I am not on-board for the whole milk-in-my-oatmeal thing because I want it to be really thick and sticky, but I can see how it would be completely delicious. Milk is optional, but if you’re into it, go for it. It makes him super happy, if that’s any indication.

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Slice up your peach, and lay it on top. Arrange it in a pleasing fashion if you plan to take pictures or if you’re a big weirdo like me.

Now, when you’re eating it up, be sure to get some pieces of cool, fresh peach in with your sticky, gummy oatmeal so that you can fully experience the joy of having fancy oatmeal breakfast.

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Try to resist licking the bowl. It might be hard.

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A Pizza Masterpiece – Jinger & Dan’s Ultimate Hawaiian Pie

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Dan and I are both very opinionated people, especially in the kitchen, so sometimes it’s hard for us to make dinner together. Usually one of us cooks while the other person sits at the kitchen table and keeps the conversation going. For certain dishes, we each have our roles, one person doing prep like chopping vegetables and making sure the pans are clean, and the other person mixing and stirring.

However, for pizza, all of these rules go right out of the window. Pizza, in our kitchen, is a collaborative art. It is an event. It is a chance to eat more pepperoni while creating the pizza than actually ends up on the pizza, most of the time.

This time, Dan was responsible for picking our overall topping theme, and we think that we came up with a thing of beauty that needs to be shared. Jinger & Dan’s Ultimate Hawaiian Pie.

I’ll just let you take in the majesty of that name for a second. Here we go.

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First, we start with the Easiest Pizza Dough in the World from everybody likes sandwiches, the only pizza dough that you ever really need to know how to make ever again. There’s no need for tons of rising time or pre-planning. You get the idea to make pizza, and with this dough, you can have it in about 40 minutes, with the perfect chewiness on top and cornmeal crispiness on the bottom. Right on. Jeannette’s a genius.

We doctored up the crust just a tiny bit with some oregano and basil sprinkled in there, just for some added flavor. Brush on some olive oil and cover it up with some tomato sauce.

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Now, put mozzarella on that pizza, if you’re into that sort of thing. Dan doesn’t like cheese (crazy, I know), so this went only on my side. Feel free to make fun of him in the comments and tell him how awesome cheese is. I certainly do.

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Then comes the really good stuff. Thinly sliced sweet Vidalia onions, sweet orange bell pepper, delicious fresh pineapple, and some maple-cured breakfast sausage links. Yep. Maple breakfast sausage. I know it sounds weird, but it was a revelation. The maple flavor just adds to the sweetness, and the acidity of the pineapple and tomato sauce cuts through with a delicious tangy finish.

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Dan added a bit of finely diced jalapeno to his side, but he is much, much more adventurous than me in terms of the spicy stuff.

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Now, I know people might be thinking that this is sacrilegious, that a Hawaiian pizza is strictly ham and pineapple, but we’ve got a special ingredient that makes this undeniably Hawaiian, at least in the origin of its ingredients.

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Black lava sea salt is some seriously delicious stuff. We sprinkled some on top after the toppings were done, and every time you encounter one of those little black crystals, the saltiness cut through, making the sweetness even more apparent, similar to the effect of salted caramel or hot chocolate. This particular salt has a certain something to it, as well, that’s difficult to place in the flavor department. We rarely put salt on anything, but the black lava sea salt has a savoriness to it (would you call that umami?) that regular table salt or sea salt just doesn’t have. It’s salty, yes, but serves more to enhance flavor than cover it up. It’s great stuff. Plus, you can get your own right here, no trip to Boulder required.

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The sprinkling of black lava salt was accompanied by some pepper as well, and some dried rosemary on my side, from our long-dead, but still fondly remembered, awesome rosemary bush, a casualty of last year’s Hurricane Isaac. It still lives on in my heart, though, and in several small spice jars.

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Ready for the oven.

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And done! The miracles of the internet.

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And it was delicious. We had a moment where we both looked at each other and nodded acknowledgement of this fantastic creation, even pausing Pitch Perfect for a second to tell each other how good we thought it was. Dan’s not usually into stuff that’s too sweet, but he was so into this that he ate his entire half of the pizza that night.

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I showed remarkable restraint in leaving myself a piece for another day’s lunch. A rare moment.

Jinger & Dan’s Ultimate Hawaiian Pie

for the Crust: go here and follow the recipe for the Easiest Pizza Dough in the World, adding 2-3 healthy shakes of dried oregano and basil (approx. 1/2 -1 tsp) instead of the dried rosemary in at the end, then feel awesome about yourself for making such freaking great pizza crust.

Toppings:
olive oil (for brushing the crust)
approximately 1/2 – 1 cup of tomato sauce (we went with Prego’s Chunky Garden sauce because it has big chunks of sweet tomato)
1/2 – 1 cup of grated mozzarella cheese (depending on who’s eating cheese and who is crazily not eating cheese)
1/2 sweet yellow, orange, or red bell pepper, thinly sliced
medium sweet Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
4 maple breakfast sausage links, sliced into small coins (we like Pederson’s Natural Farms from Whole Foods)
approximately 8 oz. of fresh cubed pineapple, thinly sliced
jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced (completely optional)
black lava sea salt, pepper, and dried rosemary to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prep your awesome pizza dough.

After pressing your prepared pizza dough into your pan, brush lightly with olive oil. Spread tomato sauce evenly over crust, and then add toppings all over the place. Add spices to taste. What great directions I am giving you.

Place in oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, until sausage is browned and a bit crispy on the edges, cheese is bubbly, and crust is golden brown.

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Slice it up and eat it, but try not to burn your mouth from jumping in too fast. Try not to eat the whole thing. You’re welcome.