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.

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Squirrel Updates? Well…

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First things first. A boy, and a girl, and a squirrel went on a road trip from New Orleans to Austin.

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The squirrel, we’ll affectionately call him Jeff (because that is his name), was a little confused.

He didn’t know that he was being transported over to his new future owner, the amazingly funny Mr. Eddie Izzard.

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“Who’s this guy?”…he seemed to say. He was about to find out.

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My brother and his fiancée gave us a wonderful experience to celebrate my birthday this year: tickets to see Eddie Izzard’s new show, Force Majeure. Jeff was packed up into a lavender tote bag and carted off to the show, where he got a fantastic seat.

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The squirrel’s perspective might leave a little too much to the imagination. Here:

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Just imagine a fabulous man in a fancy suit, complete with top hat and umbrella standing right in front of that and being incredibly funny. That’s what it was like. (We are good little rule-abiding audience members, and we didn’t do any illegal picture-taking or recording during the show, so this is as good as it gets.) Make sure you add in the fact that I was smiling so hard that my face hurt. And clapping. And giggling like a lunatic. And really appreciating how many times the name Jeff got dropped.

Now, we need to back up just a little bit. Upon arriving at the venue, I made sure to find a responsible- and kind-looking usher-type security person so that I could ask them the best way to make sure that Jeff the Squirrel got to Eddie Izzard. All of the ladies I spoke to were extremely kind as I got sent higher and higher up the ladder of responsibility. My final conversation took place with a lovely woman who told us that he would be conducting a Q&A session in the lobby about 15 minutes after the show, and that she figured that the best time to see if I could get it to him would be then. We thanked her profusely and then walked into the theatre to enjoy the show.

And enjoy it we did. The man does not disappoint. He even threw out a bunch of callbacks to older bits, particularly lots of references to the Death Star Canteen (click it up for Lego interpretation hilarity), much to my happiness. He is, quite possibly, the only man in the world who can make a whole theatre full of people laugh while talking about human sacrifice. And for that, I adore him.

After the show ended, the audience began to travel to the lobby and condensed around the stairs, much to my chagrin because I am a very short person. Everyone was extremely eager to get photos and videos of the Q&A session, probably because documentation was not allowed during the actual show.

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I was a little bit closer than this (Dan stayed off to the side in order to avoid the crush), but when you are not much taller than five feet, it’s very hard to make yourself noticed, even if you have a squirrel.

I had done my best on the days preceding the show to alert Mr. Izzard to the fact that I would be bringing him a handmade gift to the Austin show, but I didn’t receive any response, not really to my surprise.

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I am aware that most famous people with social media, especially extremely busy touring comedians who are also training for a marathon and preparing for a political career (Seriously. He is amazing.) probably do not do much of this for themselves. Either that, or they might not think that I am all that amusing, but I’d rather not think about that too much. All the same, I was hoping that he got the message and that it might have been slightly memorable enough to get through.

Unfortunately, it did not. I attempted to hold up Jeff in his lavender tote bag at every opportunity for question-asking, but was not really noticed, as far as I could tell. After the session was over, he was out of there fairly quickly, and I found my way over to the same super nice security-lady that I had spoken to before. However, this time, she handed Jeff the Squirrel off to a rather unsmiling man with an official-looking security headset. Even though he assured me that he would definitely pass him along, I got the feeling that there was yet another man in Austin who was not terribly amused by me or my handknit-animal shenanigans.

So Jeff went off into the ether, and I, ridiculously, had not enclosed any information with him as to my name or the name of my blog.

I know. I am terrible at self-promotion, apparently. I did send out another message into the Internet and directly to Eddie Izzard about Jeff’s fate, but I have not yet received any sort of response.

Cue the sad trombone.

That’s not to say that the whole trip ended up on such a blah note. Dan and I had a really great time, mostly stuffing all of Austin’s various food offerings into our faces, if my iPhone photos are any indication.

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Mexican food.

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Italian food. (I am such a sucker for anything with a completely obvious label, especially if it’s edible.)

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Argentinian food.

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Ice cream food. (I just typed ‘ice cream good’ on accident. This is the truth. Amy’s double chocolate chip with Reese’s peanut butter cups. I didn’t want to leave this place.)

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And some of the most delicious sushi ever set in front of me.

Plus, I made rice pudding for my brother and his fiancée…

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And assisted in harvesting some okra, which are now sitting in my fridge, waiting for me to pickle them. I am so excited.

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Can we talk for a second about how beautiful okra flowers are? I had no idea. I want to fill my whole backyard with this stuff.

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I also received another amazing present, my very first manicure and deluxe pedicure experience, from my brother’s fiancée. I had only ever gotten a manicure once before, during my freshman year in college, and the lady doing it pretty much spent the entire time yelling at me about the state of my cuticles, so we’re just going to say that it doesn’t count. I had such a wonderful time being pampered, because it is certainly not something that I would ever have thought to do for myself. Anyone else in the healthcare field knows how much nursing can tear up your hands, and I felt (and still do even later!) super special and suddenly very ladylike. I took the opportunity to show it off and admire the teal against my newest pair of socks (details to come later).

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So? The final verdict? I can only hope that Jeff made it to his final destination safe and sound with Eddie Izzard. If not, I hope he ended up with someone who thought he was cute and will take care of him and that he didn’t get thrown in the trash. I’m going to try my best to not let the uncertainty get to me, because it was such a lovely trip and a wonderful present to receive.

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I will definitely not let any of this experience change my mind about knitting tiny animals for people who mean a great deal to me, especially if they are famous people. I am aware that it is a strange thing to do, but I feel that there are way weirder things to be known for on the Internet. I can only hope that they get to their owners eventually.

Maybe next time.

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.

Five years training. Hard, hard work. Night school. Pilot. Chocolate Biscuits.

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Is there anything more lovely than cookie-makings in the strainer, waiting to be sifted?

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Here are the beautiful beginnings of everybody likes sandwiches‘s Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies, all sifted and ready to go. As you’ll soon be able to see, here’s also where the realistically-colored pictures come to an end.

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All that dark cocoa makes my camera’s contrast go crazy, resulting in delicious cookies that are particularly hard to photograph.

Here again I used my new cookie scoop to get more uniformly-sized cookies. The dough for these cookies is fairly loose and hard to shape, due to the oil involved, so the less touching, the better.

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The original recipe also calls for flattening the dough into discs, but I’ve found that makes for very thin cookies that don’t hold much jam. And we want these babies to be full of jam. Packed. So again, I try to touch them as little as possible.

You first bake the cookies about halfway, and then take them out, use your 1/2 teaspoon measure to make indentations in them (because you used your thumb the first time you made them years ago, and the lingering memories of scalding hot cookie dough make you eager not the make that mistake again), and fill them up with jammy goodness.

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You also have to hold very still and stay on that shutter button to get a picture of this in time-lapse style, just because. We usually use raspberry jam, but since strawberry was what was on hand, it was going right in.

I also can’t keep typing the word jammy without thinking of this bit of brilliance from Eddie Izzard:

I wish that there was the original version of this somewhere, but the Fisher Price one will have to do. Just imagine everything coming out of the mouth of a British man in fantastic makeup, having a hankering for chocolate biscuits. It’s about 2:04ish when he starts raving about jammy dodgers, but do give a listen to the whole thing (otherwise my title for this post makes absolutely no sense).  He does love his jam.

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With a multi-step process like this, having two ovens helps. I thought it was a bit odd at first that my parents chose to go with both a gas and an electric oven, but while cookie-making (and I’m sure during Thanksgiving and Christmas preparations), I have a deeper understanding and appreciation. I can have some cookies on their first go through the oven while prepping the next for the second step, all at once.  It’s quite exciting.  However, multiple timers going off all at once does nothing to help the sanity.

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After that second trip in the oven, the jam molds itself into the cookie, turning the entire thing into a wonderful sweet treat that tastes like brownies and summertime.  These are Dan’s favorite cookies (and probably favorite baked good, next to pumpkin pie, that I make at all), and usually when I’m making them, I just tell him that I’m making his cookies.

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The obligatory bite-out-of-the-cookie shot. Look at that.

And the fact that I obviously need to redo my nail polish.

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For the whole of the week, I’ve been looking forward to coming home from work/school and cozying up to a little plate of this jammy happiness with some milk…

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…some craftiness…

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…and the dreamy, sad eyes of Josh Charles kicking serious ass on Sports Night.

I’m on the last disc, and that makes me a bit misty.

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There’s always some casualties when making thumbprint cookies, usually from pushing too far through the dough when making the little jam wells. However, the whole texture this time was a bit off for some reason. My cookies didn’t really set quite as well as usual, resulting in really soft brownie bites rather than denser cookies. I’m not sure if I made a mistake in doubling the recipe (because how could you not double this up?), or if it’s just the altitude shift (since I’ve only ever made this recipe in Colorado). They still taste delicious, though, so I’m in no hurry to find the ‘problem,’ if you could even call it that.

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Nope. No problems here.