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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Elegant Deception with Joy the Baker’s Cinnamon Sugar and Dark Chocolate Croissants

On Saturday, I spent a ridiculous amount of time outside in a park in the cold, selling children’s books and running around and meeting authors with absolutely nothing knitted to present to them (I know. I’m ashamed of myself enough for everyone, don’t worry.) Then, I decided that the best thing to do (instead of sitting down with hot tea and studying and going to bed early, like a normal person would do) would be to spend my evening making chocolate-filled croissants to give to my co-workers at 7 am the next morning.

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I am full of great ideas. Especially if they involve egg wash and extreme amounts of cinnamon and sugar.

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It had already been a MONTH since I got Joy the Baker‘s new cookbook (and blogged all about how I made her a cat toy), and I still hadn’t made anything from it. I clearly need to sort out my priorities.

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There is an excellent recipe in Homemade Decadence that really embraces the title to me, the Cinnamon Sugar and Dark Chocolate Croissants. In this recipe, we can pretend that we are together enough in our lives to be able to whip up puff pastry at a moment’s notice, simply by purchasing boxes of puff pastry and defrosting them a few hours before we want to make croissants.  Such elegant deception.

I ran into a bit of a problem here, as the puff pastry did not want to defrost. Apparently, in addition to my oven being a lying liar and not being nearly as hot as it claims to be, my refrigerator must also be much, much colder than it should be. I let these puff pastry sheets defrost for 3 hours, and they still had ice crystals and folded creases that made them split into 3 sections, rather than the 4 that Joy wanted me to cut them into.

I felt personally responsible for the obstinance of these damn puff pastry sheets, as though I was letting Joy and the entire blogging and somehow Barnes & Noble family down by not being able to control the thawing time of butter and flour. It gets weird in my head sometimes.

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Life snapped back into focus, and I decided to roll with it and made a 3×3 sheet to get 18 slightly smaller croissants than the 4×2 sheet described. Well, smaller croissants are better than no croissants, as the time-worn saying goes.

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And aren’t they adorable?

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I swear that I wasn’t deliberately trying to flip off the camera in that one.

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Before and after. I really enjoyed how neat and tidy and efficient the pastry-rolling process made me feel.

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Basically, the idea here is that a layer of cinnamon and sugar is sandwiched between 2 sheets of flaky puff pastry, which are then cut into triangles and rolled around dark chocolate chunks to form a flaky, crunchy, sweet chocolate delivery device, perfect for adding to a breakfast buffet line. Cutting them out, rolling them up, and sprinkling them with cinnamon, sugar, and sea salt makes you feel super fancy, which is a big bonus in my book.

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Then, you put them into your lying, cheating oven and bake them until they are done (which in the real world is somewhere between 12-15 minutes, and in my kitchen topped out at 21-24…I need an oven thermometer for Christmas, you guys. It will prevent me from dismantling the thing with a screwdriver and malice in my heart).

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Look how cute they are!

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Flaky and brown and crisp on top. Dang, you fancy, mini-croissant.

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I had to sample one, of course. To make sure it was not burnt. It’s a chef’s thing.

(If you can place that movie quote, we need to hang out.)

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Lots of flaky layers and creamy chocolate inside. Hooray!

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Unfortunately, it was gone in seconds. Slightly longer, maybe, because I was taking pictures. To add to the pain, I wasn’t allowed to have anymore because they had to make an appearance at an event the next morning.

I’m definitely going to do this again, and maybe only make 4 giant croissants, filled with chocolate or almond paste. That would certainly be decadent, and I would go out of my way not to share with anybody. That would certainly be the mature thing to do. You should all go out and buy Homemade Decadence and do the same.

I met Joy the Baker and gave her an eggroll. True story.

On Tuesday, Joy the Baker had a book-signing here in New Orleans before she started on her book tour for her new offering, Homemade Decadence.

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No one who reads this blog, or reads any food- or baking-oriented blog (or maybe any blog ever) should be surprised to know that I have a fairly serious girl-blog-crush on Joy the Baker. Doesn’t everyone? She makes absolutely beautiful food, blogs about her mistakes, has a feisty orange cat, and rocks cool tattoos and glasses. She might be who I want to be when I grow up (and perhaps who my blog personality thinks that I actually am), even though she is only 1 year older than me. She just recently moved here in January, and I am so glad that she’s here in my hometown to enjoy the food and weirdness along with us, although I am extremely jealous of the amazing morning light she gets in her French Quarter kitchen.

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For her book-signing, I decided to continue my self-imposed tradition of bringing small knitted objects to famous people that I feel have influenced a part of who I am. Perhaps you might remember when I gave David Sedaris an owl? Or attempted to bring Eddie Izzard a squirrel? Well, this time I decided to bring Joy the Baker a present, but it was for her lovely orange cat, Tron-Cat, who makes the occasional appearance on her blog and whom I decided needed a little bit of knitted love.

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Unfortunately, I made this decision on early Tuesday morning, and then had to wait until I was finished with class, and forced myself to rush home as fast as possible to knit an eggroll. That’s right, an eggroll with catnip. The pattern is from the Spring 2003 issue of Knitty, Feline Dim Sum by Julie Falatko, and it is so freaking cute that I can’t stand it.

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I love how that picture of the wonton toy stuffed with catnip looks so illicit up there.

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I had previously used this pattern in 2004 to make some little toys for my brother’s cat, Chunky, and it was only about 5 minutes before she discovered how to bust open the eggroll and regale herself in catnip all over the floor. Slight adjustments had to be made.

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It’s only catnip! I promise!

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In order to keep things super secure in there, I first stitched down the flap as instructed, although I did it extremely crookedly for some reason. Let’s chalk it up to nerdy excitement and being pressed for time.

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Then I tacked down the corners of the top of the flap, just for good measure, running the yarn along the top for a few stitches…

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…then pulling it back down and tying it into a knot…

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…and finally threading the ends through the middle of the stuffing to hide them. I left all of the ends long inside there in order to prevent any accidental, or cat-rage influenced, unravellings.

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Then, it got a label and was photographed. Notice how I suddenly had the presence of mind to let the recipient of one of these gifts know my name and the name of my blog? After the Eddie-Izzard-and-Jeff-the-Squirrel debacle, I’m never not shamelessly self-promoting again. I managed to get everything done in 2 hours and 15 minutes, with just enough time to pick up Dan and head to the bookstore.

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I’m pretty sure that this is the moment when I said, “I have a present that I made for you, but it’s not only for you. It’s for your cat.” Notice the adorable confusion? This was the intended effect.

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She told me that I couldn’t possibly be for real, but she seemed delighted all the same.

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I know that I was.

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She was also super funny and adorable in person, just as I suspected. I managed to keep my fangirl-type tendencies in check as much as possible, and somehow didn’t embarrass myself or trip over my shoes the entire time. A triumph of the human spirit.

And can we talk about this amazing book? It’s got so much fantastic stuff in it (so many ice cream recipes!) that I haven’t even been able to properly absorb it yet. My winter break from school will certainly be filled with delicious things because of this wonderful lady. Joy, thanks so much for being lovely, too. Don’t ever stop making people happy. Good advice for everyone, really.

If Life Gives You Lemons, Make Arnold Palmers

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As soon as the weather starts to seem even the slightest bit warmer, my thoughts tend to drift to lemons.

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(Want to know the best part about using your phone to take kitchen pictures because your boyfriend left the camera in his truck and then left for work? You have no idea how out-of-focus they are until you are all done! Hooray! Sorry, guys.)

When I was a child, I hated anything lemon-flavored. Lemon bars? Lemonade? I wanted nothing to do with it. Yellow candies of all kinds were not to be trusted (I’m looking at you, yellow Starburst).

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I was obviously deranged. Now, in my dotage, I have realized that lemons are the most delicious things that you can get from a tree. You can dress them up and make them super sweet and fancy when you add butter and sugar, or you can leave them in their tangy, sour perfection with just the addition of some black iced tea. That’s right! We’re making lemon cookies and Arnold Palmers today because the heater hasn’t had to come on in at least two weeks, and it’s going to be such a fabulous lemony kick to the face that you will definitely be thanking me later.

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The lemon cookie recipe comes courtesy of the always-delightful Jeannette at everybody likes sandwiches. I remember reading it when it first was published in 2007 and heading out to the store to buy lemons that very moment. Since then, I have made them more times than I can count, even once sending them cross-country to sit in for me during a game of D&D.

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See? Hipster food-blog-follower cred! I seriously wrote it down on an index card (!), back when her blog was still at BlogSpot. How very quaint of me and my purple Sharpie. This was before Pinterest, people, when I wrote everything down or spent long hours with my printer and bookmarks, making huge Word documents of dessert recipes that needed printing. Want to see the rest? Here you go.

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These cookies are obviously something special, otherwise that little index card would not still be in my recipe binder. When you make them, they are little balls of bright, tangy dough, rolled in sugar.

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Just look at how cute that is! They taste buttery and lemony and almost floral, without feeling like you’re eating a plant. They are crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside, absolute perfection with a quick dip in some cold milk.

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Yum.

Now, what if we want something that preserves more of that natural lemon essence? That super tart feeling that you’re getting in your mouth right now just thinking about lemons? We make Arnold Palmers!

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I’m aware that most people refer to this as Lemonade Iced Tea, but once I learned that a professional golfer claimed that he invented the concoction, I just can’t bring myself to call it anything else. First, we brew up the tea.

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Then we get mesmerized by the process of tea steeping. Don’t pretend it isn’t interesting to watch. (I even made a little video of it, if you can ignore the sweet strains of Despicable Me playing in the background.) Oh, heat conduction. You make pretty things happen in water.

While we wait for our tea to cool, we have to juice up some lemons. We’re looking for 1 1/4 cups of delicious lemon juice, which is about 6-7 lemons usually, depending on how large they are.

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Close enough.

Then we make simple syrup, which is essentially just combining equal parts of sugar and water together over heat.

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Until it’s super clear and bubbly.

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All of these things get dumped together into the appropriate receptacles and topped off with enough ice to make yourself about 2 gallons of sweet, tangy, summery deliciousness. And when I say ‘tangy,’ I mean it. That first sip is a game-changer. Feel free to add a little more sugar if you don’t roll that way.

Arnold Palmers
or just Lemonade Iced Tea, if you aren’t whimsical enough

Ingredients:
4 bags of black tea
6-7 lemons (enough to make about 1 1/4 cups of juice)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
lots of ice

Directions:
Steep 4 bags of black tea in approximately 2 liters of boiling water. Don’t worry if you end up staring at it for a little while. It’s totally normal.

Juice your lemons and set the juice aside. Prepare simple syrup by combining sugar and water over medium-high heat until the sugar has completely dissolved, and the mixture is clear and starting to boil. Discard the tea bags, and combine the tea, lemon juice, and simple syrup together in a heatproof 2-gallon (or two 1-gallon) beverage container(s). Things will be super hot and boiling, so be careful. Top off the mixture with plenty of ice in order to get it up to the 2-gallon mark. Enjoy the cracking sounds that ice makes when it hits all that super hot tea. I know that I do.  Stick that stuff in the refrigerator until you’re ready.

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Drink up a big tall glass and eat yourself some lemon cookies. You’re almost done with February. You deserve it.

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.

Popping and Entrelac-ing

I was unfortunately without my camera this morning, so my iPhone did a bit of a stand-in. Sorry for the general phone-ness of these.  And the fact that’s it’s all just generally a slow push-in.  I was having a hard time being creative this morning.

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I was just too excited about the project I started yesterday to wait for Dan to bring the camera back home and take pictures of it later.

Grey Gardens from Knitty is exactly the accessory that every cute-ish nerdy girl with glasses wants to be able to pull off. We all want voluminous hair and awesome cat’s eye glasses that don’t look ridiculous and cute understated earrings and the self-confidence to walk out in public wearing a knitted turban.

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I only have the glasses part going for me so far, but I hoping that the stars will align by the time that I’m done so I can wear this thing out in public come fall.

I have never tried entrelac before, despite being enticed by several different projects. (Look here and here and tell me you can resist that square-y basketweave-y goodness. You can’t!) Something had always stopped me in the past, however, and it was probably the fact that I never really read the directions and just assumed that all of those little diagonal rectangles were somehow magical in nature. A common mistake.

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And let’s be honest, reading through the directions at first will do nothing to dissuade this feeling. You’ve just got to jump in with both needles and trust those directions, even if it feels like you’re just making a big mess at first. Turns out, short rows and picking up stitches are our friends here. If you can knit socks, you can knit entrelac. And you can spend the entire afternoon watching Firefly, eating trail mix, and knitting entrelac, if you want. How else do you spend your day off?

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I mean, look at that texture! It’s so soft and squishy and quilty and lovely. It’s addictive.

I know that the colors I chose here (K1C2 Parfait Swirls in 4777 from a bamillion years ago that’s just been sitting in the stash, waiting to be helpfully variegated for a small project) are a little dark, but I am a pale person who is generally afraid of bright colors, so we should be all good here. (My project is here on Ravelry for those so inclined.)

Today, we should be getting to the awesome twisty bit in the front. I am way too excited for this. I have a feeling that once I have to try to put this woolen turban thing on over my short, weird hair in the pretend-autumn 80 degree weather we have here in New Orleans I might lose a tiny bit of this enthusiasm. If only you could knit yourself some spare self-confidence. Problem solved.

Adventures in Gingerbread – Part One

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

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

Bum bum buuuuuuuuummmmm!

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

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

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

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

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Nope.

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

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

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

Did I mention strange shapes?

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Yep. Birds.

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And a really messy countertop.

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

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

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Shh! Don’t tell.

Part Two…coming soon. Stay tuned.

Blueberry Muffins for Lunch

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Over the past week, I’ve had 2 vaccines, a TB test, and two titers drawn, in addition to lots of waiting in doctor’s offices and the DMV. Something had to be better today in reward for my patience.

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I had to be allowed to make a giant mess of my kitchen and eat blueberry muffins for lunch because I said so. Not just any blueberry muffins, either. Amazing blueberry muffins devised by one of my primary girl crushes, Joy the Baker. Brown Butter Blueberry Muffins.

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A futuristic in-the-oven shot! It’s been a while. This took place when everything was just starting to smell so good that I may have been going a bit mad.

These muffins are awesome.

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Because Joy is a genius. She knows that the only way to make buttery muffins better is to make them taste even butterier.

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And to add crunchy, crumbly delicious topping.

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In addition to her fantastically silly and awe-inspiring blog, the Joy the Baker podcast also fills a void that I didn’t know I had. (And made me get way into shutterbean, thankfully!) And listening to her interview awesome inspirational people on We’re About to Be Friends makes me want to be a better blogger. Better baker. Better person. Better everything.

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Look at all those blueberries!

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Seriously. I’m probably obsessed. I may have just gotten a haircut that inadvertently (I swear!) looks a lot like hers on the cover of her new cookbook.

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Completely an accident. I promise. But I love it.

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I also totally ate blueberry muffins and milk for lunch, which is something of which I think Joy would totally approve.

I Am Mildly Obsessed with Rosemary Cornmeal Crackers and Sassy Blogger Ladies.

Sometimes you see the perfect recipe right at the perfect time in your life.

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Let’s say you’ve just started your own vegetable garden, complete with rosemary bush that was originally purchased for Christmas cheeriness and now is living a happy life next to some radishes, beets, and cabbage.

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Let’s say that this recipe is featured on a blog that also seems like it came around at just the perfect time in your life. Right after starting your own WordPress blog, you discover a sassy baker lady whose own blog is full of life, love, butter, and sugar — much like you wish your own to be. Movita Beaucoup. You experience that special type of jealousy-love-girl-crush that only exists in the food/craft blogging world. You want to make her a birthday cake. (Dude, Movita, I’m totally entering that contest.  And hopefully not embarrassing myself.)

Okay, maybe not you. But I sure did.

And then I made some crackers. Rosemary Cornmeal Crackers. Normally I would not think of baking something savory, but the idea of using my new access to fresh rosemary to make something Movita-worthy…well, it just had to be done.

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The warmth of the rosemary, the nutty crunch of the cornmeal, the crisp thinly-rolled dough…it was unlike anything else I’ve ever made.

And they certainly didn’t last very long.

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In addition to having them with topped with some salmon, spinach, and balsamic vinegar for dinner, Dan and I snacked on them constantly until they were completely gone a mere 40-something hours later. For something not containing chocolate, that might be a record in our house.

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I can’t wait to really get the garden going with more herbs so that I can try lots of different cracker combinations. Basil crackers? Oregano crackers? Thyme crackers? Sage crackers? I am unnecessarily excited.

Thank you, Movita. It’s all your fault.