Thankful for Pie 2016 (is the year over yet?) Edition

Well.

I know that I’m definitely not in the minority when I state that 2016 was mostly a flaming garbage fire of a year. Losing so many inspirational people (especially David Bowie…my bestest kitten’s namesake…that one still hurts) and watching this country (well, large parts of the world, actually) attempt to tear itself apart with prejudice and hate…

It’s very hard to be thankful this year.

However, that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to try. So, here’s my annual year-in-review, Thankful for Pie, featuring a whole boatload of photos and stories that did not end up on the blog this year due to the fact that working night shift makes blogging extremely difficult. I will try my best to not be so lame about it next year, I promise.

January started with a very special project…

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cap and peggy

making hats for Cap and Peggy! My friend Bailee and I got up insanely early in the morning in order to spend 15 seconds getting this picture late in the afternoon, and let me tell you, what a fantastic decision that was. Chris Evans and Hayley Atwell were both lovely, lovely people, and they deserve all the handknit love.

Later that month, I spilled an entire gallon of milk on my kitchen floor.

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It was really a grand achievement.

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Dan and I also got into watching professional darts competitions on YouTube, and I discovered that I am acutally¬†pretty decent at darts. Please, do yourself a favor and go watch some of these things, and then walk around your house yelling “One hundred and eighty!” at the top of your lungs. You’ll feel awesome.

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Many walks in City Park were had as well, and we were particularly photogenic that day.

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And we got to go see Tool! Second time for me, third time for Dan, but I will go see that band every time I can until the day I die. So good.

In February, Dan made me go canoeing on Valentine’s Day.

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I say made me because for some reason, even though I am a decent swimmer and also wearing a flotation device, going out in this canoe gives me all kinds of anxiety. We seriously bought this canoe with spare change collected from over a number of years, and I need to make a special point to get more comfortable getting into that thing, because Dan has suggested we go canoeing every single weekend since.

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There was Mediterranean food at the end, though, so that made it okay, with the added bonus of my Captain America t-shirt.

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That month I also discovered that Luke Danes from Gilmore Girls and I have the exact same kitchen light fixture. Good deal.

In March, I got to deliver a baby blanket filled with love to my much-deserving friend Christina.

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She remains one of the reasons why I’m still sticking with night shift at my crazy-busy hospital, and her tiny baby will continue to receive knitted love from me whenever possible.

Dan’s family came into town that month, and we took them to China Lights.

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The entire park was filled with these beautiful sculptures made of hand-painted silk and light, and it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.

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Stunning.

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I made some awesome socks, and told their name to any- and everyone who would listen. Say it with me. Drachenschwingen.

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My friend Paul made me the most beautiful masterpiece of a snoball at Hansen’s Sno-Bliz, one of the greatest places on Earth. Snoballs will remain a theme throughout the year.

In April, my good friend Kelli from nursing school got married, and I got to see some much-missed friends.

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It’s always nice to see beautiful weddings happen to really good people.

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I also got a really good 7-letter word in Scrabble that month, you guys.

In May, Dan and I celebrated our ten years together with brunch and pretty trees.

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Riccobono’s Panola Street Cafe will always treat you right with the good, good breakfast food.

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My best friend’s band, the Ghostwood, had their very last show. Jonathan and his wife Rebecca have since moved to California, and I miss them all the time.

I won’t pretend I wasn’t really sad, but I did have a moment of triumph at this particular show. A crowd-surfing/mosh-pit/poorly-place speaker situation led to the guitarist Andy’s lovely girlfriend Lisa getting hit really hard in the knee, and I got to spring into first aid action, helping Andy get her out of harm’s way, providing her with ibuprofen, and then getting her an ice pack. I felt downright nurse-like.

She’s totally okay now, guys, don’t worry.

Dan and I got to see this really awesome papier-mache elephant.

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And I got to witness what is possibly the greatest license plate of all time.

June. Oh my god, June. I completely forgot to tell you guys what happened to…bum bum bum…the Hamilton hats. This could be a post all by itself, so hang in there.

Well, first things first, I made an insane amount of hats for the entire cast of Hamilton.

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Actually, first-first things first, my brother and sister-in-law made the arrangements to take me and Dan on a fantastic New York Hamilton-based trip for my birthday, which I will never, ever be a good enough person to deserve, so I have no idea why they keep doing these awesome things for me.

And then I wrote a rather unintentionally heartfelt post about them addressed directly to Mr. Lin-Manuel Miranda.

The hats came with us to New York City!

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We saw Fun Home! It was an astoundingly beautiful piece of theatre, and I was totally crushed when it closed earlier this year. Every single person in this world would benefit from seeing it, and I hope that communities get their own productions running soon.

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Ignore my weird grinning double-chinned I-totally-wasn’t-bawling-my-eyes-out-ten-minutes-ago face in these, but just be excited that Beth Malone and Michael Cerveris were such wonderful friendly people. Michael Cerveris was super excited to talk about New Orleans with me for a little bit (he lives here!), and I dream of one day being super cool and not weird at all if I bump into him on the sidewalk.

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The entire cast was just so friendly and sweet to the fans. It was really fun to watch them.

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On Hamilton day, Dan and I started early and roamed Central Park.

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Dan discovered that in order to get the proper angle on some extremely important photos, you have to fall over backwards into a bush.

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The original bag that I had packed the hats in disintegrated in my suitcase, so I packed the hats up into a nicer laundry bag from our hotel, complete with a printed out copy of the blog post, like a giant dork.

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We went to this super-cool lunch/interview thing at Sardi’s where there was a Q&A with Betsy Struxness and Stephanie Klemons, original member of the Hamilton ensemble and assistant choreographer/dance captain of Hamilton respectively. Two very cool and accomplished ladies who encouraged everyone to pursue the arts and get their entire families involved. Also, I was wearing an awesome dress with chickens all over it that I got from Trashy Diva.

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We got in line for the show, and I mustered up the courage to knock on the backstage door, at Betsy and Stephanie’s advice. A kindly older gentleman came out and asked me who the hats were for. I told them that they were for everyone in the cast. And that was it.

Until. We got inside the theatre, bought some merch, made our way to our seats, and then my sister-in-law Kim tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Jinger, look!” I turned to see who I assume was the stage manager, wearing one of my hats and making her way up into the booth about 5 minutes before the show started. I died for a second. And that was it.

No, seriously, that really was it.

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We waited for autographs afterwards, plus after the evening show, and even though we saw and chatted with both Rory O’Malley and Leslie Odom, Jr. (both fellow Carnegie Mellon alums and people I have actually met and interacted with in real life before), neither of them knew anything about the hats. I tweeted and re-tweeted about the blog post to Lin-Manuel Miranda and other cast members, and aside from getting a “like” from Ren√©e Elise Goldsberry…

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…which, don’t get me wrong, was freaking awesome, I never heard anything else about them. I sincerely hope that they didn’t end up in a garbage can somewhere. Perhaps they are hanging out with Jeff the Squirrel somewhere.

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Got Rory, Leslie, and Ephraim Sykes (who has since gone on to win hearts playing Seaweed on Hairspray Live!) to sign my Hamiltome, too, even though there were no pictures of that due to the crush of the crowd, so that was good stuff.

Speaking of good stuff, there were many other wonderful things about the trip.

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We toured the Aladdin theatre and got to interact with some cool Disney Broadway memorabilia.

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We saw a DeLorean parked behind a pile of trash.

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We had a wonderful picnic in Central Park with more incredibly beautiful people from Carnegie Mellon, my friends Carla, Nora, Marie, Evan, and Evan (yes, I meant to type two Evans), who all, even though I see them only every five years or so (which is ridiculous and I hope that we can change), remain the most lovely people who fall into conversation as if we just saw each other the day before.

This picnic took place on Sunday, Tony Awards morning, which was unfortunately also the day that the news erupted about the horrific Pulse nightclub shooting the previous night. It was a good day to hug your friends as tightly as possible.

Speaking of Tony Awards…

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We went to a viewing party at this wonderful restaurant whose name unfortunately escapes me at the moment, but we had a great time. Dan cheated off of me on our Tony ballots, but promised to split the prize with me.

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We ate an array of tiny delicious foods and drank an astonishing amount of wine, all while tearing up while watching Lin-Manuel accept his award with starkly beautiful poetry and seeing Hamilton and The Humans just clean up all the awards. Good stuff.

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A wonderful trip, but bittersweet.

In July?

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Dan and I made pie, but unfortunately zero pictures of pie or pie recipes ended up on the blog this year, for the precise reason that I absolutely sucked at pie this year. I just could not get my crust game together, and I still have absolutely no idea why. Many attempts were made, many disappointments were had. I am aware of the irony that I always call this post Thankful for Pie, but the reasoning for keeping the name this year will be made clear later.

I made a decorative throw pillow for one of my favorite authors, Chuck Palahniuk.

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I think he liked it.

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In fact, I know he did.

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Look at the little picture he took of me! What a good dude.

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I also took the month of July to binge listen all of The Adventure Zone podcast while drinking coffee and coloring-by-numbers. It’s hard to stay in the lines when you’re listening to those McElroy brothers, let me tell you.

August brought with it more snoballs.

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Plus, my new favorite shoes, turquoise Vans covered with beach balls and tiny kittens playing in inner tubes. Like you do.

In September, I started a new vest for Dan, which will get a massive blog post when I’m finished, I promise.

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I went on a granola-baking binge.

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We had a few beach moments before it got too cold and gloomy to do so.

Something also happened in September that was awful, but ended up being something that I am incredibly thankful for. Because this involves nursing and patients, I have to speak very, very generally, so bear with me. We take care of a huge range of high-acuity patients on our floor, and having very young children with tracheostomies and ventilators is not uncommon. Early one morning, I happened to be the one to respond to a mother’s call for help and ended up performing CPR on an unresponsive and not-breathing baby with no pulse with a trach/vent for nearly five minutes. I got rotated out when the code team arrived and seconds later, her heart started beating again.

She’s totally okay now, I promise! She was back to her old self the next night, and I know that this is par for the course when you work with very sick children, but it would be wrong to pretend that this didn’t affect me deeply. I had nightmares for about a month afterwards where I saw the entire thing happen over again. We also had a long-time patient that I took care of all the time pass away this year, so it was like the entire reality of my job hit me all at once.

Hold on, let’s look at something happy.

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My parents dug up an old Karate Kid movie poster puzzle for me.

Plus, I have really cute cats!

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Like, the cutest! Feel better? Okay. Me too.

I am not rethinking nursing in any way, trust me. If anything, I’m digging in deeper. More on that later.

October started with the greatest Halloween decorations of all time.

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I see this house on my way to work all the time, and I wonder if the guy who does this knows how much happiness it brings me.

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More snoballs, this time featuring Hansen’s well-known motto.

Then, for a dress-up opportunity at work, Dan made me the greatest gift a man has ever given a woman.

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My very own Captain America shield made out of a garbage can lid. (Just like in the first movie! I know!) It is possibly now my most prized possession. I wish I could carry it around every day.

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And dang it if it didn’t look super cute with my vintage-y Captain America dress.

All this dressing up was for our superhero-themed Pediatric Nurses’ Week poster contest, and let me tell you, people on 6 Center know how to throw down.

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I know that we save lives and stuff, but this just might be my greatest accomplishment as a registered nurse. I’m way down in the lower right-hand corner, but all of the collaging, drawing, and lettering was all done by yours truly. Needless to say, we won the crap out of that poster contest.

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I finally got the Hamilton soundtrack on vinyl just in time for our Hamilton’s America documentary viewing party, which also included alcoholic cake…

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Drunken Pumpkin Bundt Cake, to be exact…

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…lots of Hamilton shirts…

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…and hilarious Hamilton bingo.

Remember how I said that I was digging in deeper into nursing? Well, in November, I was accepted into Loyola University’s DNP program.

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In three years, I will have a Doctorate of Nursing Practice, and will hopefully be able to work in a clinic in underserved communities to help children and their families. I start in a week and a half. I’m simultaneously excited and terrified, plus happy to buy some new school supplies.

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Dan and I did our part and became part of history, voting for the very first woman candidate for president. We all know how that worked out, but I’m still proud that we got a chance to do such a thing, and I can’t wait to do it again.

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For Thanksgiving, I continued to experience crust and pie-related failure. The pumpkin pie was perfectly fine, but that apple and cranberry one up on top was a huge mess. I fought through uncooperative crust and managed to make something that looked really good, but for some reason the filling never…gelled together. I sliced it open and dished up mangled pieces of apple, cranberry, and crumbled crust and tried not to get really upset. Pie really is a mystery that way. You can go from start to finish thinking everything is fine, but you won’t know until you try to get that first slice out of the pan.

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At the end of the month, I got to help make a baby’s first Christmas a little more special. Christina’s baby (mentioned above with the baby blanket) has been “adopted” as honorary grandbaby to one of our other coworkers, and she commandeered me to make a label for this adorable stuffed bear. I went ahead and said, how about I make it a lot harder and make a whole sweater for the bear? No one who reads this regularly is at all surprised, I’m sure.

Also, the bear “unzips” up the back and flips inside out to fold into a plush ball, which is really, really cool, but makes it so that the sweater had to be able to come off, hence the wide neckline. When my coworkers saw it, they all declared that the cowl-neck was adorable, which was hilarious to me.

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In December, I made tiny Candlenights stockings for the McElroy brothers.

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I destroyed my coworkers in bowling.

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We ate even more snoballs. Any and every time of year is right for this icy goodness.

And, then, to finish things up on a high note, I conquered crust.

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I got out the big guns and let Joy the Baker tell me what to do. Every step was painstakingly followed, I rolled out everything extremely slowly and chilled everything multiple times, and it was perfect.

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Dan’s birthday apple pie was a success, and I will continue to kick ass at pie in the new year, hopefully.

I hope that you all take the time to find the light in such a dark year and also kick ass at whatever you choose to do. Although, seriously, you should make some pie. You’ll feel better, I promise.

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Mr. Miranda, I Made You a Whole Bunch of Hats

28 hats, to be specific.

Maybe I should explain.

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Mr. Lin-Manuel Miranda, if I can be frank and weirdly honest, I have decided, for some reason, that part of my mission in life is to create handmade (and often hand-designed) knitted objects for people that inspire me. I made David Sedaris an owl. I made Eddie Izzard a squirrel. (Whether he ever received it is another issue entirely.) An eggroll cat toy for Joy the Baker. A Reading Rainbow scarf for LeVar Burton. And then, most recently, some really aggressively patriotic hats for Chris Evans and Hayley Atwell.

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I can’t really explain why the urge to do this initially took hold, but I’ve come to feel like this is my way to express how much something that someone has done/is doing moves me. While experiencing the creative works of others, I often have some strange feelings of ineffectualness mixed in with my enjoyment and awe. Almost like, it’s impossible for me to love things deeply without being somehow slightly saddened that I didn’t get to be a part of them. So, making something heartfelt with my own fingers helps me to feel creative and part of the process, while also covering people who deserve it in handknit love. Make sense?

Probably not.

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Anyway. I started out my professional life with a degree in theatrical lighting and scenic design from Carnegie Mellon University (proud alma mater of two of your castmates, the always amazing Leslie Odom, Jr. and Rory O’Malley [they graduated the year before me, actually]), and I thought that theatre was always going to be a part of my life. And it was, for a while. I worked in corporate theatre. I was the designer for a very small theatre company in Colorado that has since gone on to have quite a bit of success without me. It didn’t work out the way I thought it would, and I moved back home fairly aimless until I found nursing.

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I work as a pediatric nurse in a very busy hospital, helping children with kidney problems, cardiac issues, and traumatic brain injuries. I work night shift and exhaust myself all the time, but I really do love my job. That is, unless I’m thinking about the life that I somehow missed in theatre, despite my fancy degree and head full of big ideas. The creative outlet that didn’t pan out somehow.

And instead, I knit.

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I cover people that I love and admire with stitches formed over countless hours that would otherwise be wasted sitting around and eating crackers and watching The Wonder Years on Netflix. (Who am I kidding? That show is awesome. I watched nearly the entire thing while making these hats, plus lots of Top of the Lake and Amadeus.)

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117,015 stitches, to be exact. That’s how many stitches it takes to make enough hats to cover not just your head, but the heads of everyone in the cast of your brilliant show Hamilton (at least according to the list inside the soundtrack, but if you need more, just let me know!) to show you guys how much I care about what you do. I love musical theatre, and particularly your show, so much that it makes me ache inside a little. I scream-sing in the car, simultaneously loving the wordplay and feeling that twinge in my gut because I couldn’t be a part of it.

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So, I’ll be at the matinee show on Saturday, June 11th with these hats, knit with nothing but love and affection for you and all that you do, trying not to be too awkward, if you’ll have them. I’ve been told that giving them to the house manager is probably the best way to make sure you’ll get them. Let’s hope that’s true.

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Thank you, Mr. Lin-Manuel Miranda, for making a piece of art so lovely that it makes stitches leap from my fingers. I hope that these small tokens return part of the favor.

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Knitters? Want to know the specifics here? I bet you do!

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These Hamilton hats were knit up using my very own Oh Captain, My Captain hat pattern, cleverly tweaked (if I do say so myself) to resemble the Hamilton logo. This version is knit up in Brown Sheep Nature Spun Worsted, in the colors Pepper and Goldenrod.

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I think Steve might be a little jealous that these came out even cooler than he and Bucky’s colorways. Almost looks like…bumblebee roller derby? That sounded cooler in my head.

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I got so freaking good at knitting these hats that I was averaging slightly less than 6 hours per hat, the last one clocking in at 4.5 hours on the dot. It’s safe to say, I really don’t want to knit any more hats ever again.

At least for about a week. My fingers are really tired.