Thankful for Pie 2018 Edition

You guys. This year was a hard one to recap due to the fact that so many things were just so terrible this year, just in general. From the world seemingly falling apart around our ears every other minute, to the more mundane and personal challenges that Dan and I experienced…it was difficult to sit and take the time and attempt to see the silver lining of everything that was going on. This year has felt like five years packed into one, but if you would have asked me before I started to sort through my pictures, I would have had a difficult time telling you the highlights. I guess that’s part of the point, though. Taking the time to sit and reflect and see the good things that happened.

It would feel a bit hypocritical to not mention that all of these things probably only functioned as temporary distractions from the greater problems and difficulties that were occurring all around us. However, that doesn’t make them any less important. You’ve got to find those things that make getting through life worth all of the problems and strangeness, right? Here we go.

In January, I got to make delicious chocolate pie with Kelli, one of my favorite people.

20180104_140901

We made plans to make more pie (which hasn’t happened yet because I am a busy, bad friend), and to make a dog sweater for her cutie, Ellie.

IMG950066

Awwwwwww.

There was also the completion of this masterpiece, now proudly hanging in my dining room.

20180106_200659

20180106_200711

I mean, people talk about life goals, but I didn’t know that having a giant picture of Ralph Macchio on my wall was one of mine until I had properly achieved it.

I made the pinkest socks ever for my friend Sabrina, right in the middle of a crazy hard freeze, which, as you can imagine, doesn’t happen very often in New Orleans.

20180124_114927

And I got to attend a wonderful Hamilton sing-a-long with my friends and fellow nurses Eli and Carolyn, plus Tessa, the coolest kid I know.

26815427_2026719897354601_3934845286622450950_n

Of course I wore my Hamilton hat, plus I met a fellow super-cool shirt-wearer.

IMG_20180119_211607_679

February brought with it a very cool woodworking project from Dan. I’ve been begging him for years to make us a coat rack because Trip loves to infiltrate the hallway coat closet and sequester himself in there whenever anyone opens it. True to form, Dan cut down a tree and made a forest in my hallway.

IMG_20180204_174651_681

It is one of the coolest things I have ever seen.

This year, we really got into tending our own backyard garden rather than participating in a CSA box, mainly because the washing and storage upkeep on the CSA vegetables would have been pretty impossible with all of my grad school work. In March, the whole yard was sprouting and blooming and glorious. A few highlights from the spring and summer:

IMG_20180305_142951_346

IMG_20180416_190413_371

IMG_20180416_192029_712

IMG_20180416_190413_372

IMG_20180511_085741_206

We planted wildflowers in nearly every empty space in order to bring the bees on over, and it worked like gangbusters.

IMG_20180422_160218_408

IMG_20180422_160736_542

IMG_20180423_191528_194

IMG_20180425_211659_329

IMG_20180505_083408_317

It wasn’t long before the sunflowers got taller than Dan.

IMG_20180422_160949_197

Then, taller than the fence and the patio roof.

IMG_20180506_143815_455

I could look out of my second-story bedroom window every morning and see them blooming. It was fantastic.

We planted a whole crop of carrots, too, which brings me to another goal of the year, which I started in April: annoying a James-Beard-award-winning chef into being my internet friend.

IMG_20180503_192222_800

Dan had bought me Alon Shaya‘s cookbook, Shaya, a little while back, and I spent a large portion of my year making various recipes out of it and tweeting them out to him personally.

IMG_20180703_203304_151

IMG_20180416_192801_663

IMG_20180417_065926_834

But, it worked! I can’t tell you how many times I danced around my kitchen, roasting red peppers over the open flame and delighting in the fact that a famous chef was delighting in the fact that I was cooking his recipes. It’s a recursive cycle of joy, really.

In April, I also learned how to suture.

20180417_140618

Another skill, along with knitting and CPR, that will serve me well in the apocalypse.

20180429_161208

Plus, I made a very pretty beaded shawl and flounced around in the park with it, feeling like a pretty, pretty princess.

20180429_162156

In May, Dan and I celebrated our twelfth anniversary, and I sent him on a scavenger hunt around the house, collecting fancy dark chocolate candy bars commemorating various landmarks in our relationship.

IMG_20180514_213611_545

IMG_20180514_213611_543

We went to NOMA a whole bunch, to see the beautiful exhibits, and to escape the overwhelming heat.

IMG_20180523_163520_812

IMG_20180523_163839_057

IMG_20180523_163839_061

And I made a beautiful baby blanket for my friend Christina and her new baby.

20180531_101422

20180531_101216

I don’t usually call my own work beautiful, but I can’t remember ever being so proud of a project as I am of Autumn Vindauga. It was the perfect way to kick off the Summer of Baby Blankets, because I was just surrounded by pregnant ladies.

In June, in-between writing essays for my nursing ethics class and knitting furiously, we grew some mystery melons.

IMG_20180624_182110_636

Seriously. We did not plant these. They just appeared. And they were yummy.

Then, my friend Bailee surprised me with what might be the most perfect birthday present anyone has ever received.

IMG_20180816_130212_492

Yes, friends, that is me, clad in my Captain America dress, being held aloft by a very sexy, bearded Captain himself. Do yourself a favor and go look at Sakibatch’s other amazing fandom art and support her! This thing is just glorious.

The Summer of Baby Blankets continued into July.

20180707_094134

I put my fingers to the test with all of these tiny cables, but man, it was worth it.

And I made a tiny rainbow!

20180703_174232

In August, the baby blanket mania finally came to an end with the coolest illusion knitting ever.

20180809_104548

A video that I posted on Tumblr revealing the illusion stars is the most reblogged thing that I have ever posted. A small accomplishment, but people love their illusion knitting something fierce.

Then, Bailee and I attended the Ninja Sex Party concert at the Joy Theatre. Aptly named, because sheer joy was just the theme of the evening.

20180816_212953

I mean, look at that. There’s just sunshine and happiness and glitter and rainbows emanating off that stage.

20180816_181421

20180816_181501

Because we got VIP tickets (priced appropriately at $69.69), we got treated to Danny and Ninja Brian’s lovely faces as they answered questions and talked about the music they love.

20180816_185926

We wore an awful lot of glitter, but we definitely weren’t alone. There was so much cosplay and sequins and joy joy joy everywhere.

I was introduced to Planet Booty, an energetic and exciting band that travels with a disco-mirrored mannequin butt that they bring out on stage.

20180816_200117

I did not manage to get a picture of this part because my jaw was hanging open while I danced my ass off.

Then, we rocked out to TWRP‘s electronica-disco-dance-party stylings.

20180816_205537

Then, NSP blew our faces off.

20180816_213447

20180816_221511

20180816_224333

I would have never known about these wonderful bands and people if Bailee had not introduced them to me, and for that I am eternally grateful. I have been listening to them this entire time while writing this, and it’s just impossible to not be happy while you listen to their music. Seriously, go to their channel and immerse yourself in awesomeness.

September brought more musical greatness.

IMG_20180927_233559_203

My friend Kyle, better known as KP, rapped all about bad bitches right in front of my face. Go check out his Soundcloud. His stuff is just…it seems wrong to say delightful because that’s such a “me” word and not a word for super cool rappers, but it honestly makes me so goddamn happy.

Then, we saw Taylor Swift at the Superdome.

IMG_20180922_180159_769

Yes, I only own one shirt with sequins on it. Again, I was not alone in being a sparkly lady here. Never before have I seen so much glitter. On the crowd, on the stage, floating in the air. It was unreal.

IMG_20180922_180159_768

IMG_20180923_001743_246

IMG_20180923_001832_165

IMG_20180923_001914_940

And snakes!

IMG_20180923_002038_299

IMG_20180923_002001_226

IMG_20180923_002109_616

There are no words. It was the loudest, brightest, craziest spectacle I have ever seen, and I loved every second.

In October, I made socks for some truly-deserving people.

20181003_171314

20181009_104235

Plus, Dan and I went and saw Aaron Mahnke of the Lore Podcast, a truly wonderful little bit of creepy storytelling you should add to your weekly routine.

IMG_20181010_220916_075

He treated us to a book-signing and a reading from his new book, Dreadful Places, and we chatted for a bit about exhumed graves. Like you do.

In November, we saw Nine Inch Nails.

IMG_20181124_001935_813

IMG_20181124_002020_954

IMG_20181124_002115_876

IMG_20181124_002152_849

Again, there are no words. I will never stop loving Trent Reznor, especially when he pulls out a freaking saxophone in the middle of concert and plays us some ambient end-of-the-world sounds for about 30 seconds, and then puts it away and never mentions it again. My hero.

So, here we are at December. One last project got completed before the end of the year, a little good, good dice bag for Bailee to enjoy while she’s in grad school in London.

20181217_154109

Plus, we’ve got pickles going in the fridge from the last remnants of the garden, tons of bell peppers and green roma tomatoes.

20181222_170018

And, I’ve got a new pair of socks on the needles for my friend and coworker Kristen, all single-stitch twists and bubbles.

IMG_20181217_222901_042

I also wrote the proposal and designed my DNP scholarly project this year and wrote a total of 85,710 words and 320 double- and single-spaced APA-formatted pages on everything from fall prevention to nursing ethical dilemmas to atrophic vaginitis. I saw 411 patients. Yes, I kept track of all of these things because I am a giant nerd. Some of our long-term patients at the hospital passed away or had some crazy near-misses. I sat with mothers and grandmothers and children as they cried in frustration and fear and relief.

I am very tired.

Let’s hope that in the new year, we can truly delight in the things that bring us joy, rather than only using them as a balm to distract from the horrors of the world. I’m trying harder to do this every day, and I can only wish that it gets easier for all of us soon.

Advertisements

Warm Feet = Love

A few years ago, my best friend since high school, Jonathan, and his lovely wonderful wife, Rebecca, moved from New Orleans out to beautiful San Rafael, CA.

2012-05-10 026

I miss them all the time.

Ever since visiting them in the middle of summer last year, I am also concerned about the state of their feet. The entire San Francisco area is ridiculously cold at night, no matter what time of year, and I knew that this had to be remedied with some precious handknit socks, post-haste.

20181003_171816

I happened to have a gorgeous skein of Mrs. Crosby Loves to Play Satchel hanging around, an impulse purchase made during a huge sale at my favorite LYS, McNeedles. This weirdly-named yarn is one of my all-time favorite sock yarns, supersoft with gorgeous color saturation and a lovely single-ply twist that manages to still yield some great stitch definition with a soft fuzzy halo around it. This colorway, Peacock, is just absolutely stunning, and Jonathan and I felt like it was perfect for Rebecca.

20170603_122156

20181003_171101

20181003_171314

The pattern is the Cookie A. classic, Monkey. I’ve been wanting to make these since the first time I saw them in Knitty, 12 years ago, and I finally got to add them to my Cookie A. oeuvre.

20181003_171144

Seriously, I have made a lot of Cookie A. socks. Look through the archives, if you don’t believe me, because it’s just now the end of the semester of my second year of grad school, and I just can’t muster up the energy to look them all up and link them here for you. But trust me, there’s a bunch.

20181003_171244

There’s nothing overly twee or clever about these, just a really good, classic sock pattern, with a little bit of lace and mock-cables to keep things interesting.

20181003_171226

20181003_171458

They are so incredibly soft and plush. The perfect thing to keep this wonderful woman’s toes warm this winter.

20181003_171308

The only thing that I might change, if I were to make these socks in the future, is to try them with a yarn that’s maybe more tightly-spun or smoother, because even though the halo of Satchel is glorious, it does obscure the more subtle bits of the patterning. I’d love to see what it might look like in something more defined.

As for Jonathan…well, it would just be really mean to make beautiful, warm socks for his wife and not make him anything at all. Too rude to even think of.

20170605_103156

20181009_104235

How freaking cool is it that I somehow have pictures of both of these people that coordinate somehow with their new socks? Uncanny. (You’d almost think that I did it on purpose, but I didn’t. I swear. I’m just good at picking out sock yarns, I think.¬† We all have our talents.)

20181009_104632

I’ve had this skein of Berroco Sox in my stash for years, just waiting for the perfect opportunity to use it. You don’t just jump into a self-striping sock without having the perfect pattern and perfect person to use it for. This colorway, the tragically-discontinued Lancaster, was an utter joy.

20181009_104258

20181009_104404

20181009_104648

I mean, that’s a lot of pictures of the same thing over and over, but I don’t know how else to reveal those little flecks of soft browns, purples, pinks, and grays throughout the whole thing. The pattern is my old stand-by, perfect for showcasing crazy stripes and colorfades, the Good, Plain Sock Recipe by the Yarn Harlot.

20181009_104308

20181009_104322

Just a standard 3×3 rib pattern to show off all those tweedy stripes. Such good stuff. It’s hard to not feel like an aspiring Ivy League professor trudging through the fall leaves while you’re wearing these.

20181009_104856

These beauties got packed up and sent on their way to California, where they are doing their important job of keeping the toes warm of the people that I love.

That’s what true love is, right? Keeping your loved ones warm, any way you can, even from across the country? I think so.

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

28 hats, to be specific.

Maybe I should explain.

20160607_105754

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.

20160324_171407

20160326_125106

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.

20160528_060734

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.

20160607_110738

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.

20160603_052015

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.)

20160607_114632

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.

20160607_110102

20160603_155023

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.

20160607_110746

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.

—–

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

20160607_111248

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.

20160607_112635

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.

20160607_111935

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.

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

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

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

Here we go.

IMG_2123

IMG_2127

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

429

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

2015-03-14 222

2015-03-14 109

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

319

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

IMG_2283

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

May? Oh man, May was busy.

141

Graduation Day!

2015-05-18 330 edit

Valedictorian!

IMG_2339

Party planning!

2015-05-18 343

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

2015-05-17 205

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

IMG_20150528_020622

IMG_20150528_023114

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

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

20150530_123839

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

IMG_2309

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

20150621_001654

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

IMG_20150606_142827

IMG_20150610_215710

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

2015-06-22 417

I made these awesome alcohol-drenched cupcakes.

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

IMG_2356

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

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

IMG_20150617_171816

IMG_2354

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

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

317

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

20150719_135724

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

September?

20150916_100300

20150916_092758

A trip to Los Angeles to deliver a very special scarf

20150919_150055

IMG_1973

…to a very special person.

IMG_20150918_180341

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

And then, the Emmys? What?

20150920_152144

I was just as surprised as you, Jamie Lee.

20150920_173116

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

IMG_20151011_131901

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

20150614_142124

IMG_20150608_112153

Dang, those cats are cute.

November started with more alcoholic cupcakes.

2015-11-07 920

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

20151218_221432

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

20151208_093900

…more beignets and coffee…

20151208_095010

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

20151217_160726

20151214_100709

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

—–

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

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

Squares and Squares and Squares

Or maybe, more properly, Rectangles and Rectangles and Rectangles.

20151211_095151

Now, I have knitted a number of projects in the past with finicky finishing work. A Dale of Norway ski sweater, complete with terrifying steeks and zippers. Tiny toys, with hand-stitched felt eyes and itty-bitty ears. Duplicate stitched snowflakes for days on end. I could go on and on.

20151211_103624

However, now that I have completed a Warm Up America! Afghan…I feel as though I have summited some sort of insane mountain of mattress-stitch achievement.

20151130_145736

Let me step back and explain.

My brother got married back in September of last year, and in proper fashion, I told him and his wife that I would be happy to make them a new afghan for their house and their new life together. Knowing that my sister-in-law is partial to purple, I decided to go with something patchworky with greens and browns, too, to match their decor. However, all of this planning in my mind for the perfect blanket for them had to go on the back burner while I finished nursing school and then got a real-life job. What I originally thought would end up being a first anniversary present instead ended up being a Christmas present, a fact that I know is making all of the knitters nod their head in solidarity.

Projects like this seem so simple at first. You get pulled in to the allure of the patchwork square. It’s the same seductive pull that makes you start working on something that involves thousands of granny squares, not even thinking about how all of those squares are going to put themselves together.

You start thinking about what would be the perfect afghan and think back on the beautiful one you saw in the fantastic book Knitting for Peace, the Warm Up America! Afghan…8 different types of squares with simple stitch patterns, perfect for beginners or for some mindless knitting while you watch Jessica Jones on Netflix.

20150808_181240

You see all of those little squares and think, “Oh, it’ll take no time at all to make one of those! And they’ll be small, and portable! I can knit those anywhere! Gosh darn it, I am so smart. There’s no way this will backfire.”

You order up a whole boatload of Knit Picks Brava Worsted so that you can get started. You figure, “Oh, acrylic will be such a good choice for this. Easy to wash and take care of, tons of color options. Yes, this will be fantastic.” (Note: Knit Picks Brava is pretty fantastic, don’t get me wrong. However, acrylic will come back to bite you in the ass later, don’t you worry.)

20150822_200932

You start cranking out squares like it’s going out of style. (I know some people want to know the colors, so here we go: Alfalfa, Almond, Brindle, Cream, Dublin, Mulberry, Peapod, and Sienna, 3 skeins each.)

20151007_045627

You knit squares (rectangles, actually) at every opportunity, and since you are now working as a night-shift pediatric RN, you have lots of weird time alone at night to get to know these squares since you can’t force the entire house of Dan and cats to get onto your new bizarro schedule.

20150928_204443

The cats try their best to help. They are unsuccessful.

20151112_092423

You realize quickly that every single “square” of this pattern is completely different in terms of gauge, especially row gauge (which is something that knitters really don’t end up having to think about or compensate much for, which made it even more crazy-making), and that you have to do a fair amount of math to get each square to come out to roughly the same length.

20151016_114456

You take the time out of making squares to procrastinate a little and make a little chart to figure out just how many more squares you need to make after you are done procrastinating. You start kicking yourself for deciding that you were going to make the blanket a little bit larger than the pattern originally called for, mostly because when they provide 8 different stitch patterns but tell you to only make 49 squares, your brain explodes a little bit. 64 squares is much more pleasing to your psyche in terms of a finished project, but when you realize how many more squares you have left to go…you start to hate squares.

All of those beautiful patchwork blankets in your head start to taunt you and mock you for your hubris. You keep knitting until you just can’t knit any more, slogging your way through stupid, stupid, lovely garter stitch in the name of love for your family.

And when you finally finish…

20151123_132843

There is absolutely no relief at all. Now you have to join those squares together. Those squares whose sizes have seemingly absolutely nothing at all to do with one another, no matter how good your math or tension was.

That stack of lovely squares right there is a bit deceiving. The squares come of the needles looking a lot more like this:

20151016_090616

Now, if this was wool or cotton, our blocking situation would just be washing and laying things out, or perhaps a light iron. However, acrylic makes you work hard for the kind of squariness you desire. You dutifully haul out the steam iron and blocking wires and T-pins.

20151016_091452

Every square needs to be pinned out to match the 7″x9″ dimensions needed, some adopting this position easier than others. Then, (and don’t freak out), you use your steam iron to intentionally ruin your fabric.

It’s called “killing” acrylic, and usually it’s a terrible thing to accidentally do to a beloved article of clothing, melting the plastic in the yarn. However, in a controlled environment, the right amount of heat (as little as possible to make steam and staying away from actually touching the fabric) and dedication will coax those squares into flattening out their edges, opening up their stitch patterns, and fitting themselves into the straight edges and corners you need to sew them up without wanting to gouge your eyes out.

20151015_121233

You do this, 3 squares at a time, until everything is perfect and lovely and you are so done.

But, you are definitely nowhere near done. Now…the sewing.

20151123_141859

You lay out all of those squares, trying to make things pleasantly random, taking care not to let 2 of the same color or stitch patterns touch each other. (I did originally try to make each row and column have only one of each color or pattern, but it turned into an endless unwinnable sudoku game because I absolutely did not want to do diagonal stripes. I settled for each row having only 1 of each color, and then let the chips fall where they may for everything else, just to save my sanity.) You put off the inevitable sewing process just a little longer by taking moody, artful pictures of your little squares all lined up.

20151123_142851

20151123_145115

20151123_152220

Mattress stitching is your stitch of choice, of course, because you want everything to line up as nicely as possible. (You must go here and learn its ways right this second, if you don’t already know.) The pattern gives you very, very little guidance here, but joining the squares into columns actually goes really fast and easy, due to all of the squares being either 35 or 36 stitches wide. Sewing things up when they are actually the same exact size is quick and satisfying.

20151123_152305

20151123_152319

Zipping up those seams feels pretty good.

20151130_152210

The vertical seams are not the same cakewalk. First things first, you have to pin out the seam between squares.

20151130_153329

Then, you sew up the sides using the ladders between the first and second stitches from the edge of the row, zig-zagging between the squares.

20151130_154313

But, as you remember from earlier, every single stitch pattern is a completely different length in terms of number of rows, so you’ve got to do some creative stitching.

20151201_085757

You watch your pins carefully, and try to see if they are leaning in one direction or another. In the above picture, the pin is leaning to the left, meaning that there’s more fabric up there to be incorporated into the seam. Therefore, you need to fit more of those rows into a smaller amount of rows on the bottom (picking up 2 ladders on the top and just 1 on the bottom) to ease everything in.

20151130_161306

When it goes right, it goes so right and you feel like a finishing genius. When it doesn’t, you think, “Eh, people don’t look at the corners anyway, right? I don’t need to take a picture of that one. Or that one. Or that one back there.”

20151211_095041

What corners? Low-angle photography makes corners not matter, right?

20151209_121325

Finish up the edges with 2 rows of single crochet, just to make those corners nice and neat, and then hit it again with a tiny blast of steam so that everything lays down nice.

20151211_095116

20151201_093344

Then, take a breath and weave in all those ends.

20151211_094101

There are a lot, so it would be good for you to take some breaks between and do this as you go along as a relief from the sewing-up frustration.

20151211_095217

Wait. What frustration? It all melts away when you see that final finished project, exactly as you envisioned it in your head.

20151211_095418

Fields of green and brown and purple, looking like farmland from an airplane.

20151211_095054

Those slightly wonky edges and corners just don’t matter anymore, because it’s so perfect all of a sudden.

20151211_095530

20151211_103609

You know that your brother and sister-in-law are going to absolutely love it, and all of the work is worth it. The endorphins kick in and shape the experience in such a way that you start to think, you know, I should make another one of those for Dan and I, as soon as I have some more free time.

But maybe in cotton next time.

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.

2014-03-01 529

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

IMG_0764 censored

And can we talk a little bit more about Bailee?

IMG_2049

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.

526

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?)

607

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.

618

Needless to say, I think that Rebecca was delighted.

You know who else is delightful?

302

IMG_1679

These guys.

IMG_1071

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

127

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.

2014-04-16 080

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.

070

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.

2014-06-22 123

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.

164

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.

2014-07-02 228

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.

2014-07-21 010

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

spencer 1

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.

IMG_1440

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

145

In September, I discovered that I could knit rainbows.

10628591_10152448235225980_4982385604480362120_n

136

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

IMG_1651

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.

2014-10-03 051

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

2014-10-17 082

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

005

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?

075

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:

001

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.

IMG_1856

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

IMG_1886

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.

IMG_1749

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

IMG_1931

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

037

IMG_2015

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.

IMG_2086

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.

590

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.

Knitting Magic – the Rainbow Honey Cowl

163

As part of my birthday present this year, in addition to an awesome new knitting bag that looks like a Red Cross medical supply kit, a copy of John Waters’ new book Carsick, and a birthday cake covered in bees, Dan got me one of the most beautiful skeins of yarn in history.

018

Mountain Colors Twizzle in Bitter Root Rainbow. Oh, you thought I had a picture of the whole thing? Well, I got way too excited to wind it up when I found a good project for it, so…oops. I do have some lovely on-the-swift shots, though.

009

010

That color gradation makes me weak in the knees still. The entirety of the Bitter Root Rainbow colorway cycles through the rainbow, with some extra stops in reds and magentas, all in one loop of the skein. It makes for a heartbreakingly beautiful skein, but (as all knitters have encountered) what looks strikingly beautiful in the skein does not necessarily translate to the knitted object. You could have the most gorgeous colorway in the world, but, unless it’s self-striping, the wrong stitch count in the garment will turn out something that looks like clown vomit.

017

022

Not to say that the wound ball itself looked like clown vomit, per se, but it was starting to make me a little bit worried. It looked more like a bag of candy than a vibrant saturated rainbow. My initial zeal to cast on right away was dampened.

067

I needn’t have worried.

066

Some sort of magic twist of fate inherent in the 110 stitches and slip-stitch honeycomb pattern of the brilliant Honey Cowl by Atonia Shankland for MadelineTosh ended up slowly stacking the colors on top of each other, creating a slowly rotating rainbow of slipped stitches that floated on top of a more rapidly-changing background. A Rainbow Honey Cowl emerged.

130

There is no way that I could have possibly planned that insanity right there. Rainbow flashing all the way through? It’s freaking amazing. And see how it seems like it’s getting shorter with each rotation? That makes absolutely no sense at all, but it’s fascinating.

123

141

I seriously couldn’t stop staring at it while I was working on it, terrified that it might suddenly stop doing the awesome thing that it was doing and revert to a more vomit-like state.

145

Nope, just plain lovely the whole way through.

135

Even the seam side looked cool. I particularly like what those reds, purples, blues, and yellows are doing down there near the bottom. I cannot possibly take any credit for how beautiful this thing came out. It was just dumb luck, really, but I will be more than happy to accept compliments galore when I start wearing it out this fall.

173

180

It even looks great when it rolls and flips inside-out on the back! I appreciate that fact immensely, given the fact that my neck is not terribly long, and I have the tendency to shrink down and bury myself in the neckline of my scarves and coats.

189

I have yet to own a cowl, but after this photo-taking session, I can certainly understand the appeal. It’s the warmth of a scarf without all of the ends or fringe to contend with. It turns any shirt or jacket into a turtleneck experience. And the rainbow in this adds a lovely bright pop of color to anything. Since I tend to wear gray and blue most of the time (probably 95% percent of the time…I am wearing a gray t-shirt and jeans as I type), this can be a really fun way for me to pretend like I am being adventurous and bold, without risking any sort of fashion faux pas, or having to actually be adventurous enough to buy clothes that have real colors in them.

282

Cooler temperatures cannot get here soon enough (and I say this with experience after having worn the thing for an hour and a half in New Orleans 85-degree weather to get the pictures). I can’t wait to wear my rainbow.

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

2014-06-22 138

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.

102

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.

2014-06-22 137

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.)

2014-06-22 142

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

Fabulous.

eddie_izzard2014-06-22 134

Twins, yes?

2014-06-22 145

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.)

2014-06-22 148

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

2014-06-22 153

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

2014-06-22 146

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.

2014-06-22 151

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.

2014-06-22 156

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?

2014-06-22 155

You’re right. You can’t.

The Summer So Far? Ice Cream and Muffins!

2014-06-06 053

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?

2014-06-04 106

Sitting near lakes during lovely sunsets.

2014-06-04 104

2014-06-04 105

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.)

2014-06-04 0842014-06-04 0852014-06-04 103

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.

2014-06-04 107

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

2014-06-04 131

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

2014-06-04 169

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.

2014-06-04 141

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.)

2014-06-04 117

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…

2014-06-04 ramona1

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.

2014-06-04 112

2014-06-04 113

2014-06-04 114

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

2014-06-04 166

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.

2014-06-04 168

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.

2014-06-06 055

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.

2014-06-06 006

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.

2014-06-06 010

2014-06-06 011

Just lovely.

2014-06-06 020

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

2014-06-06 024

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.

2014-06-06 026

2014-06-06 027

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

2014-06-06 022

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.

2014-06-06 033

2014-06-06 039

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.

2014-06-06 044

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.

2014-06-06 049

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?

2014-06-06 043

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

Unexpected Comfort – Banana Bread and ASMR

We all find comfort in different places.

2014-04-16 085

Sometimes these places are easy to find. Sometimes all it takes is pulling out some frozen bananas that you have cleverly hoarded for this very occasion…

2014-04-16 009

…and letting them sit on your kitchen counter until they look really, really disgusting.

2014-04-16 012

Yep, totally gross. Ready to go.

2014-04-16 013

Still gross.

2014-04-16 016

Now we’re getting somewhere. You mash up those bananas and mix them up with various other kitchen items like butter and sugar…

2014-04-16 024

2014-04-16 029

…eggs (to make it totally awesome and neon yellow)

2014-04-16 030

…vanilla and buttermilk…

(And let’s be honest, no one ever has buttermilk in their house. Just mix up a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with whole milk and pretend that you are on top of your life enough to have fresh buttermilk at all times.)

2014-04-16 032

2014-04-16 033

…flour (both all-purpose and whole wheat, just so we can pretend it’s healthy), baking soda, and a little bit of salt.

2014-04-16 018

Grease up two loaf pans, and be pleased with just how clever you are by saving all of your butter wrappers for this specific purpose.

2014-04-16 021

And then realize that your house might have a bit of a butter problem, because this box of butter wrappers isn’t running out any time soon.

2014-04-16 035

2014-04-16 036

Sprinkle those future banana breads with some oats, just so that we can pretend that they are healthy some more. Stick them in the oven and let that banana scent reassure you that the comfort is coming soon, especially on a rainy and cold day in the middle of April in New Orleans, which makes absolutely no sense at all.

Now, while that bakes, we’re going to take a little break to talk about comfort coming from totally unexpected places. About a year ago, I was listening to This American Life in my car, and I had a moment of such surreality that I had to pull over to finish listening to the show. It was an episode called “Tribes” (you can listen to it here), and the segment named “A Tribe Called Rest” pulled me out of my usual passive listening state and blew my damn mind.

Done listening to it yet? Good. As a middle-schooler, I loved watching painting shows on PBS more than anything else in the world. Bob Ross was an utter joy for me. His calm and lovely demeanor, combined with the scratchy sounds his paintbrushes made when he was tapping out some happy clouds, would give me the chills every single time. I would feel tingles run down the base of my skull into my neck, and for some reason in the backs of my knees, just hearing him talk. There was another woman I used to love as well, who wore lots of turquoise rings and painted her acrylics with lots of different weird mediums mixed in, like sand and other crazy textures. The sound of her palette knife scratching in those artfully rendered sand dunes, and her rings clicking together…I have the feeling that if you would’ve have walked by my room when I was watching this, you would have seen tiny-Jinger, sitting completely still on the very edge of her bed, eyes tilted up to the screen and glazed over with quiet joy. I was so into this that when I went to high school and the times for these shows changed, I set up my VCR to record them for me while I was at school, so that I didn’t have to miss them and their head-tingling goodness.

It’s probably getting a little awkward in here, so let’s check on that banana bread.

2014-04-16 040

Looking good. Right on track.

I started watching QVC and HSN soon after that, rigging up my old push-button TV with the UHF dial to catch the jewelry shows whenever I could. There was just something about the quiet reverence with which these people displayed and measured earrings with their tiny rulers that would keep me entranced for hours. My favorite memories of summer camp involve sitting in a circle and playing tracing games (where another person traces words on your back or sings a little song that involves tickling and trying to give the other person the chills…you ladies know exactly what I talking about) or braiding each other’s hair. I love going to get my hair cut, not because I care anything about the state of my hair usually, but because the tiny scissor sounds and personal attention give me tingles the entire time. I’m always a little let down when it’s over. My favorite movie scenes involve those of quiet intensity, where the person on screen is performing some sort of delicate or complicated task, and we get to watch it quietly.

Need examples?

 

 

Confused yet? If you didn’t listen to the episode, you might not realize that my life almost exactly parallels the one of the producer, Andrea Seigel, author and screenwriter and general all-around interesting lady. She too was entranced by painting shows and the Home Shopping Network, and goes in pursuit of attaining more “triggers” via YouTube, finding out that she loves watching makeup tutorials. I did the same exact thing. She had no idea that there was a whole community of people dedicated to this phenomenon, and neither did I. Turns out, it has a name. ASMR. Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. And it’s simultaneously awesome and really, really weird.

Immediately upon getting home that day from listening to that This American Life episode, I went in search of these ASMR videos and fell down a crazy YouTube rabbit hole (like everyone does) of people just like me. People speaking quietly and intently while folding napkins. Or leafing through books. Or practicing calligraphy. Or decoupaging coasters. Or pretty much anything else that you can think of. I discovered that, while I do not like going to the dentist in general, I absolutely cannot get enough of someone pretending to be my dental hygienist, speaking to me quietly and executing a complex series of maneuvers to make it sound like they are realistically cleaning my teeth. It sounds bizarre, I know, but these videos bring me comfort in a way that very other few things do.

I have always had an overactive brain. I would never claim that it was out of control in any way, but I have a very difficult time not hearing and internally commenting on everything that is going on around me. At night, I usually have to make myself fall asleep (I have come to think of it as “turning off my brain”) by reading until I find myself asleep with my face in my book somehow. I have a never-ending string of useless trivia winding itself around at all times of day, and most people have no idea unless they try to tell me something that I just know is incorrect, and it takes more self-awareness than I usually have to keep my mouth shut.

I tend to do everything fast. I tend to speed-read, not the skimming of information just to get the gist of something, but just reading incredibly fast, so much that I cannot share reading materials. I type fairly fast. I work out math in my head quickly. I usually only have to hear something once to remember it for far longer than I ever will need to. This type of ridiculous way of thinking usually doesn’t do much harm except in making me look like a smart-ass, but I really can’t help it. Baking and knitting are seriously some of the only things that I can do at a reasonable speed (and some people who watch me knit even accuse me of stitching too quickly), and they tend to bring me comfort in that fact that they remind me that I am physically capable of slowing down sometimes, and that when I do, good things usually happen.

Speaking of baking…

2014-04-16 073

2014-04-16 076

Done! Let’s let them cool down a bit before we slice them up.

Even though I am not the type of person who dives obsessively into fandoms (yet), I have found another tremendous source of comfort in this community and this (it sounds weird to say it) way of life. ASMR is not just about sitting in front of the computer, listening to people make clicking noises (although, let’s be honest, that’s a lot of it). It’s also about slowing down and appreciating simple activities. It’s about finding pleasure in small things. It’s about breaking down a task that brings you joy and making it last as long as possible. It’s about treating yourself delicately and kindly. It’s about taking care of your brain.

Let me let Heather Feather, one of the greatest people making these videos, break it down for you:

That video right there has helped me to…not to fall asleep really, but to turn off the part of my brain that keeps me from relaxing like a normal person on more than one occasion. It’s fairly goofy, but it’s also kind and sweet and full of amazing creativity. Just like the rest of the ASMR community.

I didn’t think that I would ever post about this, or really ever tell anyone other than Dan, but last week, one of my clinical instructors apparently listened to the same episode of This American Life that I did and came away with a slightly different opinion on the matter. I’m not saying that what she said was…insulting, but she told our clinical group about ASMR in a way that started with something like, “You wouldn’t believe what some people do for stress relief. I heard something on the radio the other day about this weird thing where people like to listen to clicking sounds and people talking quietly on the computer, and that’s how they relax. Isn’t that bizarre?” Not exactly the most ringing endorsement. I took a cue from my totally amazing friends, both online and in real life, and decided to take control of the situation and love the things that I love out loud and not feel weird or shamed by it. I said, “Yeah, that’s ASMR, and I have it.” And I proceeded to relate much of what I have already typed to 7 pairs of very bewildered eyes. And it felt great. Not just owning up to it and defending something I love, but how I surprised myself in disclosing such information to a group of people that I have not known for very long.

Let’s slice up that bread, okay? It’s waited long enough.

2014-04-16 080

2014-04-16 081

2014-04-16 082

Want the recipe? Here we go.

—–

Simple Comfort Banana Bread
adapted from Ms. Betty‘s recipe, of course

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened (plus, don’t forget those butter wrappers for greasing up your loaf pans!)
4 large eggs
3 cups mashed overripe bananas (about 6 from the freezer, where everyone who can’t eat a whole bunch of bananas before they turn brown should be throwing them, right?)
1 cup buttermilk (again, who are we kidding with this? 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar plus enough whole milk to equal 1 cup works just fine)
2 tsp. vanilla
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. salt
old-fashioned oats, for sprinkling

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make sure that the oven rack is positioned so that the tops of the loaves are around the center of the oven, to ensure even heat distribution. Grease up your two loaf pans with your butter wrappers.

Mix softened butter and sugar together until well-mixed and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and blend until well-mixed. Add the bananas, vanilla, and buttermilk all at once and mix until smooth. Then dump in both flours, the baking soda, and the salt and mix until just moistened.

Divide the batter evenly into your two loaf pans, and then sprinkle the tops with the oats. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the loaves to cool on a wire rack for about 30 minutes to an hour before attempting to take them out of the pans. Run a butterknife along the outer edges first to ensure that the loaves are sufficiently loosened from the pan before flipping them out. Then, wait until they are fully cooled, at least 2 more hours, before slicing them up.

2014-04-16 090

2014-04-16 083

2014-04-16 094

You will make a mess.

2014-04-16 093

I usually slice these up into 12 pieces each, wrap them up in aluminum foil, and put them in the freezer so that they are ready for breakfast and lunch emergencies whenever.

2014-04-16 095

If you take one out of the freezer before you drive to school, it will be defrosted and perfect when you pull it out of your bag for lunch. It will make everyone jealous.

—–

So, why combine ASMR and banana bread?

2014-04-16 087

Maybe it’s just that I’m constantly reminded how much I need to slow down and enjoy life. That the best things in this world are the ones that we take the time to craft for ourselves and truly appreciate. That we all need to take a break and relax, and whether that involves sitting down to enjoy a slice of banana bread with a cup of tea or putting on your headphones to enjoy the fact that someone cared so much about you and your weird loves that they pretended to be your dentist or your spa technician or your travel agent or whatever…it’s your thing.

Don’t let anyone ever tell you that it’s dumb. It’s totally awesome, and so are you.