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 Renée 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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I Am Jack’s Decorative Throw Pillow

Can we talk for a second about Chuck Palahniuk?

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My infatuation with his work started sort of atypically for me, but not for the rest of the world, with the fact that the first inkling I ever had of him was the movie Fight Club. For once, I didn’t read the book before the movie. I didn’t even know there was a book before the movie. I was 17 and not yet shaped into the devour-er of bizarre dystopian fiction that blogs before you.

That movie blew my damn mind.

Initially, the only reason I wanted to see it was because I had a massive crush on Edward Norton and wanted to see every single thing he was in. (The crush is still sort of there, especially Primal Fear-era Norton. Oh man.) I left the theatre feeling like I had just seen something that I shouldn’t have, and my consequential deep-dive into all things Palahniuk only reinforced that.

I made my mom buy me (in addition to being the awkward person next to me in that movie theatre, poor Mom…actually, to her credit, she’s a surprising fan of this type of stuff and subsequently made it through awkward viewings of Pi and Trainspotting as well during this formative period in my life…) the novel of Fight Club, which I read in one day on my way to NYU for college interviews. Then came Invisible Monsters, and I was completely hooked. Then Survivor. Then Choke, which is still and will always be my favorite. Then he couldn’t even write books fast enough for me to read them.

You could say I was a fan.

I have still maintained my fandom over the years, faithfully reading each new work as it comes out and adding most of them to my permanent collection. I still reread Choke and Diary every couple of years just for fun and to cleanse my palate between the Jodi Picoult guilty-pleasure novels I find myself into now. (Seriously, can there be two authors more different from each other? I have no idea why my brain works this way.) When I saw that Mr. Palahniuk was going to be coming to New Orleans for a book-signing this month, I realized that I had to add him to the increasingly-long list of admired people, especially authors, who receive a handknit gift from me.

But what to make? The answer came almost instantly. A throw pillow, emblazoned with an anti-capitalist message, of course!

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Say hello to I Am Jack’s Decorative Throw Pillow. (Easily downloadable and printable PDF pattern right here, plus the chart you’ll need to embroider Tyler Durden’s anti-establishment message on your pillow. And your heart.)

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Some notes on the making of this here pillow, so it’s easier to make your own:

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The knitting here is ridiculously easy.

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The duplicate stitching is a beast.

If you’ve never tried duplicate stitching before (or you’re not as obsessed with it as I am), it might be good to practice a little on a swatch (maybe your gauge swatch that you’ve diligently knitted, right?) before you move on to the finished project. Here’s a great tutorial from Purl Soho to review if you’ve never tried it before (be sure to follow the “V” stitch portion for our particular pattern).

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To perform a duplicate stitch, you insert a yarn needle threaded with your desired yarn into the base of the stitch you’d like to embroider over, from back to front. Then, you thread the needle underneath the “V” of the stitch above the one you’re working on, pull the yarn snugly, and then bring the needle back down into the base of the stitch where you came up. You’re basically following the yarn through the stitch as it loops up and down, but only doing it one stitch at a time.

The most important thing to keep in mind is to keep your tension consistent. You don’t want your embroidered stitches to be too loose and floppy because then you’ll be able to see the knitted fabric underneath, and everything will just be a mess. If your stitches are too tight, there will be all kinds of puckering and strangeness, which will be near-impossible to block out. Just practice for a bit on some no-stakes stockinette swatches, and you’ll be good to go.

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You don’t want to make your working yarn too long, or you’ll end up tangled all the time. Make sure, as you’re moving from area to area, that you leave enough slack on the back of your work that the fabric doesn’t pucker, but not enough that you’re getting tangled up and catching on loops back there all the time. The way that I do this is to put 2-3 fingers against the back of the fabric and under the slack as I’m pulling the yarn across and making my first stitch, keeping things loose, but not sloppy. Plus, who doesn’t want an excuse to look at the back of crazy embroidery? All knitters love that stuff.

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You’re going to wet-block your pillow before sewing it up, just to give those letters a chance to even and flatten out, plus to get your edges straight, which makes things so much easier.

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Mattress stitch everything up almost all the way, leaving the stuffing until the very end. Afterwards, I gave mine another good hit with the steam iron, just to make sure that everything was fluffed and puffed and perfect.

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I feel like someone was watching me.

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One other important moment before we get to the main event.

I went to get all of my Chuck Palahniuk books, just to make a super-cute picture (and it worked, right?), and I decided to look up the page in Fight Club where our famous quote resides.

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Hmmmm. Turns out that the internet steered me oh-so-wrong. I, like probably 99% of the people on the planet, had completely forgotten that the bar scene in which Tyler states, “The things you own end up owning you,” is completely invented for the movie. In the book, the narrator, musing to himself before he has any idea that his apartment is no more, states, “Then you’re trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.”

As much as I love the phrase “lovely nest,” that sentence is a little too long to put on a throw pillow. I was mortified that I remembered it wrong, but then Chuck ended up agreeing with me, saying that it didn’t matter and he thought that it was great. Yeah, that was awesome.

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I’m getting ahead of myself.  When I got to the book-signing, I patiently waited my turn, sitting almost entirely in a plant with pillow in tow, chatting with some lovely people who traveled 900 miles to see him. That’s some dedication.

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The book-signing was to celebrate the release of Fight Club 2, the graphic novel continuation of the original novel, which is stunningly gorgeous to me already, and I was only flipping through the first few pages. From what I gather, there’s some 4th-wall-crossing mind-bending author-acknowledgment stuff going on, a la Bret Easton Ellis’ Lunar Park, and I am always on board for that. I am so excited to dig in.

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The moment to present my gift was nearly here, and the wonderful people at the Garden District Book Shop caught me looking very coy, wearing my Hamilton shirt in honor of the 212th anniversary of his duel with Burr. Yes, I can’t just geek out about one thing at a time, apparently.

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Can we talk about this man? What a gem.

Not only was he doing the entire event in his bare feet, but he proclaimed the pillow beautiful and asked me all kinds of questions, for which I had extremely short and insufficient answers. Maybe because my brain was overloading with awe.

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He posed me with the pillow so that he could take a picture of it! How freaking cute is that?

He asked me how long I had been knitting (16 years!), and what made me start knitting in the first place. I was honest with my ridiculously lame answer and stated that I saw a friend knitting during a lecture my first semester in college and decided that that was something I needed to learn how to do. No awesome family-heritage-based or raw talent story. Just boredom. If only I knew how much it would come to define me as a person today…

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He personalized our books with the most wonderful messages!

And then…

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…oh yeah.

I had to go with choking, of course, being that Choke is my favorite of his novels, but all I can see when I look at this picture is how genuinely happy Dan looks to be abused by a famous author. I don’t even know how he managed this winning smile because my facial expression is only 30% pretend here. I don’t know if it was the height difference or what (or the fact that he was standing on a cooler behind us), but Chuck Palahniuk actually managed to take my breath away a little bit. More than a little bit. That man’s got some arms.

We strode out of there on top of the world. I’m still smiling, sitting here the next day. I can’t wait to read my book and dive once again into Mr. Palahniuk’s twisted world, knowing that he now knows how much he’s shaped mine.

Seriously, Chuck, thank you. You’re one of the good ones, and you deserve all of the decorative throw pillows life can give you.

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

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

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

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

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

Here we go.

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

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And can we talk a little bit more about Bailee?

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

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

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

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

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Needless to say, I think that Rebecca was delighted.

You know who else is delightful?

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These guys.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In September, I discovered that I could knit rainbows.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knitting Magic – the Rainbow Honey Cowl

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I needn’t have worried.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Nope, just plain lovely the whole way through.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Pickled Okra & Roasted Peanuts? Don’t mind if I do.

My friend Gaby recently made the mistake of making me interested in something.

She told me about a lovely farmers’ market and farm located right in the middle of New Orleans called Hollygrove Market & Farm, and they have a weekly “box” (spoilers: it’s actually a bag.) of amazing farm-fresh vegetables, fruits, and other glorious food items that come from all kinds of wonderful backyard and independent farms in Louisiana and southern Mississippi, and it’s only $25. How awesome is that? It is remarkable that after living 6 years in Colorado, I somehow never got in on a CSA-subscription, but know that I have been enlightened as to Hollygrove’s existence, things are a-changin’.

Part of what’s great about Hollygrove is that they put up on their website what’s going to be in the “box” each week, so that you can choose if you want to get in on that or not. Right now I am kicking myself for not going this week because homemade organic blueberry jam was involved. And sweet potatoes! Sigh.

Anyway.

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Since I started making Hollygrove a part of my grocery considerations, I have received some treasures (like this amazing okra that has no business being so beautifully green) that needed some extra prep work, with awesome results. Working from a CSA-style box makes you change the way you think about cooking. It makes you want to eat seasonally all the time. It makes you want to go put your own hands in the dirt for a while. And it makes you wonder how hard it would be to make things that most normal people usually buy.

Enter pickled okra.

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People from the South go crazy for pickled okra. Every single person that I talked to about the possibility of pickled okra proclaimed their undying love for pickled okra right there on the spot. Even Dan enjoys pickled okra, and that’s saying something.

The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking really helped me out on this one with this super easy recipe for refrigerator pickled okra. For those not in the know (and you’re looking at food blogs on the Internet, so how could this be?) refrigerator pickling is a quick-pickling method that doesn’t involve lengthy boiling periods for brine-making, sealing, and sterilization, since the contents are usually much, much smaller and meant to be consumed within a month or slightly longer. These types of things are especially appealing if you only have enough okra to fill one quart jar (about a pound) and the grocery stores in your area would look at you sideways if you asked them where they kept the wide-mouth funnels.

Directions were followed, with the one exception that I put a few peppercorns into the mix instead of hot peppers, because I have come to terms with just not being badass enough for that. And then the waiting ensued. You have to wait to eat these for at least two weeks, otherwise your okra will somehow be both fibrous and slimy, a disgusting combination. But, if you diligently wait the two weeks?

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You will be rewarded.

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And then you will eat a whole bunch and brag to everyone on Facebook and Instagram that you did something that countless millions of other people have done before you, but oh my god it doesn’t matter because pickling is a miracle.

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These are sour and crunchy and amazing, with little seeds that pop in your mouth. You will probably never ever buy a jar of pickled okra again.

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In fact, you’ll now be looking for more opportunities to spend an inordinately long period of time hand-crafting something that any other person would have used a 2-for-1 coupon for.

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Like roasting your own peanuts!

The next time I got the “box,” Hollygrove had included a pound of green peanuts. What on earth are green peanuts, you ask? Oh wait, you already knew? Well, I had no idea and needed some assistance. Avalon Acres helped me out. Green peanuts are basically totally raw, straight from the ground, chock full of water and ready for boiling or roasting.

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Something that they don’t tell you is that peeling green peanuts is not a walk in the park. Peeling this one pound of peanuts took me at least half of a game of Scrabble. Good thing I had coffee to aid me.

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The peeled peanuts were soaked (floated, really) in some salt water…

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…dried off and coated in salt and pepper…

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…and then roasted for waaaaaay longer than the recipe told me to. I’m thinking that I probably need to get my oven checked out now, since I had a very similar problem roasting pumpkin seeds last year. The recipe claims that 20 minutes at 350 degrees should be enough, but we went more than double that time before anything looked vaguely roasted.

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Good news, though. They were delicious.

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Normally, the little papery inner shells of peanuts give me the heebie-jeebies, and I always am careful to peel them aside if eating roasted peanuts. On these? They were the best part! Every bit was super crunchy and smokey, and they only lasted about 48 hours.

My desire for making common household condiments and appetizer-type things has only intensified. I think I need to rush into this headlong and make my own ketchup now. Who’s with me?

Complement Anklets – stripes and extra strapazierfähig

I am supposed to be either studying EKG’s in order to quickly identify various types of dysrrhythmias or writing a paper about the safety and transportation concerns in a local neighborhood.

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Instead, I am writing about socks.

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This should come as a shock to no one. Given the chance between taking pictures of and writing about handknit socks or doing pretty much anything else (unless it is take pictures of and write about homemade ice cream), I will choose the socks every time.

To hell with appropriate time management skills. It’s almost the end of summer! (Although you’d never know it from the 90-degree weather today here in New Orleans.) People on the Internet need to know about handknit socks so that they can get ready for fall and the all-important task of parading about the house in their awesome socks, so I am here for them. They might need some super sassy socks to hurry and put on after they do their ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in their bare feet, like I stupidly did. I am here for them, too. Anyone with cold feet, really.

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These were stitched up with Lana Grossa’s Meilenweit Fantasy, a yarn that, according to the label, is both “waschmaschinenfest” and “extra strapazierfähig.”

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Great.

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I think these heels and toes are where that extra strapazierfähig is really going to come in handy. (And yes, I know what it means. Do you?)

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This yarn has been in my stash for such a long time that I’m not even sure what prompted me to buy it. I am not the biggest yarn of the checkerboard stripes in a lot of self-striping yarns, but something about these alternating bands of green, blue, and orange really caught my attention.

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Hence the name: Complement Anklets. Get it? Because blue and orange are complementary colors? And because you’ll get lots of compliments when you’re wearing them?

*Cue rimshot, and following crickets*

Anyone else find punny homonym jokes as funny as I do? No? Okay, moving on. Here’s a picture of some fuzzy cat feet along with mine.

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Bowie really wanted in on the modeling. He’s a natural.

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I used the Yarn Harlot‘s Good, Plain Sock Recipe from Knitting Rules. Again. It is seriously the only plain sock pattern you’ll ever need ever again for your whole life.

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Good, plain sock patterns don’t fight with the stripes. They make the stripes front-and-center. They make everyone realize just how important stripes are to you, as a person. They fit just perfect, every single time, and after you make them enough, you don’t even look down at the pattern anymore. You just know what you need to do next and do it, and if knitting socks completely on the fly doesn’t make you feel like a proper knitting badass, nothing else will.

Score One for the Pie People – Freestylin’ with Jeni’s Raspberry Blueberry Oven-Baked Empanadas

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Dan and I got into a small debate last weekend with some friends as to whether cake is better than pie. Dan and I fall firmly down on the “pie” side, which might be one of the defining reasons for our eight years together. I’m sure other factors play a part, but they surely can’t be as important as pie.

Cupcakes, with their beneficial frosting-to-cake ratio were mentioned during this debate, and I countered this argument with the existence of hand pies. Or empanadas. Or turnovers. Or whatever you want to call these wonderful little single-serving treats that give you an amazing crust-to-filling ratio that blows a cupcake away.

People who grew up in New Orleans (like me) also grew up on Hubig’s Pies, these amazing deep fried sugar bombs that always made an appearance at every family function in my childhood. (I have an aunt who used to work in their corporate office, and it was always her potluck contribution to bring an entire case of assorted flavors.) Unfortunately, Hubig’s suffered a devastating fire in 2012, and the factory has yet to be restored. That leaves those of us firmly entrenched on the “pie” side without some of our favorite things.

How do we fix this problem? We make our own.

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We get out our new ice cream cookbook, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts, turn to the page with the recipe for Sweet Empanadas, and get to mixing up some dough.

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Jeni’s has been encouraging people to take the recipes in the cookbooks and run with them, putting their own spin on things or creating new flavors, something they’ve dubbed Freestylin’. #freestylin if we want to be super-cool.

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When I was asking Dan about what flavor of hand pie he’d like, he specified raspberry. I was in more of a blueberry mood. What to do, especially since we’re in freestylin’ mode? Mix them together.

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Raspberries and blueberries cooked down into a delicious syrup makes the most beautiful deep magenta that I’ve ever been able to produce in my kitchen.

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I cut my circles out of my dough, using a Hard Rock Cafe cocktail glass that I have never used once for alcohol, mostly because of its cartoonish shape.

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And because I didn’t have any troubles with the dough, I was bound to run into problems sooner or later. The recipe recommends 2-2 1/2 tablespoons of filling per pie, but I could barely fit in one without having problems sealing the dough.

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See those ones in the back spilling their purple guts already? I think that I might need to invest in an empanada press. Then, the oozing might not have been so…oozy.

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Because we were freestylin’ (and slightly because I am still moderately terrified of boiling oil), I decided to bake the pies instead of frying them. Everything got brushed with eggwash and sprinkled with some extra sugar. Then, they went into a preheated 375 degree oven for about 35 minutes, switching places and turning halfway through.

Even though oozing did occur, however, the pies stayed fairly plump and didn’t lose the majority of their fruity filling, so things worked out in the end.

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Especially when we scooped some vanilla bean ice cream (tragically not handmade) on top, as per Jeni’s suggestion.

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Look at that melty, fruity goodness. Yum.

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The pies have only been in existence for two days, and they are already more than halfway gone. I should have doubled things up, clearly. Or maybe we just need Hubig’s back ASAP. Either way would be a win for us “pie” people.

The Summer So Far? Ice Cream and Muffins!

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

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Sitting near lakes during lovely sunsets.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking of…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Just lovely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toasted Coconut Brownie Ice Cream. Need I say more?

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There were a few days last week when it really felt like spring here in New Orleans. Dare I even say summer? All I know is that I saw a lot of shorts and sandals for a little while, which got me thinking of ice cream. Honestly, it doesn’t take much to get me thinking of ice cream.

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The day that I ended up making ice cream, however, ended up being the day when a cold front swept through, dumping tons of freezing rain on all of those people in their shorts and sandals. I chose to soldier on, ignoring the weather and rejoicing in my tiny amount of free time.

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I ended up taking my own advice and toasting up some coconut to go into my coconut milk base. It was definitely the right way to go.

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I had made some brownies (the always delicious Moosewood Fudge Brownies, this time without the chocolate chips and with pecans instead of walnuts because there were no walnuts to be found in my house) earlier that week, and the last two brownies were just sitting there on the counter, feeling lonely. What else could I do but chop them up and throw them in there? It was just the right thing to do. Toasted Coconut Brownie Ice Cream. I just couldn’t resist.

Toasted Coconut Brownie Ice Cream
adapted from the Hungry Mouse‘s 3-Ingredient Coconut Ice Cream

Ingredients:
2 13 oz. cans of coconut milk (for some reason, the only ones I could find this time were 13.5 oz. each, but I don’t think it caused any problems)
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut (or unsweetened, or flaked, whatever you want)
2 1/2 leftover brownies (Whatever your favorite brownie recipe is. You already know mine. I usually cut up my 8×8 baking dish into 9 pieces, so each square of brownie is somewhere around 2.5″ square.)

Directions:
Toast your coconut by spreading it in a thin layer on a baking sheet and putting it into a preheated 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes. Be sure to watch it closely and stir it often, because it browns up really quick. I only needed 5 1/2 minutes. Chop up 2 of your brownies into little brownie cubes, and then leave the 1/2 brownie to the side for crumbling.

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Dump your coconut milk (being sure to avoid spraying coconut milk all over yourself and the kitchen counter, like I did), sugar, and vanilla into a large food processor.

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Doesn’t that look a little bit like miso soup? It’s weird. Blend things up until they appear more presentable.

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Pour your coconut milk base into your prepared ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. You’ll only have to process it for about 30-40 minutes total.

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Add the toasted coconut and crumble up that remaining 1/2 brownie piece into the ice cream base when you only have 10-15 minutes left to go on the processing so that they are well-distributed.

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While you’re waiting for the rest of the spinning time, put some brownie cubes in your waiting ice cream container. This is how Jeni makes her delicious chunky ice creams, so we are taking a page from her. She is a genius.

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When the ice cream is done spinning up, pour a little bit over those brownie pieces, and then put some more brownies on top.

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Repeat.

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Until there’s no more brownies or ice cream. I made sure to cover the entire thing with a layer of the coconut ice cream base so that the brownies were totally submerged, just to avoid those brownie chunks drying out. Cover the top of the ice cream with a piece of parchment paper and then put on that airtight lid. Allow the ice cream to freeze for at least 8 hours, but overnight is best.

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We did end up trying some that night, after 8 hours of freezing, and there was still a bit of graininess to the texture. However, this had completely disappeared by the next day. It’s definitely worth the wait.

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The sweetest of the coconut and the richness of the brownies and pecans work really well together, I believe. Dan declared this the best ice cream I’ve made so far. That’s saying something.

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Now if only the weather would cooperate.

Mischief Managed

There is a special kind of joy in making something that you know that someone is going to love.

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My friend Bailee (introduced earlier on the blog by taking some super awesome pictures while I made pie) is the biggest Harry Potter fan that I have met. Possibly the biggest one ever.

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Those in the know now know that she is not messing around.

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She loves all of the best things in all of the best ways. I’m talking about that kind of unabashed, un-self-conscious, super-hardcore-fan love that gives artists a reason for making more beautiful art. She loves things out loud, and makes sure that everyone else knows about all of the awesome things that they might have missed out on because they were too busy trying to look cool and pretend that they wouldn’t really rather spend any day of their lives drinking wine and watching Sherlock instead of anything else.

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What do you give to someone like that?

Well, first, you know that accuracy is key. You do some research and you find the Harry Potter scarf pattern to end all Harry Potter scarf patterns, Atypically Knit’s Prisoner of Azkaban scarf.

This thing is a beast. 521 rounds of pure stripy stockinette wooliness. Plus casting on, then binding off. And weaving in all those ends!

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Not to mention all that fringe.

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This thing is an undertaking that is only worthy of the most deserving. Those people who will indulge you on your Tom Hiddleston obsession. Those people who will always take the time to listen to your problems and give you their respect by telling you theirs. Those people who know how to rock a crazy woolen scarf in New Orleans weather.

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Which sometimes means wearing it right next to a stone lion right where Brad Pitt sat on a park bench in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, even if only the photographer loves that movie.

Down to brass tacks, then we’ll get back to the modeling, I promise.

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This was stitched up over countless hours in Brown Sheep’s Nature Spun Worsted (link is to Paradise Fibers, where I ordered this yarn and had a lovely yarn shopping experience, in general), a fantastic workhorse worsted wool, perfect for projects that need to look absolutely perfect and last for a good long time. It’s got some fantastic stitch definition, something you don’t often see in the 100% wool universe.

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I went with the colors Blue Knight and Gray Heather, trying to get the most accurate Ravenclaw scarf that I could. There’s plenty more suggestions for yarn types and colors in the pattern, but I think that these in particular look beautiful together.

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And can we talk about that fringe?

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I know that fringe can be a major pain sometimes, especially after you’ve done so much knitting and yet you are still not done. In order to get this fringe looking its best, I flat-blocked the whole scarf first, being sure to keep the stripe jog along one side seam. After it was dry, I attached the fringe one tiny bundle at a time to the open ends of the scarf, closing them up by working through both sides of the fabric. I feel like this left a much cleaner seam that would have resulted if I had chosen to sew things up first.  Then the fringe got steam-pressed and trimmed up a bit, just to make things more evened-out, but not too severe.

Back to the modeling? Yes!

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Mardi Gras is actually the perfect time of year for scarves, because the New Orleans weather just cannot figure itself out. It can be simultaneously windy, sunny, and freezing, all during the same 3 hours that you are standing and waiting for a parade. This scarf actually made its first official public appearance while Bailee, Dan, and I went to Nyx, Bailee’s first ever Mardi Gras parade.

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It works well as a babushka, whenever needed.

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But, in all actuality, and I am quoting here, you could wrap it around your entire head and still have enough left to keep your neck warm.

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(I know that I just heard collective groans from Gryffindors everywhere. There are just no stone ravens out here, I swear.)

It’s huge and warm and ridiculous, with just enough class to go everywhere. Just more reasons why everyone needs to have an excessively long double-sided woolen scarf.

But not this one. It’s already taken.  And loved.

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