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.

Advertisements

RumChata Ribbon Ice Cream. Oh, and I graduated from nursing school.

So.

2015-05-18 310

Damn it, RumChata, I’ll get back to you in a second. Stop looking so delicious. (Or, as the lady at the liquor store told me, stop looking like a giant bottle of lotion.)

141

On Thursday, I finally, after an insane three years of paper-writing, textbook-reading, note-taking, care plan-making, and IV-flushing, graduated from nursing school. Hooray for me!

Now, when I write about things on here, the attitude is usually “hooray for me” all the time, mostly because it’s a blog, and what other kind of attitude are you supposed to have when you are mostly writing about your own accomplishments in knitting and baking? (And cats. I do write about cats a lot.) It’s also written from that perspective because I often have a very hard time accepting compliments in the real world. Or thinking that my work is good enough in general. I often ride a very fine line of knowing that I am extremely capable when I work hard at something and also thinking that the world and everything I love will suddenly plummet to a firey descent of death if I don’t get an A on this damn paper.

It makes life weird.

Anyway, attitudes like that which generally make my day-to-day life anxiety-fraught (and the word ‘anxiety’ consistently makes it onto the most-frequently-used tags cloud at the bottom of the page, so are we really surprised?) made this moment that much sweeter.

2015-05-18 330 edit

Yep, valedictorian. I just. I. I don’t even know. I was pretty sure that it was coming (except during one particularly harrowing afternoon when it looked like some sort of weird snafu of transfer credits, prerequisites, and weird university by-laws was going to make it not happen), especially because of my general desire to set unattainable goals, but I still don’t even know what to say. All I know is that I smiled from ear-to-ear for nearly 48 hours straight. Might be a record.

Now. Back to the ice cream.

A graduation party had been in the works for some time prior to all of this, mostly because I wanted to make sure that I could properly thank the people in my life who made the experience bearable with their kindness, warmth, and humor, with an entirely ridiculous amount of food and alcohol. When I was brainstorming desserts, my friend Brittany issued me a challenge. An ice cream challenge, which is probably the best kind. She suggested making alcoholic ice cream. RumChata ice cream, specifically.

2015-05-17 063

Hey there, you beautiful bottle. Glad you’re back.

If you’ve never partaken in the glory of a shot of RumChata, let me let their website describe it to you: “Rum and horchata had a lovechild, and it’s delicious.” Good copy.

It tastes like Cinnamon Toast Crunch. But with alcohol. And it is a fantastic addition to any graduation party, all on its own. But in ice cream? I found lots of fakey-type ice cream recipes online for it (like the coconut cream or bananas methods), but to make it a real custard-based ice cream, I had to get creative.

You see, RumChata is 27.5 proof alcohol, low on the general drinkability scale, but high when it comes to attempting to freeze something. Some research was definitely required to get everything to work out properly. Enter Ice Cream Happy Hour, a fabulous book by Valerie Lum and Jenise Addison and definitely required reading if you’re attempting to freeze anything that’s loaded with alcohol. Their method employs prepared gelatin and chilled alcohol incorporated at the end of the custard base chilling process, which is totally genius stuff right there. I also pulled together inspiration from the Pioneer Woman and Food.com in creating this cinnamony delight.

Here we go.

RumChata Ribbon Ice Cream
with a great deal of adapting and combining from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, Ice Cream Happy Hour, the Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Ice Cream and Virginia’s Cinnamon Sauce

Ingredients:
Cinnamon Sauce Ribbon:
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 pinch salt
3 tsp cinnamon
3 cups water
1 tsp vanilla

RumChata Ice Cream Base:
2 cups whole milk
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp cornstarch
3 tbsp softened cream cheese
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp light corn syrup
2 cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 packet plain gelatin
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup chilled Rumchata liqueur

Directions:
Cinnamon Sauce Ribbon:

2015-05-17 046

Whisk all ingredients together, except for the vanilla, in a medium saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.

2015-05-17 047

2015-05-17 049

Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, and set aside to cool. (I let it sit out on the counter while I prepared the ice cream base and then refrigerated it until it was time to assemble the finished ice cream.) The sauce will thicken as it cools.

2015-05-17 062

RumChata Ice Cream Base:
This is all done using the Jeni’s method of ice cream making, which comes highly recommended by me and countless others. Please do go check out their website and support them in their awesome grand re-opening.

Mix two tbsp of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl (a giant bowl) with ice and water in order to chill your ice cream base when ready.

Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, corn syrup, and cinnamon sticks in a medium saucepan. Bring it to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, being sure to stir constantly to prevent scorching or boiling over, and boil for 4 minutes. (And be precise, people! Your ice cream is counting on you!)

2015-05-17 055

Remove from heat and gradually whisk in your cornstarch slurry mixture. Return to the heat and bring it back to a boil, still stirring, allowing it to cook and thicken up for about 1 minute. Fish out those cinnamon sticks and throw them away, unless you know something I don’t about what to do with them now.

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese and beat until smooth. Add the ground cinnamon and mix until well-distributed.

2015-05-17 056

2015-05-17 057

Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziplock bag, seal it, and submerge it in your giant bowl of water and ice until it’s totally chilled, about 30 minutes.

2015-05-17 058

2015-05-17 060

When the ice cream base is chilled, it’s time for alcohol! Put the 1/3 cup water in a small saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over it. Allow it about 2 minutes to properly absorb, and then cook the mixture over low heat for approximately 3 minutes, until it is clear and all the gelatin has completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the chilled RumChata, resisting the urge to take a big swig from the bottle as you do so.

Pour this new alcohol mixture into the Ziplock bag with the chilled ice cream base, and then give the bag a good massage to make sure that everything’s mixed up nice. Pour the whole thing (most easily accomplished by snipping off a corner of the bag and squeezing it out) into the frozen canister of your ice cream maker and process it until it’s thick and creamy, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

2015-05-17 066

This can be very different for different machines, and with the alcohol content involved in this one, may be very different from your normal time. Usually, my KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment takes only about 30-35 minutes before the base is ready to freeze, but in this case, I let it go for 45 minutes before I realized it was just never going to be as lofty as it usually gets. Instead, I then poured it into a freezer container and stuck it in the coldest part of my freezer, taking it out to whisk it up every 30 minutes or so for the next 2 hours, at which point it had finally evolved into something I was more familiar with. Just keep an eye on it and have a little cinnamon-based faith. Even if it doesn’t get as beautiful as normal, it’ll turn out.

Pack your new ice cream into a storage container, layering the cinnamon sauce as you go.

2015-05-17 068

2015-05-17 069

2015-05-17 072

The recipe makes a boatload of sauce, so there’s plenty left over to warm up and put on top if you want when you’re serving it. Press a sheet of parchment paper firmly against the surface of the ice cream and seal with an airtight lid. Normally, ice cream only takes about 5-6 hours to cure in my freezer, but this one was best left in there for the course of 24 hours. Plan ahead for this ice cream deprivation.

When you’re ready, make sure you’ve got people crowded around and waiting, because even after all that effort, if you so much as look wrong at that ice cream when you take it out of the freezer, it will melt just to spite you. (But no, seriously, you don’t have to let it thaw or anything like you might normally. Just get to scooping and work fast.)

2015-05-18 342

2015-05-18 343

Marvel in the fact that it actually worked! And then hurry up and scoop some more because you’ve got more people waiting.

2015-05-18 344

This is Brittany, the gauntlet-thrower for this entire experiment, and I think she was pleased.

2015-05-18 346

I think everyone was, as this was the scene five minutes after I started scooping.

2015-05-18 345

Luckily, I saved a tiny bit for myself at the end to enjoy. The ice cream itself was smooth and packed with warm cinnamon flavor, with a hint of that rum that reminds you that you are eating some ice cream only for grown-ups. The cinnamon sauce ribbon was slightly icy and grainy, but in the best way possible, giving the whole thing an interesting texture and more complex palate. It tasted like…Cinnamon Toast Crunch. With alcohol.

2015-05-18 347

Mission accomplished.

Azure Waves of Grain

357

I haven’t gotten to knit much so far this year, mostly due to the fact that I am in my very last semester of nursing school, which entails a whole lot of paper- and journal-writing, preceptorship-ing, and NCLEX-reviewing. I actually graduate (YAY!) in the middle of May, and I am saddened to think that I will soon have to find new things to complain about, one of which, if you can judge me by what my priorities were during this last week of Spring Break, will certainly not be “not knitting.” I went on a rampage this past week and finished up a very fiddly and fancy-pants project that I’ve been working on for waaaay too long.

319

310

I mean, look at all that lace! Miles and miles of lace-weight alpaca with perfectly lined-up columns of yarnovers. Looking at it all pinned out…I even impressed myself a little bit.

311

The pattern is the simple and lovely Waves of Grain by Rosemary Hill, in the Fall 2008 issue of Knitty. In the pattern, she has these beautiful poetic musings about the amber waves of grain from “America the Beautiful,” but since I went with the blue and silver thing here, I think that Azure Waves of Grain is a delightful play on words. Just try to talk me out of a good pun. I dare you.

306

With a project like this, where the lace itself is relatively simple and full of long runs of straight lines, blocking wires are a truly amazing thing.

313

You can buy your own set here at KnitPicks, like I did. (Oh, and get those blocking mats, too, while you’re at it! They will also save your life over and over again.) You weave them carefully in and out of the yarnovers on the ends of the rows and pin them back, and voila!

314

When it’s totally dry and you pull out those pins, you see these glorious super-straight rows that make you weep a little bit. For those unfamiliar with lace knitting, the piece that you end up with after the knitting is complete looks a bit like ramen noodles. No matter what kind of master knitter you are, the yarnovers are a million different sizes, the edges are wobbly, and everything is just a big mess.

300

Blocking makes everything beautiful again. And blocking wires in particular prevent any weird scalloping or yanked-out corners and edges that destroy all of that hard work.

321

320

This was also the very first time that I attempted knitting beads into anything, and this was definitely a good project to start with. In this particular pattern, the beads are not pre-strung onto the yarn, but they are threaded onto the individual stitch itself with a teeny-tiny crochet hook, right before the stitch is worked into the pattern.

325

Toothless approves.

301

I got these particular clear glass and silver-foil beads at Michael’s, and I waaaay overbought them, so someone needs to find me another project to use them up (or let me know if you have a dire need for them as well). Having the beads on the end of the shawl gives it a nice little weight and swing, plus the beads make a wonderful little clicking sound when you’re moving around with it.

316

Lace in the sunlight always makes me weak in the knees.

315 (2)

Now, I need to find an occasion to wear this, other than traipsing around the house and pretending that I am an International Woman of Mystery, but I think that it’ll be perfection for any sort of dressy occasion. And I’m graduating soon…hmm.

Cold.

Dan and I made an ALS Ice Bucket Challenge video. Click right here if you want to hear my high-pitched voice and see Dan torture me by pouring that water way too slowly. You know you do.

And go donate to alsa.org to help fund ALS research. It’s totally worth it.

Triple Helix – a super mathy hat

spencer 6

People ask me to knit things for them relatively often, and I usually politely decline by explaining how busy I am. School starts up again tomorrow. (My final year of nursing school! I am so excited that this experience is drawing to a close that I am very nearly almost smiling as I type this. It’s a real moment.) Once school starts, all I tend to do is study, work, sleep, and complain about studying, working, and sleeping. It doesn’t leave much room for recreational activities, hence the overload on knitting projects and ice-cream-based dessert blogging this summer.

2014-07-29 006

However, there was a particular project that I knew that I had to finish before the summer was over. My friend and co-worker Spencer had asked me to make him a hat sometime last winter, and after a great deal of pretending like I didn’t want to do it, I got started with gusto.

Spencer is a math person. He makes jokes about the Monty Hall problem and never stops to see if you understand, just assumes that you will, because otherwise why would he be talking to you? That kind of person needs a mathy hat.

spencer 2

(He’s also a photography person, coincidentally, and the exceptionally lovely first, third, and fifth pictures in this post are all his. Beautiful stuff.)

How do you make a mathy hat, you ask? You take a deep breath and fall down into the rabbit hole of helical knitting. You remember that you saw that the amazing Grumperina knitted some helical striped socks a few years ago, and you dig through your stash to find something that works.

2014-07-29 044

I decided to go all out with the helical goodness here. Three rows of ribbing, three colors of continuously spiraling helical striping, six-part decreasing in order to create diminishing hexagons in the spiral as it works its way up? This thing is practically an episode of Schoolhouse Rock. Three is a magic number, indeed.

spencer 1

Want the pattern? Keep reading below, or go ahead and click on this handy link for an easy-to-read printable PDF.

2014-07-29 046

Triple Helix
a super mathy hat

This original hat was made to fit heads up to 24″, and changes in size can be made easily by decreasing/increasing the number of stitches cast on in multiples of six.

Yarn:
Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Worsted (85% wool, 15% mohair blend, 190 yds. per skein), 1 skein each of M-75 Blue Heirloom (Color A), M-03 Grey Heather (Color B), and M-06 Deep Charcoal (Color C)
(Really, any good quality worsted-weight wool or wool blend will do.)

Supplies:
US size 8 (5.0mm) 16-inch circular needle
US size 8 double-pointed needles
stitch markers (in at least 3 different colors or styles)
tapestry or yarn needle
scissors

Gauge:
5 sts per inch on US 8 (5.0 mm) needles

Pattern:
CO 108 sts with Color A on circular needle. Join into round, being careful not to twist.

Knit in 1×1 ribbing (k1, p1) for 2 rounds.

Using stitch markers, divide stitches evenly into 3 sets of 36 sts. I found it helpful to use stitch markers that were all the same color here, in order to differentiate from the marker you’re using to mark the beginning of the round and the stitch markers that will be used later to indicate the decrease sections. Using 3 distinct colors or styles will help to prevent a lot of confusion down the line.

2014-07-29 284

For the setup round, knit the first 36 sts with Color A. When you reach the first stitch marker, drop Color A, join Color B and knit with it until the next marker. At this marker, drop Color B, join Color C and knit until you finish the round.

2014-07-29 281

For the next round, continue knitting with Color C until you reach the first stitch marker. Then, drop Color C, pick up Color A (where it was conveniently left for you), and begin knitting to the next marker. Resist the temptation to twist the colors at the marker or to pull aggressively at that first stitch. Just drop the color you’re working with, pick up the one waiting for you, give it a tiny tug to even out the tension, and get going. You’ll continue to do this same maneuver over and over again, spiraling the colors upward in rounds until the piece measures 6″ in length (or whatever your preference might be). Keep in mind that the last color for each round always ends up being the first color that you use for the next round, so there’s no color-switching as you go past the beginning of the round.

2014-07-29 288

Decrease section:
Now, divide your sts further so that you have 6 sets of 18 sts each. It’s easiest to do this by just dividing each section in half with a different color of stitch marker, especially if you use locking stitch markers so that nothing has to come off the needles.

Decrease round: *ssk, k to 2 sts before next marker, k2tog, slip marker* until end of round, while continuing to switch colors at the appropriate stitch markers. (12 sts decreased, 96 sts remain.)

Plain round: k all sts, continuing to switch colors at the appropriate stitch markers.

Repeat these two rows 7 more times, until 12 sts remain, switching the double-pointed needles when appropriate. Use the gaps between the needles to stand in place of your color-switching stitch markers.

2014-07-29 293

Final decrease round: *ssk, k2tog* until end of round, while continuing to switch colors at the appropriate stitch markers. (6 sts decreased, 6 sts remain.)

Break all yarns, leaving long enough tails to weave in for Colors B and C, and a longer tail for Color A. Tuck the strands for Colors B and C into the hole at the top of the hat so that they are on the inside. Thread Color A onto a yarn needle and pull the yarn through the remaining 6 sts on the needles, pull snugly, and secure to the inside of the hat.

2014-07-29 011

Weave in all ends, and then spend a few minutes staring lovingly at that awesome spiral. Finish the hat by thoroughly washing and wet-blocking it, which will ensure that the tiny ribbed section stays flat and that the color-switching areas settle down. When the actual knitting is taking place, these areas might feel stiffer or tighter than the surrounding fabric, but a good blocking makes it all even out nicely.

2014-07-29 003

Now, go pretend that August is a reasonable time to wear a wool-and-mohair blend knit hat and go show it off. Not everyone might know right away that it’s a hat that displays your spectacular math love, but the right people will.

Early Birthday Musings, with bonus further Owl Updates! (In short, David Sedaris is the goddamn man.)

“It is sad because you would like to believe that everyone is unique and then they disappoint you every time by being exactly the same, asking for the same things, reciting the exact same lines as though they have been handed a script…All of us take pride and pleasure in the fact that we are unique, but I’m afraid that when all is said and done the police are right: it all comes down to fingerprints.”

– David Sedaris, from “The Santaland Diaries,” Holidays on Ice


I turn 31 tomorrow. 31 isn’t really an exciting age to turn, unless you’re like me and constantly think about ice cream and realize that 31 is the Baskin & Robbins flavor number.

In my 30th year, my main challenge has been facing the task of my first year of nursing school, balancing work and school and clinicals and attempting to uphold the sanity of the boyfriend, friends, coworkers, and cats surrounding me. And I’m pretty sure that even though I may have developed some deep-seated anger problems during the process, I kicked some major ass. Like all up and down the street.

We kept ourselves safe during a crazy hurricane and ate a ridiculous amount of Swedish Fish. I baked countless cakes and pies, learned how to make ice cream, and held my own during numerous Scrabble games. I wrote thousands of words about Jean Watson’s caring theory, spontaneous pneumothorax, and necrotizing fasciitis. I wore all white all day for several days, tempting the gods to make me spill coffee all over myself. We rode our bikes all over the goddamn place until they got stolen out of our backyard. (I know, right? Bunch of savages in this town.) I dressed up like Moaning Myrtle, a Storm Trooper groupie, and a girly teenage vampire with pink hair, all for the sake of the little children.

For once the universe was listening, and it granted me some birthday gifts a little early.

270

Dan and I got to go camping at the beach for a weekend, and even though Florida was actively trying to murder us with its heat, aggressive sunlight, thrashing surf, and angry mosquitoes, we had a fantastic time.

284

156

St. George Island State Park made us feel like we were on our own abandoned desert island, which was a welcome respite from my usual overly-stimulated-but-still-yet-somehow-phenomenally-humdrum life. There was tons of sand, lots of playing with glow sticks in the pitch-blackness outside of our tent, and the eventual triumph of primitive camping skills when we finally had ourselves a fire to make s’mores. My first ever fireside-camping-type s’mores. Hooray!

164

It was freaking great, totally worth our souvenirs of strategically-placed uncomfortable sunburns and mosquito bites.

Shortly before leaving on this weekend adventure, another early birthday present made its way to my mailbox.

owl1

Oh yes, my friends. It is what you think it is.

owl2

And it is hilarious and adorable, everything it needed to be. As I opened the mailbox and saw that owl looking up at me, I executed a spontaneous happy dance on the curb outside my house (accompanied by involuntary squealing), and basically skipped back into the house to show Dan that David Sedaris kept his promise.

That is such a crazy sentence that I never thought I’d be able to think, much less write down, in this lifetime. David Sedaris kept his promise to me.

A famous grown man living in this world picked out the perfect postcard (although I think my owl was slightly cuter, yes?), put pen to cardstock to deliver a real sentiment, and then put a stamp on it and stuck it in a mailbox. This is something that, myself included, has suddenly become very hard for us as humans to do in our current world, for no really good reason that I can surmise. Mr. Sedaris proved himself wrong (from his quote up there, obviously) by showing himself to be a refreshing change from the flaky, ridiculous, empty-promise people that we have all become. He is unique now in his sincerity. What a refreshing change.

People will probably think that I am reading much, much too far into this, but I don’t care one bit. I am inspired. I am going to take this 31st year and use it to hang out with friends. To make more presents for people. To work on my own sincerity. To make my word mean something. To not let the conflicts of school and work and the need for sleeping turn me into an angry person. To calm down and face the world with grace.

122

To just be better.

Here’s hoping.

Rice is Nice, But It’s Just a Grain

Remember last time when I apologized for not posting in a while, and it had been only, like, a month, or something?

Good times.

Nursing school started in August. Since my job didn’t stop, and neither did the rest of my life, blogging fell to the back burner. And then the counter. And then possibly fell onto the floor, because, frankly, I don’t have that much counter space around the stove.

Metaphors are fun!

Poor, poor blogging. Poor abandoned 365 Project. Poor us for not being able to eat all of the baked goods that I haven’t been making. Poor knitting…for…not being knitted. I guess that makes it just yarn.

Don’t get me wrong, I am really enjoying school. Well, the actual work and learning part of it, at least. My competitive self is kicking ass and taking names, and I’m excited to see what comes next.

I’m here for the moment, and I’m skipping any more apologies, because who knows when I’ll be having another free afternoon and get to spend it in serious relaxing style (which for me means making a giant crockpot of chili with cornbread, playing a whole bunch of Guitar Hero, and then busting out the rice pudding).

2012-11-07 001

Woah. Rice pudding! Let’s take that back out of the parentheses!

2012-11-07 003

Rice pudding is delicious. And amazing. And just the perfect thing to eat when it’s getting slightly cooler outside (which in New Orleans is what really passes for fall). Joy the Baker‘s Brown Rice Rice Pudding is particularly fantastic, creamy stuff. Can I also say how much I like typing ‘Rice Rice’ like that?

However, rice pudding, in its individual steps, is not the most appetizing-looking stuff.

2012-11-07 006

Brown rice cooking. Here’s where we get our weird scummy bits and floating foam.

2012-11-07 019

Although, it does look tons more appetizing when it’s done.

(Full nerd disclosure: I sing this song while making anything involving rice in my kitchen. Tell me you can get through this video without chanting ‘Get wild!,’ and I will send you a special present. Maybe. In the meantime, just go watch Home Movies already.)

Back to the weirdness.

2012-11-07 017

Cinnamon and butter and honey plus cold milk equals weird-looking stuff…

2012-11-07 020

…which gets weirder…

2012-11-07 021

…and then starts to look sort of like Jupiter. I can’t be the only one who sees that.

2012-11-07 023

Then things get downright sinister before they get better.

2012-11-07 024

But only for a second.

2012-11-07 026

Raisins just don’t know how to belong just yet.

2012-11-07 028

And then we have the dreaded pudding skin. Blech.

Let’s speed this thing up a bit until we get to the good part, okay?

2012-11-07 030

2012-11-07 031

2012-11-07 033

Getting there.

2012-11-07 035

2012-11-07 037

Woo! A big pile of heaven, straight from the stove, smelling like buttery, cinnamon toast and exotic cardamom loveliness.

2012-11-07 040

Inbetween all of these steps, some knitting even happened.

2012-11-07 042

Crazy, I know! My fingers actually remembered what to do, which was a relief.

2012-11-07 044

And I remembered what else to do, obviously.

Now, if only I could get on track and somehow incorporate the blogging and picture-taking and cooking and baking back into my life of school and work, that would be something. I know that I’ll get a big break in December, so you guys should save up the cookie recipes for me so that I can get all the baking out of my system possible while I can.

Looking forward to it.

365 Project – Week 2

Here’s our latest installment!

365 2012-01-07

A large amount of joy is brought to me every week when we make fun crafts at work with the kids. These little toilet paper roll robots were no exception.

365 2012-01-08

Dan and I have a rummy ritual that used to involve our local laundromat and a lot of trash-talking. The laundromat part has long gone ever since we moved to a grown-up apartment, and now, a house, but the trash-talk continues. Don’t be deceived by that little smile on his face. He probably just got finished swearing at the cards for giving me that ace of spades on top.

I did win that hand, by the way.

365 2012-01-09

The first knitting I’ve done this year — the continuing work on FutureBlanket. I just needed a little garter stitch to ease me in. It feels like my fingers aren’t working quite right lately.

365 2012-01-10

I love hand-winding new yarn for new projects. This is the beginnings of my Swallowtail Shawl, made out of SunSilk Lace by Sunshine Yarns. This gorgeous yarn has been sitting on the stash pile for far too long. It is lusciously soft and shiny, and I’m so excited to really get going on this.

365 2012-01-11

The workings of my veggie sandwich lunch for the day. Those carrots are so freaking orange.

365 2012-01-12

Dan made me a brain food smoothie with raspberries and blueberries that morning. I don’t know if it made me any smarter, but it was definitely tangy and yummy.

365 2012-01-13

Nursing School application completed, packed up, and sent today! Woo! Now the waiting process begins for the interview, etc. Isn’t that always how it is? One weight off your shoulders to just be replaced by a new one? Indeed.