Thankful for Pie 2018 Edition

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

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

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


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



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



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

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


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


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


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


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

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






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






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


Then, taller than the fence and the patio roof.


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

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


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




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

In April, I also learned how to suture.


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


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


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



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




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



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

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


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

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


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

The Summer of Baby Blankets continued into July.


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

And I made a tiny rainbow!


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


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

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


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



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


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

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


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

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


Then, NSP blew our faces off.




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

September brought more musical greatness.


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

Then, we saw Taylor Swift at the Superdome.


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





And snakes!




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

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



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


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

In November, we saw Nine Inch Nails.





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

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


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


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


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

I am very tired.

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

Thankful for Pie 2017 Edition

Here we are, at the end of another year. This year in particular was a challenge, mostly due to the fact that it seemed like every other day that the world as we know it was crashing down around our ears. That’s why doing a year-end round-up thing is usually so pleasing to me. Even if nobody’s reading/listening, it gives me an opportunity to look back on everything that happened and pick out all of the good parts. Especially the stuff that might not have made it onto the blog. It makes you remember the good things, even when everything else is still pretty terrible.

First up, in January, Dan and I went to the Women’s March here in New Orleans.


We hung out with some of the coolest, nicest people ever and got to see some truly hilarious protest signs.


It really felt good to walk amongst so many people who felt like they just needed to do something. Who are doing things and working hard to make things better. I had a coworker ask me, very sincerely, the day afterwards, “But what is everyone marching for? What’s made them so angry?” My answer: “Everything.” I knitted quite a few Pussyhats for friends and for myself, and Dan and I will definitely be wearing them when we march again this year.

In January, I also finished a vest for Dan, a project that still fills me with pride.



Speaking of Grow Dat (the little farm that Dan’s running through all joyfully), in February, Dan and I really got the ball rolling on getting creative and cooking with our weekly CSA haul.






Every week there was more and more kale, and we rose to the challenge. Seriously, I have never eaten so many greens in my life.





I pickled beets and carrots and daikon and peppers and okra and anything else I could get my hands on. And that’s just a tiny sampling of all of our homecooking. We unfortunately did not sign up for the Grow Dat CSA this year, mostly due to the fact that my time’s going to be even more limited because of school, but it’s definitely helped us to eat better and for me to step up my cooking skills. Do go check out Grow Dat and the Hollygrove Market if you’re here in New Orleans. You’ll be glad you did.


Studying was a huge part of my life this year, having started grad school in January after graduating from nursing school in May of 2015. I did not take many pictures of it, because it is not particularly visually exciting, but school really ran my life this year. I kept working full-time as well, until the summer, because I am a crazy person and thought that I could handle it. Now I’m down to two days a week (but it’s still night shift and still a crazy-busy job), but at least now I can breathe.

In March, I had to go to “intensives” for school, and I got to see what is possibly the greatest billboard advertisement of all time.


You might think that a busy highway is no place for Sir Mix-a-lot jokes. You are wrong.

In April, Dan and I found my doppelganger in the New Orleans Museum of Art.



And we went to a Hootenanny!


Grow Dat hosted this huge party for all of its subscribers and donors this year, complete with bluegrass music and square-dancing lessons, and all kinds of amazing food and cocktails from all around the city. I may have had a whole lot of strawberry punch and donated a large amount of money to buy a tractor, but those kids were so excited that it was impossible to not get super excited about tractors right along with them.

In May, I made some dice bags.


Want to make your own? Here’s the pattern, and here’s the chart for your very own LOTR-inspired monogram on the front.

Then, Bailee and I drove ourselves down to Austin in order to personally hand them to the McElroy brothers.





It was amazing, plus I made an extra-special awful face in that picture, so that’s how I get to remember it for the rest of time.


We got to hang out with my brother and sister-in-law, and I got to meet some wonderful Twitter people in real life and eat brunch with them, which is why I think the Internet was really invented: to eat brunch with cool people in different parts of the country.

In June, I went to San Francisco to visit my best friend, Jonathan, and his wife, Rebecca, who are two of the best people, just hands-down.




We went to a Japanese mall.


We saw Justin Townes Earle.


We saw the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Bay Model.





We saw beautiful water and gardens.


We ate at In-N-Out Burger.



We saw Elvis Costello at the Greek Theatre. (My third time seeing him, and a wonderful birthday treat.)


We saw so much modern art at SFMOMA that I’d previously only seen in textbooks, which blew my mind a little bit.









Warhol, Chuck Close, George Segal, Robert Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein, Rothko, Duchamp, Josef Albers…I didn’t want to leave.




We also watched a lot of the new season of Twin Peaks, so it seemed only fitting that I baked us a cherry pie to enjoy.

What a wonderful trip.

During July, I was deep into the throes of knitting for the Summer of Socks, but I figured that this would be a good opportunity to post some pictures of the baking I did this year. Nothing ended up on the blog, but dang there was some good baking coming out of my kitchen.








And I haven’t posted any pictures of the cats yet!



Bowie and Trip make every year better.

In August, I made a lovely baby blanket for a lovely lady.



And a very cute bunny.


Dan and I also enjoyed the eclipse with Dan’s custom made shadowbox viewer, and a giant welding helmet. Everyone loved science for a whole day. It was great.


In September, Dan and I finished up a masterpiece.


And then we just couldn’t stop doing puzzles. We have three now that need to be framed and hung before we’re allowed to do any more.


Dan also took this nice picture of me in the courtyard of Le Petit Theatre before we saw a show.

In October, we showed some friends from out-of-town around the city for Halloween, which always includes some above-ground cemetery action.


Yep, that’s right, that’s a human jawbone just hanging out. Every day is Halloween here.

I took those same friends to the National World War II Museum, and we had a great, although sobering, time.




The production value of this museum is downright astounding. I highly recommend it, even though I’m not really a huge wartime-history buff, just because everything was so detailed and interactive. Just make sure you plan to spend the whole day there so you can see everything. The place is massive, and the four hours we spent were simply not enough.


This was my favorite fun fact.


I also posted about some awesome socks in November.



And I visited Bailee in Mississippi for her birthday!


We ate all kinds of fried chicken and fancy pastries, listened to Taylor Swift and did our Tarot. A really, really good day.


I surprised myself and made a beautiful rainbow baby blanket in December.


Complete with turtle friend.

And then I made another one.


With elephant to match.


All of these pregnant ladies in my life have such good taste, so I really had to step up my game to give them some beautiful things.






Dan requested apple pie for his birthday (as per usual), so I got my buttermilk crust game-face on.


He also had an extra request this year, and that was that a make peach cobbler for one of his coworkers, a widower whose wife used to love to bake. He’s a good egg, that Dan.


Then, the Summer of Socks was upon us, and I posted all about my super-secret sock knitting escapades, in three installments (1, 2, and 3!).


Then, just a few days ago, Dan and I welcomed a new family member into our lives.


Her name is Turbovicki, and she’s very red and half-electric. We love her.

I have never had a new car ever in my entire life, so I’m having a complicated mix of feelings about it. On the one hand, I feel like I really don’t deserve something so nice. I’m bad about treating myself and doing nice things for myself, because I just don’t ever feel like I’ve done anything special for it. It was a very big decision to even allow myself to think about having a new car.
On the other hand, oh my god if this isn’t the coolest car ever. I’m trying to get over myself and enjoy it.

So, all in all, a pretty good year, full of baking and knitting and schoolwork and love. Speaking of baking…


First thing for the new year will be a new pie recipe, so you can enjoy all kinds of chocolate and cherries to start 2018.

I can’t even express how good it feels to look over all of this and to be able to share it with all of you. I’m always glad to have the outlet of blogging and to be able to share my (albeit small) accomplishments with a tiny corner of the world. I hope that you all had a good year, despite the ongoing garbage fire of a world, and that we can share the upcoming goodness of 2018 together.

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.


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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?

Russell the Carrot, your new best knitted friend

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My friend and coworker Stevi had a baby last winter, and I never got a chance, what with school and all, to make her new baby boy anything fun. However, as my summer draws to its close, this problem has been officially solved.

Meet Russell the Carrot. Russell is a fantastic orange friend who will add joy to your life. Not only is he good for your eyesight, but he is extra huggable and squishable, and has a smile for every occasion. Apparently, Stevi’s son is really into hugging, and he loves anything with a smiley face, so Russell should be right up his alley.

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I had the (rare) presence of mind to write all of Russell’s creation down as I was making him, so I am presenting his pattern here for all to enjoy. When I was searching for knitted and crocheted carrot patterns originally, I was a little discouraged to see how tiny they all were, because we were looking for something big enough and durable enough for lots of play. I think that Russell will fill that void nicely in the knitting world.

For his eyes, I went ahead and tried to do something similar that I did with Mr. Sedaris’s Owl, and came up with something that’s halfway between Heidi Kenney (Are you familiar? You should be.) and the Muppets. I feel like that’s a pretty good place to be.

Here we go. Want a clean and easily printable PDF? Just click here.

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Russell the Carrot
a knitted carrot friend

Peaches & Cream Cotton in color 1628 – bright orange (but any worsted-weight cotton will do)
small amounts of worsted-weight green and red yarn for carrot leaves and smiley face

US size 5 (3.75 mm) double-pointed needles (Gauge is not the most important thing in the world here, but you want to make sure that the resulting fabric is tight enough to not allow stuffing to poke through. I got about 6 sts per inch with this particular yarn and needle combination.)
Size F/5 (3.75 mm) crochet hook
tapestry or yarn needle
polyfill stuffing
white and black felt for eyes
sewing needle
sewing thread in black and white

Abbreviations & Definitions:
m1: Pick up the bar between the st just worked and the next st, and place it on the LH needle. Knit into the back of this loop to inc 1 st.

ssk: Slip the next 2 sts as if to knit. Insert the LH back into the front of these two sts and knit them together to dec 1 st.

k2tog: Insert the RH hand needle through the front of the next 2 sts as if to knit and knit the 2 sts together to dec 1 st.

For all crochet stitches and abbreviations? The internet is a much better resource than me for this, trust me. I am not so good at explaining those. Have fun with Google.

Carrot Body:
CO 3 sts. Keep these 3 sts on one double-pointed needle, and knit in I-cord for 2 rounds, pulling the yarn across the backs of the sts to close the resulting “tube.”

Divide the 3 sts onto 3 separate needles.

Round 1: *k1, m1* 3 times (6 sts)
Rounds 2-6: knit all sts
Round 7: *k1, m1, k1* 3 times (9 sts)
Rounds 8-12: knit all sts
Round 13: *k1, m1, k2* 3 times (12 sts)
Rounds 14-18: knit all sts
Round 19: *k1, m1, k3* 3 times (15 sts)
Rounds 20-24: knit all sts

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Round 25: *k1, m1, k3, m1, k1* 3 times (21 sts)
Rounds 26-30: knit all sts
Round 31: *k1, m1, k5, m1, k1* 3 times (27 sts)
Rounds 32-36: knit all sts
Round 37: *k1, m1, k7, m1, k1* 3 times (33 sts)
Rounds 38-42: knit all sts
Round 43: *k1, m1, k9, m1, k1* 3 times (39 sts)
Rounds 44-48: knit all sts
Round 49: *k1, m1, k11, m1, k1* 3 times (45 sts)
Round 50: knit all sts
Round 51: *k1, m1, k13, m1, k1* 3 times (51 sts)
Round 52: knit all sts
Round 53: *k1, m1, k15, m1, k1* 3 times (57 sts)
Round 54: knit all sts
Round 55: *k1, m1, k17, m1, k1* 3 times (63 sts)
Round 56: knit all sts
Round 57: *k1, m1, k19, m1, k1* 3 times (69 sts)

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Rounds 58-65: knit all sts

This is a good time to start stuffing. Make sure you use something to get that stuffing all the way down into the carrot point, like a chopstick or the eraser end of a pencil, before you fill it up too much. Keep stopping to stuff the carrot intermittently as you go through the following steps to ensure a firm, but squeezable, carrot friend.

Round 66: *k1, ssk, k17, k2tog, k1* 3 times (63 sts)
Round 67: knit all sts
Round 68: *k5, k2tog* 9 times (54 sts)
Round 69: *k4, k2tog* 9 times (45 sts)
Round 70: *k3, k2tog* 9 times (36 sts)
Round 71: *k2, k2tog* 9 times (27 sts)
Round 72: *k1, k2tog* 9 times (18 sts)
Round 73: k2tog all the way around (9 sts)

Break yarn. Put in your final bits of stuffing, pushing it down as far as possible. Thread the remaining sts onto a yarn needle, and draw the yarn through the sts, pulling them tight to close the top. Fasten yarn securely with a small knot, if necessary, to keep the hole closed. Weave in ends.

Carrot Accoutrements:
Attach green yarn to top of carrot, using the top “ring” of sts that you pulled closed, with crochet hook and a slip stitch. Make a series of chain sts of about 3-4″ long (or however long you want). At the end of the chain st row, turn back by skipping the first 2 chain sts and making double crochet stitches in every following chain st. Because the crochet hook used for this is much smaller than customarily used for worsted-weight yarn, the strips of double crochet will corkscrew around themselves, resulting in fun, curly carrot leaves.

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At the end of the row, when you get back to the top of the carrot, secure the strip by slip stitching into the top “ring.” Then make another strip! I made five of these, varying the lengths slightly throughout, and that seemed to fill in the top nicely, but you can make however many you want. Just be sure to finish the last strip by slip stitching into the top of the carrot. Then break your yarn and draw it through the last loop, pulling tightly. Weave in ends.

Cut small circles of white and black felt for the carrot’s eyes, and sew them securely onto the carrot. Just pick whichever of the three sides you think is the prettiest. I sewed the black “pupils” of the eyes onto the white circles first, and then attached the entire thing afterward, just for ease of handling. Make sure you knot everything securely and pull the ends of the thread through into the stuffing so that they can’t work loose.

Embroider a big smile onto your carrot using your yarn needle and red yarn, using back-stitching to get a nice smooth curve. In order to keep the stitching from pulling out, I was sure to thread my yarn through the stuffing (with the knot on the outside of the stuffing) before beginning and finishing the stitching. Keeping the knot on the outside of the stuffing will make it much harder to pull through, but keeps the yarn hidden inside of the knitting.

Hooray! You are done! Be pleased with yourself and your new carrot friend.

Thankful for Pie – Mostly Wordless 2012 Edition

The simple things this year are what I’m thankful for. The little breaks from stress and school and other ridiculous things. The things that keep us sane (and keep us from freaking out about that dangling preposition up there the first sentence).


So here we have, presented in no particular order, and without additional commentary, the good stuff.

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2012-02-26 036

2012-02-25 010

2012-07-10 090

2012-05-10 026 2012-04-07 059

2012-04-09 037

2012-02-20 346

2012-11-21 065 2012-11-21 067

2012-04-09 129


2012-04-30 036 133


076 2012-02-11 016

2012-02-17 018

2012-04-14 007 2012-11-21 074


2012-06-11 171 2012-06-11 152


2012-11-21 081

2012-11-21 070

2012-11-21 025

Happy Thanksgiving.

Cake and Salad and Excuses

Remember when I used to blog regularly? Ha!

Well, just because I haven’t been documenting my creative adventures on here doesn’t mean that they haven’t been occurring. They’ve just been…rather spaced out amongst general stress, work, and getting ready for nursing school which will be happening super soon.

I am excited.

Here is some evidence that I haven’t just been sitting at my computer watching cat videos (even though it feels that way sometimes):

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My favorite project as of late. The Red, White, and Blue cake. This came about when my dad requested a “red, white, and blue” cake for the Fourth of July without any other specifications. I think it looks like the Captain America shield here. Which is awesome.

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Imagine slicing open a plain chocolate-frosted cake to see that swirly goodness. I was such a dork, sitting there and trying to keep my face neutral while I waited for my family to tell me how cool that cake was. As usual, my expectations of how fantastic others will think I am fell a bit short.

But it tasted really good.

After all that, my parents sent me home with a giant bag of tomatoes from their garden that I had no idea how to use. I noticed that I had a bunch of cracked wheat that I had originally bought for some tabouleh that didn’t materialize and some mozzarella waiting for a pizza that I wasn’t going to make anything soon. Ideas began churning.

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Balsamic vinaigrette got shaken up. (I totally had to Google vinaigrette. I’m owning it. That is a hard word to spell.)

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Tomatoes, mozzarella, and baby carrots (I don’t know why, either. They were in the fridge, staring at me.) all diced up.

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Cracked wheat, basil, and dressing added and tossed up.

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It’s definitely a strange amalgam of things, but it was quite refreshing and delicious. I think I’m going to dub it — Caprese Tabouleh. It’s confused about its origins. It doesn’t know why it has carrots in it. But it’s just the thing to use up some tomatoes and cheese that you’d otherwise just shove into your mouth indiscrimately.

Caprese Tabouleh…with carrots for some reason

4 medium ripe tomatoes, diced
slightly over a cup of dried cracked wheat
1/2 cup diced baby carrots
4 oz. mozzarella cheese, diced
1 1/2 tsp. dried basil

adapted from 200 Super Salads, Vinaigrette

1 tsp. sugar
pinch of powdered mustard
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp. olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Prepare cracked wheat according to package instructions. (I just pour boiling water to cover it and let it sit for 15-20 minutes to absorb all the liquid. Then strain it if necessary and let it cool before adding it to the other ingredients, unless you’re alright with soft cheese in your salad.  Sometimes you’re impatient, like me.)

Combine dressing ingredients together in a mason jar and shake it all up. Leave it in the fridge while you prepare everything else to get it good and cold.

Combine tomatoes, mozzarella, carrots, and cracked wheat (once it’s cool) in a large bowl. Add basil and dressing and toss it up!

If it’s not cold enough, chill it in the refrigerator for a little bit so that everything can meld together and get cold and crisp and wonderful. Makes about 4 servings.



Hopefully, even with the oncoming onslaught of work and school, I won’t drop out of sight again. I’ve got a great new knitting project on the horizon. (Hint: it involves argyle and socks. That’s more like just telling you what it is than just a hint, I know.) I’m excited. I can’t help it.

Will I ever not be scared of frying? Zucchini & Corn Fritters!

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Our zucchini plant has taken over the garden. It is enormous, and when it makes zucchini, it makes gigantic zucchini all over the place. It makes zucchini the size of kids’ baseball bats. What to do with all this crazy vegetable goodness that my picky man will eat with gusto?

Zucchini fritters!

This was my first time making such a thing, and I’ll admit right here that I’m kind of scared of frying things in general. I hate the little burning drops of oil that fly up into your face and on your arms. I’m not particularly good at flipping things without ruining them. And, I’m in constant panic that if I don’t burn the food, then I might either burn the kitchen down or cause the smoke alarm to start going off and not be able to get it to stop. (Jinger, why do you have a cooking and crafting blog when you are constantly scared of doing those things? I think that the answer lies in the question, my dear friends.)

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For this first go-round, I looked up a fantastic recipe from right here on smitten kitchen, and decided to face my fears head-on. (Full disclosure: I’m also nervous around my food processor, and the fact that it never seems to work properly makes me swear many, many times and wonder if just using a box grater would be faster and less nerve-wracking.)

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Here’s my shredded zucchini, all full up with salt and letting go of all its water.

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And here’s the part that I was excited about doing — squeezing the water out of the zucchini. I’ve seen so many TV chefs do this, and now I am a part of their cadre.

It was actually just kind of cold and weird, and required a lot more muscle than I previously thought.

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Sad, deflated zucchini. Mixed it all up with some onions, egg, flour, pepper, and baking powder, and then couldn’t avoid the boiling oil any longer.

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And nothing got ruined!

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It was a kitchen miracle. Plus, they were extremely well-recieved. I’m still not a frying genius or anything, but I definitely got some confidence there.

So much that I did it all again the next week, and got fancy all up on that zucchini.

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I’ve held a delusion in my head for a while that I could create something just as delicious as those corn cake-fritter-type-things that you can get at Whole Foods. I’m not there yet, but I think that this adaptation on smitten kitchen‘s recipe is getting close.

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Close enough.

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Close enough that I feel quite clever over here.

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Because (guess what!) I get freaked out sometimes about branching out and modifying recipes and doing my own thing in the kitchen. I’d much rather think of myself as a craftsman rather than an artist in the kitchen because kitchen failure is a particularly shaming type of failure, to me anyway. However, moments like these that end with deliciously creamy, sweet, crispy-edged, and hearty zucchini and corn fritters like these make me quite proud.

Want to eat them, too? I know you do!

Zucchini & Corn Fritters
adapted from smitten kitchen‘s Zucchini Fritters

2 lbs. zucchini (about 4 medium zucchini, or 2 ginormous mutant homegrown ones)
1 15.25 oz. can of corn, drained and rinsed
2 tsp. coarse salt, plus extra to taste
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
olive or cooking oil, for frying

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Keep baking sheet warmed and ready in oven.

Trim ends off of zucchini and grate either with a food processor (if you’re ready to have an obscenity fit, like me) or with your box grater (which went much more smoothly the second time). Toss the shredded zucchini, drained corn, and coarse salt in a large bowl, and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Wring out the zucchini and corn mixture either in a colander or with a clean kitchen towel or cheesecloth. Get out as much water as you can, as this prevents soggy fritters. Soggy fritters are gross.

Put the mixture back into the bowl and add salt to taste. The original recipe suggested 1/4 tsp. more per pound of zucchini, but I found that we needed just a touch more. Stir in the onions, eggs, pepper, flour, and cornmeal until fully moistened and well-blended.

Heat 2 tbsp. of oil over medium-high heat until super-hot and shimmering (I love this term). Drop small bunches of the zucchini mixture onto the skillet and flatten them gently with your spoon or spatula. Cook the fritters for 2-3 minutes, until the edges underneath are golden brown. Flip the fritters and cook them on the opposite side for about 2-3 minutes more. Remove them from the oil, drain them on paper towels, and then place them on the pre-warmed baking sheet in the oven while you keep cooking. Keep making fritters until you just can’t make them anymore. Make sure that they stay in the oven long enough to set up properly and stay crisp until you’re ready to eat.

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We ate these with just ketchup, and it was fabulous. The original recipe has a sour cream- or yogurt-based topping that goes with it, and that sounds amazing as well.

These keep in the fridge for about a week (if you can even make them last that long) or can be frozen for months and reheated when you’re ready. Yum!

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With corn or without, the result is the same. Empty plates and happy people.

Curried Cauliflower & Chickpeas…not so intimidating after all

Vegetables can be intimidating.

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Especially when they are large and have been living happily in your backyard until you ripped them out of the ground. Also, especially when they don’t particularly look like what the grocery store tells you they are supposed to look like.

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However, upon further investigations (looking for two seconds on Google Images), our cauliflower seems fairly standard for home-grown, but it was quite bizarre to me at first. It’s almost like a coral formation. A delicious one.

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Now, what to do with all this cauliflower? The boyfriend is not terribly into the texture of cauliflower, and I can only eat crudité with dip for so long.

Solution? Indian food!

I have always loved curried cauliflower and chickpeas (I found a great recipe here on Epicurious), and this would be my first attempt at making curry from scratch, so we made sure to thoroughly document the process.

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Including my “opening cans” face.

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And my “sauteing onions” face, which actually looks a lot like my “concentrating on knitting” face. Which is kind of a bitchface, unfortunately. I often suffer from chronic bitchface, and people ask me if I’m okay a lot. I’m usually just fine, just bitchface-y. Or concentrating on something. For more information about this terrible affliction, click here and educate yourself.

Do it.

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However, my bitchfaciness tends to go away when I’m narrating everything that I’m doing in my best Mr. Lunt from Veggie Tales voice. (Do you seriously not know the cheeseburger song? Go and watch right now. Seriously. Your life will be better. Done? Good.) There is video that exists of this (and also of me singing “His Cheeseburger” and giving it all I’ve got), but I’m not quite ready for that kind of intimacy. Sorry, Internet.

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A picture that doesn’t involve my face! Here’s our cast of characters for curried cauliflower and chickpeas: cauliflower and chickpeas, of course, diced tomatoes with green chiles, coconut milk, and cilantro. Not pictured: lots o’ curry powder and the onions that were already sizzling away in the pan.

Pictured, but not an ingredient: A nice little drink of Bailey’s on ice for me to enjoy while cooking. Sipping on a drink while you’re cooking is a fabulous thing. Only one, though. Two drinks while I’m cooking, and I’d probably end up with second-degree burns and a kitchen floor full of curry. Especially if the Mr. Lunt voice is already in effect.

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Apparently we skipped a little bit ahead here and forgot to capture some actual cooking. This is when the coconut milk is going in, ready to let the mixture boil away and thicken up, and for that cauliflower to steam and become tender and wonderful.

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Bubbling away.

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Adding the cilantro after the simmering is done…

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…and stirring it in…

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…and finally delivering it to impatient, hungry mouths over some cooked brown rice.

I was super duper happy with the way this came out, and even though the recipe says that there’s only 4 servings there, with the amount of cauliflower that our garden delivered to us, we’re still eating leftovers for lunch days later. The only thing that I’d change would be to perhaps use only one can of tomatoes with the chiles and leave the other one plain. Although I really love Indian spice, that might have just pushed it over the edge a little too much. We want spiced, not crazy spicy.

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I think there’s some in my future for lunch today, in fact. Feel free to be jealous. I know I would be.

Name That Salad

I like making salads that don’t involve lettuce. I enjoy lettuce as much as the next person, but it gets boring at times, plus for some reason it tends to throw up its hands in desperation in my refrigerator and give up the good fight way too early.

It’s better to just stick to the good stuff and not bother with the filler, I say. This delicious salad starts off with prepping some delicious quinoa and black beans. No green crunchy leaves, just protein-y goodness.

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Quinoa layer? Check!

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Black bean layer? Check!

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Sliced up tomatoes and cucumbers from my and my parents’ gardens?

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Let’s pretend that I took pictures of cutting up some bell pepper, too. And that I actually had some red onion to dice up, even though I didn’t (but it’s super duper delish with the onions included, I must say).

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Crunchy, cold vegetable layer? Check!

Now, I wanted to be boring and just call this Black Bean Quinoa Shaker Salad (because it’s all in little layers in the cups and it’s fun to shake it all up with the dressing, and I’m still really boring even parenthetically). Dan liked calling it Jinger’s Protein-Packed Shaker Salad instead. What do we think?

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The Yet-to-Be-Named Protein-Packed Black Bean Quinoa Shaker Salad that Is Quite Tasty Indeed

2 cups dry quinoa, prepared according to package instructions
2 cups dry black beans, prepared according to package instructions (or canned, if you’re not hardcore like me)
1 tomato, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
1 green or red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 medium red onion, diced

Prepare quinoa and black beans according to package instructions, and chop up your veggies while they’re cooking (which takes forever with those dry black beans).

Layer your quinoa evenly into 8 medium containers (I love those big freezer jars with the neon green lids!), and then follow up with a layer of black beans. I tend to mix up all my veggies and then throw them all in at the end.

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Refrigerate everything long enough to get it good and cold. Add a big dollop of your favorite salad dressing in there (I like ranch or catalina with this combination.) and then shake it up! Eat it all up and be super happy.

Cabbage Overflow

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I made the infinitely intelligent decision to harvest the ginormous cabbage from our garden right before it started to rain. This resulted in a fairly comic tableau of me running into the house, starting to become covered in mud, holding onto the giant stem, raising what must have been like a ten pound cabbage over my head like some sort of crazy umbrella.  (Seriously, look at that thing!  It’s the same height as a decorative beer stein.  It’s the size of a bowling ball!)

That totally seems like something that would happen in a children’s picture book — all of the characters running around with different vaguely-umbrella-shaped objects over their heads during a rainstorm…cabbages, large birds, side tables…I’ll stop now.  I’ve been spending too much time in children’s book land.

Now, what does one do with so much cabbage? After washing it out and discovering what seemed to be an inordinate amount of tiny slugs, of course.

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Make an insane amount of coleslaw! Is coleslaw one word or two? Let’s stick with one, just to be consistent.

Coleslaw That People Who Don’t Even Like Cabbage Will Eat
adapted from 200 Super Salads, Coleslaw

1 head of green cabbage
1/2 head of purple cabbage
4 carrots
1 red onion

1 1/2 cups of mayonnaise
2 tbsp. white vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
pinch of cayenne pepper
squirt of spicy brown mustard
salt and pepper, to taste

Finely shred the cabbages, carrots, and red onion in your food processor. Do it better than I did. Try to make less of a mess, if possible.

Make the dressing by beating all dressing ingredients together in a separate bowl and seasoning to taste. Toss the cabbage mixture with the dressing and let stand for at least 30 minutes before serving so that the flavors can do a little mingling. And before you ask, the name totally rings true. Dan is not a cabbage fan, and he had himself a big helping and is even suggesting more of it for dinner tonight. We may have a cabbage convert.

Now, what to do with the outer leaves? In the past, I’ve made more traditional cabbage rolls to mixed reviews. I wanted to try to make something a little more crunchy and summery to bring for lunches at work.

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Lettuce wraps are a thing, right? In this house, we’re on the cabbage wrap train.

Curried Tuna Cabbage Wraps
adapted from Cooking for Two, Curried Tuna Stuffed Tomatoes

2 cans (5 oz.) tuna fish
2 celery stalks, chopped
6 tbsp. mayonnaise
4 tbsp. dried cranberries
3 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. chopped dried rosemary
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
tiny squirt of spicy brown mustard
4 cabbage leaves (break off the large vein at the base of the leaf to make them easier to roll)

Mix all the the tuna salad ingredients together well, seasoning to taste, if necessary. The original recipe then has you stuff this delicious stuff into some tomatoes, but spooning some into cabbage leaves, rolling them up, and shoving them into your mouth is also fantastic.

There we go, two ways to use up all that cabbage that I am probably the only person inundated with right now. I wish I had this problem with something slightly less good for me. Like I needed to hurry up and find several ways to use up a whole bunch of chocolate-covered strawberries and rare steak before it went bad. Hmm…our anniversary is coming up soon.  Hint, hint.