Saturday, December 27, 2014

Looking ahead to 2015 knitting

I've been thinking about my yarn stash.

It started yesterday when I spent a couple hours untangling and re-winding some yarn my cat had gotten into. I had a good look at (a portion of) my yarn stash. I have a small 3-drawer storage bin for just my sock yarn, and it's so full I can barely close the drawers. In another bin, I have my cotton yarn for dishcloths. In yet another huge bin, I have an unfinished afghan project, a mitten kit and even more yarn. One of my favorite dyers is having an end-of-the-year 40 percent off sale, but I think it's time for another yarn diet.

This post about why we hoard craft supplies caught my interest and made me think about my crafting habits.

Basically the post says we stash for four reasons: time poverty, fear of missing out, owning the pretty and perfection. I can definitely relate to all of these.

Time poverty: I definitely don't have enough time to knit. Over the past several months, I've gotten into a new routine on the weekends. Rather than do fun stuff AFTER I finish all of the household chores, I give myself a day to be lazy and recuperate from the work week (Thursday) and do all of the chores (mainly laundry) on Friday. This gives me a good amount of time for knitting, in addition to the time I take either during the day before work or in the wee hours of the morning after work. In 2015, I want to make better use of my time away from work, whether it's using it for crafting or going to the gym. I've taken too much time to loaf around and do absolutely nothing useful.

Fear of missing out: I definitely fall into this trap. I'm afraid a colorway or yarn will be discontinued. I'm afraid a pattern will go out of print that I might want to knit someday. I forget that there will never be a shortage of beautiful yarn and patterns. If I EVER run out of yarn (I might--- I haven't reached SABLE (Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy) yet) all I have to do is reach out and find more beautiful yarn and patterns. Don't panic. There will always be yarn.

Owning the pretty: Not so much. Sometimes with other things. I seem to have risen above the need to buy everything pretty. But I do come down with pretty severe cases of shopaholism sometimes. When I am particularly tired, I do what my boyfriend and I call "slopping" or "sleepy shopping." This can result in impulsive purchases. I never regret them, nor do I return things, but it's a problem.

My cousin's dress. I picked this purple after being torn
between four different colors and asking
my Facebook friends for advice.

Perfection: Since I am part Borg, this is huge for me... Kidding. I do feel the need to match up patterns with the perfect yarn. I'm a sucker for finding the perfect color. For my cousin's dress, I actually was torn between four colors and put up a poll on Facebook and Instagram, soliciting my friends' opinions. The thing is, I have enough yarn for dozens of pairs of socks and a couple shawls. But I'd have to buy yarn to make larger projects such as sweaters or afghans. I can't just reach into the stash and pluck out a whole sweater's worth of yarn.

For next year, I have plans for projects galore, but I'll try to whittle down my stash to manageable proportions. So long as I have time to pursue creative endeavors, and with a boyfriend telling me I don't need anymore yarn (just like he doesn't need any more sports team jerseys), I'll be fine.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Ten things I've learned about divorce

I don't often talk about deeply personal things on a very public platform, but bear with me.

The papers are signed and I am 'consciously uncoupled' from my former spouse of 3.5 years. Here's some of what I've learned about divorce, relationships and moving on with someone else.

1.) Talk to someone, even when you're not sure you should. Even though more than half of all marriages end in divorce, people still see it as some terrible failure. Happily engaged and soon-to-be-married women will cringe and give you the side eye when you mention that things aren't working out between you and your spouse. You might not want to tell your boss at work, but I wish I would have told mine as soon as something was wrong. Just reaching out to people and letting them know things aren't quite right will save you a lot of trouble. Don't blast it all over Facebook, but discreetly mention it to people who matter.

2.) Don't tolerate bullshit. I let my ex sit around in my apartment for a month and a half while he decided whether or not he actually wanted to continue being married. Things were tense and uncomfortable the entire time. I tried to be as supportive as possible, but in hindsight, I shouldn't have held out hope things would work out for as long as I did. Sure, I wasn't a saint. I said and did my fair share of terrible things. Living with me isn't a beach vacation. But I've long concluded that even if I were a perfect wife and said and did all of the right things, he still would have left because that's the type of person he is. To him, I was an opportunity to be able to flop around and share the rent until he figured out what he wanted to do with his life. When I asked him, he said he "didn't know why we got married" and "it seemed like what [he] wanted at the time." Buyer's remorse, I guess? Since him, I've been a little more aggressive about what I want from life and what I expect from the people who share life with me. You don't deserve someone with no goals in life. You don't have to tolerate a mediocre relationship.

3.) Make sure your core values align perfectly with your partner's or it's not going to work out. No exceptions. Children, politics, religion, standards for mutual respect and life philosophies must be very close to identical or your relationship isn't going to work. My ex was an atheist and extremely disrespectful of those who had some sort of religious faith. I don't go to church every Sunday, but I was raised a Christian. This, and other discrepancies in our life philosophies probably led to the hasty demise of our relationship. In addition, we didn't fundamentally agree on what marriage meant to both of us. The easiest analogy is this: I see marriage as a tattoo. Something for long and careful consideration, and when the decision is made, it is permanent. I don't agree with Matt Walsh on a lot of things, but he has a very clear way of explaining how I feel about marriage here. For my ex, marriage was temporary. He saw his mother get married and divorced time after time, so it was really no big deal for him to do it too.

4.) Don't waste your (or someone else's) time. If you think marriage is forever, you should probably be with someone who feels the same way. It seems like a simple assertion, but it can actually be really complicated, especially if you're not certain what you want out of life, or if your partner is unsure about his future as well. Don't skate through life with a partner you're unsure about. If you even have the slightest bit of uncertainty, just don't get married. Just. Don't. You'll save yourself a lot of heartache and paperwork. There's someone out there for you, and if you know it's not the person you're with, what are you doing? If you think you can do better, why don't you?

5.) Decide what you want. If you can't live without pizza, you wouldn't think to date a guy who hated pizza. However, there's more to life than pizza. Know what you like and what you can tolerate and what you can't, but be open-minded to the possibility that the people you meet and grow to care for aren't going to have everything in common with you. My boyfriend LOVES sports, and I have no idea what he's talking about sometimes. And he just smiles and nods when I go off on a diatribe about my knitting. But that doesn't get in the way of the fact that we have so many other things in common. We have similar values, similar goals and we laugh at the same things. Decide what's a deal-breaker. Know what you want and stick to it. But don't be like this guy. Moderation is key.

6.) Figure out who you are after s/he leaves. When my ex first left, I bought a bunch of bananas at the store. I ate a few, but after a week or so, I had to throw some of them away. I bought another bunch of bananas the following week and the same thing happened. You know what? I really don't like bananas, I said to myself. I had purchased them automatically, and my ex liked them, but I didn't. Not really. I had lost sight of what made me myself because I had been in a relationship with someone else for so long. I took some time after my marriage was over to step back and determine who I was. When your identity is linked with someone else's, you might find that you have to take a really hard look at what truly interests you when the relationship is over. Reassess what's really important to you and be honest with yourself and others.

7.) I believe in a thing called love. Really. You can't let divorce, or the end of any relationship taint your view on all future relationships. It might sound like I'm endorsing that stupid "not all men" catchphrase that's making the round on the Internets, but not all men are jerks. Not all men are fickle. Not all men are going to wake up one morning and decide they're not attracted to you anymore or cheat on you or dump you for someone else (pick your poison.) I have a fair number of male friends and I've dated many different people. While some guys have their moments (because everyone does), they're not scum of the earth. Every man is different. You just have to find the one whose views and values align with your own.

8.) Just jump in. There's no easy way to go about getting over a marriage. I talked a lot to my parents and a couple trusted coworkers (one of whom was going through a divorce herself.) I joined an online dating service a month and a half after my ex moved out. That lasted all of four days. There's no set grieving period after the demise of a relationship, but there's a lot of fear about getting into a new one. You just have to do it, even if you're afraid. Even now, almost a year after my ex left, I still remember something dumb his mother would do or something fun we did together. It's either painful, or it is a relief that I never have to put up with it again.

9.) Marriage isn't 50/50. It's a collaboration, not a competition. You should definitely feel like you're going above and beyond for the one you love, giving 110 percent and all that. You love them. Why wouldn't you aim to make them as happy as possible every single day? If you feel like you're running yourself into the ground for your spouse, you should probably have a chat about how you can be more equal. But other than that, no keeping score over who washed the dishes and ran the vacuum last. Is the sink full of dirty dishes? Just do them. And don't keep score or harbor resentment or hold it over your spouse's head. You're just wasting your time and energy being angry and resentful while your spouse is busy thinking fondly of you and doing things that are equally important to the success of your relationship.

10.) Your marriage is going to be fine. If you bicker at your spouse and they bicker back, you're doing something right. Feel like you do nothing but argue? Good. Both of you still care and have opinions about what you want to happen in your relationship. The whole thing is over when apathy sets in. Don't care if you don't see them for days at a time? Don't want to come home to them every night or wake up next to them every morning? Pack your things. It's time to go.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Holiday knitting 2014: Fun and games

I have not talked about knitting in a while. In August and September, I went on a major dishcloth-knitting binge.

This is my basket of knitted dishcloths. There are many more dishcloths in the basket now than there were when this photo was taken. With knitting for my family AND Dan's family, I'll need 64 by Christmas time. I usually put four dishcloths in a little gift bag with some soap. This year I'm considering little jars of pepper and onion relish from Harry & David along with the dishcloths and soap. I'm a little more than halfway done with the dishcloths, but took a break for a bit to work on...

Convertible mittens for my cousin who is in college where it is cold. This picture doesn't show the mitten flap part, but I'm knitting it right now. Cousin said he wants "something warm, and Mountain Dew." Consider it done, cousin.

Also finished:
A pair of socks for my dad, finally. He's wanted socks for a while. My mom has like six pairs of socks I've made. My brother has had two. My dad got one sock once, and then I never knit the other one. I used my default man sock pattern, Earl Grey by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, along with some yarn I purchased from one of my favorite indie dyers, Pandia's Jewels. The color is a Star Trek-inspired colorway called "Data." I recently joined Pandia's Jewels' Doctor Who Companion Sock Yarn Club because I can't get enough yarn in my life this year.

With the major life renovation that happened early in the year, I haven't been as disciplined as I could have been about avoiding frivolous purchases, going to the gym on a regular basis, eating well, keeping up with the chores and just having my shit together in general. I'm definitely a New Years resolution-maker, so there'll probably be more order in my life really soon. I drew up a yarn diet back in 2012, and I'll probably follow that to get some of my old projects off the needles and to knit some of the yarn I have. On top of the sock yarn club, I got some yarn from a shop at the beach when I went with Dan in September and I ordered even more yarn from Eat Sleep Knit (my favorite yarn shop, which I might get to see in person next summer, fingers crossed.)...

This yarn is for a dress for my smallest cousin. I've had my eye on the Teacup Pinafore literally the instant I saw it four years ago. She'll be in the size for a 6-year-old this year. I'm going to make it for NaKniSweMo. It's not a sweater. It probably doesn't have 50,000 stitches. I won't qualify for prizes anywhere. But I want to make a conscious effort to spend some time with my knitting every day, even if it's just a little bit. Knitting, running, reading, and all of the other hobbies I pursue are my way of unwinding and meditating and uniting me with my sanity again.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Two fancy zucchini breads

I am being bombarded with zucchini. Really, I think at this time during the summer we all are.

Last weekend, Dan's parents gave us two zucchini, which were turned into a scrumptious crab-stuffed concoction, mixed with peppers, onions, panko and cheese and seasoned with smoked paprika.

This week, my mom's zucchini started coming in, so I have three monstrous vegetables to use. I told her I'd find something to do with them. So I made two different kinds of glazed zucchini bread using this customizable quick bread recipe (kind of). Here they are!

This looks like a boring rectangle, but it is bursting with delicious zucchini bread flavor. For real.

1.) Cherry almond zucchini bread with vanilla bean glaze

1 c. zucchini
3/4 c. slivered almonds, toasted
1 c. dried tart cherries
1 1/4 c. flour
3/4 c. sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
2 eggs
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. plain greek yogurt (I used Fage because it was on sale... ^_^)
1 t. vanilla extract
1 t. almond extract

1 c. confectioner's sugar
2 T. milk
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
1/2 t. almond extract

2.) Oatmeal butterscotch zucchini bread with orange glaze (because orange and butterscotch are the best flavors ever together. Trust.)

1 c. zucchini
1/2 c. pecans
1/2 c. quick oats
3/4 c. butterscotch chips
1 1/4 c. flour

3/4 c. sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. cinnamon
2 eggs
1 stick Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks (or just use normal butter... curse my weird hybrid diet)
1/2 c. plain greek yogurt
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 t. orange extract
1 t. orange zest

1 c. confectioner's sugar
1 t. orange zest
1 T. milk
1 T. orange juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Mix together dry ingredients, plus any nuts, oats, chips and/or fruit for each. Mix together wet ingredients plus zucchini. Fold together wet and dry ingredients. Chuck it in a loaf pan and throw it in the oven for an hour. It's done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let the breads hang out in their respective loaf pans for a half an hour, then dump them onto a wire rack to cool them the rest of the way.

Whisk together the ingredients for the glazes and plop them evenly onto the breads. Share your gourmet zucchini bread goodness with friends. Have seconds.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The best hot wings ever

When Dan and I watch baseball (or football or Star Trek) together, he always demands requests that I make wings. Mine are horrendously spicy, coated with chili powder and onion powder, and drenched in sriracha. They're baked, instead of fried, so they're a little healthier (HA.) They're baked slowly, so the outside skin is chewy and crispy and the meat is tender and juicy. If you bake wings on high heat for a short amount of time, they tend to get tough and slimy.

Making your own hot wings is easy. It takes a while, but it's worth it. I'd have a picture of my delicious wings, but Dan ate them all.

On wings: I usually get them fresh. I've tried getting them frozen and thawing them, but the bones in them are usually crushed or broken and it's just an all-around unpleasant eating experience. Make sure you get the package that has the joints already separated and the wing tips discarded. Nobody has time to stand in the kitchen and cut chicken wings apart. There are just too many sporting events to watch.

On hot sauce: I use sriracha because it is way spicier than Frank's and does a better job at sticking to the wings without making them slimy or soggy in the process. Sriracha also has an all-around better complex, peppery, garlicky flavor, which is enhanced by the flavors of the onion powder and chili powder. Get the sriracha from the Asian food section of the grocery store. It's the one with the green lid and the picture of the rooster on the bottle. This particular brand of sriracha has a better flavor than other srirachas on the market. Do not settle for sub-par sriracha.

Caryn's horrendously spicy and delicious hot wings

Wings (about 12 to 20)
chili powder
onion powder
salt and pepper
About 2 T. butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove wings from the packaging and place in a bowl. Sprinkle GENEROUSLY with chili powder, onion powder and salt. You can also sprinkle with a little pepper, if that's your thing. It should look like the wings are coated in seasoning.

Place the seasoned wings on a baking pan. Space them apart so they have room to bake. Bake the wings for 45 minutes to an hour, or until desired crispness is reached. I usually bake them for closer to an hour.

Remove wings from the oven and let sit. Melt about 2 T. butter in a small saucepan. When butter is melted, add about 2/3 cup to a full cup of sriracha (depending on how many wings you have) and stir over medium heat until the butter and sriracha are fully incorporated and the sauce is hot (steam will be rising off the top of the sauce.)

Place the baked wings into a separate bowl (NOT the one you just used to season them) and dump the sauce on top. Toss the wings with a big spoon. Serve immediately with plenty of paper towels and cold beverages.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Dan's orange creamsicle birthday cupcakes

I could wax poetic about my very bestest friend and (new!) spiffy significant other, Dan. Instead, we'll keep it simple (because I'm sure you'll ask if you want to know my life drama.) 

Dan told me that as a child, he used to eat orange swirl soft serve ice cream with chocolate sprinkles from Kohr Bros., and anything orange-cream-flavored reminded him of his childhood. 

So I invented these cupcakes for him for his birthday. Because nothing says "You mean the world to me and I never want to be without you" like 12 cupcakes. For the record, he did eat four of them, even after I took them to work to share with an office full of people. So I guess they're good.

Dan's orange creamsicle birthday cupcakes

They look like boring old vanilla cupcakes...

To make them vegan, just omit the white chocolate chips, or find some vegan white chocolate chips. I live in the culinary butthole of the United States, so I haven't been lucky to find vegan white chocolate chips at any grocery store I've visited.

I've always found the best baking stuff at craft stores, oddly. Go to Michael's or AC Moore for fancy cupcake liners, disposable(!!!!) pastry bags and frosting tips. I'm almost convinced the cupcake liners make the cupcake. If they're pretty, the cupcakes look more appetizing and awesome. Don't settle for boring cupcake liners.

1 c. soy milk
1 t. apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 T. cornstarch
3/4 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. Earth Balance butter
3/4 c. granulated sugar
2 t. vanilla extract
3/4 t. orange extract
2/3 c. white chocolate chips

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
2.) Whisk the soy milk and vinegar together in a measuring cup and set aside to curdle.
3.) Whisk the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl.
4.) Cream Earth Balance butter and sugar together until it's light and fluffy. Add vanilla and orange extracts. Beat in the soy milk mixture, stopping occasionally to scrape the sides of the bowl.
5.) Add the dry ingredients and mix until no large lumps remain. Stir in the white chocolate chips.
6.) Fill cupcake liners 2/3 of the way full and bake for 20 to 22 minutes. 
7.) Remove from muffin tin and let cool on a wire rack.

1/2 c. Crisco
1/2 c. Earth Balance Butter
4 c. confectioners' sugar
4 T. orange juice
1 t. finely grated lemon zest
2 t. vanilla extract
1 t. orange extract

1.) Cream Crisco and Earth Balance butter together until well-combined. 
2.) Add confectioners' sugar in roughly 1/2-cup additions. 
3.) Add orange juice, lemon zest and extracts and beat until it looks like frosting.
4.) Spread (don't pipe) frosting on cooled cupcakes.
5.) Devour cupcakes yourself or share with the entire office. Go crazy.

Because you can't have enough cupcakes.

Dan's birthday was on Tuesday, so I made him a sizable quantity of cupcakes. A couple people requested the recipe for my chocolate peanut butter cupcakes, so here they are.

I will say the general ideas were my own, but parts of the actual recipes were not. The chocolate cupcakes were from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, and the homemade peanut butter cups were from The Kind Diet. All of the recipes I've tried from both books have been excellently delicious and amazing, SO BUY THEM.

Vegan chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting and homemade peanut butter cups

These cupcakes are like two desserts in one. Start these the day before serving them. The peanut butter cups need to hang out in the fridge for a while before you can use them. I have not been able to find graham crackers without honey, but you can make these completely and irrefutably vegan if you can.

1/2 c. Earth Balance butter
3/4 c. crunchy peanut butter
3/4 c. graham cracker crumbs
1/4 c. sugar
1 c. vegan chocolate chips
1/4 c. soy milk

Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. When it's melted, add the peanut butter, graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Mix until it's all melty. Divide the peanut butter mixture among the muffin cups. 

Combine the chocolate and soy milk in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until chocolate has melted. Spoon chocolate evenly over the peanut butter mixture. Place in the fridge to set at least two hours (but probably more)


1 c. soy milk
1 t. apple cider vinegar
3/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. canola oil
1 t. vanilla extract
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. cocoa powder
3/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin pan with paper liners.
2.) Whisk together soy milk and vinegar in a cup to curdle. 
3.) In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients
4.) In a mixing bowl, mix together sugar, oil and vanilla. Add the soy milk mixture and beat until foamy. Add the dry ingredients and beat until no large lumps remain.
5.) Fill cupcake liners three-quarters of the way. Bake 20 minutes until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer cupcakes to a cooling rack and let cool completely.


1/2 c. Earth Balance butter
1/4 c. Crisco
2/3 c. creamy peanut butter
3 t. vanilla extract
2 1/2 c. confectioners' sugar
2 to 4 T. soy milk or almond milk

1.) With an electric mixer, beat together Earth Balance butter and Crisco. Add peanut butter and vanilla and beat until smooth. 
2.) Beat in confectioners' sugar. The mixture will be very stiff. 
3.) Add soy milk one tablespoon at a time until frosting reaches a spreadable or pipe-able consistency. 

1.) Slap the frosting into a pastry bag fitted with a large-ish tip. 
2.) Pipe frosting onto cupcakes. It doesn't need to be perfect because you'll be ruining your beautiful frosting mountains in a second.
3.) Unwrap the chilled peanut butter cups and shove them into the frosting. 
4.) Take a picture and post it on Facebook to impress all of your friends with your madd cooking skillz.
5.) Devour cupcakes.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I win!

The last post I made was way back in November when I talked about my Vegan Mudslide Cupcakes. Well, I entered them in Earth Balance's holiday baking competition and I won in the cupcake category! I'm totally thrilled. Things haven't been exactly super awesome lately, so this was a bright spot in a whole lot of nonsense.