September 18, 2013

Pumpkin Apple Streusel Muffins

The time is finally here- it's the first chill of fall.   Not only did I pull out my favorite pair of Great Aunt Maxine's crocheted slippers (that pattern should make it up shortly), but I whipped Joe up a version meant to look more like loafers after finding out he was not blessed with a pair of slippers.  And then I started up on a new Mary Jane style for myself.  I'm also back to crocheting blankets that got left behind when it got too hot to work one in my lap.

But beyond the coziness of sweaters, lovingly knit blankets and slippers are my favorite tastes of fall.  Fresh picked apples, apple cider donuts, and of course, pumpkin.  Hot mulled apple cider with a pad of butter melted on top and ein schluck of rum or whiskey if you're lucky. Mmmmm I can't wait already.

Before fall had even arrived the Sydney who I made the gluten free pumpkin bread for last fall bestowed a pantry-full of food on Joe and I before moving back to California.  This very kind gift included a big can of pumpkin that is big enough that it hasn't made it off my counter so I've been giving it the stare down for a few weeks now.  And now that it is FINALLY cooling off, I'm ready to get into pumpkin season!

During my recipe quest I came across this gem.   Not only does it include pumpkin AND apple, but it's got a yummy streusel topping made with butter and brown sugar so it really can't get any better.  I even have half a dozen apples around that are a little too mealy for my taste, so baking them is my perfect solution!

September 10, 2013

A feminist's open letter to American teenagers

Let me start with with this:  I'm a feminist.  I'm damn proud of it.  I have a tendency to read articles that I find sexist, chauvinistic, and that perpetuate rape culture and I get really mad.  And then I read through the comments until I either feel a little better or seriously furious.  I'm fortunate that the man I live with gets even more mad than I do, and he tolerates me soap boxing even though we're on the same side.  And I find that my perspective as a feminist informs the way I see the world and the way I want to change it.  Because of that, I'm letting you know up front that this is a big part of why I'm saying what I want to say.  Take it or leave it, but I hope you at least think about it.

One issue I'm especially passionate about is sexual education of children and teenagers.  The frustrations of the recent political climate around sex education aside, we can do a lot to help children, teenagers, and young adults develop healthy attitudes regarding sex.  Regardless of your position on premarital sex, I hope we can agree that we would like young people to grow up to a part of healthy relationships and to treat others with kindness and respect, which is what this all boils down to.

Today I came across this article in my news feed.  It's a blog post written by a mother of teen boys about how teenage girls ought to behave.  She's not a famous person, it's not widely published, but she does verbalize very common ideas about what young women should do, and it was received positively (for the most part).  And unsurprisingly, it made me mad.  Yet another person telling young women that their worth is based on their clothing, and worse, it's saturated with the underlying assumption that those clothes reflect an assumed promiscuity, and that assumed sexuality makes women lesser.  Young women like this are not worthy of her sons.  And that string of assumptions and the shame that they put on young women is entirely unacceptable to me.

Now, I've got some facebook friends that are teenagers and I'm certainly no stranger to a saucy selfie- they were myspace shots in my day.  I live a block away from a high school so I'm more than aware what normal high schoolers wear these days (at least in Chicago).  And it really was not very long ago that I was a teenager myself.

This is what I wish I could teach every single teenager around the world: it is not a woman's responsibility to act in the way you find appropriate, but it is everyone's responsibility to treat men and women with respect, regardless of whether you approve of their choices.

Let's start with clothing.  

Young Women:  Wear whatever you freaking want.  Or at least whatever your parents let you out of the house wearing.  My mom would want me to include that people may judge you on appearance.  They will.  I always would tell her that if someone made snap judgements and disliked me based on an outfit they weren't a person worth caring about.  I still think that's true.

You like showing off your belly ring with a short shirt?  Rock it.  Do you feel more comfortable with something that keeps your cleavage safely contained?  Go for it.  Other people will criticize you no matter what, so you might as well do what you like best.  We need to be proud of the bodies we inhabit, and dressing in a way that makes you feel beautiful is one way to take pride in yourself.

Never let anyone tell you that your clothing makes you a slut, whore, or trash.
The only thing your clothing makes you is a woman wearing clothes.

The other side of the coin is true too.  There's nothing worse than a woman who perpetuates sexism and misogyny by talking crap about other women based on their appearance rather than their substance.  If we want to be valued for more than our looks and our sex, then for god's sake we better start practicing what we preach.

"Judgements" by Rosea Posey 

Young Men:  A woman's outfit is never a form of consent or a statement of promiscuity.  An outfit does not qualify as "asking for it".  An outfit does not justify lewd looks or comments.   It definitely does not give you permission to touch her.  Do not lower yourself by reducing a woman to the clothes she wears.

I urge men to hold themselves to a higher standard, and those who mentor them- teachers, coaches, parents- to hold them to a higher standard as well.  I urge men to think of women as more than their bodies.  After seeing a young woman in less than a full snowsuit, you should still see her as a person, not a sexual object. You should still see her as a friend who helps you with math homework, who kicks ass on the soccer field, who is loyal to her friends and who has earned and kept your confidence.  She is more than her body.

In America, all men will see pictures of scantily clad women.  In time, they'll probably see an actual scantily clad woman too.   Maybe even a naked woman.  Whether his eye's linger is not what defines his integrity.  How he treats other human beings is what defines his integrity.  That includes how he treats women.


People get really touchy when talking to teenagers about sex.  Some are afraid that if you talk about it you'll put ideas in their heads.  I think that most teenagers are already thinking about sex, some of them are already engaging in sex, and the vast majority will have sex at some point in the future.  Our children deserve an education about how to have healthy and safe sex- whether they use that information now or have it for later reference.  Ideally, this is supplemented with discussions at home with a trusted parent or family member.  If we want to have an educated, healthy adult population we've got to start teaching them when they're young.

Having sex is a personal choice.  Every time a person has sex it should be an individual choice.  And not just sex either; all activity should be consensual.  That means every single time you should be asking for consent.  Being in a relationship is not consent.  Just because you have had sex with someone before does not mean they are consenting to do it again.  And everyone should be aware that if the other person is under the effects of alcohol or drugs they are unable to give consent.  Similarly, consent given when a person feels threatened is not valid.  Men especially should be aware that their size and demeanor can feel like a threat to a woman without that being their intention.

Credit to Catherine Camp

All people, men and women, should gain consent before any level of intimacy.

When I was in high school, it irritated me how often people would say, "wait until you're ready" or "you'll know when you're ready".  What the hell does that mean, anyway?  I never figured it out.  I don't have an answer now, but I do have two things you want to think about.

You should be able to talk open and honestly with your partner about what you want.  Talking about sex can feel awkward and embarrassing, but it's also an important part of any mature sexual relationship.  This is true for adults too.  Whether you're in a serious, committed relationship or are looking to have sexual intimacy without emotional intimacy, you should be able to talk about that up front with your partner.  Both people should know what they're looking for and what they're getting.  Consent to one activity doesn't mean consent for another- you should be clear about what it is you're consenting (or not consenting) to each step of the way.  Your communication will be even better if you can tell your partner what you like so that you're having sex you enjoy.

You should be prepared for the consequences.  About every other adult will get weird and tell you to make sure to "wear a raincoat" or some equally strange euphemism for contraception.  You need to use contraception.  Also know that even with the best intentions and protection, you could still get a sexually transmitted infection or become pregnant.  You should think through what you would do were this to happen.  Men- what a woman decides to do should there be a fetus growing in her body is her decision.   If you're a person who is adamantly against abortions you should make damn sure you or your loved ones won't need one: use contraception yourself and make sure your loved ones have access to contraception.  And of course, the only way to make sure you're not going to have any consequences is to not engage in any sexual activity (i.e. abstinence).

So that's all about your sex life. What about other people's sex lives?  
A: It's none of your business.  
B: Respect their right to make their own choices.  

There's nothing wrong with saving yourself for marriage and there's nothing wrong with deciding to have safe sex with someone you trust.  I encourage every person to follow their heart and conscience in that matter.  But don't use someone else's choices as a reason to mock, criticize, or make assumptions.


And now that we got all serious, I think it's time to wrap up with possibly the most important point I have, which is to just be yourself.

It's probably one of the biggest cliches there is, but that's for good reason.  At this point, you've got some idea of who you are.  You have interests, passions, mannerisms and quirks unique to you.  But all the stuff that fills in about your values, and what you sets you apart and what you want to do with your life is totally up in the air.  Don't worry about that.  This is your time to make mistakes.  I certainly made my fair share, and I definitely made a good number of choices that gave my mom some grey hairs.  Some things turned out to be phases, some things turned out to be me.  You're not going to know unless you try.

That said, don't do anything permanent.  Supposedly we don't have fully adult brains until we're 25, so even I've still got time to morph.  So while it's totally fine to try out neon hair, gothic clothes, or a can of beer in your friends basement it's not a good idea to try out driving under the influence.  In the words of my brother (an expert on trial and error), the only things you can't come back from are getting pregnant or getting arrested.  Avoid those things.

But beyond that, go wild!  Be weird.  In my experience, the most interesting things about people are the things that make them different and themselves, not anything you get by trying to be someone else.  So accept the fact that you're still figuring it all out and just give life all you've got.  Life's the best gift you'll ever get- use it for all it's worth.

I hope that you will treat yourself and others with kindness and respect.
This goes without saying, but it can't hurt to repeat it: only do what you want.
Be strong, and stand behind what you think is right.

"The Voice" by Shel Silverstein

 "And above all, watch with glittering eyes, the whole world around you 
because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.  
Those who don't believe in magic will never find it."
Roald Dahl

And of course, if you have any questions, please ask.  Ask me.  Ask your parents.  Ask a doctor or nurse or someone who knows more than your friends or google.

And finally, for those who enjoyed this article, I've put together a little list of some extra things you can read and watch that take things that are pretty standard in our culture and turn them on their heads.  Feminism gets a bad wrap.  People think we hate men, refuse to wear make-up or shave our legs, and are extremely angry.  I very much love men. Especially my boyfriend, father, brother, and couple dozen male friends.  I basically live in sundresses.  Make-up.. well I forget that sometimes.  Forget the stereotypes and assumptions and open up that mind of yours a little to a different perspective.

Bonus Resources:

A TEDx video about how to talk about sex and potentially teach sex in a much healthier way.

A fantastic piece from a father to a son about how to see a woman.

Why the concept of female "purity" is bullshit.

The flaw in the label of "strong female characters".

A comic showing the stigma that necessitates feminism.

If you have others you'd like to share, please share them in the comments!  There are so many out there, this is just a sample of the ones I've come across recently.

September 01, 2013

Sully's Knit Baby Bloomers

Our dear friends Stacy and Brian have what I believe to be definitively the cutest baby in the world, and his name is Sully.  As I probably have a decade before I want to create my own youths, I get to take out all of my pint sized crafty endeavors on him.  So far, they seem to be tolerating it pretty well.

One thing that I really like about little Sully is that he spends a great deal of time wearing only his diaper.  I mean honestly, I think most people would just wear their underwear if they could get away with it with no judgement.  Chicago in the summer is unbearably hot and humid.  Plus, if you already have to bathe your baby and he's only going to get food and spit up on everything why bother washing clothes too?

I figured that such a suave shirtless bachelor could use a little something to shake up his wardrobe without having to inhibit his manly cuteness.  And thus, this diaper cover was created!  For those special occasions when you can pull of shirtless-ness but want to class it up beyond the standard diaper.  Bonus points: it's Chicago Bulls colors.

You'll Need:

2 skeins of yarn in contrasting colors
3.25 mm/ size 3/ size D knitting 16" circular needles

I used size 5 DPNs for the legs, as that's all I have, but the same size as the body would be ideal.
I used Caron's Simply Soft yarn.

The Pattern:

The Body:

Cast on 90.  Work in the round until you have about 5 inches, or your desired length from top of thigh (keep in mind the waistband will add to that height too).

To start the leg holes:  bind off 5 stitches, knit 40, bind off 5 stitches, knit 40, turn work.

At this point, we will be knitting a band out of one side.  The other side can be transferred to another needle, kept on your circular needle, or put onto a piece of string or other holding device for the time being.  I kept mine on the other side of my circular needle as it seemed the least work.

On purl side, bind off 1, purl across, turn work.  
On knit side, bind off 1, knit across, turn work.

Now we're going to do ribbing for between the legs.  If you opt not to, just continue to knit and purl until your desired length.  The ribbing gives you more flexibility with how big their diaper is.  If you used a different number of stitches, adjust the ribbing as needed to keep it symmetrical.

On the knit side: k5, p2, k3, p2, k3, p2, k4, p2, k3, p2, k3, p2, k5  (38)

On the purl side: p5, k2, p3, k2, p3, k2, p4, k2, p3, k2, p3, k2, p5  (38)

Repeat this ribbing until the thigh holes are the desired size.  Mine was about 9.5 inches long.  Stop when you're about to do the knit side.

K1, m1r, knit across until you have 1 left, m1l, K1, and turn.

If you're unfamiliar with m1r and m1l, they're a way to add a stitch that I explained here.

Merging the Body:

Starting a purl side row, turn the whole body to face the purl side and line up both sides.  Using a crochet hook if you have one, or another knitting needle, purl through a stitch on both sides.  Bind off as you go.  

bloomers inside out prior to seam 

 when seaming, purl through both front and back sides

 finished stitch

 binding off as you go

finished seam on the inside 

seam from the inside 

seam from the right side 

Leg Holes:

For the leg holes, use a contrasting yarn to make a ribbed ring.  

I used a crochet hook to pull up loops of the contrasting color one stitch in, and every other stitch apart. I then transferred these to DPNs.  If you don't have a crochet hook, you could pick up stitches to bind to using your DPNs, but it might look a little different, and possibly not as neat in the finished product.

 Make sure you have an appropriate number for the ribbing you do.  I did 2x2 (i.e. knit 2, purl 2), so I made sure my total number was divisible by four.

Continue the ribbing- in my case k2-p2- in the round until you reach your desired length and bind off loosely.  Mine were a little longer than 1 inch.

Repeat with the other leg.

For the waistband, use the same method as used on the legs to create loops several stitches below the top.  As before, make sure your number of stitches is divisible by the number of stitches in your repeated pattern.

I used 2x2 rib on the top as well, for about 2 inches in height.

Waistband Tie:

For the tie, I made an i-cord two stitches wide.  Weave this through the waistband.

This is optional, but it's cute, and will help keep your bloomers on if it's not exactly the right size.

And that's it!  Please let me know if you have any questions.

My final product is about 11 inches tall and 9.5 inches wide when laid flat.  
The gauge is 4.5 stitches wide and 6 stitches tall in a 1 inch square.

 a little size comparison

the backside

 the ribbed bottom

On a side note, while researching patterns I found of that people actually call these "soakers", which is weird and kind of gross.  I like "bloomers" much better, so we're going with that.

P.S.  This pattern is now up on Ravelry.