December 29, 2013

Blog in Review: 2013

Between Christmas and New Year's, I always find it kind of therapeutic to reflect on the past year. I sometimes reread my journal, or look at photos. This time I went through Typing Sunflowers. This year had some of the lowest of the lows... but also the highest of the highs. Blogging was definitely one of this year's highlights. I'm still having fun with it (that's a good sign, right?!)

And in case you missed most of the year, or if you're a new follower... here are some of the events that shaped 2013 for me:

My granny square slippers post continues to generate a lot of traffic on here, telling me two things: 

1: People love a good granny square.


2: Slippers will never never go out of fashion. 

Slippers are necessary in my book -- so is eating. I continued to cook things like macaroni and cheese in the tiniest kitchen ever while I shared some family kitchen stories, along with some more kitchen disasters. I even tried my hand at preserving

The Sailor and I traveled to South Africa where we had a lot of braais (the Sailor shares his rules for successful grilling here) and we went on a cruise to the Caribbean, where we had plenty of sunshine and an encounter with a Mexican Bug

I shared my wedding invitations with you, plus I got published in Artful Blogging. I competed in photo shows, had fun with #7Vignettes on Instagram, and generally had a blast being creative with pictures using ordinary objects. 

This year also had its full share of grief. We moved and had housing issues. I gouged my foot and broke my iPhone. I missed out on another summer in Scotland. Worst of all, my brother lost his battle with cancer and Mother's Day wasn't quite the same. 

In the midst of all of that, I continued with my Pyrex obsession. To celebrate 6 months and then 12 months of blogging, I gave away a gravy boat and a butter dish. I scored some great gooseberries, entered a Pyrex photo competition and I also shattered my first piece of Pyrex ever. Besides Pyrex, I also thrifted some other amazing vintage items like this sewing bench and these snack sets.

I crocheted and knit throughout all of 2013, but I am perhaps most proud that I finally finished the Patient Shawl

My love of luggage and bags carried over to the crocheted bobble bag. Food also won my heart with amigurumi meatballs and burgers. And I still can't decide which I like better, knitting or crochet.

I spent several days with three fabulous friends from far away... on a farm. I hosted a wine and cheese and foreign friends. My mom came to visit. And I remembered to celebrate every day with the Sailor. 

At the start of 2013, I never imagined how the year would turn out. It's been a rough ride in some places... and absolutely amazing in others. Thank you, dear readers, for joining me on the journey! The blogging community (that's you!) has been wonderful -- and every day it amazes me that people actually stop by this little corner of Internet.

Here's to a 2014 full of surprises!

(*Many of these photos are from my Instagram account. If you're on Instagram, follow me here for even more pics.)

December 27, 2013

Holiday Indulgences and Lamb Leftovers

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday, wherever and however you celebrated! 

The Sailor and I enjoyed a slow-roasted lamb roast (YUM) and veggies, including baby carrots from our garden. 

I brought out the vintage Federal Glass 'Golden Glory' plates I thrifted eons ago, along with the matching platter I found a few months ago at an antique shop. I also found this glorious tablecloth for only a few dollars at an antique store over Thanksgiving... and while I purchased it with plans for a holiday party in mind, it suited the table for two just right.

A Pyrex casserole dish also made an appearance (of course). Overall, our day was lovely. Not stressful and just the right amount of overindulgence on food. 

And of course, there was also mince pie, cheesecake and sugar cookies for dessert. 

The best part about having all of that food were leftovers for Boxing Day on December 26th. I thought leftover Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches were the business, but the Sailor showed me how to make a mean leftover lamb sandwich. (Heat up some chopped onion and tomato with a little sugar and oil... toast the bun or bread, shred the lamb, add spinach, cheese and sweet chilli sauce. EAT. Enjoy. Repeat as often as necessary.

While America doesn't really recognize Boxing Day, it's popular in England and other parts of the world. And when we woke up to a leaf blower outside our apartment building on the day after Christmas, the Sailor reminded me that America missed the memo on having another day off.

Next week, I'll be posting some (non) New Year's Resolutions ideas, as well as highlights from Typing Sunflowers from 2013. In the meantime, enjoy those leftovers. And if you missed Boxing Day this year... at least pretend it's another holiday over the weekend! 

December 24, 2013

Twinkle, Twinkle Simple Star

I've always been a bit of a minimalist with Christmas decorations. Perhaps it's because it often seems like I'm in transition, or because I don't have a lot of space. I've moved around a lot over the years. Storage used to be at a premium in our household. Now that we've relocated to a larger place, we do actually have storage space, but I still don't like to clutter it up with a lot of items that only get used for a few weeks out of the year. 

However, I admittedly love twinkle lights -- the plain old white kind that don't blink. 

There is something calming about them. They remind me of stars on a cold clear night. And stars to me symbolize direction. They were how seafarers of old navigated the oceans. Stars are there to remind us which hemisphere and season we're in -- even when the weather tells us otherwise. Plus, let's face it -- they're practical. They actually illuminate a room. I even keep them out through the dark nights of January and February.

My symbolic stars are the one consistent decoration I always string up for the holidays. Even when I lived on a ship off the coast of Africa, I still hung up white lights in my cozy cabin. 

I like to have a single star hanging somewhere, too. When I decorated my cabin door for Christmas one year on the ship, I made a huge star and hung it there. Now, I have a single silvery glittery ornament acquired in a Christmas clearance that hangs in a window. This year it's flanked by two snowflakes. It's unlikely that I'll see the real stuff this year where we live. 

Last year, I branched out with decorating for the holidays and I found a small tree for a whole dollar at a thrift store. I call it my Charlie Brown tree... it's only about a foot tall, and it's the perfect size for the miniature wooden ornaments I thrifted on the same day. 

The other week some friends came over for dinner, and as soon as they arrived, they commented on our IKEA shelf. The next breath, they asked us if we had a Christmas tree. 

The Charlie Brown tree was right on that same IKEA shelf. 

They had missed it. I guess I had too many twinkle lights on the shelf -- the tree kind of got lost. I think so often in the glitz and glamor of this season, we miss it too. Not the Christmas tree itself, but something a whole lot deeper. 

I missed it for years. I grew up in a church that didn't celebrate Christmas. (That, dear readers, is a long story for another time....) For years I dismissed the Christmas story itself simply because I didn't believe it actually occurred in December. But whatever time of year it happened is somewhat irrelevant to me now, because I believe it did actually occur at some point.

My father-in-law joked last week that Christmas has become man's tradition. It's true. But remember what I said earlier about stars symbolizing direction... my man-made stars and lights simply remind me of what I already believe.

Over two thousand years ago, the Magi followed a star. In this day and age of Google Maps and GPS systems, it seems so simple (and even a little crazy!) that the wise men of the day merely followed a star to find the One they knew they had to worship. A star

This holiday season, in the midst of gift-wrapping, parties and holiday cookies, remember to reflect on the greatest gift ever given. Remember that this gift is free... with no strings attached. And the next time you see a simple star in the sky, remember the Magi and the reason they set off on their journey in the first place. 

May your own journeys take you to wonderous and delightful places this season. 

Merry Christmas! 

December 20, 2013

The Cutest Cardigan

Earlier this week, you saw proof of my button obsession. 

Here's some proof that I don't keep them all for myself: 

I made this little cardigan for a friend's newborn. I had a lot of yarn leftover from the Thanksgiving Bird Blanket and I thought a sweet cardigan for the winter would be a perfect gift addition. The pattern is delightfully simply and can be found here as a free download.

The best part is... it knits up super fast, so if you're in need of a baby gift for someone for Christmas, this is a great choice!

December 17, 2013

Buttons and Baubles

I confess to having a slight addiction to buttons. But really, who doesn't... especially those of us who make stuff? 

I have quite a stash of old buttons that my mom passed along to me -- I'm pretty sure some of them were my Grandma's, and over the years I've accumulated even more. Lately, I've been gravitating towards the buttons still on their cards. It's fun to see what the price used to be on them -- and if I'm out at a thrift store or antique store, even a small purchase of a few buttons on a card is somewhat of a thrill. 

Buttons can make or break a handcrafted project -- pick the right ones and your whole garment, bag, or hat looks amazing. Pick the wrong ones... well... just take them off and look through your stash to find an even better button! 

I have been known to buy a whole bag of buttons at a craft store for just one color.

I have been known to swoon at entire walls filled with buttons. 

I have photographed buttons for photo shows. (You can also do this... just get one of those clear baubles from a craft store with a removable lid. Insert buttons. Take photos!)

 But really, my weakness is those vintage buttons still on their cards.

Some of the latest acquisitions... stored in vintage Pyrex, of course.

I can't wait to use these buttons in something. How about you? Button collector or not?

December 13, 2013

Delightful Dishes

With the onslaught of holiday baking and entertaining, you're probably doing more dishes than usual -- or at least wiping off the counter top and table a little more often.

For years, I lived not only in small spaces, but also places with no dishwasher. Now that we've moved, the Sailor and I have this modern convenience, but it still only gets used less than once a week. One reason, of course, is that I use a ridiculous amount of vintage Pyrex daily and it's a total no-no to put any of those dishes in the dishwasher. (We also have limited cutlery and I can't stand foraging through a dirty dishwasher hunting for a spoon...)

The other reason though, is that I sometimes actually LIKE doing the dishes. I enjoy cooking, so for me cleaning up is just part of the methodology. There's something wonderful about stepping back to admire a clean kitchen -- even if it's only for a brief moment. I mentioned the same thing here around this time last year, before I had a dishwasher. Even now though, my reasons are still valid.

Whenever I'm between projects, I tend to make a dishcloth -- sometimes for myself and sometimes for gifts (they make great hostess gifts, or holiday presents with a bar of soap or even a few dishes!) This week was no exception. I had this yarn in my bag from a Thanksgiving week trip to the craft store. The pattern came free on the ball band, but you can find it here too.

This yarn wasn't the only thing I bought over the Thanksgiving week road trip. You can see the obscene amount of Pyrex I found here. And you can bet none of those went into the dishwasher.

December 11, 2013

Holiday Greetings Display

Over the years, I've lived in a number of places where sticky (or blue) tack wasn't even allowed, let alone repainting or putting a nail in the wall to hang something. I got so used to small spaces and creative decorating, that even though now we have more than enough space in our new holiday apartment to string up holiday cards, I still like to keep them in one big bowl. 

Sadly, this bowl is no longer necessary for the plants it once housed -- shortly after we moved they showed some sickly signs. (They have been re-potted into other vessels in the hopes that I can revive them.) Nevertheless, the bowl is a great sized container to hold a few extra Christmas baubles and those cards. Most years, both the bowl and baubles change. Recently, I found these pretty blue ornaments at a thrift store and decided they were this year's color.

I got the idea from a magazine years ago... I don't remember which one, but I do know people often comment on how fun it is when they see the cards all piled in there. It's nice to be able to just pick up and flip through the cards throughout the season, rather than taping them shut so they don't flap on the wall when the heating blows through the apartment. 

And it also reminds me that I'm procrastinating on sending my own holiday greetings. So if you'll excuse me... there's a stack of cards to be written. 

How about you? Do you mail out holiday greetings? If so, how do you display them?

December 8, 2013

Bedtime Beading

The Sailor and I took a road trip over Thanksgiving, and I of course brought the necessary knitting arsenal along for the ride. 

If I'm not the one driving, then I try to use the hours in the car to knit. I get carsick reading a map, so it's somewhat surprising that I can knit and crochet. It's like I have a fiber superpower. (Of course if I'm doing something very complex or if I have to read a pattern... my ability goes right out the window and all productivity stops immediately.

I made a pair of simple socks along the journey -- one in the car and one at our destination. Then I began working on a little shawlette to pass the time. 

I splurged on a skein of Madeleine Tosh Merino Light on a solo road trip nearly a year ago. (The label doesn't have the color, but it looks closest to 'cove' or 'filigree' from the website listing.

I had planned to make a pair of beaded fingerless gloves as part of a Knitting Guild project. I started the gloves, then decided while I liked the beads with the yarn, I didn't really want to make another pair of gloves. 

After making this enormous Citron Grand, I decided I really liked shawls. But I didn't want to make another BIG one for quite a while. I needed something quick, easy, that would only take my one little luxurious skein of yarn. And, I wanted to use the beads. 

Ravelry didn't disappoint. 

I found this little shawl: The Sunlight Shawl for Sad People for free online. (Don't let the name throw you... it's a cute story and happy-looking shawl!) While the pattern doesn't call for beads, I figured I could easily add them throughout the shawl and especially on the picot edging.

The thing with beads though, is they are not conducive to car knitting. I put a few beads on the shawl randomly throughout the pattern (and probably lost just as many under the seat), so by the time I got to the edge, I put the shawl on hold. 

I waited until we got to our hotel stop for the night and pulled out the beading equipment. (Note the super cute zip pouch in the upper left of the photo -- found that little gem at Knitty City in NYC a while back.)  

I managed to finish the beading just before bedtime. Thankfully the hotel came equipped with plastic cups to corral the runaway beads.   

I used to think shawlettes were a little strange. Not quite a shawl, but not a scarf either. But now I think they may be my new favorite thing to make. This one is perfect for traveling -- both to knit (minus the beading part) and of course to wear. 

They also make fabulous gifts for friends -- especially when you don't want to worry about sizing. This shawlette knit up quite quickly, so there's still time to make one yourself to gift for the holidays! 

(Beading is much easier than it looks! Here's a good place to start. I used the crochet hook method to place my beads.

December 5, 2013

Merry Countdown

It's beginning.

I noticed that the day after Thanksgiving, both my Bloglovin' and Instagram feeds filled up with photos and posts of Christmas decorating ideas. 

I've got plenty of time to make stuff to decorate the apartment, I thought. 
Then I looked at the calendar. 


Thanksgiving really was a little later than usual this year, huh?!

So far, this holly garland is all that's up. And as soon as I finish mailing out my Christmas cards, I just may get around to decorating some more winter decor before the end of this month. (Although it was 73 degrees here yesterday. Not really weather conducive to trimming a tree.)


December 2, 2013

The Leftovers

Thanksgiving Day may only be a memory, but hopefully you still have some leftovers? 

One of my favorite parts about Thanksgiving growing up was having enough leftovers for a turkey sandwich. Nothing fancy... just turkey, bread, mayo and salt.


In fact, some years, I've had to remind my mom to make a bigger turkey just for those day-after sandwiches.

Last year, I visited a friend and her family in Idaho. We celebrated Second Thanksgiving and I made my first ever pumpkin pie. Her kids were a little confused about having a holiday repeat, but they certainly didn't mind when we ate pumpkin pie again. We had leftovers for that Thanksgiving, too. 

This year, my mom made the pie, and I was thankful because she made two at my request. For leftovers, of course.

What are your favorite Thanksgiving Day leftovers? And more importantly... did you get to enjoy them this year? 

November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! 

(I know this turkey is thankful to be stuffed, but not cooked. Pattern available here.) 

November 25, 2013

Betty Wason

This week, there will be a lot of cooking going on. I've seen so much yummy goodness already posted in the blogosphere that I think I'm starting to sniff my computer screen some days. 

I won't be cooking the turkey this year -- I'll leave that one to my mother. (Let's all give pause to the women -- and men -- who will be cooking up a storm this week. Let's also give thanks for shared recipes that get passed down through cultures and generations.)

Eons ago back in July, I made German Sauerbraten and I mentioned The Art of German Cooking author, Betty Wason. I also promised to tell you more about this fascinating lady.

I picked up this book at a thrift store for a whole dollar -- I have a thing for old cookbooks (especially bargains) and figured this one could actually come in handy with some practical recipes. 

I perused the anecdotes to the stories and was a little transfixed. This woman could write. I mean it's one thing to write a recipe... it's quite another to offer the reader the added bonus of an entertaining story to go along with it. I just assumed Betty Wason was a great cook who also had a talent for writing. 

Her name sounded so familiar to me though. 

I delved a little deeper, and then discovered, amongst many other talents, that she had been a war correspondent between 1938-1941. She country-hopped through various invasions, but despite finding the stories on the ground, her employer, CBS, asked her to find a man to read her texts. 

Wait, what?! 

Apparently they thought the audience wouldn't be receptive to a woman's voice on air. Later, the man who read her texts was offered a contract. (There is so much more to the story here and here.)  

Eventually, when Betty returned home to America, where she was rebuffed by CBS (!) and turned her attention instead to writing books. Her cookbooks are by far the most numerous. 

She has also been featured in one of my all-time favorite books: The Women Who Wrote the War by Nancy Caldwell Sorel.

So, as we all gorge ourselves on American goodness this week, let us also give thanks to the amazingly brave and talented women like Betty Wason -- who not only gave us some fantastic recipes from around the world, but who more importantly, reported on events that changed the world forever -- even if they didn't always get the credit.   


November 23, 2013

Ideas for Stash Busting

Last weekend, I mentioned that I've been busy stash busting my yarn. 

I'm happy to report that the yarn pile is slowly dwindling, but I do still have a bunch of balls. Most aren't a full skein (and let's face it, sometimes patterns and books that talk about 'knit this with only a skein of yarn' are actually referring to those big industrial things of yarn that are 435 yards long, rather than the 25 yards you have leftover from that sweater you finished.) 

All week I've been fiddling around with small projects, and I continue to stare at the pile on the floor trying to figure out what to do with rest of these random balls. 

(Note the messy corner of the office/craft room... I've been plopping myself down in the middle of the mayhem so that all of the yarn is only an arm's reach away.) 
Whenever I want to get distracted, I go to Buzzfeed. (Warning: slightly addictive.) There are so many hilarious posts, and some super cute ones. Need some puppy love? Check this out... I miss Dexter the Wonder Dog, but Buzzfeed still gives me those daily adorable moments.

There's also a ton of very practical things too -- like 34 Adorable Things to Do With Leftover Bits of Yarn.  

Buzzfeed, you did not disappoint. 

I have a shadowbox that needs a bit of pizzazz, so I'm already plotting to make #3 -- and even though I'm working on this Holly Garland pattern from the Holiday Issue 2013 of Knit Simple, I still have enough leftover green from this cardigan, that I can make plenty of pint sized trees for wine corks (#12). In keeping with the holiday spirit, I'm also thinking that #25 would also make an amazing wreath for the door, rather than a clock.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have more stash busting to get to. 

November 20, 2013

Thanksgiving Bird Blanket

I sometimes hesitate to post certain photos on Instagram or on this blog, because I would rather surprise my friends with their gifts, rather than have them see it online before they receive it. 

I don't think I gave anything away in this post, but I'm happy to finally share these photos with you, now that I know the recipient has received and opened the package.

Behold, the Thanksgiving Bird Blanket. 

A friend of mine is due with Baby #2 this week, and because I believe every baby needs a gift of their own, I made this bird blanket from the Holiday 2013 issue of Knit Simple magazine. And then I scrambled to get it in the post before her due date.

Since my friend's baby is due so close to our national gluttonous holiday, I personalized mine to be look more like a Thanksgiving turkey rather than just a bird. I also changed a few things, like making the hood seam on the outside rather than the inside of the hood. 

(And yes, that is a slight seed stitch mistake on that bottom row near the tail. I only noticed it by about the fifth stripe as I was working my way up towards the bird's head, and when I calculated out how long it would take me to redo the stripes, I figured the recipient would rather have one weird stitch than a Thanksgiving Bird Blanket AFTER Thanksgiving.)

I like how the 'turkey' looks like he's ready to give the baby a hug.

What Thanksgiving-inspired crafts are you cooking up these days?

November 17, 2013

Weekend Stash Busting

This weekend, I did what I should have done a long time ago: I emptied out every last bin of yarn and put it all on the floor to assess the stash. (Yes, even those wicker baskets that were hiding out under the coffee table... as well as a few balls of yarn tucked into a Pyrex bowl.)

Here's a glimpse of what I unearthed.

(Remember I said that's a glimpse. GULP.)

Needless to say, I've been stash busting all weekend. I'll share more with you later, but you can expect a stuffed turkey, more granny square slippers and some DIY dryer balls in the mix. 

November 14, 2013

Ordinary Carnations

Even though I mentioned not collecting knick-knacks in my last post, I still do have a few breakables around the apartment. Most have multiple purposes though, both for function and decor -- like old mason jars or oil and vinegar carafes. 

Some days the empty jars are pretty all on their own. 

Other days they need a few flowers.

Earlier this week, the Sailor and I had new (and newlywed!) friends over for food and fellowship. Despite the intimate size of our dinner table, I was determined to have a few flowers present. I only possess one large vase, but when I don't have enough flowers (or space on the table for that matter) I prefer to use a few smaller jars instead -- like those mason jars. 

I'm not super picky with my flowers, but I usually don't gravitate towards carnations first. I think it's because I can usually find them everywhere, so I tend to look for other more unusual flowers, first.

Carnations also seem so ordinary

This time, I bought them anyway. 

Our evening in the end proved to be anything but ordinary -- the four of us represented three countries and even more languages, as well as multiple professions. (If you're counting both the wine and entrée choice, we could have added Australia and Scotland to the mix, as well.)

We wiled away the hours swapping travel tales and only later, after we bid a fond farewell to this couple, the Sailor and I realized once again, that our life is not only truly extraordinary -- but we've made extraordinary friends along the way. 

We're not sure when we might see our friends again. They're now boarding a plane for the other side of the world, with so many uncertainties ahead. I'm pretty sure though that they'll be able to find carnations where they are going.

I think I'm beginning to change my opinion on these flowers. Carnations may be somewhat ordinary on the outside, but they also have a secret -- they are some of the heartiest and longest-lasting flowers you can buy. 

With that in mind, I'll think of the newlyweds whenever I see (supposedly) ordinary carnations -- especially red ones -- and I'll remember that special evening we shared together. And I'll raise a mason jar of carnations to the brave couple beginning their own adventure together. May it also be extraordinary and long-lasting.

November 10, 2013

Live. Laugh. Love.

I have never been one to collect knick-knacks of any sort (Pyrex does NOT count as a knick-knack)... I'm talking about little figurines that don't have much use except to sit around and collect dust on shelves. 

During the years onboard the Love Boat, I had to secure the shelf above my bed (I don't ever remember having more than one) whenever we sailed in case of rough seas. I would keep a book or journal there in port, but nothing that could shatter if it hit the floor while we sailed. 

And as a professional nomad, I usually didn't have a lot of patience for packing knick-knacks and carting them around the world -- particularly breakable ones. 

I've made an exception though -- my wedding cake-topper.

The Sailor and I have never really had a 'traditional' marriage -- with him being gone so often. We certainly didn't have the most traditional wedding (check out our handmade invitations here). We got married in South Africa on a farm with only a small number of people present. I was already living there and had yet to find a suitable cake topper, so I enlisted my mother's help from the other side of the world several months before. Our wedding may have been small, but we would certainly be sticking to the cake tradition -- even if it was Black Forrest.

My mom managed to procure a cake topper for us -- as close as she could get to something sailor-like. She put it in the mail a good two months before the wedding.

The cake topper, however, never made it to the ceremony. United States to South African post can be sketchy on the best of days, so we figured it had just been stuck in the mail and would arrive eventually. 

Several months later, the cake topper was still missing. I'm still not sure what the happy couple was doing in the meantime... but they eventually turned back up, in America. If they were ever in South Africa, they never told us.

Ever since then, I haven't let them out of my sight. 

They show up at photo shoots. 

 They like the outdoors, too. 

Sometimes they hang around next to a wedding photo in the living room -- most recently they've been leading the procession near a photo on my nightstand of the Sailor and me that says 'live, laugh, love'.

This week, I looked at the ceramic couple (I tried to ignore the dust on them -- I implore you to do the same) and the words on that photo frame, and I realized how much more I laugh when the Sailor is around. I'm not talking about a chuckle every now and again... I'm talking about the kind of laughter that makes your stomach ache and mascara run down your face. This week, I pointed out to the Sailor that I seem to have more wrinkles all of a sudden around my mascara-smeared eyes. 

He simply shrugged and said it was from too much laughing. Then his own eyes squinted and he burst out laughing.

So much has happened this year that has made us cry... but I am grateful for the fact that we are still living, loving and most of all, laughing. I'm grateful for the Sailor, who like the happy ceramic couple, goes away for months at a time, but always find his way home again.