March 30, 2013

Springing to Life

Today finally felt like spring. Glorious spring, where life starts to emerge, slowly, from winter stillness.

Buds form on the trees, flowers push through the ground towards the sun, and even the birds chirp a little louder. 

I even sat outside for a bit to soak in some sunshine. 

(Oh outdoors and sunshine... you have been missed!

As much as I complain about the winter, I actually do love all four seasons. Even winter has a purpose. Without winter, there would be no true spring. No renewal, no rebirth. None of those buds forming or flowers beginning to grow.

How sad would that be? So I for one, would like to apologize to winter. 

I'm sorry winter, when I blame you for being so long and miserable. I'm sorry that I want to shovel you away along with the snow. Actually, you're just part of the cycle of life. You've been keeping things under wraps until the time is right for them to start to grow again.

So thank you, winter. Thank you for all that you've done. But now it's time for you to leave until at least November, maybe even December. (Snow, you can show up in time for Christmas...)   

Spring is definitely in the air -- and with it, my heart (like the birds) sings a little louder. May this season of renewal and rebirth bring you a basketful of hope and happiness.

Happy Easter.

March 29, 2013

Happy Anniversary

This past weekend, the Sailor and I celebrated our wedding anniversary. It's the first time in a while that we've actually been in the same country together on the day, so we decided to look at our wedding photos while we had the chance.

Pulling down the dusty scrapbook made me realize how long it had been since I looked at our photos. Then when the invitation fell out, I realized I really should do something more with it besides sticking it in the album. 

It also reminded me how much FUN I had making all of our wedding invitations. 

So much fun, I'm going to share even more with you... a little tutorial, if you will. 

But not now.

Soon, though. 

I promise. 

{update: wedding invitation tutorial here}

March 25, 2013

Old Books are Super Sweet

Over the years, I have always poked fun at my mother for her love of old books. Just the other night, she was telling me about a Sinclair Lewis book she recently finished, and I asked if she was reading anything a little more modern these days. 

(She wasn't. This is besides the point, however.)

The next day, the Sailor pointed to a book he'd never noticed on the shelf and asked what it was -- it was an old copy of 'The Real Book about Ships'. We took it down to page through... and while at the shelf I unearthed my 1953 copy of 'Aboard and Abroad' -- an entire volume dedicated to fifties style travel to and from Europe.

Obviously, much of the information is out of date. But there are a few hidden gems, like a reminder of former steamship Cunard's ad campaign: 'Getting there is half the fun.' 

I concur. Getting there (and around) usually is still half the fun. (Sometimes it's most of the fun! If you missed the post a week ago about renting a car in Mexico, you can read that here.)

But I digress... sifting through those books reminded me that I'm turning into my mother a little. I may not be reading an old, dusty edition by Sinclair Lewis yet, but I definitely have my fair share of older books -- especially cookbooks. (You can read more about that here.)

This weekend, I wanted to make a pineapple upside down cake. I could have just looked online, but I decided to use the recipe from an old cookbook, instead. I picked 'The Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedia Cookbook' -- the 1966 new revised delux edition. 

I should have known when I set out that this dessert might flop. At the very least, it was going to put everyone into a sugar-induced coma. For a 9x9 inch pan, the recipe called for 1 cup of brown sugar AND 1 cup of white sugar. I thought it must have been a typo, but I proceeded as directed.

In addition, I really, really wanted to use my new (yet old) round Pyrex 8x8 cake pan I recently thrifted. So of course the batter was going to ooze out over the top since the pan was too full. 

I flipped the cake over once it cooled... and the whole thing started to slide off the plate. No photos... my fingers were too sticky from all of the pineapple juice to handle the camera. I took one bite of the gooey cake and my teeth started to hurt. 

I chalked it up to another kitchen disaster. If you need more proof that this wasn't my first kitchen flop, you can see more here.  

My mother reminded me (after taking her own bite and nearly passing out) that people didn't eat sugary stuff as often back then as they do today. So maybe it wasn't a typo on the cookbook. Maybe it was just a once-a-year-special-occasion cake?

Regardless,  I'm going to think twice about making something sweet out of an old cookbook again.

March 21, 2013

The Princess and the Pea

No matter how much I travel, it is always wonderful to come home to sleep in my own bed. I used to brag that I could sleep anywhere, and for the most part it is still true. Just because I can sleep on a plane though, it doesn't mean that it is comfortable, OR good for my neck, for that matter. 

Some nights -- and depending on the hotel chain and the quality of bedding -- I really do feel like the Princess and the Pea. 

No matter how great the trip, there is always a marvelous moment when I get home and realize I get to sleep in my own bed. 

A while back, I made this adorable Princess, fully equipped with mattresses, blanket and pea pod. I wanted to post it earlier, but I also wanted to wait until my friend received the gift package I mailed. I had a suspicion she was perhaps a reader on this blog; I didn't want to give away the surprise before she received the doll for her daughter.

Now that both the package and surprise are in the correct hands, I can share with the rest of you this gorgeous and fun Princess and the Pea.

The pattern is from Itty-Bitty Toys by Susan B. Anderson. This isn't the first toy I've made from this book, nor will it be the last. All of her patterns are adorable... and an absolute joy to knit. I've made several reversible toys from the book, and a few hand puppets, but by far, this was my favorite doll to knit.

I especially loved the little pea pod that goes with the doll. 

While I didn't make nearly as many mattresses as I could have, the Princess seems to have plenty to keep her occupied for a while. As for me, I'm happy with the one mattress I have at the moment. 

March 19, 2013

Snowflake Garlands

I thought for sure we would return home to witness the trees blossoming, buds springing forth from the ground, and a serious temptation to continue to show off my pedicured feet in the form of sandals. 

I was wrong

Yesterday, the Sailor and I watched in disbelief as it snowed. 

And snowed. 

And snowed some more. 

Blue skies today mean that the snow is melting, although more wet stuff is forecast for the rest of the week. Forget salads and detoxing post-cruise, suddenly, I'm finding myself wanting to bake.

As I have mentioned before on this blog, I have an affinity for vintage Pyrex. I even blog at a collector's site, although my small kitchen won't permit me to have quite so many pieces of Pyrex. 

I started out loving the yellow and orange Pyrex because it matched my kitchen (Sunflower colors? Why yes, thank you...) 

Along the way, I've gained an appreciation for many of the fun colors Pyrex made -- pink and aqua have now also found their way into my collection. 

I resisted purchasing anything with snowflakes on it though -- I figured I could only use those pieces over the winter, and I wanted my vintage stuff to serve more of a purpose than simply sitting on a shelf as decor. Nevertheless, I found this piece for only $3 and I was hooked.

Last week, once I had unpacked and did the necessary laundry, I did a quick round through town to the thrift stores. I wasn't having much luck at the first two, but then I found something that caught my eye at the third one. 

It's the Snowflake Garland pattern -- one that I don't have yet, and one that I certainly don't need. In fact, I've definitely passed up this pattern in other shapes before. But an 8x8 baking pan with fantastic handles for only $3? How practical is that

Now that I actually bought the thing, my only decision is what I'm going to actually bake in it. 

Winter will come and finally go, at least for a few months. Vintage Pyrex, though...  you're here to stay.

March 17, 2013

Red Bugs in Mexico

Our recent cruise itinerary included Mexico. For someone who is as well traveled as me... I had never before been to Mexico. (Don't laugh, I made it to countless other countries before I even ventured into Canada.)

The Sailor had previously been to Cozumel before and joked that we wouldn't miss much if we simply stayed on board for the day. Nevertheless, we made the obligatory rounds through the tourist spots, and then on a whim, decided to rent some sort of dune buggy for the day. 

Excited as we were at our spontaneity, the rental place was all out of dune buggies. But the owner offered us a beat-up old red Volkswagen instead. 

We took it. 

From the moment we sat inside and turned the ignition, we were laughing. The car sputtered to life. My seat flew forward in the tracks every time the Sailor braked. I got stuck in the seat belt and had to shimmy out when we stopped. There were no side windows, the rear-view mirror served no real purpose, and when we stopped to put gas in the car, the attendant pulled out a rag that was being used to plug the petrol. A rag.

Then the rag blew away. 

Some German tourists walked past and stopped to take a photo of our Bug (while we sat inside, waving to the attendant that the rag had blown away.)

After driving halfway around the island and having the vinyl sun roof flap on my head, we rolled it up, only to get baked by the mid-day sun. 

At one point I mistakenly turned around, looked at the non-existent back seat, and I noticed the floor was rusting through. 

The Sailor and I suddenly felt like the Flintstones. 

We managed to get the whole way around the island, and returned the car in one piece (or at least in the number of pieces we left with initially!)

Every time I meet a couple who has been married 50 plus years, I make it a point to ask them their secret to success. Without a doubt, every single one of them says to keep a sense of humor going throughout the marriage and life. 

There were numerous reasons I fell for the Sailor; his sense of humor was definitely tops. 

Later that night, my neck hurt. In fact my whole body kind of felt like I had been jolted around on a wooden roller coaster. The biggest pain of all? My stomach hurt from laughing so much. But that made everything else worth it. The Sailor and I still have a good chuckle every time we talk about the Bug.

March 13, 2013

Cruising to Calm

My motto for 2013 is supposed to be to chill out -- no matter what happens. 

Well, if you've been following this blog, you know that 2013 has thrown a few curve balls my way. I'm still trying to stay pretty chilled out, because really, what good is it stressing about stuff that is beyond my control? 

This past week, the Sailor took me on a cruise. It was in the works for some time, and happened to still fit right into our schedule, despite the timing of my brother's death a few weeks ago. 

I sent the Sailor this card years ago...
It made me smile when I found it in the closet back in South Africa.

A fellow former shipmate and friend of mine sent me a message right before I boarded: 'Hope the cruise is good for your soul...

The cruise was indeed good for my soul. There is something calming about being on the water. Warm weather and fabulous food never hurt either. 

While on board, I also celebrated my birthday... 

I took in a few sights of the sea... 

And of course the palm trees and sunsets on land...

The last day of the cruise, the Sailor and I went to a butterfly conservatory -- quite possibly my favorite excursion of the sail.

Was the cruise good for my soul? Absolutely. Am I going to still aim to be chilled out this year? Most definitely. 

PS: In case you haven't noticed... most of these are Instagram pics. I've only recently discovered how addictive the app is. Follow me there: typingsunflowers.

March 10, 2013

Two-at-a-Time Sleeves

While creating the blue cardigan the first time, I worked on the sleeves and made them both at the same time. 

The first time I heard of this technique, I thought 'Huh? How can you make two sleeves at once?' 

But after making my first-ever sweater and forgetting how many rows I did from the first sleeve to the second sleeve, I vowed to make both sleeves at a time from there on out. That way, if they were the wrong length, at least they would both be the wrong length. 

Besides, when you make a sweater, sometimes you end up with second sleeve syndrome (similar to 'second sock syndrome', whereby you are too fed up to make the second sock by the time you finish the first one.) 

With this technique, you simply cast on for the first sleeve with one ball of yarn. Then you cast on for the second sleeve with the second ball of yarn. You have to be careful about getting the two balls of yarn tangled together, but I found that if you keep each ball in separate little bags on either side of you, they won't bunch so easily. 

I've also heard that if you are the type of person to get bored with your sweater by the time you get to the sleeves, then you should simply knit the sleeves first. I can attest to this technique, since I had to start everything in my cardigan over again, except the sleeves. Although, if you are also the type of person to skimp on buying extra yarn, you may run out of yarn on the body of the sweater with that method (far better to have shorter sleeves rather than a shorter sweater, right??)

March 6, 2013

The Great Cardigan Remake - Done

In the midst of everything that happened last week after we got home from our trip, I realized that I never updated you all on the status of the great cardi remake. 

I found these fabulous buttons at a hobby shop and I finally sewed the sleeves on, and put all of the finishing touches on the cardigan. 

I must confess that I was relieved to finish it... but I wasn't super thrilled with it at the end. Maybe it was just too hot in South Africa, or I didn't have the right shirt with me to wear with it.

Now that it's unpacked and I'm cold again, I'm looking for more occasions to wear it.

March 4, 2013

Write it Out

I have been missing regular doses of writing lately. I know I've been posting things and writing about them... but occasionally I feel the need to hole myself up in a coffee shop and type and type and type for days on end.

It's how I tend to process things. It's the reason I stayed up late to finish that last post about my brother. I needed to write something... I needed to process what I couldn't verbalize to even friends and family.

I had a Psychology teacher at university tell our class that the best way to get through trauma and life in general is to pray it out, run it out, cry it out and write it out.

I have always loved this simplicity. And while I've replaced the running with walking instead over the years, I have definitely gone for the other three with vigor.