April 29, 2013

Kitchen Disasters II

Last week, I found a can of pumpkin during a cupboard clean out. I know it's not pumpkin season, but it was still in date, and wouldn't make it until next Thanksgiving. Plus I had a recipe for sour cream pumpkin bundt cake that I wanted to make to bring to a friend's.

I dutifully got the ingredients together and taped the recipe onto the cabinet (my fail safe way of getting it out of my way while still being able to read it.) 

Where I put the recipe doesn't seem to make a difference, because apparently I can't actually follow directions. I accidentally stirred two sticks of butter into the streusel mixture, instead of two teaspoons. (Don't you hate it when there are two separate ingredient lists in a recipe and you read from the wrong one?)

I thought the mess in the bowl looked a bit funny. 

I like to think of myself as a fairly decent cook, and I have gotten better over the years at trying out new recipes and techniques. But I still have my share of kitchen disasters.

This time, I thought I could possibly salvage the operation. I really didn't want to throw out an entire cup of butter, and all of that brown sugar, so I looked up what I could do with it. 

I just discovered Super Cook -- a search engine for recipes based on what ingredients you already have.

Wouldn't you know... there's a recipe for brown sugar shortbread right here. I added more brown sugar, the required flour, and left the all-spice and cinnamon right in mix. I also dispensed with the idea of adding granulated sugar to the top of the shortbread. Really, the brown sugar in the mix was plenty.

An hour later, voila. 

I'm definitely keeping this recipe in my repertoire. You never know when I'm going to accidentally use too much butter again. 

The sour cream pumpkin bundt cake was also a roaring success, thanks to the fact that I had extra butter on hand to actually finish it. (It was also cute... how did I not get a photo of it?!

I love it when kitchen disasters have a happy ending. Let's hope this trend continues!

April 26, 2013

Yarn Project Update

I thought I should give an update on the progress of the 8527 works in progress I've had on the needles lately. (OK, slight exaggeration... but I have had a lot of projects going at once.)

Citron grand shawl: A few more rows completed all thanks to a two-hour camera club meeting. I'm hoping to get a big chunk of it completed this weekend at a knitting retreat (yes, it's true. We knitters have retreats. Eat. Knit. Repeat.)

Sheep pillow: Still in progress. Until I can sit still for an hour with no distractions, I'm thinking of giving the gal a headless sheep instead. 

The possible crocheted sweater: Not possible. I realized this yarn (Caron Simply Soft) was a little too floppy for the sweater. I also realized I bought a TON of this yarn simply because it was on sale, so I started a knit blanket instead. Knitting a blanket goes against my grain... I prefer to crochet them, particularly as I learned to crochet because I wanted to make blankets! However, I've had this Lenox Square Throw pattern sitting around for a while, and decided now that I have enough of this cheap grey yarn laying around, it was time to make it. Plus, who can resist those gorgeous chunky needles? 

The pattern is free on Lion Brand's website. You just need to sign up for an account to be able to download the pattern. 

This is working up super fast, since you only knit one panel at a time, using a double strand of yarn, then you simply seam each panel together. I think my panels look a little narrow, so I may end up making more of them to make the blanket wider. 

Basic baby blanket: Completed! I even finished a second one in a different color. Those little things really do crochet up super fast when you use the same stitch and one color.

Fuzzy felted slippers: Not happening -- at least in that felted pattern. I didn't have enough of that same yarn to make a whole pair. Plan B: Granny Square slippers

I'm looking forward to spending a weekend finishing either the shawl or the blanket! What are you doing this weekend?

Remember the Great Gravy Boat Giveaway ends April 30th! Add your comment on that post for your chance to win. 

April 22, 2013

Yellow Yellow

Last week, the camera club held its final competition of the year. I've enjoyed the competitions, because rather than going through my stash of fairly recent photos to see which ones I can enter, I try to take new ones specifically for the competition. 

This latest competition had a theme of 'Mostly Yellow'. I first thought about using my yellow Pyrex.

Then I thought about using sunflowers and of course a typewriter.

However, for the past few competitions, I've tried to do something unusual and creative with crafty objects. (Either that, or I take photos of thrifted shoes, which is equally fun.) I wanted to end the camera club season with a nod to my signature style.

Having no yellow shoes on hand this time, 
I decided to use the sewing supplies. 

I had an idea in my head of how to arrange the objects, but instead I started out just photographing the stuff haphazardly:

(It clearly wasn't working. Even if I had turned the measuring tap the other way, something wasn't right here.)

Once I straightened out the tape measure, I thought things improved slightly. 
But the photos still weren't there yet.

In the end, I remembered my original idea and decided to spell out 'yellow':

And I loved it! 

Apparently the judges did too. It scored very well and I walked away with first place in the 'Mostly Yellow' category. In fact, I got three first place ribbons that night -- I tied for first with a black and white print, and I also tied for first with my color print. 

One of the judges asked how long it took me to gather the yellow items. I somewhat sheepishly admitted that everything was already in my stash of supplies -- I needed to only root through a container. Then she wanted to know how long it took me to arrange it. Honestly, not long. Even though I played around with the orientation of the supplies for a while before I actually spelled the word, I knew from the start what I wanted to do. 

It's not always like that though. Usually my original thoughts are only a seed for what the photo or craft becomes. Sometimes it takes me an hour or more to arrange stuff and figure out where I want things to go. Other times though, the first ideas are the real deal, or at least fairly close. If I had actually scribbled down my idea, my first sketch would have looked similar to the photo above -- only I would have drawn a yellow zipper for the Y. (I was too cheap to buy a yellow zipper, so I used what I already had.)

The black background made the whole thing stand out. Plus, as one judge said, 'Everything looks great on black velvet!' In my case, I used a black scarf. I laid it on the floor, arranged the items and aimed the camera straight down.  

I liked this idea so much that I may have to spell out the rest of the rainbow. I'm sure I already have the craft supplies for the job. 

April 18, 2013

The Great Gravy Boat Giveaway and a Happy Blogiversary

Six months ago, I tentatively published my first post on this blog. I say tentatively, because I knew I needed to start a blog for me, even if nobody else read it. 

Thankfully, it appears that some people do actually read Typing Sunflowers. Whether you have stumbled here through a random Google search, or because I gave you the actual address, or because you're a fellow blogger seeking inspiration, welcome. I love having visitors! 

To celebrate my six months in the blogiverse community, I'm giving away a little of my Pyrex collection. I told myself I wouldn't end up becoming one of those 'collectors', but becoming a member of the Pyrex Collective III blog opened up a whole new world to me -- and I couldn't pass up any inexpensive piece of Butterfly Gold. I found this little gem at an Idaho yarn store that also housed antiques. (Um, hello, dream retail job...) 

I started using my gravy boat a lot -- even for non-gravy items, like the juice needed in this orange marmalade cake

Soon, I found a matching underdish on Etsy. (What did we do before Etsy?!) The plate was also being sold with an additional gravy dish and matching plate, and all three were cheaper than purchasing just the plate on eBay (And what did we do before eBay?)

Now I had two gravy boats and two plates. The Sailor doesn't mind my thrifting habits, but he does mind excess. And really, I don't need TWO gravy boats (especially in the same pattern!) So I'm giving this one away: 

That's right.  

I'm GIVING AWAY a gravy boat. 

The underplate is included -- exactly what you see in the picture above. All you have to do is leave a comment below, telling me which Pyrex pattern is your favorite. If you don't have a favorite, that's okay. You can just say hi. Or tell me what you do collect -- or what your favorite color is. Just leave a comment. Contest is open to anyone -- not just Pyrex collectors. Most of us probably started with only one piece in our collections. Maybe this gravy boat is meant to kick off yours?

Contest closes at 23:59 EST April 30, 2013. Winner will be chosen at random and announced May 1st. No purchase necessary. The winner has two weeks from the date of the announcement to contact me for their prize. If I don't hear from the winner within the two weeks, they forfeit their prize and I will draw another name at random. Void where prohibited by law. 

(And yes, contest is open to those outside of the USA. I travel a lot, and I believe Pyrex should be available in all countries. In fact, I'm feeling so generous, that I'll even pay for the shipping.

{This giveaway is now closed. Winner posted here.}

April 16, 2013


Sometimes words are not enough. 

But sometimes words are all we have -- sometimes words are the things that tether us to the hope that there is still good in this world. 

Within days of my brother's death, friends from around the world rallied together and supported me in ways they will perhaps never know. 

Several of those friends sent me this plant, along with a note that read:

"Like this plant encased in glass, so we envelope you with love and send prayers from around the globe, for your peace and encouragement..." 

Every time I see that plant,  
I am reminded of those words of comfort. 

I am reminded that I have friends who care, friends who love me, and friends who, although they may not understand exactly what I'm going through, are sharing in my grief with me.

I don't know all of the people affected by the tragedy in Boston. I do know that I have been to Boston before and loved it. Former work colleagues live there. I know people who have run in that same marathon before. I have a friend who was called back into work yesterday, in order to organize hospital logistics for the wounded. 

I know that right now, the grief that Boston feels is very real. I also know that people around the world care and are praying for the city, the victims and their families, and those affected by such an act of violence.  

I wish I had the right words for Boston right now, but I don't. But I hope they somehow feel comfort in knowing that so many people care -- and that so many of us send prayers from around the globe. 

April 13, 2013

Counting Calories?

I truly believe that a picture is worth 1,000 words. Or in this case, a few thousand calories.

Ukrainian and Russian nibbles for my knitting club. Jelly filled donuts, Lepeshki, Ukrainian Poppy Seed Cake, Mini Lemon Bundt Cakes, and more donuts -- all served in vintage Pyrex. Of course.  

Hankering for more Pyrex eye-candy? Check out my latest post on the Pyrex Collective III blog here.

(That's all for today. My last post was a bit long, and after baking that mess above, I'm still too exhausted to write anymore!) 

April 11, 2013

Handmade Wedding Invitations

I promised you a little tutorial on how I made my wedding invitations here.

I knew I wanted to make my invitations from the start. I have always enjoyed working with paper (and as obsessive as I am about yarn... paper and I go way back. I think it's still my favorite. Just don't tell that basket of wool sitting next to the stack of scrapbooking supplies.) 

I didn't get married that long ago... but Pinterest wasn't around for ideas when the Sailor and I finally tied the knot. Thankfully, Michaels and and other craft stores were. Nowadays, there seems to be no shortage of places to purchase supplies -- at least here in America. (For those of you who don't live near massive chain stores... I do still believe that sometimes the most creative projects blossom with using only what's on hand! I also believe in Etsy... and how easy it is to order something from across the globe.)

Nevertheless, I did have an arsenal of craft supplies at my ready. Because I married a sailor, and since we met on a ship, I wanted to somehow incorporate a sea theme into the invitations. I also knew that many people wouldn't make the wedding due to travel, so I spent extra time and money on the invitations. I wanted to give the people who couldn't make it, their own little keepsake of our day. 

I started by scratching out some ideas in my notebook. I find that some people are afraid to even sketch ideas -- like they will mess up. Impossible, I say... that's why you sketch the idea. 

Most of the time, my finished product only resembles the sketches in one small way. In this case, I took away the concept of putting the info on handmade luggage tags. The Sailor and I traveled a lot in our dating years, and we still do today, so I wanted that to be part of the theme. 

I knew I wanted to put all of the info on the luggage tags -- I've always loved scrapbooks and invitations that are very hands on. I thought it would be fun for people to pull out each tag for the information. 

Once I found the blue paper, it all kind of fell into place.

Each tag held various bits of essential information: 

Shore leave: I used a printed map of South Africa on the front, and on the back, listed the nearest transportation hubs.  

Navigation: The Sailor acquired some old navigation charts for me to use on the front of these. On the back, more specific details of where the wedding would be held and how to book rooms at the location.

Port History: The photo on the front is one of the Anastasis Mercy Ship -- where we met. You can see from the photo below, I listed the port cities we traveled to together. I also found small silver beads and tied them onto the hemp on this tag -- they reminded me of miniature wedding rings.

SOS: Life-ring on the front; RSVP contact info on the back.

Once I got the luggage tags together, I still needed a way to keep them all together with the invitation. A friend of mine helped and we came up with the idea to use a flap, and then we hammered little brads in to keep the flap from falling apart. 

I wrote the actual invitation by hand on the inside of the invitation, and the flap held all of the tags. I chose a Bible verse that seemed particularly applicable to our situation, and put the first half on the front, and the second half on the flap.  

For half of our dating life, and now our marriage, 
we have been separated by a sea.
"Many waters cannot quench love, rivers cannot wash it away..." 
Song of Songs 8:7

I tied everything together with hemp (I love using hemp for all kinds of projects, but this time, it looked a little like mooring lines) and I found little anchor trinkets to put on the front. I also used necklace clasps on the hemp -- I searched until I found ones that looked a little like a life-ring.  

I also tied the bottom of the invitation together with a little hemp knot -- you can see the brad, but I've already untied the bottom. 

Our wedding was on a serious budget. The Sailor was in navigation school right before we married, and I was working as a volunteer with various non-profits. I decided to splurge though on the invitations, but in the end, to make and mail 60 of them (many of them internationally), only cost about $200. 

I never bothered to price what it would have cost to have someone else print them for me, but I don't think it would have been much cheaper. Plus, I love how they turned out.

After the wedding, I ended up using the same luggage tag and blue theme for my scrapbook to showcase a few photos. 

Like the invitation, I used the tags to write info on the back. For these 'style' shots, I wrote stories of when and where I got various bits of my wedding ensemble. 

I also used the tags and leftover anchors as part of my thank you notes. 

I think overall, people 'got' the sea and traveling theme, and they felt included in the day, even if they couldn't make it.
Have you previously made, or are you currently creating invitations for anything by hand? I'd love to hear your ideas.  

April 7, 2013

Work in Progress

I used to be the type of person who only read one book at a time. I may have read voraciously, but I still kept to one book. I couldn't understand how people could keep plots and characters straight if they read two or more books at once. 

That didn't stop me from carting around more than one book when I traveled, though. I had to finish one before I started another, but I still had more than one with me. That was a total pain. (Luggage limits aside... schlepping a bag full of heavy books around on a train isn't exactly fun.)

Over the holidays, I acquired a nook. The Sailor suggested I get some sort of e-reader, especially for traveling. He thought it would come in handy. On our recent travels, instead of taking four books with me, I only had to bring one nook. I even found myself reading more than one book at a time on it. 

Now, I find that in addition to the books I'm reading on my nook, I also have several scattered around the apartment that I'm reading at the same time. 

I'm not sure when exactly this transition happened, but apparently I really can read more than one book at a time. 

Similarly, I used to be a one-fiber-project-at-a-time kind of person. I usually had to finish a crocheted blanket, or a knit sock, before I could think about starting a new project. 

This weekend, I Iooked around the apartment and gasped. With the Sailor gone, I tend to leave my craft paraphernalia all over the place, and I noticed I had not one, not two, but FIVE W.I.P.S. 

(For those uninitiated into yarn verbiage: W.I.P. = Work In Progress. A W.I.P. means you have things 'on the needles' as they say, but not yet finished.)

There's this shawl (Citron Grand, if you're wondering): 

A (headless) knit bobble sheep pillow:  
(Get the free pattern here at Purl Bee)

A possible crocheted sweater (as yet undecided if this yarn will work for it):


A basic baby blanket: 

Plus I'm about to cast on for another pair of fuzzy slippers like these. (Spring may be here, but my feet still get cold. You can read more about my slipper obsession here.)

I almost forgot... I also still have a bag of granny squares that I need to do something with. 

I like that I've got so much going on though. It means that when I was going out the door for the camera club the other night, I didn't have to hunt for a project to work on during the meeting. (The irony is not lost on me -- knitting at a camera club meeting...) I grabbed the shawl, knowing that I could easily squeeze a few rows in without a problem. The sheep? His head needs to wait until I can concentrate on it (no TV, or distractions). The baby blanket? Easy to work on while carrying on a conversation when friends come over. 

Clearly, I've gotten over my issues of working on only one thing at a time. I blame the nook.

April 4, 2013


Today was a perfect laundry day. Cold, but perfectly windy for drying clothing outdoors. 

Clothespins are of course essential when hanging the washing outside. They also make for a fun photo experiment. I love taking simple everyday things and making them into art.

Today was also my local camera club meeting. You may remember from this post that I used to be a little skeptical of my camera club. Now that I'm in my third season with the club, I've grown to appreciate it, and I've definitely learned a lot.  

Plus I'm a little competitive. I did well the first year in Category B, and earned enough points to work my way up to Category A. Last year I also did well (although some of the best photographers were nowhere to be found that year!) So far this year, I scored highly in the first competition of the season with several photos -- Knit Lit is still one of my favorites. 

I didn't want to miss out on entering the competition while we were in South Africa, so I left my photos with another member to enter for me. 

I kind of forgot about the whole thing until tonight, when I got my photos back. I've already shown you this one that tied for second place in the color category. 

Tonight I discovered that the black and white one above, 'Pinned' tied for second place in the black and white category. 

Our next competition is looming -- I can enter one color, one black and white, and one with the theme of 'mostly yellow'. I have some ideas brewing in my mind... sunflowers may be involved. Regardless of whether I win, I'll be sure to share the results with you. 

April 2, 2013

Gathering the Gooseberries

I went through a little bit of thrifting withdrawal on our recent travels. (Or 'drifting' as the Sailor likes to refer to my junking habit.) 

I think thrifting is the ultimate form of recycling though. Besides, who doesn't like a good treasure hunt? 

This weekend, I went out for coffee with my mom, and on my way to exchange some yarn in between, we stopped briefly at the nearby thrift store. 

THIS... in its full glory, called out my name. 

Those of you who know your vintage Pyrex will know that this Gooseberry refrigerator set is not an easy one to come by. I've seen the prices on eBay and frankly, it scared me off of ever finding one in an antique store, let alone a thrift store. 

But a few months back, I found this lonely little dish here. And I got a little glimmer of hope that more Gooseberry must be out there somewhere, at a reasonable price. 

My mom said she thought she saw rainbows burst out of me when I saw the full fridge set. You can read that story here and see what else I bought that day. I know I spent more money than usual (seriously people, I'm more of a bargain thrifter, not splurger... but occasionally there are times when rainbows burst out of me and I can't control myself...)

Of course my rule in purchasing Pyrex is that I have to actually use it. It can't just sit there looking pretty (although it IS pretty, isn't it?!) 

Avocado and tomato salad, along with homemade fennel soup. I remembered I had a fennel soup recipe I wanted to try out, so I purchased some at the local farmer's market. 

I've never used fennel in anything before -- but it is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. The soup was little more than butter, onion, garlic, chicken stock and the fennel... but I think the secret was in cooking the fennel for at least 30 minutes to bring out the flavor. Yum.

As usual, everything tasted better in Pyrex.