October 29, 2013

Dried Apples

The Sailor arrived home this weekend and as soon as he walked into the apartment, he immediately noticed the enormous quantity of apples, apples and more apples, adorning the table. 

I remembered I wanted to do something with all of those apples... 

I made an apple cake, but that barely made a dent in one of the bowls. 

I needed another solution before these fantastically fresh apples straight from the orchard would start rotting. 

A few years ago, my mom and I were out shopping, and she bought me a food dehydrator on a whim. I had mentioned that I wanted to experiment with beef jerky for the Sailor. The jerky process still needs some work. (In the meantime, the Sailor has built his own contraption to make South African biltong that I promise to feature later.)

In any case, we seemed to go through dried fruit like crazy in our house and I figured there must be a cheaper way to keep it in stock. I also didn't like that a lot of dried food products contained a ton of preservatives. 

I wanted to keep things simple, even if it meant we had to eat the dried stuff faster than the purchased preserved kind. Over the years, I've experimented on a lot of fruit, but apples are some of the fastest and easiest to dehydrate.

I simply core them, peel them by hand, slice them fairly thin, and then give them a good dip in lemon water to help preserve them. 

Sometimes my timing isn't great. I got a little over ambitious this time and I cored a dozen apples before I started peeling them. I'm a fairly fast peeler, but the cores were already turning brown in the meantime before I could get them in the lemon water. 

Make sure you also get cut off any bruised bits. 

You don't have to peel them in any case. It's perfectly acceptable to leave apple skins on the apples. Unless you don't like apple skins. I do like apple skins though, so I'm not sure why I've always peeled them when dehydrating. (I'm thinking the Sailor had a say in the process at some point...

Then, I let them dry out in the dehydrator. It usually takes about five hours depending on the type of apple and thickness, until they're the right consistency. If I'm ever in doubt about whether they've dried out enough, I just keep the stash in the fridge (many dried fruits in packages advise you to store the stuff in the fridge after opening in any case!) 

Cost-wise, I have calculated that it is usually cheaper to dry out my own stuff, depending on where and when I buy the fruit. In this case, it worked out about the same price -- but I can eat my dehydrated apples knowing they came straight off the tree and were dried out with only lemon water as an additive.

Plus, how fun is it to just watch fruit shrivel up in a matter of hours? 

If you don't have a dehydrator, you can get the same effects as one by simply using your oven on a very low temperature. You'll need to experiment as to how long it takes -- best done on a day where you don't have to leave the house! 

* I have this dehydrator. It was definitely on sale when my mom and I found it. I'm sure that's why it got purchased on a whim. I liked this one because you can purchase more racks to dehydrate more food at one time.

October 25, 2013

Butter Dish Winner

Thank you to everyone who celebrated my one-year blogiversary with me by entering the Everything's Better with a Butter Dish Giveaway! Thank you also for your kind comments -- I wish I had 40 plus butter dishes to send to you all! 

Everyone had a fair chance... the names were added to a Butterfly Gold Pyrex bowl and then mixed up before I closed my eyes and grabbed a name.  

(Do you like the evidence of my first ever hand-knit sweater in the photo?
It's COLD here today.

And the winner is:

(the eighth comment from the top)
who wrote:

"I've just discovered these pyrex blogs and it's renewed my interest in them. Thank you. Would love to win a butter dish. Have never seen one before."

Sue, you just won yourself this delightful butter dish!

Send me an email: TypingSunflowers (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and I'll send this beauty off to you ASAP.*

Thanks again to everyone for making my blogiversary a fun one! 

Here's to another 12 months of dreaming, inspiring and creating.  

(*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 two weeks, they forfeit their prize and I will draw another name at random.)

October 24, 2013

apples, apples, apples

Nothing signifies the change in season more to me than getting apples directly from an orchard. Call me old-fashioned, but it's true. They might be the same apples that the grocery store sells under 'local food', but at least once a year I need to symbolically purchase them directly from the orchard itself to kick off my own fall festivities. 

I don't even need to pick them myself. I just need to smell the apples, the cider and to see all of the apple goodness in one place. 
A few sunflowers never hurt, either. 

Don't forget to leave a comment on this post for your chance to win the Pyrex Butterfly Gold Butter Dish above! The giveaway ends tonight, October 24 at 23:59 EST. 

In the meantime, I have some apples that need my attention. 

October 21, 2013

Sugar Cookies for Fall

I had a hard time getting into Fall when the temperatures were still reaching 80 even a week ago. Yesterday, after waking up to 50 degrees, I dug my sweaters and slippers out of hiding; autumnal weather has certainly arrived. 

And with cooler weather, baking season also kicks off! I think sometimes Christmas gets all of the glory for cookie season. I say start early... everyone likes a little (or giant) cookie to go with their hot apple cider in chilly weather.

I wanted to test out the neat leaf cookie cutter I found earlier in the year, plus I had a friend visiting, but really do you ever need an excuse to bake cookies?

If you want to make your own sugar cookie cutouts, here's a recipe from Better Homes and Gardens. I used a different one that called for both shortening and butter. (The BHG recipe only calls for butter.) In the end, I simply substituded even more butter for the shortening, so my result was very similar to the BHG recipe. 

Icing of course is optional, but with the leaves turning beautiful shades outside, I didn't think the cookies needed much decorating. 

Speaking of butter... don't forget to enter the Everything's Better with a Butter Dish Giveaway if you haven't already!

October 17, 2013

Everything's Better with a Butterdish and a Happy One-Year Blogiversary!

When I started this blog one year ago, I had no idea how much fun I'd have with it. Despite this being one of the most stressful, insanely difficult years of my life (and believe me, I've had some doozies in these past few decades...) this blog has been a constant source of fun, inspiration and community for the past 12 months. 

I've always liked the phrase in my blog header: 'dream, inspire, create'. I don't know when I first started using it as a life mantra -- I think it may have been when the Sailor bought me an iPod mini (remember those?) and I wanted my name and a quote engraved on the back of it. Since then, I have always carried those three words with me in some form or another. 

You can interpret the three words any way you like, but here's how I tend to think of them: 

DREAM: In college, a professor once told us to make a list of goals -- both short-term and long-term -- things that seemed attainable in days, weeks, months, even years. Then he told us to add a third column of 'dreams' -- the stuff that seemed completely impossible -- even absurd. As I mentioned in this post, a decade after college, I was astounded to realize that nearly everything that I wrote in my dream column had actually happened. It wasn't small stuff either -- the list included huge events that I dreamed about but never thought would actually happen: moving overseas, working for a magazine. Since then, I continue to dream, daily. Life often surprises us when we let it. Never stop dreaming. 

INSPIRE: I like to look for inspiration in ordinary things -- whether it's knitting needles, or by simply watching the weather. I started this blog knowing that I needed to share that same inspiration. Hopefully people can take a little of that inspiration with them after they visit here!

CREATE: I feel a little lost if I don't create something every day. I write more about that here, but it could be something as simple as making soup from scratch, or completing one row on a crochet project.  

Maybe some of you are dreaming of adding to your vintage Pyrex collection? 

If so, this could be your chance! 

To celebrate my First Year Blogiversary*, 
I'm giving away a Vintage Pyrex Butterfly Gold Butter Dish.  

If you missed the Great Gravy Boat Giveaway and didn't win, this could be your day!

All you have to do is leave a comment below and you're automatically entered to win the butter dish. I'll draw the winner randomly and I will ship worldwide, because I believe everyone deserves a chance to own a piece of precious Pyrex. 

So take a chance! Leave a comment below -- this time with which piece of Pyrex you need to complete your 'collection'. (If you're not collecting, or you're new to this Pyrex craze, you're welcome too! Just leave a comment and say hello.)

Giveaway closes at 23:59 EST October 24, 2013. Winner will be chosen at random and announced on this blog on October 25, 2013. 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. 

* My official blogiversary is October 18th, but I was so excited to celebrate, I had to post this early.  


October 15, 2013

Bohemian Bag

I've already established that I usually have more than one project going when it comes to fiber fun. No matter what else I'm working on however, I always like to have a project with a simple repeat pattern going -- something I can do when friends come to visit, or while I'm watching TV in the evening. 

The above shawl, while simple, has such tiny stitches and some serious increases and decreases every few rows. I didn't want to repeat the mistake I made with it over the summer, so I'm working on it when I can focus (although I'm happy to report that there are 10 pattern repeats to make the big shawl -- I just finished #8. Hallelujah. I don't think I've ever worked on any knitting project as long as this one.) 

It's still 80 degrees here during the day, so I didn't really want to start something big like a blanket yet -- I'll save that for wintry, icy days when I need an extra layer on my lap to keep me warm. 

Instead, I scoured through my magazine stack and found this pattern for a shell crochet bag in Vogue Knitting Crochet 2012. (I know, I know, I already made this crochet bobble bag over the summer. But I've also already established that I love bags. Let me have my fun.

This thing doesn't look that big, but it can hold a ton of stuff. 

I plan to use it as a market bag. Now that it's finished, I can focus on finding a local apple orchard. It may still be warm outside, but I hear temperatures are supposed to drop next week. That means homemade applesauce, apple pie and dehydrated apples for snacking will all be calling my name.

And, if I'm still working on the shawl by that point, at least I'll have a cute crocheted bag to carry my project around town.

PS: Bag handles were thrifted. Wooden handles can be a little pricey, so I like to keep a look out for them at thrift stores. Sometimes perfectly good handles are attached to not-so-nice handbags that should never have made it as far as the thrift store. But at least the handles are useable!


October 13, 2013

The Incredible Itch...

Insanabile Cacoethes Scribendi 
- Juvenal

OR, simply... 

The Incredible Itch to Write

I'm working on a few things this week that I'll hopefully be able to share on the blog later. In the meantime, let's all raise a glass to the inventor of the cut and paste feature on the computer. While I learned to type on a vintage contraption like the typewriter above, I'm not sure I would be as prolific or productive if I had to type out everything on one today.

Stay tuned... later this week I'll be announcing another giveaway, as well as a few other fun things! In the meantime, I need to scratch an itch... Thankfully I don't have to change any typewriter ribbon.

October 10, 2013

I Love Yarn Day and #7vignettes Part II

It's no secret on this blog that I love to knit and crochet. (Don't ask me which one I prefer -- they both have their place...) 
I also love yarn.

Yarn is so tactile... so versatile.

It also seems to multiply completely on its own.

I knew the lure of yarn could easily become an obsession. It's one of the main reasons I resisted crocheting and knitting for years whenever I wandered past the skeins in a store.

My hunch was correct. The stash took over within months of picking up my hooks and needles. In 2012, I made a pact that I would use up a sizable quantity of my yarn before I purchased anything new. It worked pretty well, until that trip to Idaho after Thanksgiving (Read all about it in this post). 

This year, I created some new yarn rules. I allowed myself several purchases, but I couldn't buy yarn to simply stash it -- I needed to have an actual pattern and purpose for the yarn.

No matter what 'rules' I make for myself though, I still love yarn whether it's new or in the stash. Apparently there's a whole day to celebrate that love. I Love Yarn Day kicks off tomorrow! If you're a fiber freak, then there's plenty of ways you can celebrate and share your love.

Not having my iPhone for a week meant that I couldn't actually post any photos to Instagram, so I missed out on October's #7vignettes. There's always next month. Besides, September's #7vignettes fit in perfectly for tomorrow's special day. It just goes to show you that I really do love yarn. Even photographing it can be fun. 

Here are the 'stories' behind #7vignettes from September. 

GREEN: yarn salad topped off with a sprinkling of buttons.

FOLDED: Folded hands.

ALCOHOL: Don't string me along... What are you having? Red, white or whiskey?

PILE: one pile simply leads to another pile. 

BORROWED: my mother-in-law's needles, the scratchiest yarn ever, and her steely resolve as I learned to knit without surrendering.   

ROUND: What's round? A yarn hat cake, of course, complete with optional (and detachable) pompom decoration.  

FRAMED: it's time to take the kid gloves off. I'm not just spinning a yarn -you've been framed. 

If you missed Part I of the #7vignettes, you can view that post here.  

Happy I Love Yarn Day to my fellow fiber fanatics! 

October 7, 2013

Lessons Learned from State of iPhonelessness

My phone has been 'drying out' in a bag of rice and without a mobile device to hold in my hands, I've had a lot of extra time on them instead.

So, I've been pondering life without my phone. And here's what I've learned so far.  

1. It is hard to function in today's society without a phone. 

I had to cancel plans with someone this afternoon, and let me tell you what a palaver it was to get a hold of the person without the use of my phone. For starters, I didn't have her number, because it was stored in my phone. (Who memorizes phone numbers nowadays?!
2. I am waaaaayyyy too dependent on my iPhone. 

Years ago, the Sailor bought me a Nokia smartphone -- back when that term first popped up. He promptly dubbed the Nokia 'second husband' because I spent so much time with the phone. It wasn't that I was TALKING on the phone so much per say as I was texting, surfing, and playing games (solitaire proved to be my drug of choice on many occasions). 

It really was the beginning of the end. 

After that, the Sailor bought himself an iPod touch and when I started playing too much Fruit Ninja on it, he bought me my own. Apps, music and calendar entries galore ensued. My iPod touch and I were inseparable. And, as my old faithful Nokia started falling apart (literally -- keys cracked and those little rubber stoppers meant to keep dust out of crevices were suddenly missing...) we realized it was time for a new phone. Not just any phone though. I was finally going to get an iPhone.

Once I transferred my data, I gave my mom my iPod touch (part of our 'no need for excess' household policy) and I was thrilled to now have everything on ONE device.   

But that one device soon went everywhere with me. I'd take it to get the mail. Or to the gym, even if I wasn't listening to music. I'd walk to the garden, thinking that I was just going to take photos of growing peppers, but in reality, there was a slight bit of separation anxiety if I was away from it for too long. If I left the phone on the counter, I'd check it as soon as I walked in the door.

It was the first thing I looked at before I even got out of bed, and the last thing I looked at before I switched the lights off at night. 

I am not a Hollywood celebrity. Wall Street does not depend on me getting all of my messages. I don't have a job where lives are at stake if I don't answer my phone. I don't need to be with my phone ALL OF THE TIME.

3. It is good (and necessary) for my creativity to disconnect every once in a while.

I may not have crocheted or created more than usual lately, but I feel like I had a few extra hours in the day to breathe and to think. The other night I sat on the balcony, candles burning. My drink was finished and it was too dark to continue knitting. I was about to go inside -- what would people think if they saw me just sitting there, doing nothing? But I stayed anyway. Sometimes you need to do absolutely nothing. (It's also good for your neck to look up once in a while. Your chiropractor will thank you.) 

Over the past few days, I realized that I sometimes spend more time looking to see what other people are blogging or tweeting about, than I do on any actual creative project. I have a renewed sense that I need to set aside more unplugged time to brood over ideas and projects. Technology for sure has its place (I'm a total closet tech geek, if you couldn't already tell...) But sometimes it gets in the way of plain and simple imagination.

Apparently sometimes I need to simply unplug and watch a candle flicker. Who knows - it may spark the next great idea. Hopefully though, next time I'll do so willingly, and not because of another phone incident.

October 4, 2013


Do you hear that? 

That sound? Is that a phone ringing? A text message coming through? An alarm clock chiming? 

You don't hear it? 

Well, neither do I.

There has been radio silence here in the apartment this week while my iPhone tries to recover from its own little mishap.

I neglected to mention earlier, that while I had my foot in the obligatory epsom salt soak on Tuesday (as per the doctor's orders) I had another little accident. And this time, it was even more painful and will probably be somewhat more costly than tripping over that stupid rusty wire. 

I dropped my iPhone in that same water. 


(Just take a moment to let that sink in.)

Thankfully, in this day of great technology, I still have a computer that works, along with an Internet connection. (I also have a great iPhone case that bore the brunt of the soaking...) The Sailor is still maneuvering around the waters an ocean away, and yet I could still tell him via instant message what happened. I sent my mom an email to tell her I wouldn't be able to FaceTime with her this week. I called my in-laws from Skype and told them I was alive. I put out an alert on Facebook (as embarrassing as it was...) to say that my phone wasn't working. 

I don't think any of us realize how dependent we are on something until it's gone. I didn't realize that I have no other alarm clock in the apartment until my iPhone died. I found myself holding my car keys in my hands, wondering if it was safe drive somewhere without a phone. It felt so 1992. (Wow, the chances we took. What if something happened? Flat tire? What if we got lost?)

Except in 1992 we looked at a paper map and we just stopped to use a pay phone if something happened. (What's that? There's no pay phones nowadays? Of course there are. Every person you see is a walking pay phone. I figured that if something bad TRULY happened, I'd be around enough other people who had phones I could simply borrow. The Sailor did it once in an airport when his phone stopped working. Strangers are nicer than you think, on occasion.

Sometimes silence is good. I think I was getting a little too distracted by my phone. Plus my foot was throbbing. So I sat down and I started knitting this again. 

And then when I went to keep track of my rows, I realized that my knit counter is an app ON my iPhone. I think the bird is actually laughing at me.


What's the worst thing you've ever done to your phone? And did it recover? More importantly, did YOU recover?

October 1, 2013

Gardening (Guts and) Glory

The Sailor and I were a little late to the garden scene. By the time we moved and settled in and actually discovered that our complex had a community garden, we were already well into July. 

July is probably not the best time to start anything. Added to that, our raised bed is one of the smallest plots of land I've ever seen in my life. I've had welcome mats that were bigger. 

Nevertheless, I was determined to plant something. My mom used to have a spectacular garden when I was a child, and the Sailor's dad has a grand one growing year-round in the Southern Hemisphere. We figured if anything, this year's garden could be our little experiment to see if green thumbs were genetic.  

So, the Sailor and I forked out a ridiculous amount of money for gardening supplies, dirt and some seedlings. We planted cherry tomatoes, green beans, red peppers, carrots and garlic. Last week I put an onion in and I now have a giant kale plant on my porch waiting to be transplanted (once there's room of course!) 

Amazingly, and despite scorching August sunshine and hard clay ground, our stuff is growing. I've already frozen a bunch of beans, and I'm eating tomatoes like crazy. 

This week, after months of anticipation, I picked my first pepper. 

 And last night, I ate a delightful kale, tomato, bean and pepper stir-fry. (I really didn't care how strange that combo was... I simply wanted to eat something that I grew and picked.) 

The garden has brought me an immense amount of joy... I love going out there in the evening and seeing what bounty is available. 

Until last night. 

I went out to water the garden and tripped on the rustiest, nastiest, thickest piece of wire you ever did see. (And then I promptly checked my immunization record to see when I last had a tetanus shot...) I will spare you photos of my foot, and the wire. But I will put your mind at ease to let you know that while my foot is a shade lighter than the color of that pepper, I have no fear of lock-jaw in my future. 

I skipped the garden tonight and decided to tend to my porch plants instead. So far they seem a little less hazardous.

(Whatever you're planting this month, watch where you step...)