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.

November 6, 2013

Seed Stitch

Lately I've been a little obsessed with knitting seed stitch (and stripes -- can you tell?!)

I realized a few months ago while showing off a few of my hand knits to a friend, that I tend to stick with good old garter stitch and stocking stitch. I've also thrown cables in the mix, like with the Central Park Hoodie. But beyond the occasional ribbing for a sock cuff, I haven't really done too much knitting and purling in the same row.

I love the look of simple garter and stocking stitch and of course cables... but I decided I needed to start venturing into more textured items.  

Seed stitch proved a perfect start.

I started off by making my friend (the one who received the Sheep for her baby shower), a cute cardigan for her wee lamb. I thought the cardigan reminded me a little of the sheep in any case. 

The pattern is from the august edition of British magazine Craftseller.  

I also have a slight magazine obsession. It started when I was a teenager and it's never really slowed down. Besides Artful Blogging, I regularly scour the newsstands looking for all kinds of other magazines. A trip overseas? Don't even get me started. The Sailor is even in on the game. He recently brought home a three-month-old issue of FairLady (my favorite South African magazine) that had to travel through West African waters and then Paris before it finally made it to me.

I do on occasion have to restrain myself. But lately I've been splurging on Craftseller.  

For the cardigan, it only seemed right that I used a British ball of yarn I procured in England several years ago. I carefully calculated the yardage and set off making my cute cream cardi. 

Imagine my surprise when I ran out of yarn at the back of the hood -- I ended up using a bit of brown from my stash (you can kind of see the weird brown splotch at the back of the hood) and then I crocheted trim on the bottom and the cuffs and along the rest of the hood, to try to balance the whole thing out.

Despite my poor math calculations -- I still found the seed stitch super easy. 

However, like all kinds of British versus American terms, seed stitch* is actually referred to as moss stitch in the UK. (American Moss Stitch is something different -- of course.) 

Now that the shawl is finally complete, I'm whipping up a little autumn inspired something... in seed stitch, naturally.

* American Seed stitch or British Moss Stitch: Knit 1, Purl 1 on an even number of stitches on the first row, then Purl 1, Knit 1 on the next row. Repeat these two rows to form seed stitch. There is also an American Moss Stitch, but let's worry about that later, shall we?

November 3, 2013

Shawl Season

Eight months to the day that I started Citron Grand, I finally finished it. I'm still laughing when I think about how the Sailor and I wound ALL of the yarn as we were about to leave for the airport for our cruise

I naively thought that I would finish this ENTIRE shawl on the ship.  In SEVEN days.

What was I thinking?! 
A month after the cruise, I hadn't gotten very far (you can see just how far here.) I blame all of the other projects I had going at the same time.

I really had no idea how long knitting a shawl with lace-weight yarn would take. Clearly I had some very high ambitions. (I also had no idea how long it would take to fix a serious mistake. Because of my debacle, I renamed this the Patient Shawl.)

But now it's done. Off the needles, blocked and ready to wear in time for today's day full of sunshine and fresh chilly air. 

The photo in the Ravelry pattern shows only seven sections (the original free Citron is much smaller -- only five pattern repeats). I wanted to go all out and make a BIG shawl with all 10 pattern repeats in Citron Grand. 

Go big or go home, I say.  

In the end, I luckily estimated that I was about to run out of yarn, before it was too late, so I only made it to level 9 of the repeat section. I'm not sure if my gauge was off, or if I lost quite a bit of yarn when I had to rip out an entire section, but I'm glad I caught it before I had to rip out 1000 stitches at a time.

Even though I cut it extraordinarily close, I managed to finish my shawl with just enough yarn to spare. 

THIS is all I had leftover: 

Just enough yarn to keep in case I need to patch a hole years from now. The yarn is Malabrigo Lace in Verde Esperanza.  

And the shawl is definitely big enough to keep me warm. Shawl season is finally here.

November 1, 2013

Artful Blogging

Ever since my first story got published, I've always been a little giddy when I see something of mine in print. 

Some things never change. 

This time, I'm even more excited than usual. 

A little over a year after I started this blog, I'm now featured in the winter edition of Artful Blogging from Stampington & Company!

This magazine has inspired me on so many levels -- and it was one of the very things that prompted me to start this blog in the first place. I'm thrilled to be featured in their pages -- and I can't wait to sit down and read the rest of the stories of fellow bloggers, inside. 

If you've stumbled upon Typing Sunflowers as a result of reading Artful Blogging, then a very special welcome to you!