April 28, 2014

Happy Handwriting

The Sailor has been joking with me lately about the mail. Whenever he's home, he tends to walk to the boxes and pick up the post. Usually by late afternoon I've asked him if he got the mail already. If he didn't, I volunteer to go. Last week he joked with me that I couldn't even wait one day to see what we got in the mail.

It's not that we get that much interesting stuff -- or even bills (hooray for online payments!) We do get the occasional card from friends and family, a magazine we've subscribed to, or something we ordered online. It's just that ever since I was a child, I've looked forward to getting the mail. 

Like many children of my generation I had a pen-pal -- several in fact. Daily, I anxiously awaited a letter from one of them. I always associated Sundays with that day to not bother looking in the mailbox. Sundays always disappointed me a little. 

Later, my forays to get the mail turned into awaiting letters from friends I made at summer camp, or cards and packages from home when I was at college. 

Overseas, I anticipated letters from family and friends and I got a thrill going to foreign post offices to mail cards with greetings in other languages. 

Recently, I noted that I only had a few stamps left. I realized my most recent book of stamps had lasted me way too long. I also realized that I couldn't recognize all of my friends' handwriting if I tried. It used to be that I could look at the address on a card and know exactly who mailed it to me without peeking at the return label. (There are still some friends for whom this is true!) Nowadays though, I have people in my life I've only ever texted or emailed. 

I have no idea what their handwriting looks like. 

Last week I put my stash of greeting cards nearer to the working part of my desk and I shopped for a bunch of new ones. I'm determined to bring back snail mail in my life. And even if I don't know my friends' handwriting, they could at least be somewhat familiar with mine.

Because you know, if I'm this excited about getting handwritten letters and cards in the mail -- maybe other people are too. 

But first, I need to buy some more stamps. 

April 24, 2014

Earth Day Every Day

Earth Day was this past Tuesday. I completely forgot, even though my trusty iPhone automatically put it on my calendar. I didn't mind. The Sailor and I spent the day wandering around garden centers looking for the perfect ferns and some red flowers to attract a few hummingbirds. What better way to celebrate the environment? 

I feel like most days around here are Earth Day in any case. I remember as a teenager, collecting aluminum cans was something we did for church fundraisers. Nowadays it's far more in vogue; our recycling bin is much bigger than our trash can at the moment.

We do our best around here to reduce, reuse, and recycle, but we don't obsess over it. I still use paper towels on occasion (after all, how else do you grease your cast iron pan?) and when we're out and about, we still buy a bottle of water when we're thirsty (usually after my glass bottle is completely empty!) 

But for the most part, we try not to waste food or electricity, and we tend to repair items in our household before we replace them. When we do have to replace them though, we usually donate the older item to a thrift store. (The Sailor is not a fan of clutter... and I have to say that most days it makes me crazy as well, even though much of the clutter stems from my own craft supplies. Here are more tips for Spring Cleaning, plus some tips on decluttering the craft supplies.)

And, of course, we plant stuff. We have a vegetable garden going at the moment, and now the porch is a perfect little plant haven for those times we want to sit outdoors. 

Happy Earth Day, every day! 

April 21, 2014

The In-Between Projects, Project

After whizzing my way through the zoo, I realized I didn't have another knitting or crochet project to start. Dishcloth 101 to the rescue. 

Long live the humble dishcloth!

I'm in the process of sorting out the office/craft room (AKA the Princess Pad as the Sailor affectionately refers to it...) Craft rooms and the supplies therein always need a good sorting. I can never remember what I have, so I've been reorganizing stuff where I can easily see it and therefore use it. 

I'm also realizing that eventually the little Peanut is going to have to sleep somewhere besides our room. So, I'm clearing out and making space and stash-busting of course.

Last year, just before we moved, I purchased three giant skeins of cotton yarn on sale. Don't ask me why... it's not like there aren't yarn stores here. I think I figured I'd need a go-to project as soon as we got to our destination. 

I didn't. I had plenty of other yarn in the pile. And so that yarn has sat on a shelf, patiently waiting for a project. 

I've scoured Ravelry for projects and nothing jumped out at me. I finally decided to simply stock up on dishcloths to use and to give away as gifts. So, now that I'm in between projects, dishcloths are the perfect excuse to use the yarn and to do some easy knitting and crochet in the evenings while catching up on TV.

Who knows, some of these may even end up as burp cloths.
What's your go-to in-between projects, project?

April 17, 2014

We Built a Zoo

Some people buy a zoo*. I decided to build one instead.

As soon as the palm tree and the giraffe were both finished, the rest of the animals arrived en masse! This pattern is super clever -- each animal ring gets gradually smaller as you make your way towards the top, so the crochet time subsequently gets less and less.

I'm not sure which animal is my favorite, but I'm leaning towards the lion. 

His mane and cheeks are the best! 

Having been on safari with the Sailor several times, I wanted to make my little zoo authentically African. As cute as the tiger was in the original pattern, I made a zebra instead. I used the same techniques to make the ring, and then I just sort of made up the head and the stripes as I went along.

Thumbs up for the pattern -- it was a worthy splurge. Plus, I ended up saving money in the end since I used up a lot of my stash yarn to make both the tree and the critters. 
 I think they're all going to be pals for a long, long time.

* We Bought a Zoo is a great movie. I highly recommend it, especially if you are an animal lover.

April 14, 2014

April Showers

We all know the saying, 'April showers bring May flowers...'

And of course I love flowers, so I don't mind today's rain. 

But that quote doesn't say anything about frost. However, after weekend temperatures here reached into the 80s, the weatherman says it's going to dip below freezing tomorrow night. 


If only we had waited a week to plant the tomatoes! I guess we'll be covering them in the meantime. 

It could be worse, I know. This weekend I met a gal who was returning home to a forecast of one foot of snow. Oh honey, I feel for you -- and for the rest of you who may be experiencing a very long and lingering winter.

C'mon Spring! I know you're out there.

April 11, 2014

Garden Green

Overnight, it seems the trees here turned green. And with the frost (hopefully) behind us, this was the perfect week to restart our garden. 

We may not have a backyard, but we like to think that all of the hiking trails and parks near us are simply an extension of our apartment. Plus, we have a neat little community garden right at our complex. Last year's little garden was such success (despite that run-in with the rusty wire...) so this year we're taking two plots.  

First, we pulled out the last of the Winter Kale, since it started going to seed.

Then we planted tomatoes, peppers and spinach. I know the spinach looks quite sad in the photo below, but after only being in the ground for 24 hours, it's now totally perked up!

Plants amaze me. What are you growing this year? 

PS: Anyone else spot that great vintage CorningWare oven/serving tray above? 
It definitely sees multiple uses around here.  

April 8, 2014

Crochet Giraffes and the Real Deal

One giraffe down, four more animals to go, and we have a little zoo, along with the tree! 

I am loving this pattern. It's so cute and innovative! And despite my earlier skepticism on my decision to use leftover shades of green on the treetop, rather than one color, it's totally growing on me. 

And the giraffe? Well, they amaze me in any case. My first ever stuffed animal was a giraffe. Then, when the Sailor and I got married, some friends pitched in to purchase us two nights at a luxury game lodge in South Africa. Along the dusty road towards the lodge, the Sailor and I chatted about which animals we really wanted to see. The Sailor was itching to see a lion; I of course said a giraffe. Not one minute later, a giant beast of a giraffe crossed the road in front of us. Our safari experience was already off to an amazing start.

We saw even more giraffes during our visit. I doubt this was the same one we spotted on the way in, but look at how close we were this time! That's our driver's scout sitting in front of us. (Photo courtesy of the Sailor.) 

The Sailor never got to see his lion, but that's all the more reason for us to return someday. In the meantime, I'll make sure to crochet him one.

April 5, 2014

Que Sarong, Sarong

In the 20 years that I have been traveling, I've learned a thing or two about packing. I have a few non-negotiables that go with me no matter how little space I may have in my bag. My journal always accompanies me, and I also pack some sort of sarong, or at the very least, a giant lightweight scarf that can do double duty. 

I guarantee you in the packing priorities department, there is nothing more versatile than a sarong. It has always been on my essential packing list -- no matter where I'm going or what the weather will be like. It's been my security blanket, if you will, on many trips.

My favorite sarong over the years is this blue one in the scrapbook photo. I even wrote a little blurb about my security blanket in the scrapbook:

I can't remember exactly when I bought this sarong -- it's been a staple in my luggage forever, it seems. I do know I found it at a TJMaxx in America (exactly which one in which state remains a mystery). I thought at the time the price seemed quite steep for a piece of material -- $10? $20? Little did I know this sarong would become my security blanket: a curtain for my caravan in Scotland, a sheet in Budapest, a beach blanket in Estonia, a scarf and pashmina on chilly planes and trains... and occasionally an actual sarong at the pool. In Cape Town, it served as a chair cover to hide the plastic patio furniture inside our granny flat. My 'security blanket' awaits the next trip -- already in a suitcase. -- November 2009

Clearly, my security blanket was worth every penny. So, it was a great surprise to me that I completely forgot to pack it this week. The Sailor and I went to Florida for a few days for a last minute beach getaway. Apparently pregnancy brain kicked in, because I was ill-prepared for actually hanging out at the beach. I at least remembered a swimsuit (and I even tried it on before I packed it to make sure it would accommodate my growing belly...) But I didn't remember anything else. No beach towels, no chairs -- not even a simple sarong. 

Luckily, the kitschy souvenir shop across from our hotel had one left. The price was right and it turned out to be the perfect size to use as both a beach blanket and a cover-up when the sun got a little too hot.

 I've used my sarong for all of the following many times over: 
  • Tablecloth: Indoor or outdoor!
  • Curtain: I have previously stayed in hostels with giant windows and no curtains. I like a good view, but I also don't like people looking inside my room while I'm sleeping.
  • Door curtain: Particularly useful in caravans or RVs when you want a breeze, but also privacy.
  • Robe: Covers a lot more than those chintzy towels they give you at the spas in Budapest, let me tell you!  
  • Towel: Desperation, people -- it's much more effective than a tiny bandana. I speak from experience. And, if you're using it as a robe, you may as well dry off with it too.
  • Blanket or sheet: Essential when you end up in a grotty hostel somewhere, although if you're already using it as a curtain (see above), you may consider packing a second sarong for your next trip.
  • Picnic or beach sheet: Nobody wants a towel full of sand. Sarongs are much easier to shake the dirt out of than a thick plush towel.
  • Pillow when rolled up: Do you know how long some train rides are?
  • Skirt, scarf or even a head covering: Perfect for chilly travel days, or those times when bare skin is not acceptable. 
  • A cover-up for swimming or lounging at the beach: The sarong's original use!
I'm kind of glad I forgot to pack a sarong for Florida -- I'm not one to buy souvenirs, but sometimes it's fun to have a little memento, even from a short trip. Now I have another sarong to accompany me on the next adventure. Hopefully I remember to pack it, along with my journal.
What's always in your suitcase? 

April 2, 2014

Pyrex Pretties in Action

It's been a while since I've thrifted any Pyrex, or even found any affordable pieces in an antique store (let's be honest here though... it's been a while since I've actually been to an antique store.)

But I'm still using my vintage Pyrex daily! I also blog over at the Pyrex Collective III, with a bunch of other Pyrex collectors. Check out my latest post there for even more proof of my Pyrex pretties in action. And while you're there, you can swoon at the other author's collections -- many of them far surpass my own!