Friday, September 4, 2015

Food - Clean eating and getting (back) into shape

While I lost the big part of my excess weight already a year ago I've been battling the beginning weight gain again and have/had the desire to get into shape. The natural consequence of this is to focus on two things - food/eating habits and exercise/work-out/sports.

For the latter I found that doing aerobics seems to work for me per se, but I had to find a way to incorporate it into my daily routine without much time to spare around so, apart from the costs, I ruled out going to the gym again. Through a very helpful group of twin moms on Facebook I stumbled across the home workout DVDs of Jillian Michaels (most notably her 30 Day Shred series) and a food/diet concept called "Clean Eating". I've tried both now for about two months and am super-happy with the results! My work out consists of about 30mins every other day and I'm curious about the other DVDs as I'm about to finish the 30 Day Shred series. While I haven't really lost much weight (4kg) I do have reduced measurements - about 7cm of waistline (almost 3") and 5cm (about 2") of upper leg circumference. Next goal - six pack ;-)

One of the consequences of Clean Eating - which basically means to avoid processed foods and artificial ingredients - is that I've learned to do more things from scratch, which always has been a strong interest of mine. As an IT specialist I always want(ed) to find out what's under the hood, poke at the basic elements and learn how to make things, so it's perfect for me!

My favorite things so far which I made from scratch:

Mexican (hot) salsa

Peanut sauce to go with satay skewers

Vanilla extract (which can't be found/bought here in Austria anyway)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Food - Quick note

I'm notoriously bad with keeping bookmarks and having them ordered, so mostly for my own sake:
I've got a few posts brewing (both food- and craft-wise) but didn't find the time for write-ups yet as we've been on vacation and lots of things ate my time since then (hah...).

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Crafts - Utilities and DIY jewellery

I've been writing about the lace shawl I'd started to take with me and work on during my vacation. The yarn I chose and I took some time becoming friends. I'd cast on a few different things but always ended up frogging after a few rows. But as you've seen in my last blog post the Aurinko is coming along nicely. I was eager to properly try out my new Karbonz needles but found out quite soon that for exactly this yarn they are the wrong choice. I reverted to the KnitPro Symfonie wooden needles - which I had to use for getting through airport security anyway - due to the way the transition between carbon and metal is worked. The Lace Ball yarn is just a fraction too thin and keeps getting caught which is a nuisance working on a piece at approximately 300 stitches after the first third. To illustrate what I'm talking about - this is what the transition between wood and metal looks like with the Symfonie needles:

Just right, pretty much no stitch getting caught. Yay!

On to the project I did together with my daughter - custom made stitch markers! When I started the Aurinko shawl I didn't have any within reach so I used a paperclip. The rather bulky plastic stitch markers (e.g. these) are way too thick to properly work around with a lace yarn. Since I remembered seeing small loop-thingie likes being used by a friend/coworker I checked with the lovely ladies at Hobbykunst Vösendorf/SCS who recommended the perfect solution. DIY stitch markers! You need the following things/tools:
  • thin nylon filament
  • some beautiful beads
  • crimp beads
  • pincer (flat nose, but I'm actually working with my Swiss Tool)
  • scissors
  • some creativity ;-)
That's it! Takes little time and you get to make markers that work just for you - if you need some for thin needles or thick needles - it's up to you how you make them! :-) Of course my daughter helped me as she loves to use proper tools (guess where THAT's coming from...):

The purple bead ones are what I made together with her, the "G" bead ones I made today:

Since we found some amazing and beautiful shells on the beach during the vacation I promised to make them into pendants for necklaces for my kids. While at the craft store mentioned earlier I got a little carried away (ahem) and bought accessories to make simple earrings. So here we go - DIY jewellery! The kids are super-happy and so am I :-D
My daughter's custom necklace with shell
Bling... I'm usually not one for sparkly things but I couldn't leave those guys at the store...

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Crafts - Some lace work, some vacation work

Lace work...
As I promised some time ago there is a finished piece I have yet to write about. It is a lace scarf I made for my mother in law as a birthday present. The first time that I worked with a somewhat fuzzy yarn - Schulana Kid-Seta Lux, which is 71% Super Kid Mohair, 20% Silk, 9% Lurex and interesting to work with. On our last stay at my MIL's house she told me about a (lace) scarf her mother had made for her which sadly was too short for her to wear properly. As it goes the idea instantly came to my mind to make a larger/longer one for her and by browsing through various patterns on I ended up picking the Harlekin Lace Tuch. Simple enough pattern and worked beautifully with the yarn!

The blocking is not 100% perfect but Ursula was super-happy with it and I'm looking forward to seeing her wear it!

Vacation work...
We recently went to vacation to Mallorca and of course I had to take some needle work with me. The snuggly jacket isn't done yet but felt too bulky to take with me. Since I wanted to use the Schoppel Wolle Lace Ball I wrote about anyway I ended up starting a shawl named Aurinko, thanks to the recommendation of the lovely ladies at Wollmeile! I was kind of tempting the fates and put the work on the wooden KnitPro set, packing the Karbonz tips with the regular luggage so I had some fall-back needles in case of airport security deciding that knitting needles were a Real Threat(tm). Everything went like a charm, no inspection of the knitting bag or needles so I could happily knit along during the flight :-)

The vacation week was of course spent partly knitting while lounging at the pool side (and using my new stitch markers which I made together with my lovely daughter - story of which will get its own post)...

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Food - Gluten-free you don't notice & variable muffins

What do you do if your kids (like my twins) can't decide if they want either chocolate or strawberry muffins? Right, you make choc/strawberry ones ;-)

Thanks to my favorite muffin recipe book there's a very easy to alternate basic recipe which allows catering to many different tastes. Like I wrote two days ago I made gluten-free raspberry muffins for my friends who were visiting - they turned out exceptionally delicious and you couldn't tell they were gluten-free!

Today's version was made with spelt flour, just because, and turned out great as well, if I may say so myself...

About Friday's other meal? The gluten-free pasta I used was different in taste insofar as it gave the impression of being fresh made "pasta all'uovo" which was just as nice. The white sauce (aka sauce bèchamel) - worked out like a charm with the flour mix I'd gotten (Alnavit Helle Mehlmischung). The rest was "business as usual" - the veggie sauce, the mozzarella and parmigiano... So, making gluten-free meals isn't as hard as it might sound, which surprised me a lot! Sadly, no pictures as we all went om-nom-nom-gone... :-D

While I'm at it I have a recommendation for a restaurant, if you have restrictions to your diet, be it lactose or gluten. We checked out Zum Wohl, which just recently opened its doors for the first time. Excellent (local) food and drinks, very friendly personnel, beautiful interior which invites families as well as the young hip people. Serves vegetarian as well as flexitarian food. I remember the place being a kind of shady, dark, smelly restaurant before when I lived around the corner and boy has that changed. Highly recommended - kudos to the people who run it! Oh, and also highly recommended if you DON'T have dietary restrictions ;-) I wouldn't necessarily order the Eiernockerl as they are quite different to what you might be used to - but that's just my 2ȼ...

Friday, June 19, 2015

Food - Adventures in (gluten-free) cooking

A very dear friend of mine from the US who's currently visiting with her husband suffers from celiac disease, so having them over for dinner poses an interesting challenge. Look through your pantry - how many dishes and ingredients are gluten-free? Not many, if you leave out all fresh vegetables/fruit and basic ingredients.

Austria and Vienna has changed a lot over the last few years and you can find quite a few restaurants and places catering to different kinds of tastes and preferences. There are things like vegan bakeries which serve the most amazing sweet dishes and treats. Cooking for a special diet has become easier as well and I'm really grateful for that!

My adventure in cooking/baking today will incorporate making (gluten-free) veggie lasagna and raspberry muffins - cross your fingers for me :-) I sadly won't be making the pasta myself but the rest... stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Crafts - Work in progress & fun with the kids

While I haven't written much here I haven't been idle, quite the opposite :-) I've finished a shawl as a birthday present which will remain hidden until the recipient has the thing in their hands, which you will probably understand. All I can say is I'm really proud of it as it features some fickle yarn which doesn't allow for mistakes or even frogging and I hope it really meets the presentee's taste! Pics and details as soon as the cat is out of the bag.

One of the other projects I've been working on is a cozy, snuggly and lightweight jacket for myself. I bought the yarn out of instinct (ahem) at a sale and found the perfect pattern for it via the Usual Channels (aka Ravelry search for projects made with this yarn). The story behind it is a nice one I think... I went to look for the pattern which was only released in a German speaking magazine. I checked online resources and the publisher's website to get my hands on it but to no avail. The issue out of print and completely sold out - not a happy camper! By chance I went to the store I bought the yarn at as it's around the corner and at the off-chance I asked the shop owner if she maybe had some of the back issues of the magazines around? She indeed had the one and sold it to me for less than half of what the magazine initially cost. Me? I was doing a happy-dance all day! So I heartily recommend the store for expertise, great assortment of goods and very friendly staff - Neidhart's Nähkistl in the south of Vienna (23rd district). Should you ever visit it please say the black-clad woman with the twins sent you ;-)

So, about the jacket itself - it's a very basic and simple pattern called "Trapezförmige Jacke" (trapezoid-shaped jacket) from the magazine Rebecca #46. It's my second project which I use the KnitPro needles for (wooden tips, though). So far I'm pretty happy and am looking forward to finishing and wearing the garment.

No pants, just front and back in one piece!

Beautiful dark purple

What else have I been up to... last Sunday it was Father's Day here in Austria. I had the idea to make a custom tee for both my husband and my father, with a saying which sadly only works in the German language I think ("Papa, wir stehen auf Dich" which literally translated means "we stand on you" but actually means "we really dig you". The kids had a blast making the shirts - "dirty" feet and doing artsy stuff :-)

I was surprised the colors turned out better on the black fabric (the second shirt is a dark blue one) but was happy how easy the textile colors were to use. Needless to say both fathers were super-happy with the gifts and proudly wore the shirts right after they got them!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Crafts - A few "firsts" & the next finished project...

Ever since I held the first hank of hand dyed yarn in my hands I was eager to start a proper project and make something out of it. Equipped with the right kind of tools and finding a project that appealed to me on the Usual Site(tm) - here comes the purple Dragonfly Wing!

I used the String Theory Caper Sock Yarn, the color is named Elderberry, a beautiful dark purple shade. The yarn itself is very soft to the touch and almost works itself. It normally asks for US 2 (2,75mm) needles but I went with what was suggested in the pattern - US 7-10 (4,5mm - 6mm). While the result turned out a little bit smaller than I would have liked it's perfect as a shawlette and I'm looking forward to wearing it - if my daughter doesn't snatch it away first :-) Blocking went easier than thought and I ended up with a size of 160x40cm (about 63”x16”). There are still some 50g left of the 110g of yarn and I wonder what I'll make out of this...

A big "thumbs-up" to the creator of the pattern, Boo Knits. The instructions are very well and clearly written and there's a chart for the lace part, which is great for a visual person like myself. I'm looking forward to trying more of their patterns!

So, about the "firsts":
  • First hank of hand dyed yarn
  • First English-only pattern
  • First project where I put the KnitPro needles to good use
  • First time doing a cable cast-on
  • First time doing a cast off other than the usual one
Last but not least, the beauty itself...

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Crafts - Choice of Weapons^cwNeedles

For most of my works I use(d) regular metal circular needles, for smaller projects like socks and where it was required, a set of the usual metal double pointed needles. Since I was/am getting sick of storing all those different needles - different cord length combined with the usual variety of needle sizes I remembered having heard of a system of interchangeable circulars. The needle itself in this case, as I looked at KnitPro, can be made out of different materials (wood, bamboo, carbon/metal) and can also have different shapes (round, cubic). I gave something like a "standard package" a try and went for a 100cm cable with 3mm wooden needles as I'm getting into lace shawls at the moment, which felt quite good but a little bit to weak as I work with a higher yarn tension than most people. I saw the Karbonz needles - carbon "body" and nickel plated brass tips - and knew I was in love :-) So guess who ordered a set in different sizes today? Can't wait to pick them up at the store and put them to good use... Especially with the two hanks of hand-dyed yarn I ordered from Dragonfly Fibers last night... *whistling-tunelessly*

Monday, May 18, 2015

Crafts - Yarn porn...

If you live in the German speaking part of Europe and own a TV you're probably familiar with the Zalando ad on TV. For those who aren't - stereotypical ad where you'd see/hear women squee and scream over the delivery from the store, usually shoes. I do have to admit that some things can evoke a similar reaction from me, but that's limited to finding/receiving beautiful yarn! So yes, I have an addiction. To beautiful yarn. Like probably every other prolific knitter...

Since I've started doing lightweight/lace projects a whole new box of yarn choices opened up for me. I do like gradient colors a lot so I couldn't NOT take this beauty home with me last week when dropping into a local store on my way home:

It's called "Lace ball" by Schoppel-Wolle, which is a pretty well known brand but was a novelty for me - lace (2 ply) weight, 100g and 800m (3.5oz/874yds) and waiting for the right project. Probably some kind of shawl?

My dear friend and coworker Kristin went to visit the home store of Rohrspatz & Wollmeise and asked if I wanted some yarn from that store as well. Frantic scanning of their website and narrowing down possible choices ensued and I ended up with two beauties, which she thankfully brought today - cue me almost doing The Squeeeee ;-)

While it doesn't look like much this is a 330g/1730m (11.6oz/1894yds) skein of most beautiful pure merino wool in a 2 ply/lace variety. Rather bright for my usual choice but a gorgeous shade of purple. And still looking for a project!

And since I'm a sucker for fitting names and my third favorite color (apart from black and purple) is grey I present - Heavy Metal \m/ :-)

A rich and warm/dark grey, totaling at 2099.5m/600g (2296yds and 21oz) so that should make a nice pullover, cardigan, jacket or something along that line...

I should probably get that third container to properly store my stash? *ahem*

Monday, May 11, 2015

Crafts - A custom made bag

It started out with a simple stripes crochet bag I made for myself as a bag to use for going to concerts, etc. to store just the basics - wallet, keys, phone. My mother was taken with it as she said it would complement one of her favorite short pullovers. As it sometimes happens the idea to make another bag for my Mom for Mother's Day immediately came to my mind. I asked my Dad to take pics of the pullover so I could match the colors (to cut the long story short, I didn't completely succeed but it didn't matter).

I'm doubly proud and super-happy with how this bag turned out as it included a couple of "firsts" for me:
  • Crocheting a chevron pattern
  • Using felt pieces
  • Punching holes in fabric and making them pretty with proper eyelets
  • Sewing other than "normal" fabrics on my sewing machine
As usual I went to consult the ladies at my favorite yarn store (Wedermann) about the choice of possible yarns. I ended up with a silver shining variant of Lana Grossa Lace Lux which I already had stashed and used for my Mandalay lace scarf, a light grey Lana Grossa Wakame and a black Lana Grossa Organico.

The crocheting itself went pretty fast and was easy once you understand the principle of decrease/increase around the wave pattern so it ends up a straight piece of work. The assembly of all pieces and finalization was great as I love working with different tools - making things from scratch is FUN!

Here are a few pictures of the result - what do you think?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Crafts - my favorite yarns and yarn stores

Like many people I love natural yarns and fibers - merino, cotton, the more the better. Somehow most of my stack contains Lana Grossa yarns but I have recently - thanks to fellow enablers... oops, I meant knitters ;-) - found some awesome stores and yarns and am trying NOT to spend too much money since my stash is big enough for now.

So in no particular order and mostly for myself as a kind of bookmark...
Look at these beauties... (Colour Adventures and String Theory) <3

Are there any other stores and yarns you think I should know about? Recommendations welcome!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Crafts - Praktischer Link - Begriffe und deren Übersetzung

Nachdem es vor allem auf Ravely einen Haufen von Anleitungen nur auf Englisch gibt - und ich trotz sehr guter Englisch-Kenntnisse und netten native speaking Freundinnen, die mir gern weiterhelfen, trotzdem manchmal wie die Kuh vor dem Tor steh was die Übersetzung angeht... dieser Link liefert die meist gebräuchlichen Bezeichnungen und deren Übersetzung ins Deutsche.

Crafts - My love-hate pixie coat

I've learned to knit, sew and crochet when I was in the single-digit area age-wise and I've been working on things on and off for some time. The big passion for those things came when I was pregnant and started making things for my kids. If you have an account over at Ravelry you can check out my my profile and a few things I have made over time.
So... there are some knitting communities over on Facebook, too, and seeing what was a relatively simple description for something along the lines of a Pixie Coat I decided to make one for myself. Being a half-goth with the favorite colors of black, dark gray and purple (blog colors, anyone?) I went to hunt for the appropriate yarns. I ended up at one of my favorite yarn stores, Wedermann, with the helpful ladies there suggesting I use fiber normally used for knitting machines, two strands of each color:

So far so good, I love the color combination and after some mistakes on the way which made me unravel a third of my work and not look at the coat for a few weeks out of frustration it's nearing its completion! I need to decide on which kind of fastening/closing mechanism to use - zip? Buttons? Some kind of clasps? We'll see - I'll keep you posted and will put up pics of the finished thing as soon as I can.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Food - Kärntner Reinling

I love both traditional (Austrian) food and exotic dishes. Through some good friends of mine I discovered a Carinthian cake traditionally made around Easter called "Kärntner Reinling" - the name comes from Rein = old German word for pan or pot. It's basically a sweet yeast dough, filled with granulated sugar, cinnamon and raisins and rolled up and baked in a ring cake baking pan. Most Carinthians will scream bloody murder but I love to add some ground nuts - mostly what I find at home, be it walnuts or hazelnuts. Ever since I made it for the first time a few years ago my Dad, who has something like a sweet tooth, asks me to make it every year. Well, this year I'm a little behind time-wise but decided to make it today as we were heading over to my parents' for a family lunch. It's best eaten almost fresh out of the oven and it was still warm inside when we had it as dessert today. Yummmmm.....