18 December 2013

WIP: Snowflake mittens

So, last week, I had to stop halfway through a knitting project because I was lacking in the yarn department. Don't you just hate it when that happens? You're working away, got a bit of a groove going, you can see the project take form before your eyes as your needles are flying... And then, BAM, grinding halt, because you're out of yarn!

Now imagine that, only with mystery stash yarn.

Terrifying, isn't it? I mean, you can always buy more if you run out of freshly bought yarn, but mystery stash yarn? Who knows what it is, where it came from, how old it is, or whether it's even still available! Now, I partially blame myself in this, because I just grabbed a ball and went with it, but I also definitely blame my kitchen scales for lying to me. Damned thing told me I had more grams in my hands than I actually had... About halfway through the mitten I started to get suspicious. So I weighed, and weighed, and weighed... And when the first mitten was done, I was 12 grams of yarn short for the second one.

I know, right?!

But it was a learning process and I'm glad I was at least able to finish the first mitten as it taught me how to knit a thumb gusset, and how to properly knit with the magic loop technique (it. is. GENIUS. GENIUS I TELL YOU.), techniques I was going to need for my next ambitious project! See, I was given the pattern for the Pixie Farts mittens by a lovely lovely lady on Ravelry in the spirit of the holidays! Aren't they adorable?! With those little puffs of pixie fart colourwork all around the mitten? But they're pretty damned ambitious for someone who has only done a tiny bit of colourwork in the round when I was making Christmas ornaments for my mother last year, and nothing since. So I decided I needed some more practice first. And since I promised the finished product of my test mittens to my mother, I asked her to pick what colour or colours and any details she wanted.

Luckily, she asked for mittens with colourwork! Two birds, one stone. She wanted dark purple mittens with a light blue snowflake on the back of her hands. So, yarn-shopping I went, and this is what I got: it's Phildar Phil'harmony in the colourways Myrtille and Jean Bleached. From what I can gather from the French Phildar website, this yarn is replacing Sport'laine. It's a wool-acrylic blend, super-soft on the hands, nice and warm, with amazing stitch definition and little to no fly-away fuzzies!

I couldn't wait to cast on, and to my delight the yarn is absolutely lovely to work with. This was about 75% into the k1p1-ribbing pattern, but look at the stitch definition! It's what you want when you want to add colourwork, right? And speaking of, the stranded colourwork section is very easy! I was afraid it would throw me for a bit of a loop as the pattern is worked flat and then seamed, so I had to do colourwork on the purl rows too, but that's ridiculously easy. Just follow the recipe!

And speaking of the pattern: After some deliberation I chose to use the Snowflake Mitts pattern by Elizabeth Lovick, but I changed the snowflake pattern slightly, to this:

It's a tiny alteration but I like it more. I also opted to alter the thumb slightly from a worked-in thumb where you work up to the thumb, work the thumb flat, cut the yarn, sew up the thumb seam, and then continue on the hand, to transferring the thumb stitches to scrap yarn and finishing the hand first before making the thumb. It made more sense to me to do it that way, as the pattern tells you to make the thumb while you're only halfway through the colourwork section. Plus, I got to use the magic loop again. I'm getting good at that.

One mitten took me roughly one evening, as it's a fairly quick pattern worked in thick yarn on 5 mm needles. I'll show you the finished project as soon as I can, which, hopefully, will be this week!

26 October 2013

FO: Cheshire Cat Scoodie

"Oh, you can't help that", said the cat. "We're all mad here!"

Done! Well in time, too! My sister and her Cheshire Cat costume are well on their way to having a mad time at her Halloween party tonight!
Sis was extremely happy with the end result, she loved the stripes and the full hood!

The only thing that gave me issues was, as was expected, the ears and the placement. As you can see, for some reason, the left ear is flopping to the side and leaning forward. Oddly enough, though, when I put it down on the table, the ears are perfectly aligned. I don't get it. It's silly. A silly scoodie.

Or should I say, a 'mat hat'? *badump-tshhhh*

I also did her make-up tonight (before she made the drive over to her friend and the party, so we were almost hoping she'd get stuck in traffic so she could flash her grin at unsuspecting drivers). Isn't it awesome? I think it turned out pretty good! All in all, sis was very happy with her costume and promised me home made baked goods as a thank you in my near future!

22 October 2013

WIP: Cheshire Cat Scoodie

I'm on a bit of a crafty binge, aren't I? Like I found my lost mojo, all of a sudden. I'm not complaining, mind!

My sister called me last week with a request for a Halloween costume item: a scoodie, inspired by the Cheshire Cat from Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. I had never heard of such a thing. A scoodie, that is. The Cheshire cat may be one of my favourite cats in literature. A scoodie, in case you're wondering, is a scarf with a hood attached. My sister found an image of such a thing and wondered if I would be able to recreate, or in any case create, such a thing. I'm always up for a crafty challenge, so we scoured the internet for some more images and patterns.

(Top left: image from Alice in Wonderland. Bottom left: kirimoth.tumblr.com. Right: mooglyblog.com)
The bottom left image, as it turned out, was the same image my sister had found. She's going to do the face paint, and create a costume, and I was going to make her the scoodie. I chose to go with a crochet version as it's far quicker than knitting, make it slightly wider than this version, and attach a hood and ears much like the image on the right. I hope that by using a big hook and thick yarn, I can make the hood slightly baggy like the inspiration picture. We're leaving the pockets and the paws off, though.

The scarf was a breeze thanks to the extremely thick yarn I've chosen. It's Katia Alaska, 100% acrylic and fuzzy as hell, so I was covered in little fuzzies from top to bottom before I was even halfway. It's super soft though, very pleasant to the touch. I ran into some issues ordering it, as I had ordered it online at a shop I have used before but somewhere between my order getting through and the order arriving at their queue, the computer had bugged out apparently and my order got lost in limbo. I called them on Friday after not getting response on my email, and they figured out that it had indeed not gone through, grabbed my yarn and sent it out as fast as they could, boosting me up to the more expensive shipping option to compensate for the delay. It arrived on Saturday morning! Project saved, as well as my regards of that shop. (crafty Dutchies: because I love to enable. They've got a ton of the cheaper brands like Phildar and Katia, as well as Scheepjes and Rico. They've got acrylics as well as nice, soft merino yarns (the yarn for my Maroo mitts also came from this shop. And they're (usually) very quick to ship!)

I hope to get the hood finished this weekend too, so I can get going with the ears and my sis can get to work on the other bits of her costume! And get her to send me pictures when she's all dressed up, of course. Mrow!

15 October 2013

FO: Sunshine shawl

Done! I actually am done before Autumn is over! Who would have thought. I blocked the sunshine shawl and it came out as a lovely little shawlette, large enough to comfortably wrap around your neck and tuck into your coat but not so big that you can't close your coat up properly. Just warm enough that it protects you from the wind, but not too thick, so it's perfect for a chilly Autumn day!

I'm happier with how it turned out than this picture makes me look, I promise. (smile, Stef, smile! Come on! You can do it!) (I also discovered that I really need a tripod for my camera because I can't balance this one on a jar like I did with my old point-and-shoot! I got three good shots out of a whopping 15 because the camera wobbled!) I'm almost disappointed I had to give it away as it's so squishy and soft and nice.

As I had never really blocked knitting before, especially knitting with lace elements, I was surprised how it turned out. The fabric seemed a bit bouncy before blocking, the picot edge very scrunched up, but the resulting fabric was very supple and smooth and the picot edging really opened up and made the thing come together. And to think that I almost left it off because I was afraid of mucking it up! Yay for trying scary new techniques!

My friend was very happy with it and is now going to make sure that her still-to-buy winter coat will at least match the colours. Present well-received, I'd say.

Now I can finally really start on my Maroo mitts. I bought the needles and even started once, but I messed up on the fiddly first round of k1p1 before messing up because those DPNs sure can get in the way when you're trying to wrestle ribbing onto one of the needles. So I frogged in frustration and tossed it aside. It'll get picked up soon enough, though!

1 October 2013

almost FO: Sunshine shawl

The Sunshine shawl is off the needles! Yay! It took me forever but the shawl is finally at a stage where I can see completion in its near future. All that's left is to weave in the ends, block the everloving hell out of it, and bring it over to its recipient.

I hemmed and hawed over how to finish this shawl as the instructions say nothing about an estimated length needed for the bind-off, so I kept weighing my leftover yarn and finally decided at about 8, 9 grams left that I needed to get going with the bind-off. In the end, I have so much yarn left, that I probably could have added another row or two... But oh well. Lesson learned for the future, I guess. Figure out how much yarn you need for the bind-off before you get to that stage!

It would have been nice if the designer had included something about that in the pattern, as it's marketed towards the absolute beginner in shawl-knitting and if the comments section on the pattern page is any indication, I'm not the first to have encountered this problem. However, from the look of things, this is actually never really mentioned in a pattern at all. I'm guessing it's because you can't really put a number down as a designer as it depends heavily on the yarn, your gauge, if you're a loose or tight knitter, and the type of bind-off.

The bind-off I used was the recommended picot bind-off. It's a fun little bind-off, the end result has a bit of a Fifties-feel to it. And it was surprisingly easy to do! The knitted cast-on threw me for a loop for a minute or so, and the first time I read through the instructions I was ready to bail on the idea and to just do a regular cast-off, but Youtube helped me through the instructions and after a cautious beginning (fiddly stitches on slippery needles, you know the drill), I motored through the bind-off and got it done far quicker than I had anticipated!

The blob of knitting doesn't look like much yet, and I do hope blocking it heavily will let it grow quite a bit still because as it is right now, I can hardly get it around my neck! It is supersoft, though. And I really hope the recipient will love it!

28 September 2013

Not even a WIP: Maroo mitts

How often can you run into something before you give in to its lure and just buy the damned thing? I had that with the Maroo mitts. These gorgeous little knitted mitts, with a simple construction and colour-blocked scallops, I must have run into the ad on Ravelry for that pattern at least 20 times this past week alone. They're so cute! And they look snuggly and warm and adorable. And those colours! I've seen them look amazing in variations of green, a medley of red colours, and even a halloween-themed pair in black, orange and yellow. Very cute. But the original colours really caught my eye: dark grey, with a pop of bright honey-mustard yellow, followed by an edge of silver. Gorgeous! Not my usual colours, perhaps, but I figured it was high time I strayed from my blues and greys a bit. Too many accessories in the same colours can get dull.

So this week I finally caved and went to look at the pattern again for the yarn, and then it struck me that I have this pattern in my library already! I got it for free not too long ago (I think for the designer's birthday?) so all I had to do... was buy yarn! I need a relatively small amount for them because they're just mitts, so I didn't want to buy very expensive yarn just to use a tiny bit. The yarn I settled on is Lana Grossa Cool Wool Baby, it's 100% merino and it's supersupersoft. Because of my sensitive skin I can't wear normal wool close to my skin, and in some cases even acrylics can itch and scratch like a beast, but I have never had a problem with merino.

But I can't start, not just yet. I need to finish the Sunshine Shawl still! I'm getting there, I've got about 20 grams left, if not less. I'm hoping that when it's done, it'll be a decent-sized little shawlette that is perfect to wear in this current bout of weather we're having. It's sunny and warm, but as soon as the wind picks up slightly it cuts right through your sweater. And at night it cools off rapidly, too! We've already had temperatures below 0 degrees here too, so the cold is rapidly approaching. I need to get a move on on this shawl. Maybe I need to keep this yarn out on my desk as an incentive to knit faster, so I can start on my mitts!

11 September 2013

WIP: Sunshine shawl

This lazy blogger went to the market, this lazy blogger went home, this lazy blogger...

You get the idea. I guess the summer got in the way again, like it does every year. This year though, I've mainly been working, and only had one week off! We went to a festival, like we do every year, we had a great time, saw a boatload of great bands (and a handful of not-so-great ones), had little to no sleep, and came back home with a ton of stories and a backpack full of laundry. You know, like every year.

In the mean time, though, I have been knitting. I'm working on a Sunlight Shawl for Sad People in, almost ironically, a moody, overcast-sky coloured yarn. I'm making it for a friend who gave me a whole bag full of her old clothes because we both lost a ton of weight and now I fit in her old clothes. That, plus the fact that she's a great person who is truly knitworthy (two years or so ago I made her a hat out of clownbarf babbymelting acrylic yarn that she still wears on occasion because it keeps her head incredibly warm), and the fact that her birthday was a month ago, meant I decided to knit something really nice and soft and warm for her.

It's the first time I've ever attempted to knit something of a decent size, and it's working up really well! The pattern is very simple and is basically the pattern for a standard triangular shawl with yarnover increases, and as a modification you can add ridges, or as some people who have made the shawl did, eyelet rows. I'm trying to space the modifications out evenly. I'm not sure what I want to do with the border yet, or how much yarn I need to have left over for a border, so that will be interesting. I have quite a bit of shawl to go still though, so I'll worry about that later.

This was my first attempt at adding an eyelet row to anything this size! It's pretty cool. (Yeah, yeah, I can hear the more experienced knitters snickering behind my back... There's a first time for everything, right?) And I didn't even miss a stitch! Dropped one, yes. No worries though, I picked it up again.

I promised to have it finished before the weather turned cold and as it was only 15 degrees yesterday and raining like crazy, I probably need to get a move on!

29 August 2013

Chocolate rum-raisin cookies

Delicious, delicious chocolate. Oh, oh my. You know, sometimes, a girl has to eat chocolate. And when there's no chocolate in the house, chocolate cookies made with the best cocoa you can find will just have to do!

Last night, as I was scouring the shelves of our cabinets trying to find something, anything chocolate related, I happened upon a very old bar of rum-raisin chocolate. Old, as in, the packaging felt brittle. Yeah. How that managed to survive this long in our cupboard without being eaten, I have no idea. It certainly is a miracle, in this house. But it gave me an idea! I grabbed a bottle of rum, a bowl of raisins, and made rum-soaked raisins to go into a fluffy, soft, pillowy chocolate cookie.

This chocolate cookie base is based off a recipe by The Pioneer Woman, my go-to website for comfort food recipes, and I think you could add practically anything that even remotely goes with chocolate, like nuts, other dried fruits, oatmeal, more chocolate... I was thinking of trying these with mocha beans, the sharp coffee flavour would be excellent in combination with the full, rich chocolate cookie base.

Oh man... I might have to get a box of mocha beans now.

Chocolate rum-raisin cookies
Makes about 18, depending on size

You will need:

- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- enough dark rum to cover
- 1/2 cup rum raisins

If you want to soak your raisins yourself, put them in a bowl and cover them with the rum. Let sit for at least 24 hours. If you're in a hurry, you could try my method: Put your raisins in a bowl with a lid, cover with the rum, and close the lid. Then put the bowl in a larger bowl filled with hot water from the tap and let it sit for as long as possible. When you're ready to add them to your dough, drain them off and pat dry with paper towels. They won't have the punch of real rum raisins, but there will be a definite aftertaste!

- 140 grams of softened butter
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 6 tablespoons of cocoa
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt

Preheat your oven to 175 °C and prepare a cookie sheet with baking paper or a baking mat.

Cream together your butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract and stir well until combined.
In a different bowl, mix your flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Sift it into your wet ingredients in batches and stir each time until just combined.
Drain your raisins if necessary and fold them into the batter.
Drop tablespoon-sized heaps of batter onto your baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the cookies seem just set. Allow to cool for a few minutes on the sheet before transferring them to a cooling rack to further cool down. Be careful when transferring them, the cookies are pretty delicate!


17 July 2013

Lunch time: Couscous salad

Aw man, my poor neglected blog! I have been so incredibly busy, I have had little to no time to even think about blogging, let alone attempt to write something! And I was so keen to post something! Anything! I bought a new camera (a real DSLR! Yay! I've got a Real Camera for Grownups now!) and I've been dying to use it on some pictures for the blog! I'm still fiddling with settings and getting used to taking pictures with it but hopefully you can see some sort of improvement. So for my lack of posts: my sincerest apologies

But what I won't apologise for is that delicious bowl of golden yellow, enticing green and popping red, orange and pink at the top of the page. Oh boy. One of the perks of working from home has definitely been that I am able to make my lunch fresh at lunch time and since I like a bit of variation every now and then, salads have been my go-to lunch for a while now. They're so versatile! I always follow the same formula for my lunch salads: a good base, with a huge helping of veggies (usually tomato, cucumber and bell pepper), and a nice heaping pile of protein. Apart from that, it's usually a free-for-all, depending on what I have in the fridge and what I'm craving at that moment.

This salad follows my formula to a T, and then adds a few dashes of extra-special to bring it right up to the top of my favourite lunches! Have you ever eaten couscous? I hadn't, until recently. It's a semolina-based Arabic staple dish with a texture not unlike rice. Fresh couscous is made of tiny semolina pellets that are then steamed. Most supermarkets don't sell fresh couscous, however, they sell pre-steamed couscous pellets that take next to no time to prepare, making it an excellent alternative to rice or pasta. The texture is very light and fluffy, making it the perfect base for a salad dish as it's delicious both cold and hot from the pan.

This delicious lunch salad is a cinch to put together. Simply bring some water to a boil, take it off the heat, tip in your couscous, stir some spices through, and combine with the rest of the ingredients. Done! One delicious and filling salad in next to no time! And with the slight heat from the spices, the crunch from the cucumber, and the sweet and sour from the apricots and tomatoes, this is the perfect little salad for a summer day.

Couscous salad
(filling lunch salad for 1)

75 grams dried couscous
80 ml water (roughly, but follow the instructions on your packet of couscous to be sure)
5-8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/3 cucumber, cubed
3 slices of turkey deli meat, stacked and sliced into cubes, or a small piece of turkey breast, cooked to your liking and cubed
4-6 dried apricots, cubed
1 teaspoon hot curry spices
salt and pepper to taste

Cook your couscous according to the instructions of your packet. (It will most likely be a variation of 'bring water to a boil, take off the heat, tip in your couscous, allow to stand for 3 minutes, stir to separate and make fluffy') Once done, add your curry spices and salt and pepper to taste. I like mine spicy so I usually add about 1 teaspoon, followed with a small amount of salt and a reasonably large dash of pepper. Stir through to combine the spices and the couscous properly, and place your couscous in a deep dish or bowl. Add your veggies, meat and apricots and stir to combine. Taste and adjust spices to taste, if necessary. If not: Enjoy your lunch!

26 June 2013

Tecrin gets fit: one year in

Okay, so it's one year and a bit. Whoops!

One year ago, on the 17th of June 2012, I made a Big Decision. I had made a few before in the previous year: I made the Big Decision to quit my job at the bookshop, I made the Big Decision to start freelancing as a translator, and on the 17th of June 2012, I made another Big Decision. I don't even quite know what brought it on, but what I do know is that on the evening of that day in June, I had had enough of what I was doing with my life and needed a big change that I had complete and utter control over, unlike my work Decisions: I decided to get fit!

Don't mind my grumpface. It was cold!
In 2010, I was probably at the very height of my weight. I don't know how much I weighed at this point, but I remember at one point having the scales tip over 115 kg. They may have even gone up past that! And I looked the part, too. Very unhappy with myself, in June 2011, I signed up at the local gym, got a summer subscription and spent at least two days at the gym each week. That may not sound like a lot, but it was definitely a step up from the zero exercise I was getting at that point. I got a simple workout routine assigned to me by a trainer, and slowly went from pushing myself out the door to actually looking forward to working out. It wasn't often that I felt like that, mind, but it happened from time to time.

Awful picture is awful. Jeesh, Stef, who taught you how to dress, monkeys?!
A year had past, and despite working out at least twice a week and trying my hardest at the gym, I couldn't see a lick of difference. This is me in June 2012, days after I made the Big Decision, at my official starting weight of 112,5 kg. I upped my gym time to 3 times a week, and started to really pay attention to what I was eating. As it turned out (and as I already knew but didn't have the willpower to change) I was eating a bucketload of crap. Unhealthy, fat, sugary muck, mostly. Days could go by without me eating a single piece of fruit or vegetable. I drank almost nothing but sugary drinks, juices, lemonades, sodas. I cut out all these sugary drinks, and switched to water entirely. I changed to eating actual breakfast, instead of eating biscuits and drinking coffee.

After about 2 months in, I could slowly start to see some changes in my face. That felt amazing!
After about a month, I learned enough about healthy food to start eating better properly. I started counting calories on an app on my phone to better keep track of the unhealthy food choices I was making, started incorporating healthy dinners, better lunches than instant soup and crackers or sandwiches layered with cheese and ham, or peanut butter, or Nutella. I learned to not finish off every last bite in the pan, that it was okay to throw away or freeze the food we hadn't eaten during dinner. Tim slowly warmed up to the idea of eating healthier and better, too!

As time ticked on, I became more and more of a gym rat: I spent at least 2 hours, 3 times a week at the gym, I started running (and ended up in physical therapy because I'm a dolt with weird muscles), I started to incorporate more weights into my workouts. At the end of 2012, I was down well over 15 kg! I could go shopping with my mother and actually fit into stuff in the regular section! No more shopping trips that ended in tears and despair! I even fit into jeans from a shop I used to love! The body image issues I talked about in my opening post a year ago still reared their heads every now and then, when I couldn't see any progress or had a shitty day and ate everything in sight. But I was slowly learning to come to terms with it!

It was 2013... And look at that! A shape, that can be described as more than just 'blob'!
In February of 2013, I got my first gym routine that was based heavily on heavy weights. It was amazing! Such an eye opening moment to realise that I loved lifting weights so much! I even started bench presses, that made me feel even more bad-ass. After working up to the weights room though, I wanted more. With help from my trainer at the gym, I weaned off the cardio to a basic warming up and cooling down, and as of May 2013, I got a real, heavy weights routine, with deadlifts, bench presses, barbell squats, kettlebell swings, barbell rows and clean and presses. I think I can safely say that I have become fairly addicted to working out and getting stronger! I recently even joined in a gym-wide timed circuit challenge and wasn't happy with my first time, so I did the circuit a second time and beat my old time by almost a full minute! The rush of personal victories that can only come from your own strength and ability is amazing, and I love it every time I put an extra plate up on the barbell or pick up a bigger dumbell.

I found support in the ranks of the members of Fitocracy when I needed it, it turning rapidly into my favourite online hangout, paired with a great group of ladies in a Ravelry group I'm a member of (Cheerclub! Fistbump!). I also found support in my family members and of course Tim. I even managed to drag my mother to the gym with me and got her to pick up some heavier weights a few times. She loves it!

Approximately 1 year difference! The sign is my trainer's way of being ironic. Burpees. How I hate them. Ugh!
After one year, I think I can say with honesty that I am damned proud of myself for the progress I have made so far. Am I done? Are you kidding? I just got started! I am going to keep working to better myself, learn more about nutrition, healthy living, get stronger, get healthier, and work like a machine to turn myself into the best version of me there can be. I can't wait to see what the next year will bring!

24 June 2013

Quick! Quick! Did you see that? Was that a month zooming by?

Good grief, where did the time go! I have had such a busy month! And barely had time to breathe, let alone blog. We went through a reorganisation at work, in which my position was reworked to now also include translation and copywriting work, and Tim was made manager. In our free time we have been trying to get the house up to scratch by doing some DIY. Nothing much to show for it though, as we have mainly fixed small problems and retouched some paint work. All that's left, now that the small problem in the form of our leaky kitchen radiator has been fixed, is painting all the radiators a nice clean white instead of the mouldy vomit-green and awful off-white they are now.

On a personal level, I celebrated my 1-year weightlossiversary last week. I fully intended to write a big blog post about it but I simply had no time! I have about half of it written, though. I'll see what I can do.
I have also been lifting weights, and am now up to a 52.5kg deadlift, a 47.5kg bench press, a 42.5kg barbell squat, a 47.5kg barbell row, and a 22.5kg clean and press! I love it. Even though I wrecked my back last week during my last set of clean and presses... Lesson learned, even though it can get in the way, WEAR THE LIFTING BELT. Ow. So I have to take a break now. Let's hope I'm up and running again soon, I actually am bummed out that I can't go to the gym today to lift!

And on a crafty note, I even have been doing a bit of knitting! I started a very basic triangular shawl in a purple sock yarn. I like it, though, simple as it may be, because it's a great practice piece for basic techniques like yarn-over increases and purl rows. I'm carefully plodding away on it, because it might end up being a gift for a friend. I'll let that depend on how it turns out! It is suuuupersoft, and I'm sure that whoever will end up wearing it, will love it!

21 May 2013

When life gives you mud, make... mud pies?

No, no recipe in this post. I know, bummer, right? I went for a nice long walk with my parents, brother and his girlfriend, and my sister last Sunday in the woods. It was a rare, sunny day in what has been an absolutely dreadful month of May, so the forest floor was muddy and the tracks hard to walk on at times, but we managed.

You could tell that we've had a crappy spring season so far: trees were just beginning to blossom or grow their leaves, barely any flowers anywhere, tons of dead leaves on the ground... But the greens were vibrant and alive, and when the sun was shining it was absolutely gorgeous. The temperature was nice, and we were under cover of the trees so we barely noticed the winds. Perfect weather for a wander through the woods. Plus, all the rain from the past week made the pine trees smell amazing!

Sometimes, we'd come across weird stuff, like this single bright orange-leafed tree in a sea of green. With the sun shining through, it almost looks like a flock of butterflies!

We slowly made our way uphill to the half-way mark and could see how much rain had fallen in the past few days: there were mud tracks like this one all along one side of the path, where the water had made its way downhill.

And then there were parts of the woods that looked like, well, this. Car tracks where the mud was still soppy and where you could easily sink down past your ankles if you weren't careful. We decided to not go that way. Nobody brought their bathing suit.

There we go, the top of the hill! This is the Austerlitz Pyramid, a monument built by the soldiers of Napoleon in 1804. Why build a monumental pyramid in the middle of a forest, you ask? Because the French general Auguste de Marmont, who had amassed an army on this site so they could fight back any invasion armies the British would send, was afraid his men might get bored. Yep. That's history, people. It's not all about epic battles and heroism. Most of it consisted of waiting, eating, sleeping and fighting off boredom.

Oh, hello, little sis. I wasn't the only one dragging a camera around. My partner in crime here and I were constantly lagging behind the others because we were taking pictures. On our way down the hill, I left my camera in my bag and enjoyed the scenery with my own eyes and not hidden behind a lens, but we still had to wait on occasion for this shutterbug to catch up. I guess it runs in the family!

12 May 2013

Treasure hunting

Two weeks! Two whole weeks, it has been, since Blog week! I'm sorry, you guys, for being absent. These past two weeks have just zoomed by! First, there was the marriage of course. The weekend after was filled with doing absolutely nothing at all. We were absolutely knackered on Saturday so we slept in until 2pm, and did basically the same on Sunday. We stayed indoors on our last official Queens' Day, watched the coronation on the telly, and only left the house to get food. Or, well, I did make it to the gym on Monday, my sister had a big mouth and said she could follow my workout schedule so I took that challenge and made her regret ever saying it! (No, I'm kidding, I took it easy on her and let her lift without weights on the barbell or with heavily reduced weights on the machines. I'm not thát cruel!) But apart from that... The past two weeks have basically been all about working and sleeping.

And some crafting. I managed to squeeze in some knitting during work as a distraction method as sometimes not thinking about a problem can help me solve it. Knitting it is! I learned that I was making my knit stitches the wrong way, solved that, and learned how to increase by knitting in the front and back stitch, and how to do a ssk-decrease! It was a lot easier to figure out once I fixed my knitting technique. I hope to soon start on a nice project, but so far it's just been practice round after practice round. I'm lacking inspiration on what project to begin with, anyway. It'll come again, though, I'm not worried. Until then, I'm content to potter along with my bamboo needles and pink blob yarn!

And speaking of blob yarn. (Queen of segues, that'll be me) My MIL was digging around in her attic because they're redoing almost the entire house and it needed to be emptied, and found a bag of yarn. Now, I don't know about you, but most of the times when someone tells me 'Yeah, so I found this bag of yarn here stuffed away in my attic...' I'm not overly excited from the start, because my first thought is 'BUUUUGS!'. I may be an entomophobe. Maybe. But my curiosity always wins over my aversion of bugs so I took it home with me, and sorted out its contents. It was... Special, to say the least. Let's take a look, shall we?

Oh yes. We're off to a good start. Glitter yarn? Check. Fluffballs? Check. Mystery cakes? Check, check, check, cheeeck... Lots of labels, though, that's good.

Pile o' cakes! Green, fluffy, and shiny. Most of this is wound in a nice, tight, and surprisingly flat-topped cake which makes me think it was done with a ball winder. I should ask her if she has one of those hidden in the attic, too! That would be a real treasure! This, however, is plain strange. I think it may have been a garment, as it looks like there's plenty for a big project, which got frogged, but who knows? All I know is that it's green, exceptionally fluffy, and filled with sparkly bits.

Well now. I hope you're enjoying my baby-pink, fluffy, sparkly balls. Of yarn. There's four in total, of different sizes, so once again this seems to be the remains of something else. This yarn is extremely rough to the touch, though, and only partially because of the sparkles.

What a glorious, glorious fluffmonster... This is the same stuff as the green cakes, only purple! I wonder if it went together... In a big, green-and-purple, hairy sweater, or something. Like a sweater made out of skinned muppets.

More balls! They're baby-blue and green, this time. Oh yes. I am totally blue-balling you. There's two of them, and judging from the wobbly ends, this was also the result of ruthless frogging. Nothing about fibre contents or anything but I'm going to hazard a guess and say it's babby-melting acrylic.

Another cake! This stuff is equally fluffy to the green and purple yarns, making me wonder if there is an amount of angora hiding in its contents. It looks to be wool, at least for a part. Far too fluffy for my taste, though. But hey, at least it's not glittery.

Unlike what the label claims, there really is nothing special about this pile. It's dark red, cotton-like acrylic. Around 300 grams in total. If the colour wasn't so dull I would probably have a use for it, but now... Who knows.

Now, this is somewhat exciting! Not because of the yarn. Nope, that's just more hairy, glittery nonsense. But these balls all have their ball bands still attached! I think it is the same yarn as the green and purple ones, so at least I have an indication of type, content and length, as soon as I weigh the green pile, that is. For what purpose, I honestly do not know, but it's something!

More fluff! This is the first pile that I would actually consider using. It's a 50-50 wool/acrylic blend. I'm thinking new mittens, because it's so so so soft, but there were bits of dead leaves and plants hiding in it so I'm not using it until it's been in quarantine (read: ziplock baggies) for at least 6 weeks.

And now... The finale...

Bam. Oh yes. Is it a rabbit? A bad wig? Nope. It's Patons High Society. Oh yes. High. Society. See that fluff? Apparently that was high society back in the day. I don't even know when that day was, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't in the last two decades.

But can it get better? I mean, if this is already high society, than the next one must be Royalty.

Oh yes, people, we have hit the motherload! The trifecta of gaudy: it's a weird wine-red colour, it's fluffier than an angora rabbit, and it's got sparkles. If that's not the pinnacle of High Society, I don't know what is.

Seriously, I have no idea what to do with 90% of this stuff, so I don't know if I'll keep it or toss it. If you see something you really want, though, leave a comment or message me on Rav or something and maybe we can work something out!

28 April 2013

Blog Week Day 7: Looking Forward

Thank you all so much for the lovely comments yesterday! Tim and I had a great time celebrating our wedding with our family and friends, our photographer-friend Mike from Pasarella Photography took a veritable ton of pictures because, in his words, how often would he get the chance to follow me around all day with a camera and take tons of pictures of me looking pretty in my gorgeous hair and make-up, (done by Mike's wife, the lovely and talented Adriana from Mysterious Mind) without me getting the chance to run away and hide from his camera? Not that many, indeed! We had a ton of fun, going out for a High Tea lunch, a visit at the local bird zoo and dinner at a nice little restaurant, and I hope I'll be able to share a few shots of yesterday with you guys soon. Ish. Mike's a bit of a perfectionist, so he'll be editing photos first.

Well, after that little preface, let's get back to business, shall we? As always on the last day of Blog Week, I look forward to next year and think about where I want to be, craft-wise, in one year. I think the answer this year is simple: I want to embrace my inner Monkey.

 Sorry, House of Bee. I know I vowed my allegiance to you, and I will wear your yellow-and-black stripes with pride until the day I die, but that doesn't mean I can't flirt with other houses, right? A bit of inter-house-bonding, if you will?
The House of Monkey, if you remember from Monday, was described as follows:

"Intelligent and with a fun loving side, Monkeys like to be challenged with every project presenting them with something new and interesting. "

 It's the idea of liking the challenge of something new and interesting that so far has eluded me a bit. And that's what I'm going to be working on this year.

© Elin Berglund
Earlier this year, my eye fell on this gorgeous knitted cropped cardi called Cecilia, and I actually went through with my intended plan to make one up to the point where I bought yarn and needles and the pattern and had everything up and ready to go. But something in me held me back from actually casting on, and that was the Fear of Fucking Up. I'm pretty sure most of you have experienced this in one way or another, as it can range from a light shudder and be easily shook off to a full-blown crippling stunning fear that stops you dead in your tracks. I think this particular fear was somewhere in the middle: I found myself making excuses for not casting on, but I still really wanted to! I even planned for this to go with my wedding dress. Well, my wedding was yesterday, and I still haven't even cast on.

© SpillyJane
Similarly, I once, in a previous edition of the Blog Week, proclaimed that I was going to make these Swedish Fish mittens. Never even looked back at the pattern because all those colours, all those strands, oh my, and knitted too?!

© Alexandra Tinsley
The Most Bespeckled Hat by Alexandra Tinsley is another one of those projects that I just really, really want to make but somehow, the concept of hats is daunting to me!

So, I hereby vow to you, dear reader, that I will be embracing my inner monkey this year. I will cast on for complicated things, I will crochet big, exciting projects, and I will flip the bird at the Fear of Fucking Up. Check back in this spot regularly to see how well I'm doing with this plan, okay? Okay.

And that's it! The last post of this year's Blog Week! I can't believe it has already come to an end! The week flew by so fast, wouldn't you agree? Even with me barely being able to keep up with the enormous host of posts. I hope you all enjoyed reading my take on the topics, I really enjoyed reading your posts and comments and I hope to catch up with reading a lot more over the next few weeks. See you next year, Blog Week, I'm looking forward to it!