easter weekend

I hope you all had a wonderful long weekend! All too quickly those four days have passed, between entertaining friends, giving the apartment a good spring clean, working on the balcony garden and just doing all those small chores and to do’s that fall by the wayside in busy days and pile up, staring at you accusingly from the to do lists and corners of your home. Maybe I should just not make lists. But then, I fear I would never get anything done.
tulips. little home by hand blog.
Anyway, I have finally gotten the better of my spring tiredness. We had an Easter brunch with friends on our balcony, the strong spring sun burning my nose so badly that my face glowed all weekend. I made tasty spring lamb cakes from my mom’s vintage baking tins. Being a very bad blogger (but a better hostess for it), I completely forgot to take photos.
dyeing easter eggs. little home by hand blog.
We dyed some eggs, trying to make patterns with rubber bands and found out it’s one of those things that looks a lot easier than it is. I vowed right after that next year I would put some thought and research into it and do a better job.
spring flowers. little home by hand blog.
This time last year I was on a dutch island, going on long beach walks and watching the snow fall. A far cry from this year’s warmth and flowers.

on balance

rapeseed.
My friend and her baby girl, seeing and sniffing and feeling the rapeseed fields bloom. More rapeseed photos on my photo blog.

I confess that after feeling pretty great the first three months of the year and using that energy to work very hard, this spring and the change to summer time two weeks ago has me feeling a bit tired and in need of sleep. I’ve frequently headed straight to bed after work these past two weeks, just catching up on sleep. I guess the time change plus the weather playing rollercoaster recently just throws me a bit off balance.

I’m itching to start sewing and creating again and in my head the projects are just bouncing around, not quite ready to be put into action.

Also:

growing food

My fingers are a bit raw from scrubbing to get the soil out from under my nails. I had forgotten how dirty gardening is. Or how good it feels to spend a few hours outside digging in the dirt. Time for an update on my balcony garden!
tomatoes. little home by hand blog.
The tomato seedlings are coming along well and are in the hardening off stage already.
blooming. little home by hand blog.
We (meaning person, animal and plant) have been soaking up every last bit of sunshine and warmth and the apple tree is gratefully pushing out blossoms. I take this as a very good sign that there will be more than one apple (last year’s harvest) this time.
balcony gardening. little home by hand blog.
balcony gardening. little home by hand blog.
The peas are poking their cute first leaves through the soil. Yes, I just called peas cute. Such a proud plant mama. I made them a trellis from some leftover pieces since I couldn’t find a suitable mesh but I’ll still need to hunt down some sticks in the woods to add to it.
balcony flowers. little home by hand blog.
balcony flowers. little home by hand blog.
A few early flowers are really brightening the space up while all the other plants and flowers are just getting started.
salad. little home by hand blog.
kale. little home by hand blog.
In addition to starting the tomatoes and peppers inside in my light box the more cold hardy crops have been doing well in a little foil greenhouse outside.
The salad boxes are overflowing and in dire need to be thinned out and the kale is ready to move into its own window box as well.
Hard to describe how satisfying it is to watch all these seedlings growing strong and big. A very primal feeling of content. We may be creatures of polished office work and smartphones by day but doing things by hand – be it growing food, or knitting, sewing, woodworking, building, you name it – is a need that runs deep.

the perfect bread recipe

In my quest for eating better it’s hard to abstain from certain favorite foods.
A staple in my diet has always been bread. I love german bread, the crunchy crusts and the rich taste (seriously, you have to try german bread!).
As a result of my changed diet however I’m trying to stay away from gluten, lactose (often added to bread) and empty carbs as much as possible.
I had already switched to grain/seed bread but I wanted to try and see if I could find a recipe for baking a nice grain bread at home. I love baking at home and it would give me full control over the ingredients. I looked up some recipes and found a winner quickly!

easy grain bread. little home by hand blog.

I deviated very little from the original recipe but since the source is in German, here’s my translation:

  • 500ml lukewarm water
  • 600g flour ( I used half whole spelt flour, half normal spelt flour)
  • 200g seed of your choice (I use a mix of oats, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and flax seeds / linseed)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (can be substituted with honey or other sweeteners)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 packages dry yeast (in german packages that would be enough for 1000g flour)

Dissolve yeast in the warm water with the sugar. Add the flour, seeds and salt. Mix throroughly (the dough is quite wet) and let rise for 30 minutes. Form into a bread shape or fill a loaf pan with the dough and bake at 200°C (ca. 400°F) for 45-60 minutes, until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
Yes, it really is that easy!

easy grain bread. little home by hand blog.

Let the bread cool before cutting and enjoy a filling homemade bread!

So why is this better than storebought bread?
a. The taste of freshly baked bread is divine
b. I used spelt flour instead of wheat flour. Spelt flour is not gluten free but it is much easier to digest than wheat for most people. I also like the taste better.
c. No additives, no added lactose
d. You get to choose the seeds you like best in your bread

The recipe resulted in quite a large bread, so I froze half of it and ate the other half within 6 days. I don’t know how long it keeps but it was fine for the week.
Ultimately I want to try making my own sourdough starter but right now this recipe feels like a great start!

easy grain bread. little home by hand blog.

 

baby gift – star pillow tutorial

It seems at a certain age all your girlfriends start getting pregnant. Which in turn gives me an opportunity to think up handmade gifts for them and their babies! Cue this little star pillow I made for a friend’s baby boy:
star pillow tutorial. little home by hand blog.
Inspired by star pillows on Etsy I decided to make my own. It’s a nice little evening project.
star pillow tutorial. little home by hand blog.
Draw a star form on paper in the size you want your pillow to be, add seam allowances and cut your template. Cut two pieces from contrasting fabric. I chose some green fabric I had in my stash which also makes it gender neutral.
star pillow tutorial. little home by hand blog.
I also added a stitched face to make it look friendlier. The lines are drawn on with a pencil and then stitched with embroidery floss.
star pillow tutorial. little home by hand blog.
Sew with right sides together, leaving an opening in one of the star legs. Ahem, yes my stars were cut pretty roughly and don’t fit together perfectly. Just cut away any excess fabric once you’re done sewing. I chose to handsew because a. I love me a little handsewing on the couch and b. I couldn’t be bothered to get the sewing machine up for just a few seams.
Clip the corners and curves and turn the pillow inside out. Stuff with polyfill and handsew the opening shut. Et voilà! A sweet, handmade baby gift made in one evening.
star pillow tutorial. little home by hand blog.

healthy eating – lunch

Here’s part 3 of the healthy eating series (read up on part 1 – research and part 2- breakfast).

As a reminder, this was my resolution:

  • drastically reduce sugar intake and sweets
  • eat less empty carbohydrates (white flour products like bread rolls, pasta, etc.), switch to whole grain products where possible and find alternatives to wheat
  • eat a more plant based diet, fruit and vegetables first, everything else second
  • continue to buy local fresh produce
  • grow my own salads and vegetables again on my balcony with a better plan on what I want to grow and actually need
  • build up a collection of tried and trusted healthy recipes that we can return to again and again
  • use less dairy products

LUNCH

What did I change?
I am eating lunch at the office where there is a variety of hot lunches to be had as well as salads, desserts and rolls. I’ve never been much of a meat eater so I usually stuck to pasta, potatoes, anything baked with cheese or fries. I also almost always got a dessert, most often pudding.
Since doing my research I felt I could now make some informed choices and plans for lunch. I especially liked the 5 a day campaign by the WHO (in the US it’s called fruits & veggies – more matters). It basically tells you to eat 5 hand fulls of fruits and veggies a day, ideally 3 helpings of veggies and 2 of fruits. One fruit portion can be substituted by a hand full of nuts.
True to my resolution I am now trying to stay away from the carbs and especially the fries and the foods drowned in cheese (saturated fats). Instead I pick whatever veggies are offered and fill my plate with them. Since I have no say on the menu this is easier on some days than others. I still eat pasta or potatoes when they come with a veggie side or sauce. I try to stay away from fatty sauces and I eat fish whenever it’s on the menu. Often I have a little bowl of salad with my hot meal.
With the salad I choose organic olive oil and balsamic vinegar as a dressing instead of heavier premade dressings. Instead of dessert I get a glass of freshly pressed orange juice with my lunch, which serves as one portion of fruit for my 5 a day plan.
I realize these choices are highly dependent on the environment and may not be possible for everyone but I think we all need to work with what’s there and make the best food choices available to us.

I also always take a 20-30 minute walk after lunch. I need to get out to breathe a bit of fresh air and stretch my legs before sitting down at the desk again. It’s refreshing and especially in spring gives your body a chance to soak up some sunshine and much needed vitamin D.

How did it work?
Man, staying away from fries and cheesy gratins was hard! When you get there hungry those hot, fatty foods look mouthwatering. The veggies and salads look much less appealing and filling.
But I promise once the withdrawal period is over it gets so much easier! It took about two or three weeks for me not to crave fatty foods any more and I now easily and happily choose the veggies. It helps to tell yourself how much better you’ll feel when you make the right choice and how proud you will be of yourself!
Sure I still have days when I crave a certain thing on the menu and sometimes I get weak and give in (it’s ok, we need to love ourselves).
When you switch from fatty foods and lots of carbs to a veggie based diet at first you feel like those still leave you hungry, like they are not as filling. I found that too subsides after a few weeks as your body adjusts to it. Instead I now feel pleasantly full after a meal whereas when I eat fries or heavy foods now they make me feel tired and bloated.
I used to have an afternoon low after lunch when I would get very tired and sleepy and concentration was impossible. Changing my eating habits has made this afternoon slump disappear almost completely!
Overall I feel much better with this diet and that’s enough encouragement to stick to it.

What’s planned?
Honestly I think lunch is fine for me like it is now. I could say I planned to do more home cooking to take to work but I know myself and it ain’t happening any time soon ;)
I’ve found what works for me and the challenge will be sticking with it. It’s a choice to make every single day and while it gets easier and easier with time the temptations are still there. I’m looking at you, chocolate pudding dessert with cherry compote.

Stay tuned for the next part which will be afternoon snacks!