Between some travelling, some hiking and some early nights (hey, it’s still winter which means it’s a good day if I manage to stay up for an hour or two after getting home from work) I have still been eeking out a few minutes here and there for creative time.
As this is meant to be a creative blog I figured I better show you what I’ve been working on.
The Alpenglühen cardigan has been on my needles for a while. Getting the body done and doing cables for the first time went really well but then I got stuck a little and have been waiting for motivation to strike to pick it back up again. I love the deep rich red of the yarn and I’m sure whenever this gets done it will be worn a lot!
For mindless evening knitting while watching a series I’ve picked up a pair of socks again that has been lying in wait for months. I think I might actually finish them this year. I love knitting socks but it usually takes me months to complete a pair in between other projects.
Speaking of other projects, have you seen Liesl‘s new pattern, the Henny Hat? Liesl has been one of my favorite blog people for a long time and I’m thrilled that she is starting to sell her own yarn and patterns! I already started my Henny Hat, so that makes three projects on the needles now – I’ve officially become one of those knitters with an overflowing project basket and no idea what to turn to next. Sigh.
You might remember the healthy eating series I started a while back? Well, I’ve been working on eating better for a long time now and progress is being made, slowly but surely! The fact remains that neither J nor I have a knack for cooking so I needed to approach this systematically.
I took a day off to figure out what kind of food I wanted to be able to prepare (easy, healthy, quick, few and readily available ingredients) and picked out a few choice recipes for us. These were printed on heavy cardstock and I made up our very own recipe book which we consult every week before going shopping. So far this is working really well for us! Having a plan has resulted in more focussed food shopping and a sense of obligation to actually cook at the weekend.
Two new favorite recipes of ours are roasted veggies of any kind and this yummy kale quinoa bowl. I’ve compiled all my recipe research on Pinterest though not all of those recipes actually made it in ‘our’ book.
I have much more to say on this subject but for the sake of actually getting this post done before work I’ll stop here and write a more detailed post on request. Let me know if you’re interested!
Last but not least I have a new hobby (as if I needed another one, right?) – for years I’ve been thinking of picking up the Irish Tin Whistle again and learning to play it. Having lived in Ireland for a year as a teenager this has always been a dream of mine. I played the recorder as a kid (who didn’t?) and there were actually several tin whistles I bought in my teens lurking in my mom’s basement.
As soon as I picked it up again I remembered how much fun it is and this time I mean to go through with it. Getting started with a few online lessons and this Lord of the Rings tutorial I am now on my way through a few simple tunes. The hardest part is getting the fingers up to speed but maybe by next Christmas my brother (who teaches himself piano) and I will be able to provide some family entertainment.
Any of you play a musical instrument? Are you a natural cook or did you have to learn it the hard way like me?
I have more hiking and travelling posts lined up. If you want to be really up to date and see my mobile photography be sure to follow me on Instagram or Twitter for daily peeks :)
When I was visiting my grandmother recently she asked did I want to have her sewing basket? Since I already have her sewing machine (my lovely, lovely treadle) she didn’t need it anymore and of course I said yes!
Isn’t it beautiful? It’s old of course and the wood looks a little tired and the veneer is chipped in places but I think it’s so pretty!
Inside, it was a real mess, obviously this is the collection from decades of sewing:
So I went to work and a full 1.5 hours later everything was sorted and my own sewing stuff was mixed in with my grandmother’s treasures. Among her things were vintage belt buckles, tags monogrammed with my late grandfather’s initials, old wooden spools of thread and hundreds of colorful buttons.
The case has two drawers of which one is broken. I’m hoping the boyfriend will be able to fix it. I’m also planning on giving the whole thing a wood treatment (this has worked wonders on two thrift store chairs I have). Maybe I’ll also spruce it up a little (I’m considering a blatant copy of this stunning make-over).
What do you think?
I had been thinking about getting a tablet for some time. Seeing as I still don’t have a smartphone I though it would be a nice on-the-go addition to my heavy laptop. So when Lauren got one and made a lovely case for hers and gave me a ton of great advice I just had to get one too! And the first thing I did was make a sleeve cover for it of course :)
I got some inspiration online and wanted to make something easy but functional.
Here’s what you need:
– felt in two colors
– needle and thread
– a big button
– some elastic
– fabric paint (optional)
First, measure your tablet and determine the size of your sleeve (I recommend adding 1/4″ seam allowance at each side as well as 1/4″ at the bottom). Cut all felt pieces to the correct size and lay on top of each other in the color combination you like and sew on three sides.
I initially wanted to sew it together by machine but the felt shifts a lot and in the end it was easier to just stitch it together by hand.
If you sew by hand make sure you double your thread for more stability. Make sure the layers stay precisely on top of each other and do not shift.
Sew a button on the front and determine the length of your elastic (it will be sewn to the back side on the inside of the sleeve). If you want the elastic to be a coordinating color you can paint it with fabric paint.
Sew on the elastic and admire your pretty new tablet sleeve!
Now for the tablet: I love it! I got the Google Nexus 7 (like Lauren, but I really did read some tests and comparisons online and it was the best by far). It has email, facebook, pinterest and google reader and I just love coming home late in the evening and not having to get out the big laptop but instead going straight to bed and just doing some blog reading and looking at pretty pictures on the tablet.
I also got an app for taking notes and using MS Office, so I can work with it as well. I have small hands so the 7″ size is perfect for me.
I guess I just got cool again ;)
The first local strawberries of the year, bought at today’s farmer’s market.
I had a craving for chocolate covered strawberries, so we made chocolate fondue and enjoyed every bite.
I’ve been busy potting and transplanting plants on my balcony, where finally there is some growth. My own strawberries will be carrying fruit soon:
These are conventional strawberries but just today my mom gave me some wild strawberry plants from her garden. I love the special taste of wild strawberries and it will be interesting to see how well they do in a container compaired to the ordinary ones.
There’s also mint, which I love…I cannot wait to have fresh mint tea and alongside my trusty and aromatic italian mint I bought some chocolate and orange mint this year. I’m also trying out some new (to me) plants like Anise Hyssop and Monarda this year.
In addition to the peppers and tomatoes, who are being hardened off this weekend, I’m growning some regional veggies like kohlrabi and broccoli this year.
Aside from having homegrown food to eat, getting my hands dirty planting and growing things in the fresh wind is just the kind of work that keeps me healthy and happy, when too much computer work has made me antsy.
Not that I don’t like my computer work…I’m happy with my photo editing and blogreading and such, as long as I can balance it with physical work.
And to change the topic completely onto something computer related: Now that I own a camera that can do video and after being involved in some video projects at work and with friends, I’m completely excited to try making and editing videos. I’ve spent a couple of hours trying out the function as well as editing the video in Photoshop (yes, you can actually edit video files in Photoshop!) and researching cutting software. Turns out there’s no freeware out there which works with the kind of files my camera produces (bummer!) so I’ll probably need to buy software for cutting. I’ll keep y’all updated…expect some cat and pony videos as my first tries :)
When the weather gets cooler my mind turns not only to knitting but also to making body products. I made chapstick already last year, but wasn’t overly happy with the recipe, so I tried a different one this year.
25% coconut oil
15% cocoa butter
40% olive oil
No coloring, no scent, no smell. I actually like the faint smell of beeswax :) I was aiming for three or four tubes worth of chapstick and eyeballed the quantity. Now I’m not that good with numbers, so eyeballing was probably not the best idea in the first place. I made 50grams total, which turned out way too much (mental note: make only 25grams next year!) and ended up giving away the extra tubes to my work colleagues.
The process is very simple: 1. Melt the beeswax and cocoa butter in a boiling water bath.
2. Add the coconut oil and the olive oil (return to double boiler briefly if the beeswax solidifies again).
3. Pour it into the empty chapstick tubes and let it cool down.
Done! A great and simple chapstick to protect your lips from the cold in the coming months, without artificial flavorings, colorings, preservatives etc. Since you’re only dealing with oil there is no need for preservatives. I only use my chapstick for a couple of months before making new one though.
We have this great rule at work that every employee can take one day a year off to do something inspiring for him/herself.
Normally that would involve going somewhere to see something or participate in a day course but I chose to spend my inspiration day at home with this book:
It’s a decorating book but different from any I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t give you tons of rules or advice to follow but makes you work hard at finding out, step by step, what you need, what you want and what you like.
The book is organized in 18 consecutive steps toward your dream room (it makes you tackle just one room). My goal was to complete the first 5 steps and I barely got finished in the one day, even though I had prepared beforehand and already compiled lots and lots of image inspiration on pinterest.
The first steps are discovering your aspirations (what do you want to do in the room), your functional needs (what do you need to realize your aspirations) and your emotional needs (how do you want to feel to do your aspirations). Now Meghan really makes you work here, filling out dozens of work sheets which can be downloaded on her website.
I picked the hardest room (naturally) and did a combined living and dining room.
Since functional needs can tell us what things we need to put in our room but we have trouble translating emotional needs to actual items of furniture/lighting/accessories etc., Meghan concludes we have to find a muse and a style to translate them. Once we find a muse (1 to 3 pictures that perfectly capture your emotional needs which you’ve written down) she helps you break it up into actual, usable information like shapes, patterns, colors, textures.
Once you’ve done that your next task is to look at hundreds of room pictures and pick the ones you love and that represents the feelings you’ve written down on your emotional needs worksheet. When you’ve got at least a dozen of those, you go about dissecting them much the same way.
By now you have gotten a pretty clear idea what you need and want and what items and characteristics can help you build a room that fits you and your needs perfectly.
There will likely be some surprises. For example I always thought I was a color person and my styles pictures very clearly showed a preference for the colors brown, cream and white. This tells me to stick to neutral colors for the big pictures and choose colorful items (with colors from my muse pictures) as eye catchers and accessories instead of covering a whole wall in them.
There were also things I knew subconsciously, like that I need to surround myself with natural, warm and smooth materials like wood and fabric, instead of sparkly, cool ones like glass and metal.
All in all, a perfect inspiration day for me and the things I found out about myself will come in very handy planning and decorating the new apartment. I probably won’t be following the next steps in the book as closely, simply because of lack of time. But before I start buying stuff and throwing it together because I have a vague idea it could look good together, I will read definitely through them and look things up and pause to consider and plan and match it up to my insights from this day.
In January I posted some New Year’s resolutions and a couple of months on I think we haven’t done too badly. I’ll be addressing some things related to these resolutions in a couple of posts.
One of my resolutions for the year was simplifying the way we live. Part of that for me is to buy only things that are of real value to me. I love buying and having new things but I am trying to restrict shopping in everyday life. I love having one-of-a-kind and unique items in my home and be reminded of where they came from.
And there are so many sources for these! I’ll be talking about thrift stores in this post and tackle handmade items in another one to keep this post from getting enormous ;)
I go thrifting regularly with a friend. The stores we go to accept donations from everyone, so there is often tons of stuff there. Finding the treasures among it can be time consuming, but we love our treasure hunts!
In thrift stores you can often find wellmade and sturdy items for very little money.
Throughout this year I’ve replaced our chipped Ikea plates with lovely vintage plates, our generic glasses with printed 1970s glasses and fruit bowls with painted china bowls.
I especially love finding these pretty glass canning jars and using them to store flour, sugar, pasta and other stuff:
Painted china bowls and a silver fruit bowl:
A glass pitcher and some pretty glasses on a thrifted tray:
Less exciting, but sturdy and practical:
I sometimes find nice textiles as well, like bedsheets with a pretty pattern. I wouldn’t normally buy bathroom towels, but this cheerful towel with hearts all over it totally wanted to be my guest bathroom towel (not that we have a guest bathroom. But we are apartment hunting after all). Also, the kitty wouldn’t let me have a post without him of course.
And last but not least, these boxes will be holding tea and cookies. The stoneware in the background was also thrifted and holds loose tea.
I have this dream kitchen in my head where all of these mismatched but lovely items will be displayed on open wood shelves and look cool together. We’ll see :)
Here the weekend has arrived again already! It doesn’t feel like the past week happened at all, at least I didn’t really register it between being home sick and then trying frantically to catch up at work. But I am getting better every day thankfully, though that cold really was very nasty!
Time to show off my purchases at last week’s craft fair, yarn and buttons and kitchen stuff!
This pan which was actually pretty hard to photograph, is a handmade from black iron / carbon steel / black steel, whatever you call it. I actually googled the material quite a while to find out its name. Anyhow, this is the material vintage pans were made of, it’s nonstick and needs to be treated like cast iron (but contrary to cast iron it’s very light), meaning seasoning it, not using any dishwashing liquid on it and keeping it dry. I still need to “burn it in” and then we will use it for pizzas and pies.
This is gorgeous handspun Wensleydale yarn. I bought two skeins and I am still deciding what to make with it. I’m thinking a triangular shawl like Amber’s beautiful one or another cowl (never seem to get tired of those!). Or maybe a nice 1930’s beret.
And, of course, new sock yarn! It’s a wool / bamboo mix and handdyed in lovely shades of steel blue with a hint of green and dark gray thrown in. It’s already on the needles :)
And last but not least six of these handpainted buttons went home with me as well. I have no idea what I’ll use them for yet, but no doubt I’ll think of something!
Quite a successful trip I should say!
On Saturday the boyfriend and I went to visit the largest craft fair in our area. It is hosted every year with about 300 participants showing off old crafts and selling their products.
It is held in the vast park surrounding a castle with moat built in the 12th century, a beautiful setting for a craft fair. Inside the castle walls grew lots of wildflowers and wild strawberries and woodruff.
We loved having a look at the various crafts that were performed.
I especially liked the fiber arts and the soaps of course while the boyfriend liked the woodworking and the blacksmith’s displays.
I did end up buying some lovely stuff as well, but I’ll save that for an extra post.
We spent nearly the whole day at the fair, there was so much to see and also to eat, with booths for breads with cheese and freshly pressed orange juice.
And then I got sick and have been in bed with a fever ever since. Now isn’t that a nice end to the story?
I hardly ever get sick and when I do I tend to get very restless once the fever is down a bit. Add that this is also the week that both my colleagues at work are on holiday, travelling abroad which makes it the worst time ever to stay at home sick. Ok, I’ll stop here since I don’t want this nice post turning into a self-pity monologue, it’s just the reason why I am again way behind with posting (and everything else).
Just now my boyfriend was looking at me sitting there all irritated and said: “Wow, it’s really killing you not to be able to do anything, isn’t it”.
And it is, I like being able to do stuff and to get things done and I hope to get rid of this nasty cold soon and resume working and doing and of course posting about it!
I’ve been talking about this forever but now things are finally up and running and I have photos of it.
One of my big plans for this year is growing as much food as we possibly can on our balcony. The first seeds are already in the ground but as the last frosts around here will be in late May I’ll need to start the bulk of my plants indoors.
There were two main obstacles to this:
1. We pretty much have only one really sunny window and setting things up there would be inconvenient for us, so I decided on starting my lovely heirloom seeds under artificial light. I wanted to get tubes but they get pretty warm and are expensive (both to buy and because they use lots of electricity) so we settled on getting LED stripes in cool white. I have no idea if the amount of light will be enough for seedlings to grow, so this spring will be a big experiment. If it doesn’t work, that still leaves the sunny window.
2. Our cats love to try anything that looks remotely edible plus they would have loved to play with the soil. Luckily I had an old aquarium up in the attic that I could use.
Ok, here’s more pictures: The wooden lid with holes so the air can circulate and a handle for easy lifting. Plus it also takes a full sized cat with no trouble.
The seedlings need to be directly under the light, so as you can see in the first photo we’ve been stacking up styrofoam boxes so they are high enough. As the seedlings grow, we’ll take the styrofoam away one at a time.
Here I lifted the lid so you can see the LED lights in action. They are much much brighter than the photo suggests though!
And here’s the lid when the lights are out. A colleague of my boyfriend’s soldered in the lights for us. The stripes are also self-adhesive.
I decided on starting my seeds in newspaper pots, which can go into the ground with them in summer and are also free of course. Making them is a little work though.
Here’s all the little pots ready to receive their seeds. The lettuce seedlings are already a week old but everything else is sprouting this very minute.
I’ll keep you posted on the progress of course. I feel a little silly posting this in detail because I am still not sure if it will work. But I figured come summer nobody’s going to be interested in seed starting anymore anyway, so now you can just sit back and watch as I’ll try and raise healthy little plants.