Saturday, 15 April 2017

Happy Easter!


It seems that I'm getting more and more nostalgic about Germany, the longer I live abroad. This is the first Easter I actually decorated eggs and made some traditional German yeast buns. Easter in Germany - at least in my home - means egg hunts in the morning (preferably outside in the garden), bright spring colour decoration, long mass with choir and orchestra and of course food: lots of boiled colourful eggs, chocolate bunnies, yeast buns, cakes in the shape of lambs...  It's such a beautiful joyful spring holiday!

If I were a properly organised person I would have planned what to make for Easter in advance and I could have blogged about my projects. As it is, I just write this quick post to show some of the things I made yesterday and today. The eggs in the picture above are boiled and then decorated with
self-adhesive fabric that a friend of mine gave me for my birthday. It's perfect for sticking on eggs. Very unmessy as no glue was needed. For my husband's niece and nephew I made those incredibly quick and easy paper baskets:


I found the idea and photo instructions here.

Today I did all the baking. I made a huge amount of yeast cardamom dough (German recipe here) and tried to do the bunny shapes from the recipe. You need a lot of imagination and good will to see that they're supposed to be bunnies...


I need a bit more practice! After making about fifteen bunnies I used the rest of the dough to make some Easter nests, that turned out a bit better:


There was no trip to the shop involved in making those things as I happened to have everything at home. Perfect last minute projects. Next year I'd like to plan a little in advance and make some decoration to put up. I'm always saying that and never do it...
Anyways, happy Easter everyone!



Saturday, 1 April 2017

Fairy Tales

It's time for some book reviews. I don't get to read as much as I used to, but I couldn't imagine a day without reading a few lines. Mostly during mealtimes which is a really bad habit but I love it. The perfect breakfast always includes a book next to my plate. 

And this is the book that's on my breakfast table at the moment:




I picked it up while browsing in my favourite bookshop, Charlie Byrne's, in Galway. Fairy tales have always delighted me since I was a very young child and I want my son to get as much pleasure out of them as I did myself. While I was always convinced that it is wrong to deny your children the pleasure of fairy tales because they can be cruel or sad, I do feel a bit worried about this now that I am a parent myself. Of course no parent wants to scare their child and it is normal to feel worried that those gruesome details might do some damage to your child's psyche. According to Bruno Bettelheim though, the opposite is true: Pretending that life is always sunny and denying that evil and death is part of it as well, can do much more damage. Fairy tales teach children about the darker sides to life in a safe way, they show evilness and death but in the end everything comes right, evilness is punished, good deeds rewarded. If I think back to my childhood I don't remember ever feeling scared or threatened by a fairy tale, but I do remember feeling happy and consoled hearing the last line: and they lived happily ever after. 

Aidan is still a bit young with his two years but when he saw the picture of Red Riding Hood and the Wolf on the cover he was intrigued so I got out my old Fairy Tale Book and read him the story. He loves the picture of the wolf and doesn't seem to be upset by him swallowing the grandmother and Red Riding Hood.

Another book that I just finished is this one:




This is one of my most favourite books. I've reread it countless times since I first read it when I was about sixteen. Though this is my first time to read it in English (The German translation was published under the nondescript title "Sommerglanz"). What makes it so enjoyable? From a literary point of view there is probably not that much to it. The story is simple, the characters a touch stereotyped. The newer editions are actually published as young adult fiction as you can guess from the cover, even though Eva Ibbotson regarded it as a book for adults. It is such a pleasure to read. It has everything you secretly want from a book, but might be too scared to utter aloud for fear of being ridiculed. I do enjoy reading "high" literature (though probably not for the right reasons), yet sometimes I just want something light, something stereotyped and predictable. There is nothing wrong with predictable: The heroine is Anna, a young Russian countess who has lost everything in the Russian revolution and comes to England to work as a housemaid in a grand manor house. Rupert, it's young owner, just back from being wounded in the war, is exceptionally liberal minded - as are all his family and neighbors. They take active interests in their servants' lives and they welcome a Jewish family into their neighborhood - not very likely for the English gentry at that time, I believe. You can guess from the first pages that Anna and Rupert will fall in love and end up together. And it would be very disappointing if this wouldn't happen. Like in a fairy tale: you know the heroine will win and get the prince in the end but that doesn't make it less enjoyable to read. It doesn't matter how old you are: We all need fairy tales sometimes!


Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Knit Knit Knit

Most birthdays in our family are clustered around the Spring months and I'm nearly as busy knitting and sewing presents as I was in November and December. I'm mostly knitting at the moment: Adrian's fair isle vest that I meant as a Christmas present is not even half finished and I got it into my head that I need to knit a lace camisole for my mother in law. Both birthdays are at the end of March so I really need to get on with them. Though I do realize that the vest for Adrian won't be finished by his birthday...
I usually knit in the evening after Aidan has gone to bed and more often than not I am joined by our cat Branwell. There is something nice about having a purring cat next to you when you're knitting. 


Wool, cat and a cup of tea: the perfect ingredients for a relaxing evening!

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Food

Food 1: Sugar

A week ago my baby turned two years of age. It's hard to believe that it's two years since he was born. It feels like yesterday. On the other hand, life before him seems so far away. Anyway, I made a birthday cake, or rather my mum and me made several cakes, as quite a number of people were expected to call.

I couldn't shake this guilty feeling though: last year I had made a sugar free cake for Aidan's first birthday, it was sweetened with bananas and blueberries, but this year white sugar played  a big role. (I made this chocolate cake, which is fairly healthy, though the buttercream I used for the frosting is full of sugar, and mum made her famous version of a Milka Torte) Of course it's not the first time that Aidan had sugar. I don't want to be too strict and I don't want to deny him the pleasure of eating sweet things. And it undeniably is a pleasure! But I also want him to be healthy and I certainly don't want him to become a sugar addict. Awareness of how bad sugar is for your health is constantly rising and I've been trying for a while now to reduce the amount of sugar that my family and me are eating. When you have a baby all the nurses and all the books and leaflets tell you not to give your child sugar in the first two years. I do love cake and biscuits myself and so does my husband and of course Aidan got to nibble some biscuits even before he turned one. I don't think this is so bad when it doesn't happen every day. Still I will try to keep sugar at a low level though we could never succeed to eliminate it completely in this house. But since I started to reduce sugar in my home baking I have found a lot of sweets that I used to love nearly unbearably sweet. I think I can regard this as a success!

Food 2: Kefir

A few months ago my husband's colleague gave me some kefir grains so I could start making my own kefir. My mum used to make yoghurt at home but I had never heard of home made kefir. I'm not even sure if I ever had kefir before. I did get hooked very soon! Even when I had to drink all the kefir myself as Adrian absolutely refused it after taking his first sip. And you do get a lot of kefir as it takes only a day for a glass of milk to turn into kefir.


And recently I don't have to drink it all myself: Aidan discovered that he loves it, especially with a bit of orange juice through it. Maybe he likes it because I let him help me to sieve the kefir and then lick the bowl? Whenever he sees the sieve or the bowl or the glass with the kefir grains he demands to sieve the kefir and drink a good bit of it. It's supposed to be very good for you so I don't mind to let him have some of it daily. Apart from drinking it you can use it in loads of recipes. I like using it instead of buttermilk in soda bread and scones. Apart from having lots of kefir you also end up having lots of kefir grains as they keep growing as you make the kefir. I hate throwing them out so  I hope I will find someone I can give them to. I think my mum might take some home. My sister Marina already did and has been making her own for a while.

Food 3: Recipe

This is a recipe that I meant to share for a while now: it's a pasta dish I make for Aidan when I need a quick dinner. I've been making it since he was about a year old.

Tbsp butter
1 green onion, chopped
1 carrot, grated
Tbsp flour
about 200 ml milk
handfull frozen peas
20g baby pasta
grated cheese

Cook the baby pasta according to the instructions on the package. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a pan and add onion and carrot. Fry a little over medium heat then dust with flour and add milk, stirring constantly. You might want to add more milk for a runnier sauce. Cook for a few minutes then add the the peas and cook for another few minutes until peas are soft. Pour sauce over pasta and serve with a bit of grated cheese.


Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Family matters

Last week the postman rang to deliver an unexpected parcel. It was from my sister Bille who had given me an umbrella for Christmas and had offered to post it as it was quite complicated to bring on the plane. She hadn't told me that she had sent it so it was a real surprise.

And she had included an issue of my favorite magazine and wrapped around the umbrella (!) a beautiful jumper that she knitted a while ago and never wore.

As much as I like the umbrella, it's the jumper that I cherish most as a gift. A lot of work has gone into it - the Norwegian star pattern is not easy - and I remember how disappointed she was when she didn't like it on herself. I always thought it looked great on her but I know too well how it is when you put a lot of work into something and it doesn't turn out the way you imagined it. No matter how much praise you get you're just not happy with it. I wish it had turned out better for her but I am really delighted to have a new warm jumper now.
I have already mentioned my sister Marina's blog where she frequently publishes her amazing paintings and drawings. My sister Bille has a blog as well that she seems to have revived after a several months of silence. I hope she will blog regularly now.
I am very lucky to have two creative sisters who share my love for making things. And it's obvious where we got it from: our mum used to always sew and knit for us and our dad and these days her knitting needles are always out to knit jumpers for her grandsons. And her mother, our Oma, was the same. At a time when you could still save money by sewing your own clothes she made most of my mum's and her siblings' clothes herself. Nowadays you don't do needlework out of necessity but for enjoyment and all my aunts and cousin like to knit, sew or crochet. I am very thankful that I grew up in a family where it was a matter of fact that you learnt to do needlework at a very young age.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Spring Is On Its Way

February, which is still deep winter in Germany, is considered a spring month in Ireland. Saying this, it certainly doesn't mean that the weather is any nicer than in January. They say you can have four seasons in a day any time of the year in Ireland, so there is no point arguing if February is winter or spring. I went for a walk yesterday and it really did feel like a lovely spring day. And that was the last day of January! The sun was shining, the air was mild and we saw the first lambs in the field. Or at least I did, Aidan was fast asleep by that time. I decided to take the longer route which I don't do that often these days. And I'm glad I did. I passed one of my favourite ruined houses on the way. Ireland is a good place if you're into old houses and castles.


There is something sad and beautiful about ruins and they never fail to fascinate me. I always wonder what happened to the people who lived there. Did they leave or die? Why did nobody else move in? I got the impression that most people in Ireland don't share my enthusiasm about old stone walls but then I discovered The Irish Aesthete. It's an interesting blog and I've learned a few things about nearby ruins. Yet my poor old house is just one of many, too common to be of historical interest. Maybe it is better not to know its story, it would probably be disappointing. I'd like to leave it as it is: an old farmhouse covered in ivy, with broken window panes and trees growing inside. ( I snooped around with a friend once). Very soon the birds will be nesting in the attic, so it's not as deserted as it seems.


It's hard to believe that it's already February. I haven't posted as regularly as I would have liked but I had good excuses as I had to finish a customer request:


And the present for my cousin's baby:


Both are on their way to Germany now, so I have time for other projects that have been lying around for a while.


Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Stripes

The best thing about sewing is choosing and matching fabrics. That's at least what I think. I get ridiculously excited when I see a lovely pattern or colour combination. Browsing through fat quarters and remnant baskets in craft shops is absolute bliss for me. I hardly ever leave my local craft shop without one ir two pieces of fabric. Usually I don't have a project in mind for them: I just like having a stack of lovely fabric around so I don't need to head out and buy fabric when I want to sew small projects. They're also great for inspiration: very often the fabric comes before the project. As it happened with my first finished project in 2017. I was lucky enough to come across a remnant piece of this adorable stripy fabric:

       


It was in a gift shop in Germany on the last day of our holidays. And I just had to buy it. Back home I had the idea to make a bag for Aidans building blocks and within three days I had it finished.



It's a very basic bag with very basic felt applications. I didn't want to make it too complicated as I wanted it finished quickly. And it does the job: the kitchen looks tidier and Aidan likes taking the blocks out of the bag and sometimes putting them in as well.

I really have a thing for striped fabric.



Add some little flowers and it can't get any better:


There is such a nice old-fashioned feel about it. I could imagine making this into an 18th century dress. Unfortunately this is only a small leftover bit that I was lucky enough to find in a remnant bag.

But I also like the comparatively modern pin stripes.


I got this material a few years ago with the vague intention of making a skirt but I never really found the right pattern. Now I decided to make it into this skirt:



This pattern has been lying around for a couple of years as well. I never dared to make it as the instructions warned me that you needed good sewing skills. But you never learn if you never dare to make something challenging. Ignoring the advice to make a trial skirt with cheap fabric first I daringly cut into my pinstripe fabric. I had to change the pattern slightly as the fabric wasn't wide enough for the train of the skirt. Probably another thing you shouldn't do without a mock up. We'll see how it will turn out. So far I haven't found it very difficult.


I'm not looking for a historically accurate look so I won't worry too much if it turns out a bit different than intended.