Tuesday, 30 May 2017

A baby quilt for Rory

The last week has been very family orientated for me. My sister Bille stayed with her husband and toddler son first at our house and then at my sister Marina's. We spend a lot of time together, chatting away while the boys ran around and did screeching competitions...


... and went to feed carrots to the donkeys. We are so lucky that we all get along so well: we three sisters, the three husbands and now Aidan and Emil, too.
Then on Friday my husbands littlest nephew arrived into the world. Aidan's third male cousin (only one girl so far). We haven't met the newest addition to the family yet as my sister in law lives in England but we hope to visit some time this year. As I seem to have made it a tradition to make a baby blanket for all the babies in our family, I seized the first chance and disappeared into my sewing room to plan a quilt. This is what I have come up with so far:


This is a good few hours work, little as it seems. It sounds fun to pick out the colours and arrange the fabric (and it is), but it's also quite hard to make it look nice. This is not at all what I had in mind at first. I wanted to go for a crazy quilt with lots of patches and ribbons but after playing around with patterns and colors for a while I decided to go for a more traditional look. After all I want this quilt to be finished while Rory is still a baby.
My aunt who is very good at quilting would probably not be happy with this, but as it is only my third quilt I prefer to keep it simple. The next step will be sewing together the squares which shouldn't be too hard. Hopefully more about this in the next post!

Friday, 5 May 2017

Recipe: Kefir Lemon Poppy Scones

A few days ago I had a "day off", meaning Aidan spent the day at his grandparents. When I dropped him there my mother in law was just making scones so I felt a craving for them all the time during my dentist's visit and on the way home. Then my sister Marina texted to ask if she could call in giving me the perfect excuse to start baking. I had a lot of kefir to use up so it had to be kefir scones. But I wanted to add a bit more flavour. After some browsing on the internet I came up with these poppy seed scones that turned out surprisingly well. Luckily I wrote down all the ingredients and quantities.


So here is the recipe:

300g self-raising flour (or plain flour with 3 tsp of baking powder mixed through)
150g wholemeal flour
70g poppy seeds
100g butter cut into cubes
285ml kefir (or buttermilk) plus a little bit more for glazing
1 lemon
85g sugar
1 tsp baking soda


Preheat the oven to 200C fan.
Mix the flour with the baking soda and cut in the butter then use your hands to bring it all together.
Grate the lemon zest and mix with the sugar, then squeeze the juice out of the lemon and mix about half of it with the kefir.
Add kefir, sugar and poppy seeds into the flour and butter mix and stir with a wooden spoon to mix it all together. Then knead with your hands to make a dough.
Turn out onto a floured surface and roll out thickly (no rolling pin required). Cut out circular shapes using a cup or glass and transfer them onto a baking sheet. Use the other half of the lemon juice and mix with a little bit of kefir and glaze the scones using a brush.
Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes depending on the size of the scones. They should be ready when they turn golden brown.
Enjoy with butter and orange marmalade!



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.