Monday 23 December 2013

Christmas preps and post from Australia!

Hello all!

My, it has been a long time since I wrote a blog post! December arrived with it's usual chaos and winter brought me a nice cold which send me to bed for several days. Yuck. Fortunatly I am back on my feet for christmas!

It was my birthday last week and I was a very lucky girl indeed! Lots of cards, phone calls and presents. I felt very loved! The boyfriend got me a waffle iron for belgian waffles - I wanted to have one for a long time and it is brilliant! I tried it out when my family came to visit last saturday and yumyumyum! I was ordered to bring it to my parents place for the christmas celebrations... :P

I also got a parcel from Mich and Janelle. Look at the pictures and see for yourself! Aren't I am lucky?!

I am on holidays since last friday and it's brilliant! To tell the truth, it is the first holidays I ever had  where I have nothing to do! When I was still at uni there was always something to do and later, as a teacher, there was always some exam to correct. This year... blissful nothingness! Of course that doesn't been I feel bored... Lots of crochet to do after all! There was a plan (mine I confess) to make tons of crochet presents for christmas. I managed some but not all. The others will become birthday presents in 2014 I reckon. Also, I ran out of stuffing and couldn't get any new one this morning. Sold out! Can you imagine it?! Sometimes it's hard to believe how popular crochet has become here in Germany. When I returned from Sydney and spent my time crocheting, a lot of people looked at me as if I was crazy. One guy even told me the following "Is that the picture of a woman you want to give yourself?!". Can you believe it?! I still can't. As you know I continued crochting and now - all of it sudden - it is very trendy! Weird world...

I spent most of yesterday making and writing christmas cards:

They went to the post office this morning and shall arrive tomorrow. If I am lucky that is. The post office was PACKED with people! I had to wait for over an hour to get to the counter. There are four counters and only two where open. Ouch. Shouldn't they have more staff during christmas time?! When I left the office, the cue was up to the street outside! Oh a warning for all the Germans out there: Don't use coloured envelopes! I had to pay extra "because they are more complicated". Oh well... I hope people will like them at least!

The boyfriend and I will celebrate christmas eve here in Dortmund and then go and see the families in Leer and Weyhe on the first and second day of christmas. The christmas tree is already lying on the balcony waiting to be put up later today. My parents got it from a christmas tree field for us and I looking forward to decorate it!

We will have duck for dinner and creme brulee afterwards. We got the duck earlier this month on a farmers marked and froze it. Less stress this way! The boyfriend started to prepare it yesterday. It now rests in a yummy marinade in the fridge:


Can't wait for christmas dinner!
It's crazily warm here in Germany. The forcast predicts 15 ° C tomorrow. That and rain. Yuck! I wish for a proper white christmas! But I reckon this weather is better for driving to the north on the first / second day of christmas. Today it's warm, sunny and stormy. A bit though to get into christmas mood but I shall manage!
I will try to post a picture of the tree tomorrow!
Have yourself a very merry christmas!!
Take care,

Tuesday 3 December 2013


As you probably know, I am very interested in food and cooking, and in the last few years we have expanded our cooking into meat preservation such as Gravadlax and our amazing bacon experiments (which we will hopefully be repeating over summer!).

The latest challenge was for my very favourite swiss cured meat, bündnerfleisch.  Unfortunately, bündnerfleisch requires pressing, which we are not equipped to do, so I had to find an achievable but similar recipe.  The answer? Bresaola! Both are beef, cured in wine and then dried over a long period to get just the right taste and texture.  I managed to find a recipe from the Gourmet Farmer (click here for the link) and so we set off!

The recipe starts off with 4 kilograms of beautiful topside beef...

...and an amazing array of ingredients for the cure:

The cure ingredients are all chopped and crushed and mixed in a bucket until they look something like this:

And then we added nearly 4 litres of red wine (!!) and left it in the fridge to cure for 8 days:

After the 8 days, the meat had totally changed.  It was much harder, much darker and the smell was just fantastic.

We scraped off the errant juniper berries and peppercorns and rolled it up in cheesecloth, tied the ends and hung it up over a tray in the fridge in the garage at my parents' house. We decided at this point that if it came out well, we might think about investing in a wine cooler fridge to make more preserved meats!

The suspended meat bundles stayed in the fridge for 4 whole weeks.  My brother said it smelled very strong for the first few days, but then the smell disappeared.  At no time did it smell bad, or off, or rotting - I was very glad of this!

Then, the big day - the unravelling and tasting! It was incredible how the texture and colour of the meat had changed again.  It was really hard and really dark, but there was no mold on it! I think my cheesecloths might take a bit of time to recover though...

We then washed the meat pieces, brushed them with vinegar to kill off any nasties, and rubbed them with olive oil to start softening up the outside crust.

And then, my absolute favourite part - the TASTING. We used our deli slicer to peel wafer thin slices off the chunk of beef.

And it was great. At least as good as my memories of bündnerfleisch in Switzerland and Germany. To be perfectly honest, I am trying not to drool just thinking about it...

We've wrapped the pieces in an airlock bag and stored them in the fridge. I hope there is some left for Christmas to take to the lake and share with lots of friends!

Friday 29 November 2013

Latest news... and I need your help!

It has been an epic couple of weeks since my last post - celebrating my brother's 22nd birthday, starting with the Fatigue Centre at the University of Sydney, preparing for our big annual meeting at work and the usual crochet shenanigans :) 

I do need your help with a crucial decision, but first...

Today I finished a little pair of hippo twins who are heading to their new home tomorrow.  The client wanted two hippos exactly the same, and so they pretty much are! Of course, handmade things will never be exactly like anything else, or perfectly made.  Although, in my experience the clothes and other craft things that you can buy in the shop are also rarely perfectly made!

Here are Herbert and Harry, the twin camouflage happypotami, ready to wreak havoc on the world:

But now, I need your help! I have been commissioned to make a hippo and blanket set for a client's grandson whose favourite colour is orange.  Which colour sequence do you think I should use for the hippo?

Comment below with "Left" or "Right"! The option with the most responses will make it into a full size hippo :)

Thursday 21 November 2013

Blankets, Beanies, Snowflakes and Stars

Hey you all!

It has been a long time since I posted here. I had many ideas but never got around to actually write it. Fortunately I have today off (hurray!), so I get to spent some time with my yarn and hooks…

Last week was a week of happy days which I kind of celebrated in form of two blankets. For once my grand-dad turned 100 year last Sunday. One hundred years! Can you imagine it? He has seen so much in his life! Two world wars, five different government systems, joy and grief… He also lived both in Germany and France, traveled to Africa in his youth for work and wanted to immigrate to Australia. The last thing didn’t happen though because my grandmum wanted to stay in her home village. Well, lucky me, because otherwise my dad wouldn’t have met my mum… :P

I made him a lap blanket for his birthday. There really isn’t much you can give old people and I figured he really could use a blanket. I modified the baby blanket from AlisonLoBianco. I started with 92 chains, added a different border and used two strands of dk-yarn (might have been aran. Not sure) at once. In the first place I wanted to use this cotton colour pack from Junghans Wolle but it didn’t work out. I ordered it early September and they said it would be delievered within one week. Well that didn’t happen. Instead I got four emails during the next weeks each of them delaying the delievery date even further. In the end I was so upset that I cancelled my order. It would have been fine if they said right from the beginning that they could only deliver mid-November, but with this email-by-email-delay I always got my hopes up it would be here soon. Anyway, I ended up using acryl-yarn (Alpina) which I got from Wollrabe. The quality is nice and the price is quite reasonable! What do you think of the result?

The other happy occasion was the birth of my grand-cousin who is almost 100 years younger than our grand-dad! How awesome is that? Little Thees will also receive a blanket from me but I haven’t yet decided on the color. Thus no picture for you yet!


I told about my beanie production some weeks ago. Well I finished three by now – you only get two pictures though because one of them is in the car.

This is the Brain Wave Beanie from Ravelry. The pattern is really good and I highly recommend it. I like my beanie but unfortunatly I used different kind of yarns that is the green one has a different size then the other two. It results in some "bumbs" in the beanie but it's not that bad...


This is the Basket Weaves Beanie from Ravelry. I quite like the pattern and I think I will use it again! Once I got the pattern, it was very easy to make.I reckon it will make a very cute baby beanie too!

I used this Pronto yarn which is very soft but unfortunatly it also splits a lot. And... this happened:

Don't you just hate knots in your yarn too?!

Also, I have made tons of snowflakes and stars for a secret project, I can’t tell you about yet… Wait and see! 

Take care everyone! 

~ Anne ~

P.S. I would love, love, love some comments!

Thursday 7 November 2013

Hippos and Rhinos and Giraffes, oh my!

Hello everybody!

I recently discovered the joys of addiction-enabling groups on Facebook! Anne introduced me to a group called Creative Crochet Crew - a group of crocheters and crafty people from all over the world, sharing ideas, pictures and links to patterns of the most amazing array of crochet craft! 

It was on this group that I started seeing photos of the cutest little hippos

I tracked down the pattern to the very talented Heidi Bears and splashed out on several of her patterns based on the african flower hexagon - a hippo, rhino, elephant and giraffe.

My animals started off veeery large:

Grunhilda, 8ply acrylic with 3.5mm hook
But I eventually got the hang of it, and the right yarn (fine 4ply), and the right hook (1.5mm), and the right tension (tight as tight can be!), and now my little beasties are about 25cm long and 15cm high, and have the option of matching corner to corner cot blankets!

Bessie, fine 4ply acrylic with 2mm hook

I still think the hippo is my favourite, but I do like the others as well! Here are some more sample pictures:

I am selling my little monsters, and you can see all the photos, the colour selections and prices on my Facebook page: Wrapped with Love - Baby Gifts by Michelle .

Happy browsing!

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Holidays in the Netherlands

The boyfriend and I took a four-day holiday to the Netherland. We went to Scheveningen to be exact which is a suburb from Den Haag. I kind of missed the later when I booked the B&B and was thus a bit surprised when we drove through Den Haag. As you might guess, the holiday wasn't that long planed ahead. Fortunatly Scheveningen really isn't very townish... It's located directly at the nothern sea which is why we went to said town. It's actually closer to go to the Northern Sea in the Netherland than in Germany... Also I like to leave the country every now and then!

Unfortunatly I only took photos of the sea and beach (I was lazy) but I will tell you about the town houses which were absolutly amazing! We enjoyed walking past these old town houses and also got a bit jealous... Most of the houses had beautiful large windows and one could see the nice chandeliers. Every house seemed to have one! Also the rooms bathed in beautiful yellowish light. The light seems to be different than in Germany. More yellowish. Over here the light from the light bulbs is more white. I think I will look for the yellowish light bulbs. It looked far more cosy.

The B&B we stayed in was also in a town house. I really enjoyed the high ceilings there and they had a brilliant long table out of oldish wood panels. Take a look at the pictures.The room itself was nice too. In some ways it gave me flashbacks to the room at Michelle's parents house (where I stayed when I lived in Sydney) - the walls, the carpet and even the ceiling were quite the same. Not the same colour or decoration but somehow close. Whenever I was walking barefood on the floor I was waiting for "my" cat, Lena, to show up or someone of Michelle's family to call... I guess I really need to go back to Sydney soonish... :P

The weather wasn't too nice but I guess that's to expected in November. We spent some time at the beach, some in Den Haag and a lot of time sleeping (=me) or reading (=Alex). It was a great holiday... just too short as always! :-)

Sunday 27 October 2013

Spiel 2013 in Essen and Cologne

I was going to write about the two beanies I made last week but decided to write about the weekend instead because it was so much fun! 

On friday Pat from Australia arrived and stayed with us til today. I have known Pat for almost 10 years now and it's one of these friendships where you don't notice that you haven't seen each other for two years. :-) It was so great to speak Australian English again but I also noticed that my skills have become rather rusty. I certainly need to get more practice!

On friday we drove up to Essen which isn't very far away from Dortmund. It's a funny thing about this area of Germany: One doesn't notice that one drives from one city into the other. We passed serveral on the 30 minute ride though...

In Essen the Spiel 2013 was on. It's the biggest international game convention in the world and another friend of ours was there to present his game. The name of the game is Relic Runner and it's Matt's first game. Therefore it's really amazing that he managed to get it published by Days of Wonder. Days of Wonder is a brilliant, brilliant game publishing house. I assume most of you know Ticket to Ride?!

I confess that I am a fan girl... Such a great stall! :-) I bought the Ticket to Ride Netherlands and got some translucant trains. Yay!

Buttt... Even more important: We met Matt there. 

That's Matt in front to the wall which presents his game. The whole stall was covered in pictures from the game and tons of people were playing it. So amazing! You really should give the game a try! It's a strategic game (10 years up) with beautiful playing figures - looks like heaps of fun! I will certainly put it on my christmas wishlist! Have a look at the Days of Wonder Homepage ! They also have an interview with Matt on there!

On saturday Pat wanted to go to Cologne and I joined him. Of course there were some troubles with the German Bahn (as usual...). This time some crazy soccer fans were running around on the tracks and so we arrives in Cologne with a 45 minutes delay. 

That's the cathedral of Colone. We went inside of course. I have been there some times but I always enjoy the windows a lot:

There is a new one which I liked a lot. It's like a Tetris window....

We went on a bit of a walk through the town afterwards.

The sun was out and it was rather warm for the end of October. Lovely walking weather really!

I rode home with Alex (who had a conference there) while Pat stayed some longer. We drove though the most beautiful autuum scenes. Everything was red and yellow! Unfortunatly there was no place to stop the car otherwise I would have taken some pictures... I really enjoy autuum here. As I mentioned we only moved there in July and are new to the whole mountain thing. The area around Oldenburg was really flat (which was great for bike riding!) but you certainly see more of the autuum colours here due the the mountains! It is storming right now however, so we'll see how much of the leaves are left on the tree by tomorrow morning!

Friday 25 October 2013

Glorious Gravlax!

Over the last few years I have been experimenting with curing and preserving meats.  I always thought that this was really difficult, or complicated, or possibly dangerous to eat - how wrong could I be! The first project was home cured bacon, which was totally delicious, then last Christmas I tried making cured salmon for the first time, adapted from a recipe by Jamie Oliver.  It was delicious!

The ingredients!

I decided to try making it again to have as part of a rolling finger food buffet at our Post-Thesis Partay next weekend! We adapted the recipe a bit, increasing the amount of beetroot and salmon and changing the method slightly, but it still turned out as beautiful, cured, pink-tinged salmon fillet. Amended recipe is at the end of this post!
The cure mix (without the beetroot)
The Post-Thesis Partay has become a bit of a tradition amongst my friends.  It was started by Checks quite a few years ago - when he finished his Honours thesis, he invited us over to eat Thesis Steak, which is steak marinated in a mixture of soy, sugar, shallots and sugar, and then barbecued.  So tasty! 

The salmon sitting on half the cure, waiting for the other half!
This year we have at least 5 people who have finished Honours or PhD theses, so a mass party was in order! People are coming to our house throughout the afternoon and evening (as prior commitments allow) and we'll be eating, drinking, playing games and chuckling heartily.

The salmon buried in cure, ready for pressing in the fridge
Because people are coming and going, rather than having a "meal" together, we are going to have various rounds of finger food! Morsels of thesis steak, cheese, gravlax, bread, dip... The details aren't decided yet, but I'm looking forward to it!

The finished, cured salmon, ready for eating!
Fortunately my lovely husband indulges all of my crazy food ideas (cheesemaking kit anyone?), and he helped me put all this together and finish it off this morning, covering himself in salty beetroot juice in the process! The finished product is much firmer texture than the raw salmon fillet, and the beetroot and dill mix surrounding it has coloured the edges of the salmon a glorious pink. We shall enjoy it with a lemony sour cream sauce, on thin toast! 

Without further ado, the recipe!

Glorious Pink Gravlax
(adapted from Jamie Oliver's Gorgeous Beetroot Gravlax


1.2kg side of salmon, skinless and pinboned
160g rock salt
50g brown sugar
800g raw beetroot, grated
50ml vodka
Dill, chopped
1 lemon, zested 


Mix together cure ingredients (probably wearing gloves, as the beetroot gets very messy! Spread half the mix in a large Pyrex or ceramic baking dish, place the salmon on top, and pack the rest of the mix on top of the salmon.

Place a large tray, baking dish or chopping board on top of the salmon and fill with weights (I used law textbooks - I knew they'd come in handy again!). Leave in the fridge for 2-3 days to cure.

When you're ready to get it out, scrape all the cure off the salmon and dry it well with paper towel.  Cut very thinly, and enjoy!