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! 


Sunday 20 October 2013

Bushfire season in Australia

It's bushfire season here in Australia, and it's going to be a ripper this year.  Conditions are already perfect for whipping up enormous fires - hot, clear weather, high winds, and lots of dry dry grass, trees and other plants to fuel the hungry beast.

This post is, I guess, more for the benefit of those reading who are not in NSW or Australia - there's been close to saturation news coverage here of the fires.

Since last Wednesday, over 200 families have lost their houses, mostly in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.  More people are being told to leave their homes and seek shelter tonight.  Last I heard, over 40,000 hectares of land has been burned out, just in the Blue Mountains! There are also fires burning on the Central Coast and Newcastle areas north of Sydney, in the Illawarra south of Sydney, and in the Southern Highlands south west of Sydney.  This is a photo taken by a Channel 7 cameraman, Paul Walker, of the largest fire near the town of Lithgow in the Blue Mountains:

Photo credit to Paul Walker, Channel 7 News
Firefighters are doing an unbelievable job to save towns and houses, farms and animals. A lot of the firefighting is being done by the Rural Fire Service, which is chiefly staffed by volunteers.  They are doing a lot of backburning around towns and properties under threat to try and stop the advance of the fires by starving them of fuel. Here's what the RFS managed to achieve with backburning around Raymond Terrace:

Photo credit to Barry O'Farrell (@barryofarrell)
Conditions are forecast to get worse over the next few days, with heat and winds increasing. A little rain is forecast, but it'll just be like spitting on the fires rather than being any use to actually put it out!

While we are safe in the city, there is lots of smoke and debris around.  This was the view from our balcony last Thursday:

Please keep in your thoughts the firefighters as they do their work and the people who are having to make terrible decisions about leaving their houses, as well as those returning to burned out towns and properties. It's times like these you realise that no matter how much we wrangle and reshape nature, she is always in charge!

If you can help financially, these are the three main organisations accepting donations now:

On a more cheerful note, tomorrow I am going to start making gravadlax, a Swedish cured salmon, and I will take lots of pictures of that process for you!

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Berlin, train rides and cowl

Hello everybody!

Our first blog entry on the road… I am on my way to Berlin because of work. I need to give a small speech tonight and am thus in the train right now. Usually it would take about four hours from Dortmund to Berlin but today it takes little over five because there is construction work going on. As some of you might now there was a flood in Germany this summer and it destroyed some of the rail way lines. Unfortunately the rail way line to Berlin was among them. So in order to get to Berlin the train has to go via Magdeburg which takes the extra time. Big sigh. 

Long train rides are boring, don’t you think so? I already wrote some letters, reread my talk for tonight and read some information about the organization I will talk to tonight. Still, there are three hours left. I wasn’t supposed to go to Berlin but a colleague is sick and thus I am on my way. 

Train rides are good for people watching though. Right now I am surrounded by older people. Must the time (midday). The lady on the other side of the table is going to Vietnam next week. I am a bit jealous… The guy next to me however is def. sick and someone needs to teach him how to use a tissure. Also he is eating with his mouth wide open... Eekk.

I have been to Berlin a few times already which is a good thing, I guess, since I won’t have time to look around this time. I will try and snap some pictures for the blog though. That is if the weather will be better. So for it looks like I should buy an umbrella at Berlin main station…

This weekend I was sick of blankets and snowflakes (which I crocheted a lot) and decided to go for a cowl. I had some spare bulky wool lying around which was supposed to become shoes someday. Oh well, more wool shopping if I want to make shoes. What a pity. ;-)

It’s a very easy pattern and it works up very quick. I think I did some dc lines when I should have done hdc and vice versa but I don’t think one can see… Also: Who would know what it should look like anyway? I already wore it a couple of times and it is so nice and warm! The fact that it can be converted to a hood is a bonus. 

I had some troubles with the beginning chain; that is the joining. My chain was always twisted no matter what I tried! So annoying! But I really, really wanted to have that cowl so I kept on trying. In the end I got help on Youtube. Seems like I am not the only one with the twisting chain problem… Alex, my boyfriend, was rather amused by the video (5 minutes about one chain!) but it helped! Hurray! I was surprised by the sheer amount of crochet videos on Youtube! A big thanks to all those who upload videos to help people like me!

My next project will be a beanie and I will go for a pullover after that. I am not very happy with the quality of the pullovers the shops sell right now and so I can spent the money on some nice wool instead. Drops has a 25 % off sale going on (for alpaca yarns), so when the next pay cheque arrives in my account I will go shopping. Since I started my new job I get paid in the middle of the month, so if I am lucky the money will be there when I return from Berlin tomorrow! Fingers crossed.

Saturday 12 October 2013

Granny Experiments

I've been making granny squares my whole life - it's how my grandmother taught me to crochet, and I've made a number of rugs with big and little squares that are around my family's house, still in use to keep us cosy when it gets chilly.

Recently though I decided to have a go at being a bit more creative with granny squares!  You'll have to excuse the wonkiness of the work in the photos below - I took the photos without blocking out the blanket.  Lesson learned! 

First, I tried making quarter and half granny squares, to sort-of mimic patchwork.  I can't for the life of me find the link to the pattern I used (if anyone knows, comment and I'll add it in), but this is the photo of the pattern that I took:

Here's how mine came out:

It was meant to be 36 quarter squares, but I thought it was silly to make 4 quarters and then stitch them together into one full square.  I also learned how to do half squares, which was an interesting experience. While I liked the outcome, stitching it together was very tedious - I don't think I'll use this exact pattern again! I edged it by going all around the finished piece in granny style, then a shell in dark pink around the outside.

Another alternative granny afghan I tried was a Babette! There was no pattern for this one - I was aiming for a "modern art" feel and only found out that style was called a babette after the fact! I really enjoyed making the rectangular half grannies, using this pattern from the wonderful tales of cuckoo land blog.  Here's how it came out:

I really love this pattern, with all the different blues and granny sizes.  It was a bit of a challenge to join because there were an uneven number of stitches where the corner of one piece joined halfway along another piece.  I think just putting a chain in the middle of the last rows of each piece would solve that though! It's just edged simply with a row of dark blue double crochet around the edge.

The granny square might seem the most simple and boring of all crochet patterns, but there really is no limit to what you can do with it!


Sunday 6 October 2013

Thyme-Rosemary-Galic Bread and Granny Squares

Hello all!

It has been a busy weekend! It's so lovely to actually have the weekends off! I am a fully qualified teacher for German, History and English (High School) but since our move to Dortmund I am working in a different job. I have a 30 hour contract with a scholarship organisation and I love every second of it. 30 hours mean that I have a three day weekend which is brilliant. When I was a teacher I usually worked all weekend but now there is free time! Hurray!

Yesterday I baked a very yummy bread. I wanted to have a recipe which only contains ingredients I always have in the house, so I did a bit of experimenting. The outcome: A Thyme-Rosemary-Garlic bread! So easy, so quick and so yummy!

Thyme-Rosemary-Galic Bread (for one loaf)

300 grams All purpose white flour
1 sachet dried yeast
250ml milk (luke warm)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoons rosemary
1-2 tablespoons thyme
1/2 clove galic (I love, love, love garlic. If you don't eat as much garlic as I do, you should use 1/4 clove only)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Mix all dry ingredients. Add the liquid ingredients and mix well (a good yeast dough needs at least 5 minutes of kneading!).

Put into a bread form/tin, cover with a wet towel and let rise for 40 minutes at a warm place (or until it has doubled in size. Mine only look 25 minutes). Coat with a little bit of olive oil.

Note: It's autuum here but the heatings aren't turned on yet and so it's though to find a warm place. I discovered that my yeast doughs are happy campers when I put them on my warm cherry pit cushion!

Preheat the oven to 175 °C. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!

Granny Square

Recently I bought 7 kg of yarn on ebay (YAY!). I already did a lot of different projects but this week I wanted to do something granny square like. Granny Squares were my first crochet project (learned from Michelle and Janelle) and I love them! Still I wanted to do something different and so I found this variation. Not sure I like it as much as the normal squares but I will finish the baby blanket anyway.

Take care everybody!

P.S. I would love to see some comments!

Saturday 5 October 2013

A glorious Saturday in Sydney

Hello everybody! 

I'm Michelle! I live in Sydney with my husband Kiah and our tortoiseshell cat, Loki.  We have a lovely apartment on the Parramatta River, with a superb view over the city - good for fireworks we hope.  The weather today is simply glorious :)

I like to do lots of craft, but mostly cross-stitch and crochet. Because I am stuck at home most of the time with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I have lots of time to do crafty things, and I can pace myself so as not to overdo it.  I have recently discovered fractal cross-stitch, and I love the combination of mathematics and colour.

(Apologies for the reflecty pictures, it's too sunny today!)

As Anne said, I grew up in a house surrounded by craft.  My mother, Janelle and my grandmother, Shirley, have always had sewing and craft projects on the run all the time.  Shirley was a dressmaker by trade, and was famous in our area for her handmade and beaded wedding dresses.  She also made school uniforms and other clothes for many families.  Unfortunately, Shirley has developed dementia and is not able to do craft things anymore.

Janelle, however, always has at least 15 craft projects on hand.  Her passion at the moment is patchwork and quilting, although she is still piecing together blankets for Wrap with Love with squares knitted by her friends. A few months ago Janelle wanted to make a Bargello quilt.  I managed to convince her that we should start with something smaller and simpler to see how it works, and we made a big craft bag for me to carry my projects back and forth between our houses.  I think it came out really well!

I hope you enjoy reading our blog about our craft and cooking projects! I promise next time I will blog about crochet :P

Friday 4 October 2013

Zpagetti Yarn Games

Last week I saw Zpagetti yarn at a friend's house and fell in love with the yarn right away. So I went on a bit of a online shopping spree and ordered several balls directly from the Netherlands. There is a special offer on the Hoooked homepage which I got four times. The so called inspiration packs contain three balls for 19,95 € including a hook and two patterns. I reckon it's a really good offer because one ball usually costs 8,95 €. I ordered them on Sunday and they were delivered two days later! What a quick delievery!

It was a public holiday in Germany yesterday and so I had time to play with the new yarn. There was a lot of frogging involved but I think I got the hang of it now. The suggested hook size is 12 mm but I found that far to big and so I changed to a 7mm hook. Works far better for me and and the result is a lot less hole-y.

My current project is a small handbag in red-brown. Unfortunatly the crocheting is quite hard on my hands. The pointy part of the large hook hurts my middle finger... Ouch. Perhaps a little bit of sandpaper will help?!

New blog

Hey there!

The first blog post! Hurray! :-)

I will tell you a few things about this blog to start with.

It's a shared blog between Michelle and me. We have known each other for over ten years but we live on different continents. Mich is from Australia and I am from Germany. In many ways we live in different worlds - hence the blog title. Mich lived in Germany for some time during high school and I undertook my masters degree in Sydney, so our worlds are very connected.

Both of us are pretty much crochet addicted. Michelle comes from a crochet-family whereas I got into the art when I lived with her family. We both started with blankets and haven't stopped since then...

We want to share some of our passion and our pictures with you in this blog. We also will post general stuff about life in our worlds and a recipe every now and then.

Take care and see you soon,