Crochet

Lukas has his own pet!

I have talked to you about Lukas, our family mascot. In January he is going to be three years old! Well, last week we adopted two lovely kittens, Aria and Stella.

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Our kittens, Aria on the left and Stella on the right

Lukas first got excited about the pets, but soon got too scared. They are far too dangerous for him, as he thinks they are rather tigers than kittens. So I decided to make a pet for him rather at his size. The result was a cute little parrot.

The pattern is from my most favourite Dutch crocheter, Dendennis and his book Prettig gestoorde amigurumi’s (Pleasantly disturbed amigurumis) in dutch or DenDennis’ total verrückte Häkelfreunde: Die süßesten Antihelden aller Zeiten (Totally disturbed amigurumis: the sweetest antiheroes of all times) in german. I am not sure his books exist translated in English.

It is an easy and quite simple pattern. The parrot is made with cotton yarns in a combination of colours, such as green, red, orange, yellow . I used Schachenmayr Catania Apple green (Colour 205) for the body, Schachenmayr Catania Sun (Cl. 208) for the beak and the claws and Schachenmayr Catania Red (Cl. 115) , Catania Lionmouth (Cl. 280) for the additional colours of the wings.

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My small parrot

The pattern suggests using a 2.00 mm hook, but I used my favourite for amigurumis Clover Amour 3.00 mm hook. (In case you are wondering about the hooks I use, check my older post about the Crochet hooks that I have used.) I found the smaller hook a bit uncomfortable and anyway the yarns can be used for sizes 2.50 to 3.50 mm. The resulting parrot is about 13cm tall with his red beret.

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Well Lukas is so happy with his pet! You can see his happy face in the picture, no?

 

P.S. Concerning the links used here, please check my Disclaimer.

Bullet journal

How to track your year in a glance!

I have had a bullet journal for 2.5 years by now and soon it will be time to set up my fourth bullet journal in a row. I have already started thinking about it! As a first step in setting up my new bujo, I have started evaluating the last one and what I have learnt about it and myself. So I am going to share my experience in a few blogpost till the end of the year, as the different ideas will be coming to me.

In the several bullet journals I have had, I have gone through different stages. I am tending to be rather minimalist and draw as little as possible in my bullet journal. I have noticed a pattern in my bullet journals: at the beginning of the year, I am usually spending a bit more time on setting things up, so I tend to search a bit more and try anything I see and looks interesting, but towards the middle of the year I am becoming more focused on the tasks and everyday responsibilities. As a result I fall behind with updating things. Does it happen to you too?

Now, concerning the the topic I want to discuss in this post, there are several ways of tracking a whole year in a glance. Below I describe a few of these ways that I have tried myself, the purpose they served and how they worked for me.

Yearly mood tracker

A simple way of tracking a year is through a mood tracker. The idea behind it is to dedicate a colour for each type of mood and instead of having a different mood tracker every month or week, have one for the whole year. I did have one of these in both my 2017 and 2018 bullet journals, but the result was the same in both years: I stopped updating it around the middle of the year…

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My yearly mood tracker for 2018…

Level 10 Life

Last year I tried the system Level 10 Life, that I saw in one of my favourite bloggers Boho Jerry. This is a simplified way of evaluating the complex sides of our lives.

The idea behind it is first to create a graph of ten concentric circles and divide them in ten slices. Each of these slices will represent an area of your life that is important for you, such as family and friends, career, health and fitness, finances etc.

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Level 10 Life created by Bojo Jerry

Firstly you do a current evaluation of these areas. This means that you ask yourself how satisfied you are at this moment. For example you feel that in the matter of family you are happy and you would quantify that satisfaction to be 7 out of 10, so you colour 7 parts of the slice that corresponds to family. At the end of the current evaluation you create darker lines on your graph.

Then you set a few goals for each of these areas, which you will try to achieve during the year, so as to improve your satisfaction of your life. Then towards the end of the year or whenever you really feel like, you can go back to this page and evaluate your progress.

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My attempt to create a Level 10 Life assessment

Well, it was a nice idea and I was quite interested in it, but it didn’t really work for me… As you can see from my Level 10 Life, I never really managed to evaluate my current satisfaction and I did not have time to go back to it any time during 2017…

2018 Roadmap

This year I tried something different: a Roadmap. This idea I saw in the How I’ve set up my third bullet journal blogpost of another favourite blogger Cristina77. It is a fun way to have an overview of the year in a glance. Cristina is amazing in drawing things, but I am less patient and less of an artist, so this is how my page looked at the beginning of the year:

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My 2018 roadmap in the beginning of the year

Less colourful and more basic, but quite similar to the one of Cristina77, so definitely I give the credit to her!

We are not far from the end of the year now, so I can already tell you that this page was an absolute success for me! It fitted me perfectly! I used it whenever I thought there is something worthy to note it in the month that happened. Other times I noted the dates and other times just the incident or even just a word. Its maintenance required minimum time and effort, so even in the busiest months of this year that we were in the middle of a house moving, I did have a few seconds to write down just a couple of words!

This is how it looks currently:

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Doesn’t my roadmap look nice? For every month I use a different colour of the fineliners of STABILO point 88, just to make it a bit more obvious that the memories belong to a different month. I really like the Stabilo pens, as I have explained in an older blogpost of mine: The utensils I use in my bullet journal. I am really satisfied with this page and I am pretty sure I will use it again in the new year!

Do you have any page of tracking your year that was an absolute success for you in this year’s bullet journal? Or in general a new page you tried in this year’s bullet journal and was so successful for you? I would love to hear your suggestions, as inspiration for the 2019 bullet journal is always welcome!

 

Cooking

Swiss cuisine: Wurstsalat

At our home we are cooking a lot and we are influenced by both our countries of origin, as well as the countries we have been living in. There are several things I like about the Swiss cuisine, which is much more varied than what is known abroad. Everybody knows fondue, right? Anything else?

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Wurstsalat

Today I would like to explain one of my favourite summer dishes I learnt from my mother-in-law: Wurstsalat. It means sausage salad and I have found it in Germany and around as Swiss salad.

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All the ingredients of the Wurstsalat

For four portions, all that is needed is:

  • 4 Cervelats (sausages)
  • 2 onions
  • 150g  Emmentaler mild cheese
  • 4 Boiled eggs
  • Some pickled cucumbers

Cervelats are a typical kind of sausage of Switzerland and can be found in France and Germany as well. The recipe of them depends on the region, but generally they taste similar to a frankfurter, but with a smokier flavour. They are short and fatter compared to frankfurters. In Switzerland, they are usually made by roughly equal parts of beef, pork, bacon, pork rind and ice. They are considered the national sausage in Switzerland!

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Small and fat cervelats

We cut the onions in half-rings, the eggs and pickles in rings and the cheese in small cubes. The sausages are first skinned and then cut in the middle and in slices. They are all mixed together in a bowl.

The sauce is an important part of any salad. For the sauce of the Wurstsalat, we use:

  • 4 spoons vegetable oil, but not olive oil
  • 2 spoons white vinegar, but avoid balsamic vinegar
  • 2 spoons mayonnaise
  • salt and pepper according to will

It is important to avoid olive oil and balsamic vinegar, as they are too strong in taste for this salad. I use peanut oil and herbal white vinegar. All the ingredients of the sauce are mixed well and then it is added to the rest of the ingredients.

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As I mentioned already, it is a summer dish, usually for lunch. For Swiss, the main dish of the day is the dinner, so lunch needs to be light. It is a fast recipe and the dish has such a fresh and light taste, perfect for a hot summer day! And you have to excuse the fact that my photos are too bright, but this summer has been amazing!

Knitting

Knitted summer sweater

One of the challenging things after my relocation from the Netherlands to Switzerland was getting to know the available yarns. In an effort to do that, I have tried a few yarns from LANG; for example the LANG Yarns Mille Colori Socks & Lace Luxe for the Fingerless gloves I made in March.

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Long yarns Mille Colori in blue colours

In the beginning of the summer I was discussing with a close friend about making a summer sweater.  While walking around one of the biggest department store chains here in Switzerland, I saw the really impressive Lang Yarns – Sol Dégradé series. It is a light knitted 100% cotton yarn with an attractive long-repeat dégradé dye effect. The recommended needle size is 5 – 5 1/2 mm. The yarn feels cool to the touch, both while being worked and in the final product. It is totally appropriate for summer projects, so I had found my yarn!

Then came the question of a pattern. After a bit of searching and given the yarn I had in my hands, I used one of the suggestions of Lang yarns: pattern nr. 800-038-002, published in the Folder Sol Dégradé. It is a pattern for knitting, not available for free, so you won’t find a link or a written pattern here. My post is only a review of the pattern and a description of my own sweater.

Summer sweater
The photo included in the official folder of Long yarns (Source Long yarns.com)

As you can see in the photo the dye pattern is really impressive and there are several colours and combinations to choose from. I chose Lang yarns – sol dégradé 61, which is the combination of red and lila.

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Long yarns Sol dégradé in red and lila
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How the yarn looks from the top

The pattern is mainly in garter stitch, which means knit from both the good and the back side. It has no special stitches in it, so as to allow the colour of the yarn to be the striking characteristic of the final product. The only addition is a few lines or parts with stitches in double length, as you can see in the photo below.

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Detail from my sweater: the normal- and double-long lines

This sweater is knitted with both 5.00 mm and 5.50 mm needles. Most of it can be done with straight needles, but for the neck a circular needle is needed. I used KnitPro Symfonie needles (5.00 mm), that can be combined with a cord of any length. I do like the grasp of them and the flexibility to change the length of the circular needle or even make them straight. They are also much lighter than the normal aluminium ones.

Concerning the pattern, the sweater is knitted from bottom to top and in two pieces: front and back. The two pieces are similar but not exactly the same. In the lower part the sequence of normal-long garter lines / double-long garter line is shorter, and as the sweater proceeds towards the top, the sequence is longer, meaning there are more normal-long lines than double-long ones. To be more specific, in the middle part there are no double-long stitches from side to side, but only “patches” of them in different points. Personally, I didn’t like these patches of double-long stitches, so for the middle part I made my own sequence that resembles the lower part of the sweater. I also modified a bit the sleeves, by making them resemble the neck part.

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My sweater finished

It was the first time I tried a project this big in knitting. I am more a crocheter. I was lucky to have my mother-in-law close, who knits, so as to correct my technique and help me with questions. As a rather beginner in knitting and in combination with the moving of houses that dominated my past two months, the sweater took quite some time to be completed. I had to try several times parts like the neck and the sleeves, till I make them satisfactory. But I think that the final result is not bad. What do you think?

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Wearing my sweater on a sunny day!

To summarise my impression of Lang yarns – Sol dégradé, I would say that I like the yarn a lot, mainly for summer projects. It feels cool and soft. In general Lang yarns are not cheap yarns. I paid at least 9 euros per ball of 100g, ca 200m, without sending costs, when the yarn was coming from Germany and about 17 chf when bought in Switzerland. For my sweater I used about 350 g, so the materials costed at least 32 euros. But the quality is really nice, the colours vibrant and they are long balls. I totally recommend them!

Books

Chronicles of Brother Cadfael

It has been a while I haven’t written anything about books, but this doesn’t mean that I have not been reading. On the contrary, I have emerged myself in the 12th century England. In the past months I read a number of books from the Cadfael Chronicles I hadn’t read before.

The Cadfael Chronicles is a series of historical murder mysteries. It consists of twenty books written by Ellis Peters, which is the a pseudonym of Edith Pargeter (1913 – 1995).

The main character is Cadfael, a Welsh in origin middle-aged Benedictine monk at the Abbey of Saints Peter and Paul in Shrewsbury, England, in the first half of the 12th century. Before becoming a monk he was a Crusader in the Middle East and there he learnt a lot of things about the healing abilities of plants and herbs and the modern therapeutic knowledge of the Arabs, so once he became a monk, he was able to put his knowledge in practice and he served as the herbalist of the Abbey. In addition, he was a skilled observer and had a really strong own sense of justice. As a result, he served as a detective of his time and a medical examiner, as well!

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The map of the Abbey (Credit: Cadfael wiki)

Each book includes a self-sustained mystery. Brother Cadfael is involved in all of them, some times because the crime took place in the Abbey, some times because the local sheriff Hugh Beringar had learnt to trust Cadfael’s observations and abilities and some times just because Cadfael was present in the discovery of a crime and he was by nature too curious and inquisitive.

Besides the crime, in each book there is also a small side-story of a couple in love. Brother Cadfael always supported these lovers-to-be, thus provoking the sympathy of the reader! This side-story binds harmonically into the main story-line and it doesn’t attract the attention away from the mystery.

Ellis Peters’ mysteries are brilliant! The stories are so accurately adjusted to the era they refer, when there was anarchy in England and a civil war between King Stephen and Empress Maud. They include historical elements and several of the characters that appear in the books really lived at that time, but the books are totally fictional. The murders are not pompous, but more what it would fit in the 12th century. It is clear from them that Ellis Peters had done a profound search and knew well the period she decided that Cadfael lived.

It is advisable to read the books in the correct order. As I mentioned earlier the mysteries are self-standing in each book, but it is better to follow the order of the books for the surrounding details: the life of brother Cadfael and Hugh Berignar or the rest of the monks, the historical background and the characters that recur in later books.

I started the first book in 2014 and slowly slowly read half of the series until earlier this year.  I did not try to read all of the series in one go. I was really enjoying the short books of Ellis Peters and, for me, Brother Cadfael was a refuge whenever I was bored of other books. Of course in a series of twenty books not all of them are equally interesting. Some are more and some are less. In April this year I felt tired of reading disappointing books, so I decided that I have waited enough with finishing the series and it is time to continue with the rest of the Cadfael books.

I would totally recommend this series to anybody who enjoys historical mysteries. As I mentioned earlier, there are no pompous murders or huge conspiracies in them. There are problems that would occur in medieval England and around an Abbey. I enjoyed the English language in the books too. I read a couple of books translated in Greek, my own mother tongue, but I did not enjoy them. The translation had resulted in losing a bit of the medieval atmosphere the story had in the original language.

This year I read the following books of the Cadfael Chronicles:

  1. The Pilgrim Of Hate, nr. 10 of the series
    I  have already commented this book in my previous post of The books I read in May.
  2. An Excellent Mystery, nr. 11 of the series
    Also included in The books I read in May.
  3. The Raven In The Foregate, nr. 12 of the series
    In this book Brother Cadfael and Hugh Beringar solve the mysterious death of the pastor of the local church, who didn’t last but a few weeks in this position. This book has all the whit and the mystery that I like about Brother Cadfael, contrary to the previous book where the solution was obvious. So many suspects, but none clearly guilty. I couldn’t figure out the solution till the last pages! And of course, the solution is such, so that it doesn’t insult or create problems for anybody that doesn’t deserve it.
  4. The Rose Rent, nr. 13 of the series
    Another book, where I did not manage to figure out the culprit but a few pages before the end! Besides Brother Cadfael, the main heroine of this book is the young widow Perle. She has donated her house to the abbey with the only condition to be provided of a rose from the bush in front of it on the day of the celebration of Saint Winifred. But she is still young and rich and strange things start happening in her life. Suitors, people interested in money and in the middle of this a young woman who doesn’t want to get married and a rose bush.
  5. The Hermit Of Eyton Forest, nr. 14 of the series
    The main theme of this one is the effort of a powerful dame to manipulate her grandson so as to gain more lands and influence. But life is not simple, so two side stories are getting mixed up in the whole scene: a fugitive worker from a lord and a lost treasure from Empress Maud.
  6. The Confession Of Brother Haluin, nr. 15 of the series
    Another strong dame in this book, as in the previous of the series. In this one a sad love story led a young and promising man to the cloister. Eighteen years later and after a close-to-death experience, brother Haluin decides he needs to face his old demons and find the grave of his old love. He goes on this quest escorted by brother Cadfael, as he is a cripple now. But destiny brings it that he discovers that his love story ended differently than he was told. The girl’s mother has manipulated the lives of several people but the truth comes out before the story is repeated in the next generation. Not my personal favourite of the Cadfael series…
  7. The Heretic’s Apprentice, nr. 16 of the series
    One of the best books of the series for me! Usually Peters avoids direct conflicts with the church, although brother Cadfael has more open views on his practice of the Benedictine order he belongs to. After all he comes in trouble with Prior Robert and brother Jerome quite often. But this book is different: it deals with the compulsory orthodoxy and what is heresy.
    A young guy has been travelling to the rest of Europe and to Jerusalem with his master and returns to England to deliver his master’s body for burial to the Abbey and a present for the adopted girl of the family as her dowry. As with everybody that lives for a while abroad, he finds the family he used to work for changed with the years. The two nephews of his master have taken over three business and run it smoothly, the adopted girl has grown to a beautiful young woman and the rest of the staff have grown used to his absence. He himself is also mature and his horizons have opened with all the new things he learnt in the journey. As a result he uses his mind to understand life and the religion, something that is considered a sin to the closed-minded old clerk and shepherd of the family. As the latter two feel menaced by the young man’s presence, the first one for his position and the second one for the girl, they use what he told them in a moment of loose tongues about the way he understands religion, to accuse him for heresy. By chance there is a higher cleric present in the Abbey, who follows strict orthodoxy and the case escalates tremendously. Especially when the old clerk is found stabbed in the back!
  8. The Potter’s Field, nr. 17 of the series
    This mystery I found a bit tricky! The abbey gets to exchange a field with another monastery and while they start ploughing it, they discover the skeleton of a female. To whom does it belong? The family, which donated the field to begin with, gets involved and especially the younger son, who had become a Benedictine novice but changed his mind towards the end of his trial period. I really enjoyed it!
  9. The Summer Of The Danes, nr. 18 of the series
    This was one of the longest books of the series. It takes place in Wales and not in the Abbey and brother Cadfael finds himself travelling in his homeland and talking his mother tongue, as a translator for Deacon Mark, the ambassador of the Catholic Church of England to Wales. There they are involved in the internal troubles of the prince of Wales, Owain Gwynedd. Cadwaladr, Owain’s brother, plans to regain his lands by inviting Danes from Dublin to threaten Gwynedd. In this book Cadfael becomes a hostage by the Danes!
    I found this book a bit tiring with all the different things that are happening at the same time.
  10. The Holy Thief, nr. 19 of the series
    The holy relics of Saint Winifred disappear in the fuss of a possible flood and a young guy, who knew who had taken her, is found dead. The most interesting part was when the fortune of Saint Winifred is decided, using the sortes Biblicae, placing the book of gospels on Saint Winifred’s reliquary and opening the book randomly, thus choosing a verse. Another book where Cadfael does not agree with the strict practices of other members of the Benedictine order.
  11. Brother Cadfael’s Penance, nr. 20 of the series
    In the last book, Brother Cadfael reveals one of the biggest secrets of his life: that a character that we met in an older book, Olivier de Bretagne, is really his son. He comes in direct conflict with his vows as a monk and he leaves the Abbey on a quest to find his son, who was captured in a battle and he is missing. The story takes place mostly in Greenhamsted, England. Cadfael following his internal sense of justice and fair-play, manages to influence the whole history of England, by avoiding a conflict between Empress Maud and Robert of Gloucester, her half brother and most loyal and useful supporter. A really nice way to finish the series!

In parallel with the books I started watching the series based on this series. I should note that they are only based on the books of Ellis Peters, as a result there are a lot of deviations from them. I did not enjoy the series so much. They did not manage to transfer the atmosphere of 12th century England to me, the way the books did. And having read the books, I found disturbing the changes of characters to their more evil version.

Have you read this series? Have you watched the tv-series? I would love to hear your comments on any of them!